Identify the type of construction and ensure you are fully conversant with the potential problems that are associated with that particular form of construction. Only inspect and report upon buildings types of which you have a good understanding.
Is the building protected? This will dictate the extent and nature of the recommendations that can, and should, be made. What is the special interest of the building? Check that any proposed repairs or treatments do not affect the special interest of the building.
If a building is listed or in a conservation area, contact the Local Authority Conservation Officer. They are a good source of impartial advice: financial grant aid assistance may be available for certain works.
Be familiar with the guidance relating to historic buildings: the RICS Guidance Note "Building Surveys of Residential Property" (see below), the 'Red Book' (the RICS Appraisal and Valuation Manual) and the 'Blue Book' ( TEGoVA European Valuation Standards).
Appreciate the characteristics and qualities of historic materials. The materials traditionally used were soft and porous, allowing the building to breathe and maintain a degree of flexibility, to accommodate movement resulting from seasonal changes of temperature and humidity. Do not condemn pointing just because it is soft - this quality is fundamental to the traditional 'breathing' performance of the building. ( See: Why old buildings are different)
|This soft mortar is functioning well and needs no intervention|
Are the materials that have been used to alter and repair the building compatible with the original fabric of the building? Establish how the building is performing today. Can it 'breathe'? Are previous remedial works or recommendations made in a damp and timber report appropriate to the building in question? Consider the construction and the problem you are trying to rectify - the unnecessary and inappropriate treatment of some stone, timber-framed and earth buildings can increase the risk of structural failure. (See: Ignore it and it will go away! )
|Careful removal of impervious paint to reinstate traditional performance|
An old building will have developed and evolved in its own highly individual way - standard remedies and solutions are not suitable for non-standard buildings. Assess each case on its individual merits and circumstances.
Remember that the best way of minimising the risk of dampness and timber defects is by addressing the causes, such as leaking gutters, and implementing regular and appropriate repair and maintenance of the building, using materials and methods that are compatible and consistent with the original fabric and performance of the building .
|This wall is at serious risk, all because of a non-functioning down-pipe that may just be blocked with leaves.|
Do not rely upon guarantees to prevent further defects or a re-occurrence of a problem.
Only make recommendations that are based upon positive well-informed decisions that have arisen from a careful assessment of the building.
If the limitations of the inspection and/or report do not allow a thorough examination of the building, or enable positive advice to be provided, ensure that further investigations are recommended . Any referral to a specialist needs to be specific . This can be achieved by recommending someone who has appropriate specialist knowledge, such as a surveyor RICS Accredited in Building Conservation . Contact RICS for names of accredited Surveyors, and the local Conservation Officer or a specialist Group or Society for the names of other appropriate specialists . (See: Links )
If you are in any doubt as to the true condition of an historic building, seek the advice of an independent specialist who has the appropriate understanding and knowledge of old buildings.
RICS Guidance Note: Building Surveys of Residential Property
The second edition of this mandatory guidance for Building Surveyors was published in January 2004 and became effective in March 2004. It contains important new requirements for surveyors of traditional buildings. In particular, within section 6.5.1 Constructional Principles are the following paragraphs:
"It is important to make it clear to the client that older buildings were designed and constructed differently to modern buildings. This point is not just applicable to 'historic' buildings but to all buildings of a traditional type.
Works causing changes in the intended performance of a traditional building can have detrimental consequences on its condition, for example, the entrapment of moisture by impervious materials used in repair and maintenance such as cement-based renders, pointing, plasters and modern paints. Understanding how a building was intended to perform and changes to that performance is important in successfully determining a building's existing and future condition. The 'breathing' performance of all traditional buildings is important and the surveyor is advised to make full use of this section in order to explain the intended and existing performance."
There are several other paragraphs which refer further to traditional buildings and their structures. All surveyors of old buildings are strongly recommended to become very familiar with this guidance.