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We would also be happy to email you some of our tailor made reports, Schedules of Condition, Structural Surveys and Property Reports. We can send you examples of Structural Surveys on, we believe, every type of residential property and era, particularly new properties.
What is snagging?
The term snagging is becoming more and more well known, particularly with people buying new houses, but don’t be concerned if you haven’t heard of the term snagging, it is simply another term for defects. Fortunately, it is a term for defects that you shouldn’t have to see or deal with or in fact live with, which is usually the case in a new home.
Whilst there are many new homes built to a good standard, we wish to discuss here new homes that are built of a poor standard, or something that we are finding more and more, is that they are built to a “just about” standard and the builders leave the ultimate quality control to the person moving into the house, meaning that you can often be involved in long negotiations on any problems you find. Worse still, when problems aren’t found immediately, which in our experience tend to be the more technically difficult to solve, you can have long term problems to solve the issues even with the NHBC warranty and, we would add, do not consider building control as being a quality control system.
So what is happening with new house building that didn’t used to happen?
If you go back to many years ago, house building was very much a local operation with builders building in the area that they knew and lived in, using local labour and local materials.
The way that building companies were set up years ago and, we actually mean decades ago, is that the builders would have their own building team which they employed and trained and monitored and managed, who would construct the building from the ground up, possibly with the odd use of a sub-contractor from a specialist area. Generally these were sub-contractors that they knew and regularly worked with. There was a lot of self-monitoring and we would say, pride in the work being carried out.
Modern timber frame
Another factor that often came into play was the appointment of Clerk of Works. If Clerk of Works or Building Surveyors were appointed by the developers and if these were different to the actual builders’ Clerk of Works and Building Surveyors, experienced and knowledgeable property people acting for the developer. There was also local Building Control Officers from the Council looking at the project at set stages. There were some control measures in place, however we would say the main factor here was the local labour that had worked together and lived and knew the area.
Traditional timber roof structure
Move on several decades and, house building has changed massively as houses may look the same, often the construction techniques used are very different and they tend to be a lot faster and certainly there is a lot more insulation in a property. The economics of building have very much been considered, everything from the broader picture such as only building the property when they have a buyer to the finer details such as using engineered timbers, engineered joists and trussed rafters. To those non-technical people, this means using the minimum amount of timber.
What does this mean to you from a snagging point of you?
What the changes mean to you is, when you are buying a new house, it is likely to have been built by one of a few building contractors and, although they may have local regions, will tender elements of a building as they don’t have their trades people that they train to carry out the work, they are more of a management operation. Tendering means that the cheapest offering, is the person that carries out the work. We would say the house building companies’ focus is not so much on quality but on quantity and speed and there is a lot of pressure on you when you are spending this amount of money on a product to get it sold and it can’t be sold unless it is finished in one form or another, which results in a property where you, the buyer, end up being the ultimate quality control measure, where you live in the property and then end up advising the builder of the defects, which are known in the trade as snagging.
What about the NHBC or the Local Authority Building Control Officer’s quality control checks?
With the NHBC you have to start at the beginning. This is a building funded quality control system and many would argue that the quality control system is controlled and managed by the very people that are meant to regulate it is not ideal and we have heard it said that it is like marking your own homework. We have also heard it said that the NHBC are very under resourced, our dealings with the NHBC have been where we have been approached by clients that have had all sorts of problems with the property and we have to say it certainly hasn’t been what we would have expected, so much so, to the point, that we recommend a specific route when dealing with the NHBC.
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Building Control offer a quality control – do they?
When you get permission to build properties, it is based upon two things:-
1. The planning and the look of building – (we know this is a big summary of a big issue) and,
2. Building control which is the way the property is built (again we appreciate this a big summary of a big subject).
We have written in other articles about how Building Control is carried out both by the local authority and by private companies although once it was carried out only by local authorities with we would argue local knowledge and in house control procedures that were based on the ethics and ethos of the council’s concern, whereas now bigger companies can effectively have their own building control as they effectively have private building control companies working for them on each project, which means the statutory requirement to have the building looked at as you proceed, is now being carried out by someone that you pay to have a long term and direct relationship with. It could be argued that this is like having your own referee in a football or rugby match or umpiring your own cricket match – being your own judge one way or another. We are sure many would argue with the above, but we are also sure that many people that have moved into new properties that they are paying a lot of money for, have effectively had to carry out their own quality control by carrying out their own snagging would disagree.
So what is wrong with me carrying out my own snagging?
Unfortunately, the problem with the homeowner carrying out their own snagging, is that they will usually only be able to identify the effect of the problem. If rain is getting in around the window because the reveals have not had a damp proof course added (and yes we have seen this) then the affect internally is staining and deterioration to the plasterwork and decoration.
There may be a logical step to also guess that this is due to the rain getting in, but would this be decorated over, or would the plaster be removed and a damp proof membrane added. Someone moving into a property tends to focus on the effect of problems and rightly so, such as the finish of paintwork in a house or the finish of timber or window sills and staircases, colour consistency and other such things. Whilst these shouldn’t be there and shouldn’t be the sort of defects that you have to pick up on a snagging list, they often are.
Black mould on walls
There are of course, such things that many of you will be aware of such as the hairline cracking that can occur in a new building as it settles and dries out. Builders/developers will generally readily come back and make good, as to them it would only involve some painting work. This, probably nicely demonstrates, how the building industry has changed.
Different types of wall cracks
Not sold until the drying-out process and initial settlement has taken place
In years gone by, we remember talking to a developer who advised that he wouldn’t sell buildings until after they had dried out and the initial settlement had taken place and then been made good. Whilst we appreciate this is literally decades ago (and that does make us feel old) the kind of building techniques were very different which also demonstrates how much the building industry has changed over the years, whilst the outside of buildings basically look the same.
How can we help you if you have property problems or snagging problems or plain old building defects?
We will carry out a snagging list for you and describe where the item is. We will describe exactly what the problem is, identifying the cause rather than just talking about the effect. We will state what our recommended solution is as opposed to what the cheapest or the quickest solution is and will advise you how best to present this to your builder and how best to deal with your builder. If indeed dealing with your builder is the best way, it may be best to deal with the NHBC or it may be best to deal directly with a Solicitor and make a claim. Unfortunately, it may surprise you which one of these gets the quickest results.
Our unique sketches help you understand the survey
If the report, along with our photos, does not explain the problem or characteristics of a property enough then we also have a vast range of sketches, as per the examples above, that we have had commissioned exclusively for us that we can use in our reports.
What do the ovals and circles in our building surveys mean?
Within our reports we utilise a system of ovals and circles to highlight problem areas or characteristics within a property to better explain the issues. If this does not explain the issue completely then we can also use one of our sketches that have been commissioned exclusively for us for use in the reports.
Red circle around a cracked wall
Sketch of crack in wall
The above article has been written to stimulate debate and discussion. We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).
The content of the website is for general information and entertainment only and is not intended to be relied upon for specific or general decisions. Appropriate independent professional advice should be taken before making such a decision.
Free phone 1stAssociated.co.uk on 0800 298 5424.
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