Addressing the Needs of a Property

We have talked about the Green Homes Grant Scheme A LOT recently…but for good reason! Now that homeowners are beginning to take steps towards home improvements with this grant, it is vital to keep reminding them to be cautious. The timeframe to access the grant and complete the works, highlights just how risky this is – the ‘goldrush‘ to grab this funding without proper and well thought out consideration to the needs of the property seems inevitable. Let’s face it…we all like a bit of a ‘freebie‘!

Cavity walls and The Green Homes Grant

We know that cavity walls have been the preferred method of construction for the last 100 years. With an estimated 27+ million homes in the UK , we also know that nearly 20 million are of cavity wall construction. So as an industry of property professionals, we will be looking at properties with cavity wall construction on a daily basis.

Cavity walls work on the simple premise that the void separating two leaves of brickwork prevents the passage of water, reducing the possibility of the inner leave getting wet and spoiling the internal wall finishes. They have proven to be extremely robust and efficient at ensuring that rainwater does not manifest itself on the inner decorative surface of a wall.

All good so far. But what happens when the government announces that they are looking to spend £2billion on retrofit insulation and heating measures which will undoubtedly include a huge volume of alterations to cavity wall properties? Well, we all took a sharp intake of breath. Then got to work on pushing the message out there: ‘check that the property is fit for purpose and ensure you understand what you are buying!’.

Before we upset people…

Now…before I upset anyone, I just want to be clear. At the PCA, we are very much supporters of the new Green Homes Grant and have also been supportive of cavity wall insulation, IF it is properly evaluated and installed correctly. However, we are keen to ensure we learn from the mistakes of the past and we do hope to help steer both homeowners and property professionals towards benefitting from the new scheme that benefits in the right way!

Surveyors must consider signs of retrofit insulation

The climate emergency is well publicised and if we are to rise to the challenge and become carbon neutral, changes to our existing housing stock is vital. At present cavity wall insulation provides one of the most cost effective methods of improving the carbon efficiency of a home. BUT, the insulation fundamentally changes the way that the wall behaves.

The tell-tale signs of retrofit insulation are normally abundantly clear during the course of the survey and must be considered by the surveyor.

Once the cavity has been filled there is now a medium for water to track across the cavity. Our British climate means walls get wet but they are normally in a balance where they dry again before there is a problem. If that balance is tipped and the cavity has been filled, there is the possibility that dampness will manifest itself on the internal surface of the wall.

We are not saying cavity wall insulation is bad

So am I saying cavity wall insulation is a bad thing? Absolutely not, as previously explained it is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of our ageing building stock. I have lived in a number of houses which have had cavity wall insulation and have enjoyed the benefits that it brings…essentially lower heating bills and warmer warms.

What I am saying is that it changes the mechanics of the wall from the way it was originally constructed and this must be appreciated by specifiers of the insulation, those that occupy and those that inspect these buildings.

Understand the fabric of the building before you buy!

I have received a number of calls from homeowners or purchasers, who live in or who are looking to purchase a house with cavity wall insulation, asking if they should be concerned. To which I have always answered, ‘if you look after the fabric of your building and control the environment inside, then probably not’.

That said there are a large number of cavities that are simply not suitable for retrofit insulation – whether it is in an unsuitable location or the cavity is too small and many of these would not have had retrofit measures undertaken for these very reasons. But when a scheme like the Green Homes Grant is introduced, and for a limited timeframe that it currently is, there will undoubtedly be a rush to get access to as much of that funding that potentially puts little regard for the needs of the property.

Whilst the scheme only lasts until March 2021, the legacy of these retrofit measures will last well beyond that time if not done properly. Our advice continues to be, don’t rush in…ensure you get your walls properly checked!

PCA’s Defects in Cavity Construction course

Of course there are other considerations with cavity walls and for any property professionals out there, the PCA has developed a one-day Defects in Cavity Construction course which casts the spotlight on to these, including:

  • Wall ties
  • Cavity trays
  • Ventilation
  • Blocked cavities

In a world where we are seeing growing concern around the defects within cavity walls and a rise in companies looking to exploit these growing concerns, it is now essential that all property professionals that inspect buildings understand these defects.

Want to know more? Get in touch

Contact the training team today for more information on the Defects of Cavity Construction course on 01480 400 000 or email amber@property-care.org

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