Chartered Building Engineers and Surveyors with an emphasis on a personal service.
Please telephone 07979 472264 for a reasonable quotation
Our core services include:
- Residential Building Surveys – structure orientated including damp
- Structural Surveys not including damp
- Commercial Building Surveys – structure orientated including damp
- House Valuations – Probate, Matrimonial, Insurance, Acquisition
- Historic Building Consultancy
- RICS Valuers register Info
- Expert Witness
- Lease Extensions
- Rent Reviews
- Schedules of Dilapidations & Schedules of Condition
- Party Wall Notices & Awards
- Homebuyer Reports, House Surveys
- CDM Advisers & Principal Designers
- Reinstatement Valuations and Insurance claims
- Builder Disputes Info
- Crack Analysis and Structural Surveys
- Boundary Disputes Info
- Freehold Enfranchisement (Right to buy Residential Freehold)
- Project Management
- Damp Diagnosis
- Building Pathology and Beam (Lintel) calculations
- RICS Valuations
- Fellow Chartered Building Engineers
- Access Agreements
We have worked in the property arena for 30 years and if we do not have the definitive solution to your problem or question we will research the matter for you.
Party Wall Surveyors
The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 requires Building Owners to serve Notices on their neighbours when:
- building on or up to a boundary line;
- carrying out works to a wall or structure built on the boundary line;
- excavating in close proximity to the neighbour’s property.
The Party Wall Act sets down the rights & duties of owners undertaking such works and provides protection to the Adjoining Owners.
The Party Wall Surveyor’s duty is to examine the proposed works, ensure that they are properly designed and are executed in a manner which is not likely to cause damage to adjoining buildings or property.
In the unlikely event damage does occur, the party wall surveyors can award damages so the adjoining owners property is protected.
The Party wall Act also grants rights of access to both party wall surveyors and to building owners, allowing surveyors to make all required inspections and allowing building owners and their builders rights of access, erecting of scaffolding etc on the adjoining owners’ land.
Roofs and Rainwater Fittings
Inspect your roof during wet and windy weather to decide if a damp ceiling patch is due to roof leakage and/or condensation. Debris on the ground (broken slates, tiles and so on) or daylight seen inside lofts indicate possible roof problems.
Defective rainwater fittings may be most obvious during heavy rain, but stains on walls and plant growth provide further clues. Don’t forget to check gulleys at ground level.
Condensation is diagnosed from diffuse areas of damp, beads of water droplets on hard shiny surfaces and mould growth on internal finishes. It is intermittent, like penetrating damp, but unrelated to wet weather.
Penetrating damp typically shows up as well-defined patches after heavy rain on south- and west-facing walls. Anticipate moisture ingress through hairline cracks in unsuitable hard, modern cement pointing or rendering.
Below ground moisture causing rising damp can extend up to 900mm above floor level, sometimes with a classic tidemark on finishes. Salts appear as white deposits but mould growth is rare.
Retrospective Damp Proof Courses:
- Inserted by cutting in or during rebuilding.
- Can cure rising damp but this drastic method is usually inappropriate.
- Drawbacks: possible major structural problems; potential damage to historic finishes internally; unsuitable for randomly coursed walls; access difficulties; deterioration sometimes of masonry below damp proof course where moisture is concentrated.
- Walls impregnated with chemical solution through holes at bottom to create waterproof barrier.
- Widely used today but not always appropriate for old buildings.
- Drawbacks: drilling holes inadvisable in flint, granite, etc; hard to form proper barrier in rubble walls with voids; holes unsightly; deterioration sometimes of masonry below damp proof course where moisture concentrated.
- Cost: typically £195/m (including replastering).
- Holes drilled to receive porous siphons approximately 50mm in diameter that absorb damp and evaporate it from each tube.
- Sound in theory but problems may occur in practice.
- Drawbacks: salt accumulation in tubes may increase moisture; air-flow sometimes inadequate; tubes commonly set in hard cement mortar; unsightly.
- Cost: typically 125/m.
- Electrical potential aimed at reducing capillary rise using electrodes bedded in wall.
- Cheap but dearth of evidence that electro-osmosis is effective and system rarely used today.
- Drawbacks: adjustment of current needed to match variations in damp along a wall usually impractical.
Other Chartered Surveyors
- An Austrian product presently under trial in the UK claims to inhibit the passage of water up a wall by inducing a local magnetic field. Achieved non-invasively with unit plugged into mains, typically in loft.
- Likely cost: £3,000/unit (one unit covers an average-sized house).
Scientific analysis can be an essential aid for accurately diagnosing a damp problem but the importance of your sight, feel and smell should not be undervalued. Tests include the use of electrical resistance and capacitance meters, on-site moisture testers, hygrometers and salt analysis.
Bear in mind though, that care must be taken when interpreting results. A frequent mistake is to diagnose rising damp purely on the basis of high electrical moisture meter readings. Elevated readings may indicate the presence of salts from past dampness or, if there are no salts, an on-going condensation or possible penetrating damp problem. Continued monitoring is often needed to establish the true cause of a damp problem.
Surveyors have a legal duty to follow a trail of suspicion. Regrettably, many still simply note the occurrence of high meter readings and pass on all responsibility for further investigation to remedial treatment contractors. These contractors have a vested commercial interest, encouraging over-specification. Should a mortgage company insist on work you believe is misguided, challenge this and consider obtaining a written report from an independent surveyor or architect.
Effective remedial measures depend on accurate diagnosis, but applying staged remedies can also be part of understanding the cause of a damp problem. Before deciding on more extensive work, the first remedy may involve nothing more than basic maintenance such as clearing a blocked rainwater gulley. Remedies will either cure dampness by addressing the cause (for example, improving drainage) or will manage it by treating the symptoms (changing washing or cooking habits, for instance).
Be sceptical of written guarantees, which are often loaded with get-out clauses and may have no insurance backing. The right approach from your contractor coupled with good workmanship is your best guarantee.
RICS Property Valuers
A red book valuation is the name that is given by practitioners to a valuation report that adheres to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Valuation Professional Standards, also known as the Red Book.
The valuation standards are a set of mandatory rules and guidelines for RICS Registered Valuers to follow when they are undertaking valuations. They do not tell a Valuer how to value a property – that is left to the individual Valuer to use his or her training, experience and judgment – but they do set out the standards that should be followed.
The standards cover such subjects as ethics, duty of care, the qualifications of the valuer and the minimum content of a valuation report. Their aim is to ensure that the report received by a Client is prepared to the highest possible professional standards, that there are no conflicts of interest and, as only RICS Registered Valuers are permitted to undertake red book valuations, that it has been prepared by a suitably qualified practitioner.
Red book property valuations are the preferred form of valuation report for banks when contemplating secured lending, by HMRC for taxation, lawyers that are dealing with property disputes, accountants for capital accounting and charities that need to meet statutory requirements. These parties, organisations and institutions know that when they receive a red book report, the valuation figure is well considered, backed with robust commentary and evidence and will stand up to scrutiny.
Clients often ask what the difference is between a red book valuation and the free ‘valuation’ an estate agent provides prior to sale. Strictly speaking, these are not valuations and instead should be considered as marketing appraisals and are generally not sufficient for taxation, secured lending or accounting purposes. The reason for this is that the recipient cannot be entirely sure of the qualifications, objectivity and independence of the person undertaking this work, whereas with a red book valuation, the recipient knows that the party is a Registered Valuer and is required to undertake a set number of hours training every year and must adhere to the RICS’s high ethical standards. Valuation reports do not comment on defects other than to state the property appeared after a cursory inspection to be in good, reasonable or poor condition. Lofts are not inspected nor are damp meter readings taken.
Far more boundary disputes occur between the owners of two adjacent residential properties than between commercial neighbours. Residential landowners tend to tackle their disputes emotionally seeking perceived justice rather than rationally evaluating the situation considering amicable solutions to the boundary dispute.
This is where the experienced Boundary Dispute Surveyor comes into their own and can save clients many thousands in legal fees by good arbitration based upon sound legal principles.
Things to think about
If you have been arguing with your neighbour or having a boundary dispute try to follow these simple tips to avoid making matters worse:
- Stay calm and try not to get angry.
- Be reasonable. Listen to what your neighbour has to say and take it into account.
- Compromise. You have to live next to each other so it’s best to try and find a solution that suits both of you.
- Don’t do anything hasty. It’s easy to get angry when something is niggling you every day and it’s on your doorstep. However, doing things to spite or get back at your neighbour will only make matters worse and they’ll be less likely to listen to you if you’ve upset them.
The reason why foundations crack is usually soil movement compounded by inferior construction. Foundation footings carry the weight of the walls and roof and so cracks in foundations will almost always result in wall cracks also.
Most populated areas of South Africa have expansive soils. These soils contain a high percentage of clay which absorbs a lot of water. This can cause the soil to expand by a tenth or more as moisture enters it during the rainy season. The expanding soil then causes huge pressure on foundations and slabs. This soil also contracts during the dry months causing big differences in the pressure being generated on the foundation or slab.
Some indications that you are dealing with expansive soils are:
- Cracked foundations.
- Heaving and cracking of walls and floor slabs.
- Jammed windows and doors.
- Ruptured pipes
- Heaving and cracking of paving
Soil movement can also result from soil collapse if the soil is sandy or more commonly if the foundations are eroded and undermined by badly managed rain water. For instance downpipes discharging at the base of walls can result in foundation subsidence over time.
Tree roots growing underneath foundations and slabs in areas of expansive soils can also cause problems as the roots can cause the surrounding soil to become excessively dry.
Slab cracks are usually either the results of inferior materials and construction techniques or the result of incorrect placement and compaction of the fill beneath the concrete slab. If the concrete floor slab is insufficiently strong it is likely to crack especially if the ground beneath the slab is unsuitable and insufficiently compacted before the slab was cast.
Most houses sooner or later develop wall cracks. Most of these cracks are not serious and can be ascribed to slight settlement of the foundations, mortar shrinkage, or slight roof movement.
However, some cracks can be potentially serious and are the result of significant foundation displacement, water penetration, or excessive roof movement. An experienced and trained home inspector should know the difference and the home inspection report should indicate whether a crack is a symptom of structural weakness and which cracks merely indicate the gradual (natural) deterioration of structures.
The most common reasons for cracking of brick walls are settlement, thermal expansion, moisture penetration and roof movement.
Settlement cracks Chartered Surveyors
Settlement occurs as the house “settles” onto its foundation, often leaves “stair step” cracks and diagonal cracks extending upwards from window and door lintels in its wake. Cosmetic repairs such as new paint or crack repair will not permanently fix problems caused by expansive soil.
Temperature changes, the sun warming and expanding the brick, often leaves the bricks exerting more pressure on one another than previously applied and can result in vertical or stair step cracks.
Water damage cracks
Water penetrating walls from above (especially through cracks on the tops of parapet walls) will cause cracks lower down as the water is drawn downwards through the wall and seeks an exit from the masonry when encountering an impenetrable barrier such as a concrete slab or waterproofing.
Roof movement cracks
Movement of the roof where it rests on the tops of the walls can also cause wall cracks. These cracks are usually slight and can be seen along the line of the ceiling. However the weight and movement of a badly constructed roof can also result in severe structural damage to the walls below.
Roof movement generally results from badly braced rafters and trusses which can exert outward pressure on the tops of load-bearing walls. This is known as truss thrust or truss spread.
Poor anchoring of the roof to the walls can also lead to roof movement – especially in windy areas.
Truss uplift can also occur if the top chords of the truss become damp and expand while the bottom chord remains dry – perhaps because the cross-tie has been covered with ceiling insulation and has not been exposed to the same moist air as the top trusses. Truss uplift can result in cracks along the cornices on inside, non-load-bearing walls.
Cracks in plastered walls are common, especially in older houses.
Plaster cracks may result from stresses caused by movement (see discussion above). Crazing cracks of plaster can be caused by incorrect plastering techniques or plaster which has been allowed to dry too fast.
One of the biggest reasons that plaster may crack is caused by changes in ambient moisture levels and different expansion coefficients between mortar plaster, bricks, concrete and steel.
The basics of crack repair are to remove all debris and excavate the crack down to firm material. After that a suitable, flexible, crack filler or mortar mix can be used to fill the crack.
If it is thought that the crack has resulted from movement which is likely to continue then an attempt can be made to reinforce the wall across the cracked area. This can be done by strengthening the plastered area with a plaster lathe (metal or plastic mesh) or by a technique known as “metal stitching”. Here lengths of metal rod (rebar) are fixed across the crack with epoxy before the crack is filled and the area plastered (perhaps with the use of plaster lathe).
There are a variety of proprietary crack repair products available.
We can preapre access agreements to enable building owners to carry out maintenance or improvement works to their property.
In most cases assess cannot be obtained without the express consent of the adjoining owners, however access can be obtained by statute when access is required in conjunction with specific building works to which the Party Wall etc Act 1996 relates, and when access is required to enable the execution of works that are essentially repairing and maintaining in nature via The Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992.
Insurance Reinstatement Valuations
The RICS Guidance Notes state, “Informal assessments of rebuilding costs are impractical and unreliable… The client must be advised to obtain a formal assessment.”
If your buildings are underinsured, some insurers will reduce the amount you can claim by the same percentage by which you are under-insured.
This could leave you many thousands of pounds short for any necessary building work. If you over insure, your premiums will be higher than necessary for the whole life of the building.
Building cost reinstatement valuations for insurance purposes can be prepared for residential properties or for non-residential buildings.
BREXIT Chartered Surveyors
Now postponed amusingly until Halloween hopefully not a bad omen for a price crash.