Monthly Archives: November 2012

Structural repairs to defective brickwork

There are many different ways to repair different defects to brickwork and it very much depends on the construction types and defects as to the best and most cost effective types of repair. The key to affecting a good repair is both experience and calculations as to the loadings and forces that the masonry is under. So the best way to find out these facts is to employ a structural engineer for just a few hundred pounds you are then armed with the information that allows you to make a decision on the best course of action. It will also allow competent and experienced building contractors to put together a fixed priced schedule for the recommendations and information detailed in the structural engineers report. It is also important to consider if there is another underlying issue or defect that has given rise to the original problem. It could be as simple as a blocked drain undermining the existing footings or poor substrate or inadequate foundations. The money spent on investigating the issues could save thousands of pounds in unnecessary building works and repairs. Good building contractors will be able to give you an estimated figure based on their experience of the type of issue and property construction. They will also be able to recommend a good structural engineer who specialises in the type of defects and issues that are affecting your property. Some structural engineers are more used to dealing with new structures and can be over enthusiastic when dealing with some types of repair work. Good building contractors who specialise in structural defects will be able to recommend an engineer they work with regularly. This benefits all parties as the engineer has faith in the contractor carrying out the works to a good standard and following their recommendations carefully. It also allows the contractor to have confidence that the repairs recommended are both suitable and economically sensible. It can also save the customer time and money as the two parties solving their issues already have a good working relationship and want to make sure they do not let any of the parties evolved down with poor advice or ineffective repair techniques.

How to design a home extension

Many home owners are looking for extra space and often the easiest and most cost effective way is to add a home extension. These are usually to the side or rear of a property or can be added to more than one elevation often called wrap around extensions. The key to designing a good home extension is to balance your home extension budget against the size and finish of the extension you require. Also take into consideration how your home works at the moment would it be better to move your kitchen or add a downstairs toilet or porch as part of your building project? Also consider the impact your new home extension will have on your outside space. Particularly with many side extensions the addition of a new bin store can stop the need for unsightly bins that have previously been stored at the rear of your home becoming an unwelcome feature on the front. When you add a home extension it makes the foot print of your house larger and this in turn means that the living space can be further away from natural light. So take some time to consider new windows and roof lights, patio or bi folding doors. With recent changes the UK planning regulations not all home extensions now require planning permission but it is advisable to obtain a lawfulness certificate. However all home extensions will require building regulations approvals this is usually done through a full plans building regulation approval. This makes sure that your design confirms to building regulation and will be structurally sound under part “A”, and thermally efficient under part “L”, and conform to all the other building regulations. The building inspector will also come out to visit your project during the building work to check various items like the drainage, pre-plaster inspections to check the structure and insulation and at various other key stages in the build.

Interior decor ideas for renovations

Carrying out renovations on a home can be costly and time consuming, and when large tasks have been completed – such as installing a new kitchen or bathroom – there is still the decorating to be tackled. Not everyone can afford to bring in a team of interior designers, so careful thought should be given to the décor. It should be easy to create without the benefit of professional assistance.

Choosing a style

A decor’s style or theme is something that is very personal to the owner. There is no compulsion to follow the latest fad, or choose something that lots of other people have, but the décor should reflect the individual tastes of the homeowner. Start by thinking about a colour scheme and plan the room accordingly. It is possible to renovate a room on a low budget, but at the same time alter every aspect of it to present a whole new look.

When considering colour schemes, make use of paint tester pots to assist in deciding on the ideal colour. Ask fabric shops for swatches of fabric that can be taken home and viewed in place to see the effect. There are also interior design software programmes that allow the user to recreate the room on a computer and alter the decor until a style is found that works.

Interior decor on a budget

One way to achieve an interior design on a budget is to get a little creative. A fairly recent trend is ‘upcycling’. This involves taking old items that might otherwise be thrown away, and giving them a new look and a new lease of life. This could be a great solution for those who might be short of funds for totally new furniture. Alternatively, furniture pieces can often be obtained for nothing from sites such as Freecycle, although it may take a bit of time to obtain everything that is needed.

Second hand shops are often filled with items of good quality, at a fraction of the price they would sell for as new merchandise in a furniture store. Another option is to get discounts by buying new furniture online, but one downside is that it is not always possible to inspect the item before it is purchased and delivered. The upside is that it is possible to purchase just about anything online these days, from dining tables to sofas.

Kitchen decor

A kitchen has to be a very practical room, and there are many design options for this part of the house. One of the main considerations, no matter what style of kitchen is preferred, is storage. There should be plenty of storage space for all utensils, crockery and food items. This will leave worktops clear – something that is essential if the kitchen is fairly small.

The vintage look is becoming popular for kitchens, with many people opting for older style accessories and features. However, there are also those who prefer sleek and modern designs that have a minimalist approach. Kitchen decor will also be influenced by the family’s lifestyle. If the kitchen is intended to be a family room that gets a lot of use and continuous traffic, then a minimalist theme will not work well.

Top tips to give your home extension or renovation the wow factor

There are many ways to make your home extension or renovation project stand out from the norm and you do not need to break the bank. The key is good planning add features like recesses with lighting or mirrors to add a sense of space and quality. Keep things simple use unusual but simple design on skirting boards and door architraves rather than just using off the peg torus mouldings like everyone else. Add a feature wall using individual recesses and alcoves built into display art or interesting items. This is inexpensive but done well , kept simple and in proportion it can really set a project aside from the competition. Use glass not just by adding interesting windows and roof lights but use glass balconies and partitions and internal windows to add both light and a feel of individually design quality. Think carefully about flooring choices engineered wood will help to reflect light and give a feeling of space and improve your spaces light and airy feel. If your project has lots of small rooms or circulation space use the same flooring so the rooms do not feel so small and this helps the project flow. Also consider structural changes like knocking rooms through to give larger and lighter open space living. Are the rooms in the right place? Is it worth moving the kitchen and adding features like large bi-folding doors? Consider the external look be careful about brick choices and finishing to the exterior it is best to either slavishly match the existing or go for a completely different and contemporary feel for a addition like a home extension. Once you have your internal layout confirmed consider how window and doors will look from the outside as well. Does your design look balanced externally or do windows look out of symmetry or unbalanced? Also consider the external landscaping a modern Japanese style garden may look fabulous but does it match the style of your home?

Unsupported chimneys and structural defects

There are a surprising number of properties that have had sections or all of their chimneys or chimney breasts removed. This can be done safely and properly by reputable building contractors with the advice of a structural engineer and inspections by your local authority building control department. However over time many have been removed with little or no regard for the potential structural defects that can be created by their removal. The majority of chimney breasts in period properties terraces houses or others have significant structural importance. They support floors and the chimney above as well as the sometimes the roof structure and provide lateral restraint to the elevation walls. Sometimes the chimney can be removed without the structural defects it creates becoming evident for years and at this point the defects can cost tens of thousands of pounds to correct. If you plan to remove a section of chimney it can usually be safely carried out by inserting a single RSJ or steel beam to pick up the loadings from above. This is usually done by spanning the room from the adjacent walls with a beam picking up the front masonry face of the chimney breast. With roofs it is sometimes the case that purlins have been built into or are using a section of the chimney breast usually in the roof space to carry the loads from the roof. The purlins are the large timbers under the roof rafters that are used to break the span and allow for the rafters to be slimmer and still carry the weight of the roof tiles or slates. If you have any concerns about a chimney breast that has been removed or you plan to remove a chimney breast contact a reputable building contractor they will be able to take care of the required structural calculations and liaise with the local building control authority to make sure the works are carried out and left in a safe and structurally sound state.

Commercial refurbishments and shop fitting

Many retail and commercial property managers are looking to make the most of their existing work space particularly as many businesses are looking to maximise efficiency and are reluctant to expand or move to larger commercial properties. So what are the best ways to maximise the benefits of a refurbishment budget and make sure you get the most attractive and efficient layout. Take some time to do some basic sketches of what you want, socket positions, material choices any key features like work stations or display stands. Think about the best use of materials do you need wipe able surfaces? Would anti bacterial panels be a more cost effective alternative to porcelain tiles? Chose a contractor who is as enthusiastic about your project as you are and can give you cost options and suggest budget savings and how to add value to your refit design. Avoid structural alterations unless they are critical to your design and look at other options to make better use of the space it might be more cost effective to make other less costly alterations. It is important to stay on the right side of regulations so find a building contractor who can advise on the requirements for building control, fire safety and asbestos regulations. Many facility managers do not realise that just having an asbestos report and register may not be enough you may require an asbestos renovation report. You might also need to add additional fire call points or extra fire doors to make sure that your visitors and staff are protected from legislation and safety issues. You will also need to consider disabled access and other statutory requirements. These may also be written into lease agreements so check what you can and cannot do to avoid costly dilapidations and other lease charges.

Contemporary modern home extensions

Modern living styles suite large open plan living spaces and this has made a certain style of home extension popular. Many semi and detached houses are being extended with large open plan rear extensions. These are often knocked through the rear reception room by adding a steel beam or RSJ and then given roof windows and bi folding doors to create a large and light open plan living area. This style of contemporary home extension often incorporates an open plan kitchen, dining and living space. This style of home extension is popular as it overlooks the rear garden so lends its self to family living styles and is ideal for those who regularly entertain. As with all building projects the most successful of these open plan rear extensions are those that are well designed and planned. They are often finished with hardwood or bamboo flooring which helps reflect the light particularly if roof windows have been installed. The use of high gloss kitchens and reflective work tops helps to bounce light back around the space to give a light and airy feel. With this type of space many home owners want to avoid losing useable space and avoid unsightly radiators so often opt for under floor heating. It is important to consider the type and layout of lighting to make your contemporary home extension as fabulous by night as it is by day. The use of cornice and pelmet lighting and specific task lighting and modern wall lights can add a feeling of design quality rather than just adding a central light or recessed spot lights. These extensions often also feature full height or warm roof ceilings that follow the roof line and add a sense of space and set the space apart from more standard home extensions. With large open plan living spaces it can be a good idea to zone the living areas to maintain a homely feel. This can be achieved by changing to different flooring between kitchen, dining and living areas or braking up the space with feature walls in reclaimed brick or using natural products like travertine, timber panelling or slate. Building contractors who specialise in this type of home extension project will be able to advise on what has been successful on other projects they have completed. They will be able to advise you on items that can be over looked by first time developers like the repositioning of incoming services like water, gas and electric which need to be considered to avoid boxing in. Do you need additional cabling in place for surround sound, CCTV or outside sockets and lighting? No one wants a beautiful new extension with cables tacked round the outside for the TV Ariel or phone line.

Renovating and modernising houses

When you are modernising or renovating your home there are individual phases and also an important order in which the works are best completed for maximum efficiency and cost and time savings. Renovation projects are often described as being a full top down renovation meaning that the property has undergone a full and complete renovation. The phrase comes because with most renovations depending if there are any alterations or structural defects are usual done from the top down. The roof is either repaired or replaced lead flashings are changed ridge and verges repointed and chimneys rebuilt or repointed. With that said the first stage of any property development or renovation project is the planning stage. Once drawings or a schedule of works have been decided it is important that all parties the client, contractor and any design or project managers take some time to make sure they are all fully aware of the clients requirements and all client decisions and material specifications have been agreed or provisions made for when and what items still require clarification. Once this has been done a full strip out should be carried out. It is important that this is done carefully and completely so any structural or other defects like damp or other unforeseen issues can be exposed. It is only when plaster is removed and roof timbers and joists are exposed that a fully inspection can be carried out. This is why it is important to reserve a contingency usually around 15% of the renovation or contract budget to cover these hidden items. Once the stripping out has been completed and any remedial repairs structural or damp related have been completed then you move onto first fix items. First fix is the term used to describe any works that needs to be completed pre-plastering. This is usually broken down into M&E (mechanical and electrical) which essentially means pluming pipe work, electrical cabling and any ducting for extraction or in more recent times MHRV mechanical heat recovery ventilation or PIV positive input ventilation. The other first fix item is joinery items like new door frames, casings or linings new windows, window boards or additional or replacements stud work. Finally additional insulation is also sometimes included in first fix depending on the buildings layout and finishing’s. Once all these items are complete it is time for the plastering the types and techniques used will depend on the client’s budget and preferred finish and any conservation requirements. If the floors are to be screed they are usually done either just prior or after plastering. It can be a good idea depending on the buildings condition and history to introduce some temporary heating or dehumidification once these wet trades have been completed. However you must be careful not to dry out the property too quickly as it can cause plaster and screeds to crack and potentially warp stairs or other timbers. Then the project starts to take shape as bathrooms and kitchens can be fitted and tiled. The second fix joinery, and M&E items can be fitted like doors, sockets and extractors. Once all this has been done it is just the decoration, cleaning and flooring to complete and the project is complete and ready to be enjoyed.

Structural defects in retaining walls

Retaining walls can be prone to structural defects like cracking or leaning over because of the weight of the soil or ground they retain. The majority of issues relating to the structural integrity of structural retaining walls is due to either poor initial construction techniques meaning they have simply been built badly either in the design or construction of the walls. Or the other main causes of structural issues are usually tree growth or issues with poor drainage that can either undermine the structure or add additional structural loads. Once a retaining wall has suffered from these defects it is challenging to find a cost effective repair although there are options depending on the site layout and the seriousness of the defect to add additional support in the form or steel, masonry or a combination of the two. The key is to find a good competent building contractor who specialises in this type of building work or remedial structural repair projects. They will be able to arrange the necessary structural calculations that will be used the give the most cost effective and practical solutions to resolve the issue. With the amount of work and costs associated with repairing or replacing defective retaining walls many are left to deteriorate and can become both unstable and dangerous. If these walls are left to collapse the amount of weight from the wall can potentially be a lethal danger so it is always best to get the issue looked at early on by a competent person. Designs for the replacement of these walls vary widely depending on the height, construction methods and the loads bearing on the wall. They usually require a large footing and various reed bar steel detailing often with the use of concrete hollow blocks filled with concrete and further steel reinforcement to tie the new wall to the new footing. Then if required the new wall is faced with a brick or other finish. Often one of the biggest challenges is to support the weight of the ground behind with suitable temporary structural supports during the constructions works. This can be made more difficult and costly if the wall has already moved and this ground has become unstable.

Garage conversions Derby

Many home owners are looking to gain an extra room without spending out for a home extension and with many modern homes coming with a garage either an integral garage or attached to the house. So for many home owners the most cost effective option to gain that extra space is to convert the existing garage into a another living room, study or knock through to add extra room to a lounge, kitchen or other room. You will need building regulation approval to carry out a garage conversion and you may also need planning permission or a lawfulness certificate from your local authority. Your building contractor should be able to arrange this for you. The main change to the space is bricking up the garage door and usually adding a window but you will also need to insulate the walls and depending on the layout the floor and ceiling. It is sometimes a good idea to look at how your garage conversion will work with the other rooms in your home. Sometimes moving or adding an internal doorway can be a worthwhile addition to a garage conversion. It is also a good opportunity to consider adding a downstairs toilet if your home does not have one. With many home owners having guests or extended families the addition of a toilet and sometimes a shower room can give you the option to have dependent relatives stay or give guests their own space.