By Frank Davey, a consultant with Allman Woodcock chartered, building and quantity surveyors in Norwich.
“”Georgian built, brilliant”. That seems to be the general opinion and whilst I agree that there are individual, bespoke examples with some of the best workmanship, built when craftsmen were available and supervision was good, I have also found some of the worst examples too. How about a floor built with its joists in two parts butted and nailed? Or a wall with a nice brick face masking a mess of rubble? There were builders taking shortcuts and pulling fast ones even then. So what’s changed? Well there are far more houses built nowadays and very few of them are bespoke, and there are still builders who will cut corners and tradesmen who don’t take pride and yes, we do get some shoddy construction. We have some fine small developers locally as well as a few less good ones, and many competent larger builders alongside a few less reputable ones. There are Codes of Practice for most building operations from foundations to rooftiles externally, and plastering to painting internally. References to these are liberally sprinkled in many building specifications but does the builder follow them? Maybe, but often more by experience (or luck) than knowledge of the detail, and I confess that I don’t recall many of the codes inside out and have to refresh my memory if and when asked to pass comment. What the NHBC has done for new houses is to produce its own Standards, a builder’s bible which sets out what should be readily achievable on a building site without asking for the ridiculous. These are not secret, but aren’t easy to get hold of if you’re not in the trade and I’m sorry but no, you can’t borrow my copy. A builder who is a member of the NHBC agrees to put right shortfalls and defects, and if they default the NHBC can step in and have the work done. I don’t always agree with their assessment but that’s rare, and a builder in the NHBC terms is agreeing to provide a quite high standard. OK, its not always achieved but it does give a benchmark, I don’t think the NHBC is perfect but it is worthwhile. It is not a guarantee as many people think, but it gives a level of protection for new houses which have not been built long enough to show defects; and it is difficult to get a mortgage on a new property without NHBC, or a surveyor’s or architect’s certificate etc. With the number of new houses built there are inevitably some which go wrong. Why? Well its usually due to taking shortcuts on site.
What’s my point this week? Its don’t be fooled by appearances, finishes can mask many a shortfall, but there are some protections available. I don’t like the amount of shoddy work still about, but it could be even worse in olden times. Need a building survey?
Frank is on 01603 610243.