MyBuilder talks to Annabelle Webster of South East Timber and Damp

Damp proofer at work

During certain damp works you may expect a small amount of mess and disruption to your home.


When would I need to call a damp proof specialist?
You might need a full Timber and Damp survey prior to purchasing a property or if you have a specific damp or timber issue that requires an inspection.

What does a survey involve?
To carry out a full damp report, the surveyor will need to take moisture readings from all internal and external walls. Heavy items may need to be pulled away from walls ahead of the visit to allow for access.

Before a full timber inspection can be carried out, carpets must be pulled back and floorboards lifted to allow the surveyor to inspect the timbers below. Loft areas should  be accessible and cleared of items to allow a full inspection. If the property is occupied, a limited inspection may only be possible.

If remedial timber or damp works have been carried out in the last 20 years, certification documents will help the surveyor determine if any of the works have failed.

How much mess and disruption can I expect?
If the work involves removing internal plaster and render from the walls then dust is unavoidable. Covering furniture and taping doors shut will help somewhat, but dust carries in the air and will settle in all rooms. Timber treatments can also be disruptive.  We would always suggest rooms are cleared and not used during and after works for a few hours to allow the air to clear.

Should I expect you to be a member of a trade body?
If you are looking for a specialist damp proofing or remedial timber treatments company, we recommend that you choose a full time member of the Property Care Association. PCA members have passed a series of stringent checks, and are regularly audited on health & safety procedures, complaints handling, training and much more. Members are also required to abide by high standards with certified surveyors in place.

Can I expect your work to be guaranteed?
All our specialist remedial works are guaranteed unless specified in the surveyor’s report.  As a PCA member, we can also offer a limited insurance policy to cover the guarantee. If a PCA company ceases trading and the works fail, another PCA contractor will carry out the works under the guarantee.

A “guarantee” can be printed by any firm. If the contractor goes out of business though, or if the works fail and the contractor refuses to return, their guarantee is worthless. We regularly get called in to assess failed damp works because the original contractor no longer operates and the guarantee cannot be honoured.

Are there any common scams or cowboy behaviour I should look out for?
There are some basic checks that you should carry out before choosing a damp proofing contractor:

  • Research the contractor online and read any feedback that has been written about them.
  • Be wary if a contractor ONLY has mobiles and 0800 numbers or does not have an office address.
  • Look out for “post box” addresses in central London or local towns as these may be mail drop addresses.  Ask if the contractor has an office you can visit.

Do you provide an estimate or a quote?
An estimate is an educated guess at what a job may cost – it is not binding, however.  In this case you may receive several estimates covering various scenarios.

We provide a fixed quotation which cannot be changed once accepted by the customer. This quotation relates to the report which clearly specifies the exact works that are to be carried out along with a sketch plan of the area.

In the damp proofing industry we generally work to quotations and specify the exact works that we would carry out.  Additional works may be needed that could not be accounted for at the time of quoting. Extras will be appended to the report and quoted as a variation. Generally the quotation will have an expiry date.

Do I need to pay a deposit? What about money for materials?
As a rule of thumb, we ask for a 25% deposit upon acceptance of the works. Deposits allow the contractor to cover some of the initial material costs.  For waterproofing works, this could amount to thousands of pounds of materials that need to be pre-ordered. If you hand over any money, you should either have signed an acceptance form detailing the agreed quote or received a receipt detailing the monies paid.

How do you take your tea?
Lots and mine’s strong, no sugar!

If you are a tradesman or tradeswoman and have a view or topic you’d like to share then please contact us.