Category Archives: General surveyors

Building refurbishments

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.

Solid concrete floors

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.

House prices set to rise in 2013

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.

Roof structures

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.

How much will my home extension cost?

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.

Buying a new house in 2013?

The property market may have been in the doldrums for the last couple of years with the number of new build properties and transaction volumes languishing at historic lows but many potential buyers are still out there. Many have become feed up of waiting for signs of a housing market recovery and with no signs of prices falling are choosing 2013 as the year they step on the property ladder. So are there still bargain properties to be had? Well the answer is yes but as with most bargains there is usually a catch, and in the case of cheap properties it is usually either the area is less desirable not much can be done about this. Or the property requires some form of a renovation, repair or improvement project it is important that you get an idea of what sort of costs are involved in these works prior to you buying the property. The other issue is that especially in the current climate mortgage companies are becoming far pickier about the type of remedial repairs that will affect a property’s mortgagibility. So ideally get a good local building contractor around before you buy to give you some indication of the costs that will be incurred in bringing the property back up to standard. They also have the experience to know where to look and what problems are associated with that type of property. For instance a good local builder will know that certain streets suffer from poor foundations or issues with the concrete floor slabs. This costs nothing and could save you thousands of pounds so take the time to check your bargain property has not got expensive building works that you may have missed.

Ready to get building in spring?

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.

Matching stone lintels, and period details

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.

Dilapidation reports and repairs

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.

Cracked walls and ceilings

Many older properties suffer from cracks to walls and ceilings they are usually around the joins between the two or around doors and windows. The reason for these cracks can vary from a simple deterioration in old lat and plaster ceilings though to poorly fixed windows or door frames. They can also be a sign of movement within the building usually in the form of settlement of subsidence. The majority of period properties have suffered from this to some degree and it is usually just a matter of monitoring the cracking for any signs of deterioration. However if there are a lot of cracks or the cracks are more than a couple of millimetres wide there may be a need to carry out some remedial structural repairs. It is really a case of catching these issues early because a simple repair can stop some structural defects from deterioration into larger and more costly structural issues. Another symptom of structural issues is parts of the buildings fabric being out of level. Look at the openings in the building like external and internal windows and door openings pay particular attention to the tops of the openings. This is where the lintels that support the masonry are and they can show cracks or be out of level. Check the walls and floors with a sprit level and look at the roof inside and out. The roof timbers can often begin to sag or push the top courses or brickwork away from the walls this is known as roof spread and often effects terrace properties. With lots of structural defects and repairs if they are caught early they can be repaired with additional bracing timbers or simple modern structural repair techniques like heli tie crack stitching bars. These masonry repair bars and straps are either tied to ceiling or floor joists or used to tie gable ends back to the roof rafters. With Heli tie crack stitching bars they are simply inserted between brick or stone courses. The mortar is removed with a grinding disc and the bars are placed in between the brick courses and fixed into position using resins usually on every third course of bricks. It has been know for home owners to hide these structural defects particularly before they sell their house to avoid a surveyors flagging up these defects and effecting the value or saleability of their houses. Hence the phase “papering over the cracks”, we have seen a number of structural defects hidden using render to hide issues with external walls and door frames or windows being replaced to hide movement in the door and window openings. The doors and windows are removed and the openings straightened up using new plaster. One easy to spot cover up is when a section of timber trim is attached to the bottom of the skirting board. This is a sign that the floors have moved away from the walls and left a gap so the trim has been fixed to the bottom of the skirting board to hide the gap. If you have any doubts about your house or one you are thinking of purchasing it is best to contact an experienced building structural repair contractor or a structural engineer. They will be able to check for any visible defects or advise if there has been a potential cover up.