Do you know a good builder who can fix my problems?

Would a couple of vent grilles get rid of this black mould?

Cracks in the wall, damp, black mould – all common building problems.

But how to get them fixed? I know, let’s call a builder for a free quotation.

But a builder will treat the symptoms without fully understanding the cause; you could waste £000’s on a ‘fix’ that’s not needed or might fail.

But don’t blame the builder; it’s not his fault; anyone can call himself a builder or a specialist in ‘this’ or ‘that’. He might be a trained bricklayer or joiner but he’s not trained to understand how buildings work and why they fail; that is what surveyors do.

A surveyor will investigate the underlying cause and tell the builder what to do to put it right.

For example, a friend recently asked me to look at a black mould problem in a small 1960s terraced house. He had two quotations from ‘specialist’ damp contractors. Both were offering their own different ventilation solutions at hugely different prices. Which one should he use?

I checked the place out and, as expected, found the house full of warm moist air from showering, cooking, laundry etc. Yes, ventilation was required, but that was not all.

The contractors’ solutions were only the starting point. Their venting proposals were inadequate alone and wouldn’t cure the problem.

They made no mention of the need to insulate the cold spots, fix the leaking rainwater pipe nor suggested ways to reduce the build-up of moist air in the house.

The same goes for cracks in walls and rising damp.

Most cracks are insignificant, the result of thermal movement or minor settlement, and require little or no remedial work. But a bullder will fix it for you!

And true rising damp, as a result of failed damp-proof courses, is very rare too; there is nearly always an underlying cause. I’ve seen leaking gutters, a running overflow and a split dishwasher hose all identified as ‘rising damp’. And until someone can explain to me how injecting chemicals into solid, hard, impervious clay bricks can create a damp-proof course I shall remain ever sceptical.

A builder’s advice might come for ‘free’ but what is the cost if he gets it wrong or the work is unnecessary? And he’s hardly impartial.

A surveyor will charge but he is knowledgeable, impartial and more likely to get things right….. and if it goes wrong you can sue him.

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