Under One Roof: A short guide to undertaking building surveys

27 October 2023

It’s important to have an awareness of the condition of the building you live in, so that you can prioritise repairs and notice when something is not quite right. A professional building survey can give an objective assessment of the issues in your building for you and your neighbours. It is recommended to get a professional survey carried out every five years.

Professional building surveys

For a professional building survey, it is important to employ someone with the correct knowledge. Make sure that whoever you employ, whether it’s a surveyor, an architect, or an engineer, has carrying out building surveys listed as one of their specialisms. If you live in a conservation area or listed building, make sure to find a conservation architect or conservation surveyor. There will be little difference in price, but they will have a better knowledge of your type of building.

One option for finding a qualified surveyor is to look on the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website. Here, you will be able to look at various firms and identify which will be the most suitable for your type of building. If you need to find an architect to carry out your building survey, look at the A-Z register on the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) website. Regardless of whether you choose a surveyor or an architect and which firm you decide to go with, ensure they have experience in working with your type of building and are qualified for the job.

Once they’ve completed the survey, ask the surveyor, or architect, to give you a list of repair priorities and a maintenance plan. This will enable you to start making financial plans towards repairs, especially those which are urgent.

If you have a factor, you can speak to them about arranging a professional building survey and they will be able to recommend someone to you. Arranging a professional building survey yourself means you have more control over the process, however, arranging the survey through your factor will mean they can take care of all the paperwork and arrangements for you. This can be helpful if you are not familiar with the process.

DIY building surveys

Between professional surveys, it’s good to keep an eye on your building and carry out your own DIY surveys. It can be helpful to have copies of plans and elevations or to print out black and white photos of your building to write down what you find. You can also record your findings in this downloadable building survey checklist from Under One Roof. This can make it easier to communicate what you find to your co-owners, should you need to inform them of any repairs that need doing.

Some key things to look out for include but are not limited to:

  • Staining underneath a gutter or behind a downpipe
  • Plant growth from gutters, even if very small
  • Overflowing drains and build up of ground levels
  • Slipped or missing slates or tiles on the roof
  • Cracks or failing surface repairs on external walls
  • Staining or cracked glass inside the close
  • Gaps in stairs, broken treads, or separation cracks in the close stairs
  • Condition of cills and lintels on windows

When checking the roof, safely get as much height as you can, for example by looking out from a neighbour’s top floor flat. Or, depending on your type of building, you may be able to see most of the roof from the road with someone else helping to keep an eye on traffic whilst you do so.

Visit the Under One Roof website to download the DIY building survey checklist and find other articles on tenement maintenance and repair management.