Successful repair to shoddy building work is a vast subject, which is dependent on the initial damage and the area of construction. According to a 2017 BBC article, the area of building work which caused the most issues was roofing, which had a total of 4,971 complaints to Citzens Advice . The fitting of kitchens was close behind, and fitted windows and doors came in third with just under 4,000 cases. As a top structural engineer firm in Cornwall and chartered surveyors, we plan to unpick some of these problem areas and discuss how problems may arise. As a specialist in roofing and subsidence, these are two topics that we will discuss in this article as well as common plumbing problems.

Roof Problems

As the first on the BBC report of problematic building work, we will first take a look at roofing. It is an area of maintenance which is often overlooked until a problem arises. A general understanding is that the older the roof is, the more likely it will need to undergo some form of reparations in the latter third of its life. A common issue which causes malfunctioning roofs is faulty installation. If this is the case, you will most likely receive problems at the beginning after the completed installation. It can occur from poorly placed tiles which cause excess water to seep through the roof and consequently cause damage. Furthermore, inadequately secured tiles through lack of nails also cause leakage, as well as guttering that has been wrongly placed. It is essential to have roofing installations completed by a reputable contractor who are accredited members of their related governing body.

Many roofing problems also occur for natural reasons, such as damage from trees. If a tree is causing harm to your roof, the best solution is to employ a reputable tree surgeon to sufficiently remove the branches of the tree to prevent further damage. Extreme weather can also be another factor. In order to keep on top of this, make sure you regularly check the condition of the roof, ensuring all materials are maintained to a high standard and the roof is free of gaps and holes.

Roof with a bird on top and moody sky.

Subsidence

This may not be a result of poor building work necessarily. However, there have been cases where subsidence has been a consequence of poor planning work.

A relatable and familiar example of subsidence comes in the form of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Built on extremely unsteady foundations, this historic building has endured hundreds of years of maintenance and repair work to keep it upright and stable. Each time attempts have been made to re-stabilise it; the soil underneath keeps shifting. Without amendments, it would have fallen by now, and therefore needs constant supervision.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

It is understood that all constructions eventually move, and those with shallower foundations are more at risk of this. However, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, they can be stabilised.

Subsidence can be a fault of initial poor building work, such as poor quality foundations, shallow foundations onto poor ground, or foundations that are unsuitable for the local ground conditions. Damaged underground drainage can also cause ground to soften and the foundations to settle. The cause of subsidence generally requires some investigation works such as trial holes and can be stabilised using many methods from traditional concrete underpinning to mini-piling.

Roof spread is another issue that can cause movement to external walls. It occurs when roof rafters push the walls outwards because joists or collars do not secure them. These may occur when rafters were never correctly secured through nails or have suffered from water damage.

In most cases, a structural engineer will need to be informed and advised on the situation. If the damage is due to rotting, these areas will need to be removed and replaced with pre-treated timber. Ensuring the roof is correctly ventilated to avoid the same problem reoccurring is even more essential. Metal ties may be installed to the roof or upper floor joists if the walls need restricting to prevent movement.

Bare tree in forest.

Issues with Plumbing Work

Problems with plumbing is a widespread occurrence and a professional should be used. However, some minor issues can be fixed by a competent person, if you know how.
Low water pressure is when water slowly exits the tap rather than flowing freely. It usually occurs in older taps and commonly caused by an increase of material within, this can be cleared using vinegar. For showerheads, you need to leave the showerhead in the vinegar overnight and use a sharp object to remove leftover debris or replace it.
Leaky pipes are common during the colder seasons as water in the pipes expand when frozen. To avoid this occurring, try to keep your thermostat at a regular temperature throughout the day and night and ensure pipework within unheated areas are lagged.

Your Rights

Knowing what to do when you are a victim of poor building work can be confusing. With the issues we have discussed, not all problematic building work is necessarily the fault of a professional. It is useful to know that after a guarantee has finished, and issues arise, the responsible builder cannot claim that you are not entitled to repair work. However, if you do find yourself in a dispute with a builder over your building work, there are some networks and sources of guidance you can contact. The Consumer Rights Act is a source of information to provide information on how builders should carry through their work. If you need further support and want to know what your best course of action should be, seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. The Alternative Dispute Resolution is also a valid, legal way to solve a disagreement between two opposing parties.

Brick houses with red and green doors.

How to Choose a Trusted Builder

As a respectable chartered surveyor and RICS registered firm, we would advise you to select builders who are a trusted trade body. Research before choosing a builder can go a long way, and ensuring you compile references beforehand is a must. It is also essential to ensure any contracts or quotations are physically written down for a future reference if any dispute occurs.

If you would like some more information on structural dampness, take a look at our blog How to Avoid Structural Dampness for further details. Based in the South West, Martin Perry Associates is a reputable Structural Engineering and Surveying Consultancy who offer a wide range of structural engineering and surveying services.