How Do I Find a Good Damp Proofing Company?
So you need a damp proofing specialist?
There are several reasons why we sometimes need the help of a damp-proofing specialist. These can range from a damp patch on wall plaster; mould growing on walls and ceilings or, a pre house buy damp survey.
By far the best way of finding any contractor is by recommendation and if you are lucky, a friend will have first hand experience of using a local damp proofing firm and that’s always worth looking at.
However, assuming that’s not the case, how do you find a good firm and avoid the cowboy trader?
These days the web is the place we tend to start and of course Google and Bing will throw up lots of firms, when you kind in ‘damp proofing’. But before believing all the claims on company web site like ‘honest service’, ‘high quality workmanship’ or ‘fully qualified staff’ it can pay to look a little deeper.
In saying this we need to recognise that most people haven’t got hours and hours of time to use pre-vetting a damp proofing company before engaging them, so some short cuts are justified (most of the time).
An easy short cut to pre-vetted damp proofing specialists
In the UK there is only one nationally recognised trade association for damp proofing contractors, so the character Care Association is a good place to start. The PCA have written standards they work to and companies have to meet these, and pass a strict financial, health and safety and insurance test before they can join. Better nevertheless, member firms are visited regularly and placed under an independent quality audit.
Okay so the PCA want members and the members pay the associations running costs; if they threw them all out they’d be out of business, so can these checks be relied on?
On their own no, they can’t; all organisation have the strange bad member and you could be unlucky and get the worst PCA member, instead of the best. The thing is though, by choosing a PCA damp proofing member, you are already weeding out the non-members, those who have been vetted by nobody. On balance, you’ve already increased the chances of finding a good damp proofing firm, who are qualified, financially sound and well insured.
Right, so now we’ve narrowed the field down and a quick search using the PCA find a contractor widget on the PCA web site will give you a list of PCA members in your area.
That’s the main shortlist of damp proofing firms complete but how can you really find the best?
What next? Visit the web site of each in turn and have a quick examine. These days building a web site is a snip and a flashy site template with a few generic images and photos is shared – this tells you very little about those behind the company.
Look deeper though… You are looking for some real facts; some sign of substance behind all that damp proofing gloss.
Clues to a good firm include images of the staff, the boss, his managers and meaningful employees. If the firm is small, all the employees should be represented; after all, if there are only ten or so, then each one represents 10% of the service package – check them out. It’s hard for a shallow ‘front’ of a business to fake this part.
Next look at the footer of the contact and home page. In the UK it is the law that all company web pages must have the owner details shown. Things like the real holding company name and it’s registered company number and registered address. These allow you to check a firm’s past records such as court situations and financial records at Companies House (this is free). If this information is missing then move on – the company know the law and if they are breaking it in this way, there’s a good reason for it and they have something to hide – beware vendors who use masks!
Customer testimonials are used by many firms and it’s true that what customers say about damp proofing specialists they’ve used, average much more than what the management say. However, anyone can write a few glib sentences and call these a testimonial, so how can you weed out the dodgy ones?
Once again it’s a case of looking a little deeper; are there photographs of these happy clients? Are any commercial clients named (you can then check these exist with a simple search engine)? Commercial companies guard their brand and goodwill very carefully and most will have Google Alerts set up so they see if anyone is using their name in vain. So if all the testimonials on a traders site are from Mrs Smith or Mr Jones, with no real details – ask yourself why.
Most sites these days will have a news section – this is meaningful to getting under the skin of a company. Is the news up to date? What kind of news is ‘good’ in the companies’ eyes? If it’s all about how great they are, with no real thoroughness then shy away. Just think, what would you want to put on your news pages if you were running a company? How about the achievements of your staff? New certificates for training; awards for good service; any charity efforts and events? Of course there will be news about new sets and jobs well done too – look for a real story which represents the efforts of a group of people behind the firm – this is always a good pointer to an ethical, good company. If they care about their staff, they also care about their customers – the two go hand in hand.
Accreditations are the next good pointer. In the UK the minimum generic accreditation to look for is TrustMark. TrustMark is a government sponsored set of basic consumer focused standards, which must be met by a company before they can characterize the logo. It’s not fool proof, but if it’s not there – why not? Meeting these minimum standards; having insurance, a complaints procedure, customer place protection and similar basic good practice should be easy to meet for any half-descent company.
In construction related activity in the UK health and safety is growing in importance. So the government has another sponsored scheme called CHAS. This stands for Construction Health and Safety Scheme. The CHAS logo is only displayed if the firm have met and are seen to continue to meet basic health and safety standards, which are audited every year. CHAS is not hard to get, but once more, if it is missing be very careful – the firm either never work on real construction sites (where CHAS is mandatory), or they can’t be bothered to do the work to meet the CHAS standard. If you use a firm without CHAS you may be inviting danger into your house or risking harm to others on the project – I’d avoid non CHAS members.
The character Care Association is a must as I said, but of course we are only looking at PCA member companies anyway.
Investors in People is also worth looking for. This is an established accreditation which is quite hard to win and already harder to continue. IIP is only awarded when a firm can demonstrate commitment and good practice in eight areas, all of which revolve around staff engagement, training and development. We’ve all had poor service from bored, poorly motivated and underpaid staff. IIP is a way of checking that the damp proofing company really put their staff first, so you are likely to served by enthusiastic, well paid and well motivated people – I know who I’d rather deal with.
Whilst we’re on the subject of people why not check out the qualifications of the people in the firm. In the UK there are national qualifications for damp proofing surveyors and technicians. Look for the letters CSRT after the surveyor’s names – this stands for Certificated Surveyor in Remedial Treatment and it shows that the surveyor has had his knowledge of damp, timber defects and health and safety validated by independent examination. Anyone can call themselves a damp specialist surveyor – but are they? If they have CSRT after their name they are; if not then why not?
It’s similar with the damp proofing installer; the guys who truly carry out the damp proofing on site. The character Care Association run validated training for technicians and there is also a City and Guilds NVQ level 2 for damp and timber treatment technicians – ask if they have this.
I hope the above helps you find a good contractor for you damp proofing project – here’s a checklist for finding one:
- Trusted personal recommendation
- character Care Association member http://www.character-care.org/
- A web site with substance (real people)
- A web site with the owners names and company details displayed
- Testimonials from real companies in addition as domestic clients
- News pages are up to date with varied stories which include staff and customer details
- Trustmark registration http://www.trustmark.org.uk/
- CHAS registration
- Investors In People Accreditation
- Staff qualified in the work they advertise (CSRT)
The above is ideal if you are in the UK but many of the pointers apply anywhere in the world.