Advice & Guidance

Contractors

Plasterer Malcolm Uttley Places of worship are at their most vulnerable where building works are carried out without any professional involvement. Often building contractors are appointed to carry out minor repairs to historic buildings without having a specialist conservation architect or surveyor to advise on their appointment or to oversee the work.

Although this may seem to be a sensible approach when the work appears minor or straightforward it is possible that well-intentioned but misguided work will lead to a more serious problem. It is therefore good practice to involve your architect or surveyor, as they will ensure that the work is carried out correctly and to the appropriate standard.

The training, accreditation and experience of everyone involved, from scaffolders to stonemasons, is equally important. All contractors working on historic buildings should be familiar with the principles of traditional building construction and have sound knowledge of the use of traditional materials such as lime mortar. They should be selected on the basis of the quality of their previous work and the sensitivity of their approach to historic fabric. Maintenance contractors in particular need to be highly skilled individuals as their work encompasses a number of different disciplines and requires a robust approach to matters of health and safety.

Unfortunately, there is no single organisation that can provide information on suitable individuals or companies to undertake maintenance tasks or other repair work and there are a great many contractors who do not have the necessary skills and experience. As a consequence, you will need to be extremely cautious when searching for a contractor. It is a good idea to ask your architect or surveyor for their advice as they will have knowledge of the skills offered by local firms. You should also take advice from colleagues in your local area and visit recent projects before settling on a particular company.

Using a contractor for maintenance tasks

If you decide that your routine maintenance tasks should be carried out by a contractor, it is worth considering whether you can join together with other places of worship to achieve economies of scale. A contractor is more likely to be able to provide a competitive price if they are asked to work on a group of buildings rather than an individual structure.

Various dioceses within the Church of England are currently exploring the possibilities of centrally managed maintenance schemes. There is also hope that some of these schemes may be extended to places of worship of other faiths and to other parts of the country in due course. It is therefore worth checking whether your denominational body already has a maintenance scheme in place.

© SPAB 2008