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Choosing the right surveyor for an old building

Surveying is a varied discipline. There are techniques used for land surveys that differ from those used to complete an elevation survey, and even tools specific to certain types of building. Now, choosing a surveyor when you have a listed or historical building on your hands is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Letting the wrong surveyor undertake the work at hand could result in thousands of pounds worth of useless work, and the frustration of having to go through the decision process all over again.

In this article, Landform Surveys goes through the questions you should be asking to ensure you choose the right surveyor for an old building.

Before we begin…

Know what you’re working with. The official definition of an “old building” used to be one that was “built before 1919. Unfortunately, this didn’t exactly help anyone understand the difference between an old and a new build.

It’s currently defined as “A solid walled structure, built using breathable materials, which needs to breathe”. And, because of these ‘breathable materials’, old buildings often have serious problems with damp. Make sure that your RICS-chartered surveyor is 100% positive they know how to survey an old building before they begin.

  1. Do your research

Before choosing a surveyor, look at their website. On it, you should be able to see their background, experience, client base, and any demonstrations of real-life experience with older properties.

This could include examples of building on older properties, restoration projects, or even proof of responsibility for the care of a particularly old building.

  1. Ask how they measure damp

Measuring damp requires a level of detailed understanding and some pretty specific tools. If your surveyor says they’re going to use a ‘damp metre’ to measure damp in a historic property – run for the hills.

Similarly, avoid surveyors that recommend coating damp walls in a waterproof coating. Older walls are supposed to ‘breathe’. As pressure and temperature changes, so will the percentage of water within the wall itself. This is why it’s inadvisable to coat stone masonry walls with waterproof coating – it prevents the natural distribution of water within the wall itself and traps moisture behind the walls.

  1. Do your homework

If you’re able to understand the old building yourself – even at an elementary level – you’re a step ahead. Do your homework and make sure you’re aware of the varied materials your old building features, as well as the different skill sets necessary to properly understand its fabric.

  1. Ask them to demonstrate

A true professional with experience in surveying older buildings should be able (as well as more than willing) to clearly demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the historical environment. To do this, look for the following good signs:

  • They use the Building Conservation module of RICS
  • Member of IHBC (The Institute of Historic Building Conservation)
  • Active working knowledge of traditional materials (e.g. timber framing, traditional plasters, lime, linseed paints, building ageing)
  • Equipment (e.g. thermal imaging, moisture control)

Old building surveys from Landform Surveys

Landform Surveys are experienced in surveying old buildings, with case studies such as our work for Woolsington Hall exemplifying our success in this area.

For a free quote, get in touch today!