How to Find the Right Professional Help
It is important to find contractors and advisers with the skills and experience to work on older buildings. Here you can find out why this is important and more about the trades and professions that may be able to help you.
Historic England cannot recommend any individuals or businesses. This page links to registers of individuals and companies accredited by trade and professional associations.
Why old building experience matters
- Skills and experience in modern building methods alone are not enough
Traditional and modern construction techniques and materials are different. Anyone lacking knowledge and experience with older buildings will be less able to identify the causes of problems or to specify appropriate and cost-effective repairs.
- Every building's energy performance is complex and unique
For any work aiming to improve the energy efficiency of an older home, look for people with experience of using the whole-building approach.
Choosing a builder/contractor
If you appoint an architect or surveyor, they should help find a suitable builder for you. If you're not using a professional adviser for your work, it is even more important to find a builder with verifiable experience and knowledge of old buildings. Before you appoint anyone:
Using trade association registers
Use these trade association registers to check a contractor has the relevant qualifications:
Many elements of old buildings are quite fragile. A repair may need specialist expertise rather than the skills of a general builder. This kind of work could include the cleaning of brickwork or stonework, paint-colour analysis or the installation of special services.
Trades people can gain the Heritage Skills CSCS card, (Construction Skills Certification Scheme).
Works supervisors and site managers can gain Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Conservation Certification. The scheme is open to individuals working in a wide range of built environment roles including: design roles, project and construction managers, building/quantity surveyors and retrofit roles.
If you're getting advice from a builder on what work is needed, remember that they have a vested interest in how much work there is to do. If you think a builder may be proposing unnecessary work, get independent professional advice.
- National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC)
- Electrical Contractor Association (ECA)
For electrical works in your home it's also important that the electrician is Part P registered. Part P of the Building Regulations ensures that all electrical work carried out in your home will be carried out safely by a qualified electrician and that building control is notified of this work.
Find qualified gas engineers on the Gas Safe Register.
Plumbing, heating and building engineering
Finding professional advice
A quality contractor or local tradesman may be all you need. However, while it may save you money at the start of a building project, going ahead without the help of experienced and qualified professionals can be a false economy.
Professional advisers use conservation accreditation schemes to demonstrate they have the relevant skills and expertise. Use the registers listed below to find advisers.
Architects are trained in building design. Those who specialise in old buildings can bring their expertise to the design of refurbishments, alterations and extensions, as well as designing new buildings in historic areas.
Only a small proportion of architects specialise in the repair of old buildings. To find architects with conservation accreditation, look on:
- Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation
Search for architects in category A
- Royal Institute of British Architects conservation register
Search for specialist conservation architects
- Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
Search for architects at accredited or advanced level
The term 'architect' is a protected title in the UK. Only those registered with the Architects Registration Board can call themselves an 'architect'. Practitioners with similar titles such as 'architectural designer' do not have the professional qualifications needed to be an architect.
Chartered architectural technologists
Chartered architectural technologists (MCIAT) are concerned primarily with the sound technical performance of buildings. They are specialists in building design and construction and can initiate and complete a building project from conception through to final certification.
To find those who specialise in conservation look in the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists directory of accredited conservationists.
Chartered members of the Landscape Institute (CMLI) include a range of practitioners involved in protecting, conserving, planning and managing landscapes including historic parks and gardens specialists. Through the Landscape Institute’s Directory you can find specialist members and registered practices.
Conservation professionals are specialists in heritage who can help you manage, care for, conserve and improve your home. Their particular concern is that any work respects heritage values, historic features and specialist construction techniques.
Conservation professionals can be accredited as full members of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, and have the letters IHBC after their name.
Search a list of businesses using the IHBC’s Historic Environment Service Providers Recognition (HESPR) website. The HESPR's national office can guide you towards relevant accredited members.
Conservation officers, sometimes called historic buildings officers, are specialists within a local planning authority. They can give technical repair advice on work to old buildings as well as advice on development issues such as extensions and alterations to old buildings. Consult them early on in your project if you think your project may need listed building consent or conservation area consent.
Conservators are experts in the conservation, repair and preservation of materials and objects, such as wall paintings, statues and stained glass. They can also carry out surveys of historic materials and objects, and make recommendations for their repair. The Institute of Conservation’s Conservation Register lists conservators with specific skills.
Structural problems are usually best assessed by a structural engineer. Again it is best to find an engineer who is experienced with old buildings.
Find structural engineers accredited in building conservation on the Conservation Accreditation Register of Engineers.
Building services engineers
Also known as mechanical and electrical services engineers, they can provide advice and design on a range of systems including internal and external lighting, heating, ventilation, public health, drainage, electrical distribution, fire alarm and security systems.
Suitably qualified engineers are likely to be chartered members or fellows of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE and FCIBSE) or The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).
Chartered building surveyors
Chartered building surveyors (MRICS or FRICS ) have a similar role to the architect in relation to repairing and maintaining existing buildings. However, they are generally not trained as designers.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Chartered Institute for Building (CIOB) publish registers of building conservation accredited professionals:
- View the RICS register of accredited surveyors
- Download the CIOB Building Conservation scheme list of members PDF
Chartered quantity surveyors
For a larger project, a quantity surveyor (MRICS or FRICS) can estimate the cost of building work, obtain tenders, and deal with the financial control of building work and contractual issues.
There is now a wide range of specialist suppliers of traditional building materials. These suppliers can also give advice on how the materials should be used.