Spring is in the air (along with the snow) and soon peoples minds will turn to either moving home or some home improvements.
One of the most popular ways to both improve your home and increase its value is to add some living space. If you are finding that you need some extra space at home but don’t want the hassle or expense of moving home then maybe an extension, loft or garage conversion is the answer. You must be careful not to make the wrong choice, if you decided to have a loft conversion to create an additional bedroom you must ensure that there is enough living space downstairs to cater for the extra bedroom, you don’t want to make the house top heavy.
It is always advisable to talk to a good architect to get some ideas of what is possible and get some answers to those nagging questions in the back of your head, what are the costs, is my loft suitable to be converted, what planning permission do I need? It is also a good idea to talk to your local estate agent to ensure that what you have planned is going to not only increase the saleability of your home but also the value.
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.
Most property owners need various building refurbishments and repairs doing from time to time. These range from simple roof repairs through to electrical and building works. Many homeowners and in fact some building contractors are either unsure or unaware that even some repairs will trigger the need to inform the local authority building control department. This is usually done through a building regulations building notice. These vary in costs dependant on the value of the works being carried out, the building inspector will usually be required to conduct a site visit at various stages throughout the building works to check each element of the works as items are covered in. They will want to see drainage, insulation footings details and structural elements that fall under part “A” of the UK building regulations. Good building contractors will take care of managing the building notice as part of their service but ultimately the responsibility lies with the property owner. So make sure you check with your local building control department if your works will require a building regulations building notice application. Some works may not require a building regulations application when you start the works but a change to the works if an unforeseen issue arises can trigger the requirement for an application. Very often this is an issue under part “L”, of the UK building regulations. This is because if more than 25% of any external surface for examples roofs, floors or walls are being repaired it will require a building notice and site inspections.
Many properties both old and new have solid concrete floor slabs, these have both advantages and disadvantages over suspended timber floors. The main disadvantage with older concrete floors is that they can be prone to cracking and can sink or rise up if the substrate the soil or other matter below them has been either disturbed by things like tree roots or defecting water pipes and drains or have simply been constructed badly or damaged from some form of structural damage. The other disadvantage is that older floor slabs often lack both a DPM or damp proof membrane or any insulation and can act as a cold sink drawing heat from the property. It is also more of an issue if you need to retro fit pipe work or cables if you move or add items like sockets and radiators. Often these issues are raised by surveyors when a property is sold or remortgaged and they usually recommend that a structural engineer be commissioned to write a report on the possible causes and recommendations for the removal and remedial repairs to the floor slabs. It is usually recommended that the defective floor slab be replaced and a new DPM and insulation be installed. This will automatically trigger the need for a building notice and the works to be inspected at various stages by the local authority building inspector. Your building contractor should be able to take care of this for you but you should check to make sure they have the paperwork in place and the inspections booked at the appropriate time.
Today many people are starting New Year resolutions and many are planning to get those things done they have been putting off. After a Christmas at home is it time to consider getting that new home extension or building project underway. Many people are put off by not knowing where to start? Do you need an architect or a builder first? Well most home owners have some budget constraints so speaking to good reputable builders will give you some idea of if your project can be done in budget. They will also be able to recommend an architect who they have worked with before it is always a good idea to have a good working relationship between your main building contractor and your architect. They will be able to resolve design and site issues between them and will be keen to help each other out and get your building project complete as designed. It is also an ideal time as the design, planning and building regulation process timescales will mean that you are ready to get building in the spring a favoured time for many home owners. You could be showing your friends and family round your beautiful new home extension or completed building project at a summer barbeque. So why not get an easy tick on your new years to do list and get your building project underway in 2013.
Many property investors, property developers or speculators are often looking for cheap or bargain properties most professional developers usually purchase off market. This is usually through property traders or from property auctions. Property auctions have changed dramatically in the last fifteen years with people from all over the country and world having access to online property auction listings. Many novice property developers and investors believe that it is simply a matter of chancing your arm at the auction buying a cheap property and then finding a good builder to get it back up to standard. However it is better to get your builder involved before you buy, they can often spot problems that you may miss and could potentially save you thousands of pounds. One thing to consider is that if you had a property with a serious structural or other defect and you wanted to mask the issue you would probably look to off loading a problem property through the property auctions. So be aware that less honest vendors may pass their problem properties onto you. So before you buy set a realistic budget for all the various trades and work that may be required to your auction property. A quick look at the type and age of the consumer unit (fuse box) can give you an indication of if the property may require a re-wire. There are some items that may seem a luxury but dependant on the area can be a good investment. Things like reinstating original period features or altering load bearing walls to open up smaller reception rooms to suit more modern family living styles. It is also important that you do not miss out items like outside space as this could put off drive by viewers and will affect the look of online details. You will find that many builders have worked on auction properties before and will be able to advise on what has worked well for other property speculators and developers.
Home owners are often looking to add a bedroom or master suite and often with houses or bungalows that have large loft spaces a loft conversion is the answer. Loft conversions vary in cost and complexity dependant on the size, specification, layout and design of the existing construction. With more modern properties the roof structure is often constructed using roof trusses rather than the traditional stick built method of purlins and larger rafters. This means that members of the roof trusses are often in the way of living space and need to be removed to make the loft space useable and ready to be converted into a loft room. However when the roof trusses are altered or sections removed this can affect the structural integrity of the roof and this can be potentially dangerous and costly to repair if not done correctly. So your building contractor or architect will need to employ the services of a structural engineer to make sure that the new design conforms to part A of the UK building regulations and is safe. The alterations can be made if the existing structure is upgraded this is usually done by adding additional timber and steel supports usually in the form of steel beams or RSJ’s as they are more commonly know. These are often used to support the new floor joists and upgrade the roof structure once sections of the roof trusses have been removed. These new steels transfer the weight or loads from the new floor and roof structure down onto existing load bearing walls. It is important to select a building contractor who has experience in working with structural steels and carrying out more complex projects as the positions of these steels is critical to the structural integrity of the roof. This is particularly important if you currently have a trussed roof and you are installing ridge or cranked beams to carry the loads that have been transferred from the trusses that have been altered or removed.
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.
The first stage of planning a home extension is to get your home extension designed so you will need to get your ideas or sketches draw up by an architect. These will either form the basic design for your planning application drawings or for your building regulations drawings. The first stage is that your architect will meet you at your property and carry out a survey of the property, to create drawings of your property, it is these drawings that are called the existing drawings. From these drawings the architect will be able to take measurements and work out how best to get your ideas into a fixed design and in the form of a drawing. Then you can check these drawings and make sure you are happy with the proposed design for your new home extension. Then these drawings can be submitted for either a planning application or a full submission building regulations application. Many home extensions can be built without the need for planning applications but it is important that you or your architect check to make sure and either get it in writing or apply for a lawfulness certificate. This will be important if you come to sell or remortgage your home as any conveyancing solicitor will check this is in place before they complete any sale or remortgaging transaction. If you do need to obtain planning permission to build your home extension you can either go through the planning process which take a couple of months and then apply for building regulation approval or carry out the two applications concurrently. The planning process is to determine that your home extension project is in line and in keeping with the current development of your local area. The building regulations process is to check that what you are proposing to build will meet the current building regulations. These are split into various sections titled with a letter for instance part “A” covers the structural integrity, part “P” covers the electrical installation and part “L” the thermal efficiency of the property.
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.