Rogue builders taking advantage of soaring energy bills

The Wales Against Scams Partnership (WASP) is urging older and other vulnerable people to seek advice before agreeing to insulate their lofts with spray foam following a spate of rogue traders misleading older people.

The Partnership, which Care & Repair is part of, warns that while spray foam is legal, it is only appropriate in very specific and limited circumstances and should only be applied by specialists. It should never be marketed as a quick fix solution to loft insulation problems as it can potentially cause structural damage and make it difficult to sell a property.

Care & Repair Cymru’s chief executive Chris Jones says “Making your home more energy efficient is still important for your health, your finances, and the climate. However, we would urge people to be cautious and to do lots of research before going ahead with spray foam insulation work.

“Some local authorities have trusted trader lists, while they all should be able to advise on housing and environmental health queries.

“Trading Standards will have lists of approved traders under their ‘Buy with Confidence’ service while local Care & Repair Cymru branches will be able to offer advice on reliable contractors working in their areas.”

The Problem of Spray Foam Loft Insulation

Spray foam loft insulation is a product which has increased in popularity in recent years, especially with people wanting to spend less on energy bills and ‘do their bit’ for the environment. The issue is that it is applied directly to the timbers in your roof, meaning your roof cannot breathe which can cause or worsen damp problems. Building regulations emphasise the need for cross ventilation in attic spaces and spray foam goes against this, it restricts air circulation and can cause the timbers to rot.

Spray foam loft insulation companies are often calling people and going under the guise of the various government backed schemes, telling people they could be eligible for grants if they have spray foam installed. Care & Repair Cymru are unaware of any government grants that would cover this type of work.

Worst of all, many lenders have stipulations in their guidelines that they will not lend against properties that have spray foam in the loft.

What We Have Seen Across Wales

  • One client paid more than £4,000 for spray foam loft insulation that was sold by a doorstep trader. The clients were older people with various health problems, including sight and hearing loss and would have appeared vulnerable to the rogue trader.
  • Another client was persuaded to pay a £2,000 deposit for spray foam. Their family stopped the work from going ahead.
  • One rogue trader claimed that a government grant would cover most of the work, and that the client would ‘only’ have to pay £2,500 for installation.
  • An older client bought spray foam loft insulation for £3,500 and found they were unable to sell their house as a result. It cost £2,000 to remove the foam before the house could be put back on the market. However, the house was off the market for two months and during that time property value had dropped by £15,000.

What does Care & Repair Cymru recommend?

Whilst spray foam loft insulation isn’t illegal, it is really important to seek a second professional opinion if you are thinking about making any changes to your property. These companies make spray foam look very sophisticated, especially if they are promising it is a government backed product, so this can happen to anyone.

There is lots of guidance about making changes to your home, a good place to start is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ guidance on spray foam loft insulation, which sets out the dos and don’ts if you are considering this option. Overall, Care & Repair Cymru would never recommend spray foam loft insulation for a client’s home.

There are government back schemes that provide grants to make energy-efficiency improvements for your home. It is a good idea to contact your local authority or local Care & Repair Agency to check eligibility and what measures would be most suitable for your home.

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