If you have identified a problem that may affect the structural integrity of your building, such as movement in a wall or roof structure, you may need to seek advice from a structural engineer. In most cases, your architect or surveyor will be able to recommend someone with suitable conservation experience. Again, the conservation officer in your local planning department should be able to help. Alternatively, contact The Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) for contact details of suitable engineers.
Builders and craftspeople
Unfortunately, most builders lack experience of working with traditional building materials and techniques, and modern methods are not usually suitable for historic buildings. Indeed, the introduction of inappropriate materials can cause far more damage and be far more costly to put right than the original problem that they were intended to remedy. It is therefore essential that you choose a builder or craftsperson with the appropriate skills and knowledge for the job in hand. It is also essential to find someone who understands the principles of building conservation and will only do what is necessary. Windows, for example, should be repaired whenever possible, rather than replaced.
Try to choose a contractor whose work you know and trust. Ideally, the builder or craftsperson should be able to provide evidence of his or her ability to carry out the work required, which may include possession of a Heritage Skills Card. Details of the card scheme can be found on the Construction Skill Certification Scheme website. If you are in any doubt, your architect or surveyor, or the local planning authority’s conservation officer should be able to suggest someone suitable.
If you need further help finding a contractor:
- Telephone the Technical Advice Line (020 7456 0916) operated by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) on weekdays between 9:30am and 12:30pm. The advice line staff can answer questions and give advice about specific maintenance or repair problems, and may also be able to suggest suitable contractors in or near your area.
- Contact the relevant professional or trade organization. Many now have have useful directories that can be consulted online.
- Visit www.buildingconservation.com, where you can find an online directory of contractors and suppliers experienced in the restoration and conservation of historic buildings, as well as useful articles and other information.