Renovating a property is a great way to create your dream home. However, if you don’t know what questions you should be asking and how to prepare for potential problems, a project can quickly become a minefield of setbacks that could cause further problems and ultimately cost more money.
Firstly, a refurbishment can turn into a nightmare if your builders or subcontractors fail to do a good job, so this is where the questions should start. You need to find the right builder for the job, get multiple quotes to ensure a job is priced right, and ask for references from previous clients who have had similar work. At the end of the day, you are trusting people with your most valuable asset, so the more questions you ask the better.
After you’ve found the right builder, you then need to prepare for potential problems. Don’t wait to discover asbestos or other major structural defects until it is too late; make sure the necessary survey is completed and ask your builder these essential questions.
Is there any asbestos in my property?
Over 5,000 people die every year in the UK from asbestos-related diseases. Prior to its UK ban in 1999, asbestos was used extensively throughout the building trade, especially as a decorative ceiling application known as ‘Artex.’ Commonly still found in domestic premises, asbestos may be found in fascia and guttering, roofing applications, soil pipes, as insulation board in heating units, wall panels and pipe/attic lagging.
It’s important to ask this question for health and safety reasons. If any asbestos gets damaged during the work or is left to break down later on, workers or the occupants of the building can breathe in these dangerous fibres and become very ill.
How will you assess if there is asbestos in my property before the work commences?
This is another essential question that needs to be asked before work commences. Depending on the experience of the builder you employ, they may already have an idea of likely areas of concern prior to commencing works. However, where costs are tight, this may be one area that an unscrupulous builder may turn a blind eye to.
Asking this question will ensure that a demolition and refurbishment survey will be completed for the building. This will identify the type, location and amount of Asbestos Containing Material (ACM) present and give recommendations for treatment or disposal of the identified areas. Samples may also be taken to confirm the presence.
Will it be disturbed during the refurbishment and renovation works?
Unnecessary disturbance of asbestos-containing materials is not only illegal, but it could cause untold health effects on workers in the premises, any residents present and future users of the premises. This is why it is important to ask this question before construction takes place, as if builders disturb the asbestos and the post construction clean-up is ineffective, asbestos particles will be left over and available for inhalation.
How will you dispose of any waste produced?
Disposal of asbestos-containing materials is a licensed activity and must only be undertaken by qualified licensed specialists. All other waste in the UK is ‘controlled’ by waste transfer notes. To carry waste, the carrier must have a waste carriers licence issued by the Environment Agency or Natural Resources Wales; this ensures all waste is transported, stored, sorted and disposed of in accordance with current waste legislation.
As you are ultimately responsible for your waste, you need to ensure that the waste carrier is registered and that there is an audit trail from your house to the disposal or reuse of the waste.
How will you carry out the work safely, for the workers, the occupiers and any visitors to the premises?
Most works will come under the Construction Design and Management Regulations Act 2015. The main contractor on small builds must ensure that measures are taken to ensure the safety of all people who encounter the construction site, whether authorised or not. Steps must be taken to prevent dangerous situations arising, to give staff, contractors and visitors the relevant information, instruction and training to carry out their role safely; this will usually be set out in Risk Assessments and Method Statements, all of which dictate how tasks are to be carried out safely. Insufficient or inadequate Risk Assessments can lead to accidents and incidents, which may be reportable to and investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
With an asset as important as your house in someone’s hands, you must have questions for your builder, so don’t be afraid to ask them! By knowing what questions to ask and the importance and consequences of each situation, the whole refurbishment process should go smoothly and give you peace of mind.
If you need advice or have any questions about asbestos, surveys or what other questions you could be asking, please feel free to contact me.
Kevin at Active HSE