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 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.
There are various types of roof structures and they are repaired or designed with a combination of timber and steel trusses or roof members. The two main types of roof structures are trussed roofs which are usual on more modern properties usually properties constructed from the late 1970’s to modern day. The second type is often referred to as being stick built, this is when individual timbers or steels are used to form the roof structure. Roof trusses are usually designed and constructed off site and then delivered as readymade trusses and placed on the wall plate and lined up and braced together on site to form the roof structure. With trussed roofs the skill and experience required to fit these correctly is at a lower level than that required for stick built roof structures. Often when more complex roofs are designed and constructed on sites they usually combine individual or linked steel beams as well as individual timbers usually in the form of rafters. The two main timbers used when constructing stick built roofs are the purlins and rafters. Purlins are normally large timbers or steel beams used to reduce the span that the rafters cover by supporting them at the half way point or breaking the span into even thirds. Many home extension roofs use ridge beams this allows for warm or open roof design and is used to eliminate the potential for roof spread. Roof spread is when the loads from the weight of the roof puts too much pressure on the wall plates and can cause the walls to be pushed out. This is a very serious structural problem and can be both challenging and expensive to remedy. One of the more unusual and difficult structural roof steels is a cranked beam. These are some time used to transfer roof loads down from the roof and still allow for a vaulted ceiling or one with sarking detail, or partially sloped ceilings. Cranked steel beams need to be both perfect in length in both directions from the crank angle and the angle must be degree perfect to allow the roof loads and the roof plan to be constructed with the structural integrity as designed. So you will require a competent and experienced roofing and building contractor to make sure these are installed correctly.
Many home owners long for extra space and a modern and contemporary home extension but are unsure how to get their home extension projects underway as they fear the costs of such a project. So how do you know that your home extension is going to be in your budget? The obvious answer is to get quotations from local building contractors which is simple on smaller projects. If you have a grander or more unusually building project it is a good idea to employ a quantity or building surveyor. There is a cost involved in this but it can save you huge amounts of money in the long run. These professionals will look at the project and check the costs are below or in line with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors standard schedule of rates. They will help you put a building tender together to make sure that the prices that you get back from building contractors are like for like and that no items and costs have been omitted. This helps reduce the chances of extra and additional costs they will also control costs on site so that extra work and extra costs are all agreed on site prior to you suddenly receiving an unexpected bill. They will help you get a contract in place that both protects you and your building contractor and their role in the project is to act as contracts administrator. They will also be able to recommend building contractors who they have worked with previously and know the quality of their work. Although many home owners are concerned about the costs involved in employing a professional to oversee their building project it does add a level of protection. Many people have stories to tell about less competent and unscrupulous builders and these will be frightened off by the involvement of a contract and a professional to oversee the building project.
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.
JCT’s are one of the most used and well known forms of building contracts they are the industry standard and worked under by many main building contractors. These are managed by the C.A. or contracts administrator who are often appointed as the project manager by their clients. There are different types of JCT building contracts, home owners JCT’s typically used on home extensions or refurbishment projects. One of the most commonly used is the minor works JCT this is used on many refurbishment projects. They can vary and contain various elements like contractors design and design and build sections. They lay out the basic ground rules of the project like the measured works these are fix cost or square meter rates that have been agreed by the main building contractor and client in the tender process and are listed in the schedule of works. There are other elements like instructed works and omitted items these are managed by the contracts administrator and allow the client to add or omit items at pre agreed prices or sometimes at the digression of the contracts administrator. The contracts administrator keeps control of the costs they carry out valuations of the works at set periods and value the amount of work that has been completed and check the quality of the work and if the main building contractor is on programme this means if they have got the amount of work done that they have forecast in there programme of works keeping the building project on schedule. Once the valuation has been agreed the contractor administrator will issue a valuation certificate and this allows the main building contractor to raise an invoice for the next or final stage payment. They also issue a client cost report this lets the client know what has been completed and what percentage of each element still needs to be completed. It also helps the client manage their finances as they can see what is left to pay if there have been any extra costs and how they can add in their wish list items or omit items if the costs have risen.
Cracked brickwork is usually a symptom of some form of structural defect to your house or building, however they can vary greatly in repair costs. This is because cracked brick or masonry can be a sign of a more serious structural defect like subsidence or some other form of progressive movement. Or it could simple be a case of settlement that could be repaired for just a few hundred pounds. Very often houses have been badly constructed when they were initially built. This is called poor construction technique by those that specialise in structural repairs. In our experience this counts for around seventy percent of structural building repairs with poor maintenance of items like drains and roofs being responsible for the majority of the rest. Very often properties have been built with no or inadequate lintels above structural opening likes doors and windows. Or poor infill has been used either in floor slabs or under footings, in fact we have seen footings in properties constructed in the 40’s and 50’s which have been built on only a thin strip concrete footing just seven or eight inches deep. So what is the best solution to these structural issues? You need the issues to be surveyed by an experienced building contractor who will let you know if you need to get advice form a structural engineer. Home owners like to avoid the expense of a structural engineer but a good contractor will know when they are needed and will not carry out any work if they have concerns over the seriousness of the repair. However less experienced or scrupulous builders will be more interested in getting paid for the job than your long term solution. So take some time to ask your builder about their experience and if they have any professionals in the industry like structural engineers, building surveyors, quantity surveyors or commercial surveyors who will give them a testimonial or reference. This way you have the confidence that your specialist structural building contractor has the skills and experience to give you a permanent and well finished solution to your structural building defects.
Pile foundations are a specialist type of foundation often specified by structural engineers to overcome unusual ground conditions. They are also used as a repair when existing foundations that have failed and need to be upgraded. Usually in the case of new builds or home extensions they are combined with a ring beam this is a beam of concrete reinforced with steel reed bars. These are critical and need to be design and specified by either a specialist piling contractor or a structural engineer. Usually the piles are put in first this is done by drilling a hole into the ground with a drilling rig usually fixed to a tracked vehicle like a mini digger. The holes are drilled down and the depth can be dependent on the ground conditions and site specific issues. Then the holes are filled with a cardboard core and steel spring style cores are inserted with further reed bars that are left protruding up from the holes for the ring beam steel to be tied into. Once these piles have been completed then the areas to take the ground beams are excavated. The ground beams can either be pre-cast off site or they are usually cast on site. Then the reed bars from the piles are bent over and tied into the ground beam steels so when the ground beam is cast it is all tied together. Then the foundations need to be left for a set period of time so they can strengthen and before the masonry or other structure adds loading to the foundations. Then you are ready to build on the new ring beam foundations or carry on with the structural repairs. As with all building works it is important to have a holistic view of the whole project because once the ring beams have been cast they are difficult to alter or add to. So make sure you have considered drainage runs or service runs as if they need to go through your new ground beams they will not only weaken the beams but also any mistakes will add time and costs to your project. For any further information contact us for some free advice.
Heavy rain can affect several areas of your house from the roof down to the drains, and often heavy rain can highlight the areas of your house that need some attention. So work from the top down, check the pointing, flaunching and lead flashings around your chimneys. Check for any broken tiles or slipped slates on your roof and have a good check around the gutters make sure all the gutters are clear and check if there are any leading joints. These can cause further damage and lead to issues with pointing and introduced damp which can cost more money to resolve. Poor pointing can also cause damp patches and contaminate the plaster with hydroscopic salts meaning that it must be removed and the area treated with anti sulphate solutions and re plastered. Heavy rain can also increase issues with rising damp and wet rot to timbers in the roof structure, floor and ceiling joists. Drains can also leak and become over whelmed with runoff water during periods of heavy rain. Again not keeping your drains in good condition can lead to more sinister and serious problems by undermining your foundations. This can lead to the need for major structural repairs and structural solutions like underpinning and pile foundations. If you have any concerns about any issues with your property it is always best to seek some good advice from an expert like a surveyor of get some free advice from a good competent building contractor.
The government plans to let home owners and some business extensions and developments be allow to be built without the need, expense and delays caused by planning permission. The government has gone further as they look to relax the need for social housing on residential development sites. This used to be called a 106 agreement and this could have a profound effect on many new residential developments. It will not only make some residential developments more profitable and therefore more likely to get built. It will also make them easier for speculative development funders to finance. The new planning guidance for home extensions could allow some home owners to build home extensions up to 8m long without the need for planning permission. The new guidance will allow all home owners to build home extensions up to 6m long without planning the current rules only go up to 3m. The 3m rule makes it difficult to add a good sized separate room with the change it will be easy for home owners to add a larger kitchen dinner or family room. They have also announced a raft of other measures designed to kick start the construction industry. This is great news for home owners, the construction industry and the wider economy. It has long been known that money spent on construction has a huge impact on economic recovery so these measures are good news for everyone in the UK. The measures are said to only run for three years so those looking to add a home extension should get the ball rolling before the new planning rules are altered. With home extensions starting from as little as fifteen thousand pounds and now with the added savings of planning fees. Home owners will be able to stretch their home extensions budgets that little bit further to make sure that they can add extra features like bi-folding doors and other contemporary home extension designs.