(last updated July 2019)
Construction industry overview
Most sectors of the construction industry enjoyed plentiful demand for their services between the late 1990s and the mid 2000s. There were some problems - skilled labour was hard to find and insurance costs rocketed for some - but a strong housing market and a growing economy meant there was generally plenty of work to go around.
Unfortunately things came unstuck during the late 2000s as the economy nose-dived and the housing market more or less collapsed. Many construction-based businesses were forced to lay off staff and it became a struggle to find enough new work. Conditions remained very difficult during the early 2010s as the economy continued to perform poorly. However, 2013 saw conditions begin to improve as the housing market picked up, and the economy continued to strengthen until the mid 2010s.
Growth in the construction industry was subdued during 2016 and 2017. Growth remained flat in 2018 and little change is forecast for 2019. New private industrial orders have been falling and growth has been dependent on an increase in infrastructure activity and private housebuilding offsetting a sharp fall in the commercial and industrial sectors. This trend is expected to continue in 2019. The number of housing transactions grew modestly from 2013 to 2016 but slumped again in 2017 and 2018 after the vote in 2016 to leave the EU. Little change is forecast for 2019, for which the number of housing transactions is expected to contract and remain well below the peak achieved in 2007.
Competition within the industry remains very strong and the need for excellence has never been higher for damp proofing businesses that want to succeed.
The effects of climate change
Research indicates that the UK climate is currently getting warmer and more humid, potentially leading to more problems for householders caused by dampness and timber decay. Changing climate may also lead to an increase in the incidence of certain types of infestation.
It seems that climate change is also causing more frequent and more severe flooding in many parts of the country, giving rise to greater demand for specialist flood recovery services.
Many of the construction industries, including damp proofing, have been plagued by the activities of unscrupulous 'cowboys'. Cowboy operatives generally have no qualifications and limited experience. Many deliberately rip off their customers. A number of initiatives have been launched by both trade bodies and the government with the aim of educating customers and stamping out the cowboys. The Property Care Association (PCA), for example, vets its full members thoroughly to make sure that they meet certain standards.
Increasingly stringent legislation has been introduced in recent years to control the use of chemicals, including things like pesticides and biocides. Further EU regulations are currently in the process of being phased in. Users of potentially hazardous chemicals like biocides and other substances involved in property care and preservation need to be aware of the legislation - including any recent changes - and take steps to ensure that they comply with it.
There is more information about chemical regulations known as 'REACH' on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.
Keeping up with developments
An excellent way of demonstrating your professional integrity is to join a reputable trade association. Joining an association is also a very good way of keeping up to date with developments in your industry. The Property Care Association is one of the main trade bodies for this industry. For more information visit the PCA website.
The Wood Protection Association (WPA) represents a specific sector of the industry. Visit their website for more information.