Beware the Pretenders!

Those that have been around long enough will be aware of one irrefutable reality about recessions; almost without fail, they generate imposters. And, even though an economic downturn of the kind we are currently suffering hasn’t occurred for a few years, the fact is that this ‘rule’ shows little sign of changing, reports the Concrete Repair Association (CRA).

It occurs, of course, when a business begins to experience a decline in its traditional market sectors and start to ponder new areas in which it can direct its efforts in order fulfil the company’s capacity, maintain its turnover and (hopefully) contribute to its margins. Usually, as soon as the recession begins to bottom out, it drops the new sector like a hot brick and re-concentrates its efforts on the activity it understands best. It can’t be particularly blamed for this. After all, the company has shareholders, employees and its very existence to protect. The problem comes, of course, when it is technically incapable of undertaking and effectively resourcing (with trained labour) the specialist nature of the work in the newly chosen activity.

The concrete repair sector (and its allied disciplines) is not immune to the predicament, says the CRA. It has happened previously and it is transpiring again now. Unfortunately, in the end, it is usually the client, structure owner and/or the specifier, who is left holding the can. It’s not just the one-off pure concrete repair project that is affected. In the current tough economic environment, many main/principal contractors are seeking ways of increasing the value of their package by taking on additional, related works that they might have previously sub-contracted. Quantity Surveyors are always on the lookout for ways to combine works and minimise the number of sub-contractors.
It needs to be understood, however, that as with a number of specialist activities in the construction industry, techniques used for concrete repair work demand specialist know-how and technical capability. If not correctly carried out, any work inadequacies could leave a main/principal contractor vulnerable should things go wrong.

So what are the pitfalls for the client and how can they be avoided? Well, details concerning the ‘pretender’ should be checked. Does the company have QA, CHAS and/or industry accreditation? Does it have a trained and qualified workforce (CSCS)? Is it manufacturer recommended and financially sound? Is it able to table independent technical references and project referees? Does it have proven experience and an established track record? Is it able to organise insurance backed guarantees (IBGs) if required? Does the company comply with the exacting membership criteria of the CRA? It is the responsibility of the client to assess these criteria and for the contractor to verify each facet.

If this all sounds too complicated and risk laden, then the CRA would strongly recommend that in the concrete repair sector, such specialist work should always be sub-contracted to qualified installers who can demonstrate expertise and submit evidence of long-term durability in concrete refurbishment. Details of such suitably qualified installers can be obtained from the CRA.

The immediate reaction to such a comment is, no doubt, ‘Well the CRA would say that, wouldn’t it?’ Well yes, the CRA would. Because the fact remains that unless the work is completed correctly, the subsequent penalties will be considerable and very expensive – even if, by then, we have come out the other side of the recession!

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