Traditional Building Pitfalls

ricsRMA Surveyors Ltd, Newbury have been reading an interesting discussion on RICS regarding the care and repair work of Victorian and Edwardian age buildings and the pitfalls often made that result in ‘inherent defects’ in later life.

RMA Surveyors Ltd are a proud member of RICS, with experience in dealing with traditional buildings and period properties. If you’re looking for advice from a local, trusted chartered surveyor in Berkshire, please call us or complete the form with your query.

Read the full article or see the snapshot below:

The top 10 inappropriate works commonly carried out on traditional buildings

  1. Replacing original good quality sash windows with inappropriate modern aluminium or PVC-U casements and stripping out original period doors.
  2. Unnecessarily injecting chemical damp-proof courses (or injecting them incompetently), and re-plastering or rendering main walls with cement-based materials rather than traditional lime, thereby  trapping damp in the walls.
  3. Encouraging damp, rot and beetle infestation by blocking ventilation to floors and roofs, and by allowing high ground levels (such as flower beds) to build up against external walls.
  4. Removal of chimney breasts or load-bearing internal spine walls without providing adequate support to the remaining masonry above.
  5. Neglecting badly eroded mortar joints to external masonry, allowing damp to penetrate and frost damage to occur.
  6. Re-pointing walls with cement mortar that prevents walls from ‘breathing’, and re-pointing in visually dominant ‘show off’ styles (such as protruding ‘weatherstruck’ pointing).
  7. Botched repairs to flashings to stacks and roofs with short-life materials such as self-adhesive tapes or mortar fillets.
  8. Failure to provide enhanced structural support to roof structures where original lightweight slate coverings have been replaced with heavier concrete tiles.
  9. Not lining old flues before lighting fires or using appliances, and failing to cap and ventilate disused flues.
  10.  Weakening floor joists with excessive cutting for cable and pipe runs.

RICS members have a pivotal role to play in both these areas to ensure that the future of our important stock of traditional buildings does not continue to be carelessly endangered.

Listed Building Repairs

Wood Boring BeetleWe were privileged enough to undertake a building survey of a Grade II Listed building in Aldermaston. The property was built originally in the 1600’s with further extensions and additions added in the 1800’s and 1900’s. The original property comprised of a timber frame structure with facing brick work in fill panels, the later additions were formed in solid masonry construction.

The property had undergone extensive refurbishment during the 1800’s and the mid 1900’s and additional upgrading and repairs and addition of services had been undertaken more recently.

Many of the more recent repairs had not been undertaken in sympathy with the original construction. Most significantly many repairs had been undertaken using a cement mortar, where lime mortar would have been originally used.

The internal faces of the timber frame walls were lined with wattle and daub and we found evidence of fresh wood boring beetle damage to the wattles and staves where the wall had been exposed to prolonged high levels of damp. Gypsum plasters had been used internally, originally a lime plaster would have been used and evidence of which was visible where gypsum plaster was coming away from the wall. Modern gypsum plasters are less impervious than lime and earth plasters and gypsum is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs water from the air.

We also found damage to lintels buried within the wall which were also affected by damp and excessive vegetation to walls, some of which was growing through the walls. The walls had been rendered with a cement render, which was preventing evaporation from the wall and water was accumulating in the walls and allowing the structure to become saturated. The cement repointing was also having a similar affect and affecting the exposed timber within the wall.

Unfortunately these defects are extremely common with Listed Buildings where contractors and specifier’s who do not understand the performance of traditional buildings have undertaken repairs in good faith but have caused more extensive damage to the structure as a result.

Often such repairs can be more expensive to remediate as materials such as strong cement mortars can damage brick work when removed, leading to further work and repair.

If you have a Listed property, or you’re thinking about purchasing a Listed building, and would like some advice regarding appropriate remediation and repairs, please contact us on 01635 579208 or complete the form with any queries.

Project Management on Property Extensions and Refurbishments

An old Pumping Station for rennovationIt is frequently seen on self build tv programmes when the building owner dispenses with their professional team and announces they are going to take on the role of the project manager.

Often with little or no experience. Generally the end result is unsatisfactory, with conflicts with the building contractor, a lack of technical understanding, projects going over budget or well beyond the contract period, contractors not getting paid, legal disputes and all manner of stress to everyday life.

In short being a project manager is hard work. So why not let a professional help – in the long term, it will save you money, time, stress and heartache.

How can a professional help?
By enlisting the services of a Chartered Building Surveyor you will receive guidance and knowledge that will help your project to run smoothly. You’ll receive no nasty surprises and the outcome will be a refurbishment, extension or renovation that will be an asset.

RMA Surveyors Ltd will act on your behalf to specify, design and manage the building works. In addition to certifying works, assessing costs and liaising with the building contractor at every stage. We will use our professional skill, expertise and understanding of buildings and construction to administer and manage building contracts. We will supervise the building contract to ensure a smooth running of the project and a satisfactory outcome for all involved.

The Process
Once a project (e.g. a refurbishment, extension or reinstatement) has been designed and specified, we begin the process of procurement, usually via competitive tender. We issue the tender documents to several building contractors, who provide a quote for the works. Once tenders are received, we make a recommendation as to which building contractor should be appointed. We ensure you have the best building contractor for the job, at the best price.

We then manage the construction phase of the project, chairing regular on-site meetings, dealing with any issues as they arise, valuing works and certifying stage payments, as well as monitoring the overall quality of the build.

Finally, we certificate works when they have been satisfactorily completed and ensure any outstanding issues are dealt with after completion.

For further information on whether RMA Surveyors Ltd can help with your project, give us a call on 01635 579208. See our project management page for further details.

5 Steps to Flood Reinstatement

RICS Guide to floodingThe Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has issued helpful advice in the wake of the recent flooding throughout the UK. A copy of which can be downloaded here.

Unfortunately, for many, the flood waters have far from receded. Reports of more rain this week, and the potential for rivers to rise further, is unwelcome news. Once flood waters do eventually dissipate the process of reinstatement can be a long one.

Many people have been affected and are asking themselves, “How do we get back to normal?”

These five steps chart the process back to normality.

STEP 1 – THE LOSS ADJUSTER

If your building is insured against flood damage and you have been seriously affected, you will usually have a loss adjuster appointed who will deal with your claim on behalf of your insurance company. They are the main point of contact in regards to the claim, and will make the decisions as to what can and can’t be allowed under the policy. A loss adjuster should undertake an initial visit between three and five days from receiving notification of a claim. This may be longer in peak levels, such as now.

STEP 2 – THE PROJECT MANAGER/SURVEYOR

In claims where the cost of reinstatement to your property is likely to be expensive, a project manager with specialist building knowledge is often appointed. The project manager is usually a surveyor, and both terms are used interchangeably. It is their role to specify the extent of the necessary remedial works, send the specification to different contractors to get the best price (often referred to as a competitive tender), appoint the contractor and oversee works through to completion. They will liaise with both you and the loss adjuster at all critical stages of the building reinstatement process.

IT’S YOUR PROPERTY – IT’S YOUR CHOICE

Some loss adjuster companies often seek to appoint their own in-house surveyors to project manage. The loss adjuster’s fee is usually set very low; profits are therefore generated through their in-house surveyor’s fees. Their in-house surveyors will only ask ‘approved’ building contractors to quote for the work. The building contractors sometimes pay these large loss adjusting companies a percentage fee for each project they successfully procure, in order to remain on the ‘approved’ list.

Because of this, we have found some loss adjusters from some large loss adjusting firms can be obstinate in approving the appointment of anyone other than their in-house surveyors. When an independent surveyor becomes involved, the loss adjuster’s company does not generate any additional fees. It is very important to know that you are free to appoint your own independent Chartered Building Surveyor to act on your behalf. You are in no way obliged to use a surveyor appointed to you by your loss adjuster. It is your property and you decide who works on your behalf.

Some in-house surveyors working for some large loss adjusting firms are overworked, juggling over forty projects at any one time, and over seventy projects in peak crisis periods; whilst covering a wide geographical area. These in-house teams are often not regulated by a professional body such as the RICS.
Flood waters in residential Berkshire

STEP 3 – ASSESSING THE DAMAGE & INITIAL RESTORATION

Flood waters can contain sewage, waste and the accompanying bacteria and disease. At the same time as appointing a surveyor your loss adjuster should appoint a restoration company to assist in the initial clean up. They will remove all soft furnishings and flood damaged contents and take an inventory of flood damaged items. These items will be covered under your contents insurance and will be treated as a separate claim from your buildings insurance. The restoration company should also install fans, dehumidifiers and heaters to assist the drying of your property.

As well as the obvious water damage to the visible elements of a property, unseen damage may also have occurred. For example, all service installations should be thoroughly checked and any voids, such as those in timber stud partitions should be exposed, to allow these areas to thoroughly dry out. Damage can also occur to other elements of the property while the property is drying out, due to the high humidity levels and differential rates of drying to timber elements, caused by dehumidifiers. Plaster often needs to be removed from walls, where it has been contaminated with bacteria, soluble minerals and salts in the ground water. A building contractor is also frequently appointed at this early stage, to strip out such items as plasterboard, kitchen units and other elements to assist the drying of the structure.

This stage can take anything between two weeks to over two months, depending on the extent of damage and the approach to drying adopted. The restoration contractor will return frequently to monitor drying and empty dehumidifiers. They will provide regular updates to your surveyor and loss adjuster.

STEP 4 – SPECIFICATION & TENDER PERIOD

While the property dries out, the surveyor will provide a schedule of works detailing the extent of the reinstatement required. They will provide a cost estimate of works to the loss adjuster. This can take a week to ten days. The schedule of works will then be issued to a few different building contractors. A two to four week period is usually required for the contractors to return a price (or tender) for works.

Once tender returns are received the surveyor will report back to the loss adjuster, making a recommendation as to which building contractor should be appointed. When the loss adjuster has agreed the costs the project manager will then appoint the building contractor on your behalf.

STEP 5 – THE CONTRACT PERIOD

You may already be in temporary alternative accommodation or need to move out of your property whilst repairs are in progress, which will be a matter of negotiation with the loss adjuster.

There is usually a mobilisation period of around four weeks from appointing the building contractor, allowing the contractor to plan resources and labour. Reinstatement works can then begin. This can take anywhere between six to eight weeks on a typical domestic claim.

The whole process can take much longer where the building is larger or more complex. For example if a building is listed, approvals will be required from the local authority, which can take eight weeks from the date the application is processed.

THE SURVEYOR’S ROLE

The surveyor will oversee the contract. Providing valuations, issuing instructions, certifying works as they proceed and agreeing works are completed satisfactorily. The surveyor will report back to the loss adjuster at key stages agreeing interim payments be made to the contractor.

The work should be undertaken under the framework of a formal building contract, such as the JCT minor works form of contract. A contract defines the duties of you (the client), the contractor and the surveyor.

The reinstatement process can be long and involved. Many factors can come into play that delay or frustrate the process, particularly where there are so many claims being processed concurrently. In our experience it is better to have an experienced Chartered Building Surveyor appointed to steer you through this lengthy and sometimes frustrating process. If you need the assistance of a qualified and experienced Chartered Building Surveyor please call on 01635 579 208 or contact us via our contact page.

Protect your home against flooding

IMG_0810This is the advise being given to residents across Berkshire.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for rain in the district today (Wednesday), with 15-25mm of rain expected to fall within the yellow zone between 9am and 9pm.

There is also a yellow warning for wind in place between 10am today and 3am on Thursday. For more information visit: http://www.newburytoday.co.uk/2014/more-rain-to-fall-in-west-berkshire-tomorrow

If your home has been affected by the floods or water damage, call RMA Surveyors Ltd for advice.

What is Woodworm?

Wood boring insect flight holes in roof rafter

Wood boring insect flight holes in roof rafter

Damage caused by that commonly referred to as woodworm is actually caused by a beetle larvae. These larvae hatch from eggs laid on the outer surface of timber, where once hatched they burrow into the wood, creating tunnels as they feast.

It can take up to five years for the grubs to reach maturity. Before which they form a pupae eventually emerging as beetles and leaving characteristic flight holes in the timber surface.

Timber damage from wood boring beetle should not always be cause for alarm. For instance some larvae can only feed on damp timber. Once the cause of damp has been rectified the food source, and thus the larvae, will be stopped. In some cases the pest may have been present in the timber prior to construction and the process of sawing, drying and treatment will have killed any larvae leaving only residual damage as evidence of their existence.

The type of timber, size of flight holes, type of dust, or “frass”, left behind and condition of affected timber are all indicators of the type of species and likely damage that can be expected.

In cases where beetle larvae are active they have the ability to cause structural damage and remedial insecticidal treatment is often required.
Damage can be caused to sapwood (the outer rings where sap rises in a tree) and heartwood (the inner rings or ‘heart’). Darker heartwood damage is less common due to the presence of chemicals acting as a natural repellent. Heartwood damage is considered serious as the structural integrity of timber is greatly reduced when heartwood is attacked.

The death watch beetle is considered a particular menace as it feeds off both heartwood and sapwood.

The beetle most commonly referred to as woodworm is the Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium Punctatum). This beetle’s larvae are found to be present in sapwoods of both softwoods and European hardwoods. Infestations are common throughout the UK. Attack is rare in dry wood and modern timber panels such as plywood. It is most common when timber is damp. Where timber is exposed to good central heating this type of larvae usually dies out. Unheated and humid areas of properties such poorly ventilated roof and sub floor voids are most at risk. The larvae live for 2-5 years. Tunnels are numerous and close knit. Bore holes are circular and up to 2mm in diameter. Beetles emerge in late Spring and Summer.

Although treatment can be undertaken through drying out of timber, insecticidal treatment of live infestation is often recommended in order to swiftly arrest the damage.

Sink Hole Swallows Car

Sinkhole swallows carSee this brief news article where a sink hole has opened up in a residential area in Walter’s Ash, High Wycombe.

See this link for the full story.

Note how close to the building the hole is. Aside from a car being buried at the bottom of the hole, the owners of this property are no doubt seriously concerned about the stability of their building.

We can only speculate as to the cause of the hole, but the recent heavy rainfall should be a consideration.

We had brief involvement with a similar sized hole in an undisclosed location in Newbury. Our involvement was on behalf of nearby building owners was concerned of the effect is would have on their property. Fortunately we found no immediate cause for concern. However, just where and when sink holes may appear is anyone’s guess.

 

 

RMA Surveyors have moved

RMA Surveyors Ltd head office has moved to Compton, Berkshire.

Our new address is:
RMA Surveyors Ltd
Foinavon,
Churn Road,
Compton,
Berkshire
RG20 6PP

Have a look at this video to see some history behind the name.

Property Surveys – worth there weight in gold

In the excitement of buying your first home extra costs such as a building survey or home buyers report can often be overlooked.

As a result getting a survey that assesses the property’s condition can often be omitted on cost grounds. A survey is the most cost effective fee you will spend when buying a home. Armed with a survey, prospective buyers either have a tool to renegotiate or peace of mind that the property is sound.

First-time buyers fees checklist – the costs you need to think about before buying a property | This is Money.

A Full Range of Resedential Surveys

View our updated building surveying page.