When carrying out building refurbishments it is important to plan out the end result that you would like to achieve. This is sometimes done by professionals like architects or surveyors but often it is left to the property owner and building contractor to finalise the specifications. This needs to be managed carefully because you do not want the works to not comply with the UK building regulations and other statutory requirements that can potentially cause expensive re-working if not done correctly. So your building contractor will need to have a good understanding of the building regulations and other statutory requirements. These are not always well known or understood by some building contractors, you will be able to get a feel for your builders knowledge by asking them some simple questions about the UK building regulations for instance what sections covers the structural elements? It is section “A”. There are other regulations for instance if you are going to use a computer screen in a commercial environment you will need to select the correct light fitting to meet the required regulations. This is not always known to some building contractors and could potentially have you paying for the same item of work twice. Again as with most things it can be a case of buy cheap buy twice.
Many property pundits and property professional like to make predictions on the future of the UK property market and house prices. There are also a number of banks and economists that are prepared to put their reputations on the line and estimate where the average UK house price will end up. These projections rarely vary greatly but some have proved far more accurate than other particularly after the last property boom. Amongst one of the best respected and accurate is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. They do have the advantage of having so many members who have the unenviable task of valuing people’s homes and properties. For the new year of 2013 they are predicting a rise in house prices of around 2 percent which given the economic landscape is a positive and sustainable increase. They are also tipping an increase in transaction volumes with the number of property sales thought to rise by a around the three percent mark edging them tantalisingly closer to the million sales marker. This is still a far cry from the heady days of average number of transactions edging up towards 1.7 million at the height of the property boom in 2006.
Many property owners either decide to upgrade their existing homes or decide to buy one that requires building work to save costs or give themselves a project. So where is the best place to start? Well it is important to consider the whole project and what you are looking to achieve from your renovation project. We have often be asked to add alarm systems, T.V. points or outside taps and other items once the plastering has been complete which has added costs, rework and potentially affected the final finish. So the first thing to do is work on your design this does not always mean a full set of architects drawings, although even on small projects they are a good idea if the budget will allow it. So get some drawings or do some sketches, it is a good idea to do small sketches of how you want certain details to finish to help your builder get you just what you want. Along with your drawings you need a list of what you want to do and what materials you want to use. This is called a schedule of works although on bigger projects the projects manager or contracts administrator will use a variety of documents that are cross referenced to form the project documentation and contract documents. The more work effort and time you put into this the easier it will be for your builder to provide a fixed price contract for all the works. This is important as it is the only way to really obtain like for like quotations that allow you to choose your building contractor. When selecting a building contractor it is important to see one of the projects they are currently undertaking and talk to some of their previous customers. Different building contractors tend to be better at some types of work than others simply because of their experience and their employees skills and experience. So ask contractors about similar projects they have undertaken and do a little research so you can ask them a few technical questions about building regulations and how to finish various robust details of the build. Your contractor should be able talk not only with authority about building regulations but also with a passion for your project. Those contractors who are genuinely passionate about their work will leave you with a better finished project than those who just see it as another job.
When converting an existing property to a new use it can prove both an exciting and rewarding experience both financially and personally. This will require planning permission and building regulation approval. The planning can add value to your building as soon as it is granted this is called the planning gain and some property speculators and property developers simply focus on adding value to their property and projects and then selling a property ready to develop. The next consideration is the building regulations approval these can be both onerous and expensive depending on the type of property and the end use. If you are converting older properties or carrying out a mixed use property development the building regulations and other statutory requirements need to be carefully planned and budgeted. With sub division of properties there is an issue called compartmentalisation this is where individual residences flats or muse dwellings or separate commercial units need to be separated from each other. This is when the individual units are separated or compartmented from acoustic and fire spread from the neighbouring units. When carrying out conversions over many floors or in period building this can require careful planning as some services like drainage will need to pass through or from one unit to another. Sound or acoustics requires a carefully specified design and good onsite installation as the units will have to be sound tested upon completion. The integrity of the buildings fire separation between units will be inspected at the site visits by the building control officer. It is important to get a good building contractor on board who has experience on this type of work and can check the design options and advise on cost savings and value engineering. This could save you thousands of pounds and their experience can prove very valuable when any issues that have not been seen or discovered becomes an issue on site.
Many property developers and home owners like to get their projects set up ready to start the building or construction phase early in the New Year. So this time of year is a good time to make sure that you have all the necessary documentation and your building contractors in place. Good building contractors get booked up so it’s a good idea to get the build costs agreed and a start date confirmed. You will also need to make sure you have ironed out all the planning conditions any issues with building control as well as other items that need to be ready before you start your building project. If the building project is a new build or a commercial property you will need to make sure that you put in an F10 form and appoint a competent person to look after your heath and safety responsibilities. You will also need to make sure you have an asbestos report from a suitable asbestos surveyor. There are other items that need to be organised prior to you starting the building works these range from ordering items with long lead times like bespoke stonework of specialist lintels and bespoke windows. Through to organising statutory supplies like gas and electric and checking any requirements under the UK building regulations and if your project will fall under certain statutory requirements like disabled access and fire regulations. The key to a successful and stress free project is to employ good competent professionals like architects surveyors and an experienced and competent building main contractor. As with most things in life cheap is not always the best, good professionals and building contractors can save you thousands of pounds by finding the most cost effective solutions for items like drainage, fire safety and specialist acoustics and other mechanical and electrical solutions. They can also find the best solutions to structural issues saving money on unnecessary steel works. This skill only comes from their experience on other building and construction projects. Good construction professionals will also have a lot of contacts within the industry and may be able to reduce your finance costs and other costs by recommending other industry experts and professionals. They may be able to put you in contact with a good planning consultant or a general practice surveyor these could save you thousands of pounds on issues like party walls and planning conditions. They can often spot issues that you may have missed that may only become issues once your property development is complete and at this stage it could cost you a lot more to overcome.
Many home and building owners want to make sure they project their investment by matching the existing period details if they are carrying out repairs, extensions or alterations. Many do not know where best to start when matching bespoke period details like stone lintels and corbel or special brick details. There are always options but matching original details can be expensive and it is important to consider the lead time of these items particularly if they form part of the structural element. If you are having stone detailing matched stone masons are usually booked up and cannot run up a couple of hand carved lintels in a few days. So make sure you start to look into suppliers before you start your building project. Again with items like bespoke bricks known as specials in the construction industry these take time to have made and are often tinted which adds more lead time. You do not want your brick layers leaving site to start another job because they have no bricks to lay. These bricks are often set as what is known as string courses often at first floor level so if they are not organised to site quickly you can end up with the build on hold just as it is starting to take shape. With stone work you can either go for natural stone or a reconstituted stone that is formed in a mould. These are considerably cheaper than the original stone work however this does have a few disadvantages. The first is that a purest will spot the reconstituted stone and this could potentially devalue your project and property. The other issue is that reconstituted stone requires a certain curing time for it to harden so again it can slow your building project down. Finally be careful if you have large openings to support because reconstituted stone lintels are not as strong as their natural stone counterparts. This means that on larger openings you will require specialist lintels to be added to the reconstituted stone lintels. This again can cause delays and reduces the savings made as well as this you can often see small sections of the steel lintels. This again detracts from the overall look, feel and success of your finished period renovation or home extension.
Dilapidations is a phrase well know in the world of commercial property but is something that can catch out and be an expensive lesson for commercial tenants. Depending on the wording and conditions of commercial property lease agreements will depend on who is responsible for which and to what degree of property repairs and other associated costs. For instance if you are a commercial tenant and you have occupied a property for many years you may be responsible to return the property to the landlord with the appropriate statutory requirements in place. This does not sound to onerous but if could mean the introduction of various fire safety and other stator requirements. This could mean a new electrical fire detection system, fire doors and frames and some additional fire separation between fire exists. Dependant on the size and condition of the property this could leave the tenant with a bill for tens of thousands of pounds of refurbishment works. It is important to get a contractor on board who understands not only what needs to be done but also who needs to be informed and how to manage your dilapidation and repair budget. Even if the work is carried out by the correct competent person to the correct standard using the right materials you could still fall foul of the regulations and approval of building control. This could then create further issues and costs associated to getting in or out of the lease. There are different types of commercial property leases but retailers are very often only prepared to sign what are called weather leases. This term is used to describe a lease agreement where the landlord remains responsible for keeping the building weather tight and the tenant for the internal elements. So essentially the landlords keeps the roof, walls and external windows and doors in safe and serviceable condition while the commercial tenant looks after the rest.
Commercial properties are exposed to a lot more wear and tear than private houses and for that reason and other commercial requirements usually undergo a programme of refurbishment more regularly than houses. Retail, offices and other commercial facilities not only tend to have more foot traffic but they also fall under stricter and more onerous statuary requirements and regulation. This is why it is important to employ competent refurbishment contractors who understand and can advise not only on your businesses requirements but also on statuary requirements. There are several issues to be aware of when carrying out a commercial property refurbishments. They range from asbestos management and refurbishment surveys though to disabled access assessments. It is also important to involve a fire safety consultant as well as informing the local authority building control department or a private building inspector. With a competent building contractor they will have a good outline understanding of the various regulations but will require input from the various professionals to make sure they have covered all the site specific issues like interpretation of the various regulations. The regulations can be effected and budgets affected by a variety of other aspects. The end use of the property, if it is listed or in a conservation area even down to the use class orders or if it is zoned as a town centre property. It is also important to make sure that there are no under lying issues with the property that could affect the works once the refurbishments has been completed. It is important to get exposed areas checked for issues like damp or structural defects that will be covered up and could come back to cause problems in the future.
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.