Project Manager for Fire Reinstatement

Melted LightbulbRMA Surveyors Ltd have recently been instructed to act as project managers for the restoration of a fire damaged flat in West Ilsley, Berkshire.

The property has been significantly damaged by fire within a couple of rooms, while the rest of the property has been heavily damaged by residual smoke and water, where the fire was extinguished.

Our instruction required us to:

  • appoint and oversee the initial clean up and restoration – cleaning smoke residue, removing items such as white goods and furniture, cleaning surfaces and removing floor coverings and soft furnishings;
  • advise the client to have the electrical services isolated, as they had been badly damaged by the fire;
  • and draw up a specification and schedule of works to issue to tendering contractors.

Once a contractor has been selected, we will be responsible for overseeing the works through to completion. This will include regular site visits, liaison with the building contractor and the client, valuing and certifying works at key stages, liaising and reporting back to the loss adjustor and dealing with any ad hoc queries as required.

When works are completed we will certify and sign off the work. Works will be tendered and executed under the JCT Minor Works Contract. The fees for our appointment as project managers are covered by the insurance policy.

Appointing a project manager can help to reduce the stress that such potentially distressing situations can cause. As Chartered Surveyors, acting as project managers, we are able to use our professional knowledge and expertise in order to facilitate a swift and effective remediation process.

RMA Surveyors Ltd are highly experienced in insurance reinstatement work and as such we provide a service that is cost effective in regards to managing spend for the insurance claim and one that gives the client peace of mind that the project is being overseen and undertaken by professionals.

If you have been affected by fire, flood or other insured risk, please contact us on 01635 579208 or by completing the form below.

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Six Steps to a Party Wall Award

Party wallRecently we have had a number of requests for information regarding party wall procedure. With the aim of providing guidance the following is an overview of the basic procedure of serving Party Wall notices:

1. Firstly, do you need to issue a party wall notice? For the sake of argument let’s say you do. Do you know what type of notice needs to be served? A line of junction notice? A party structure notice? Or a notice of adjacent excavation? In some cases it may be just one in some cases it may be all three. This can easily be determined by any good Party Wall Surveyor who knows the Party Wall Act.

2. Secondly, on whom are you serving notice? Who is the freeholder? Are there any leaseholders? Does the proposed work affect more than one structure? If so, there are likely to be a number of parties to whom notice must be served.

3. With the aforementioned identified notice can be served. RMA Surveyors Ltd are often asked to become involved in Party Wall matters after notice has been served. Clients sometimes see an early saving being made by not appointing a Party Wall Surveyor, as the process seems simple at the outset. However, as the process develops it can become more complex and Building Owners seek to appoint Party Wall Surveyors to untangle the knots. We would say two things at this juncture. Firstly, fees for initial notice are usually minimal. Secondly, issue of the correct, properly drafted notices at the outset will save time. If a notice is not correct, it is invalid and another valid notice must be served. It can take two months before works can start from date of issue of a valid notice.

4. Valid notice is served to the Adjoining Owner. They now have fourteen days to respond. The adjoining owner can assent or dissent to the proposed works. If the adjoining owner does not respond in this period, works are deemed to be in dispute. If the Adjoining Owner agrees to works, the Building Owner may, by written agreement, proceed with works. We strongly recommend a condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property be undertaken prior to works commencing, to provide a benchmark and avoid later dispute.

5. If no response is received or the Adjoining Owner dissents to works the building owner will need to write to the adjoining owner to request they appoint a Party Wall Surveyor. The Adjoining Owner may opt to use the Surveyor appointed by the Building Owner. They may prefer to appoint their own Surveyor. In most cases the fee for the Adjoining Owner’s Surveyor will be borne by the Building Owner.

6. Once appointed the Agreed Surveyor or Surveyors should then work to draw up a Party Wall Award. A Party Wall Award is the framework whereby works affecting the party structure are to be executed. A condition survey of the Adjoining Owner’s property will be undertaken. Once the Party Wall Award is agreed and published works can commence from the date stated within the Award.

Please also see our Party Wall Pitfalls blog with more useful guidance about the Party Wall process.

Top 5 Building Maintenance Tips

Defects that affect the structure of a building are usually caused by the simplest of issues,  which are easily remedied with a regular cyclical maintenance programme. The age old adage that prevention is better than cure rings true. The following is a list of the RMA Surveyors Ltd top 5 problems regularly encountered that could be easily prevented.

Poorly maintaned guttering1.    Keep rainwater goods regularly cleared and maintained. This is one of the simplest practical steps one can make to maintain any property. Safe access should always be factored in, particularly on larger commercial premises. That said the regular maintenance and clearing of rainwater goods will save hundreds, often thousands of pounds in remedying associated defects. We have discovered a dry rot outbreak covering three floors of a four story commercial premises; damaged masonry and staining; water ingress inside the building saturating the concrete floor screed; rotten external timbers and windows; damaged plaster and decorations internally; rusting of steel framing to a prefabricated system built property. All of these defects could have been easily prevented by maintenance of gutters and downpipes. In some cases poor rainwater management can lead to more serious structural damage caused by subsidence, where soil has been eroded away. For a small annual cost such problems could easily be avoided.

Partially blocked sub floor ventilation grille2.    Ventilation of buildings. This is a broad ranging subject, but in essence all one needs to do is remember a simple rule that buildings and their materials need to be adequately ventilated (or breath). The typical scenario we find is where suspended timber ground floors are not adequately ventilated. The presence of ventilation grilles on external walls indicates that the floor is likely to be timber and the void below needs to be well ventilated to prevent the accumulation of moisture. Typically solid floor extensions are installed and no provision is made to retain ventilation. This can create unventilated pockets where moisture can accumulate allowing the conditions for wood boring insects larvae (commonly called woodworm) and all kinds of rot to establish. Simply ensuring that ventilation grilles are maintained and not covered over could end up saving you thousands.

Loose repointing undertaking using cement rich mortar3.    Masonry repairs are often undertaken without due consideration for what original materials were used. Commonly I find that brickwork gets repointed in a cement mortar that is stronger than the surrounding brickwork. The result of this is that the mortar joints no longer allow water to evaporate and the brickwork begins to retain more water. On solid walled properties this can lead to damp on the internal wall surfaces. It can also mean damage to bricks in cold weather as the surface of the brick can be pushed off by the freeze/thaw cycle. Often repointing work can work itself loose due to expansion and contraction at differing rates with the brickwork and repointing is required far sooner than should be required. Make sure that when you are undertaking external masonry repairs it is done so by a contractor who understands the original construction and the work is correctly specified.

Flashing junction weathered with bitumen tape4.    Critical junctions between building elements such as chimneys and extensions are often poorly weathered with lead flashings in poor condition or missing altogether. The recent spate of metal thefts has compounded to the issue, as people are becoming increasingly reluctant to replace lead. Opting for cheaper bitumen backed aluminium tape is a temporary solution, but should not be relied upon to form a proper long term weatherproof junction. Where lead flashings are installed the standard of workmanship can often well below par. If you are planning to have any lead work undertaken make sure it is done by an experienced installer who understands the material and follows the industry standard guidance available from the Lead Sheet Association.

Jungle outside a back door5.    Finally, external decorations and maintenance of vegetation. Innumerable problems are associated with the simplest of maintenance tasks, namely vegetation management. Ivy climbing up walls may look idyllic but in some cases it can do permanent damage to masonry and cause all manner of associated problems. Careful pruning and maintenance of trees near buildings is also worthwhile especially in drought affected areas as the amount of water taken up by maturing trees can cause subsidence. A simple lick of paint every 5 years to external joinery will prevent costly maintenance of external and internal elements.

The above are simple measures that will save you time, stress and money. If you have a property that requires a detailed cyclical maintenance program, so you can plan and manage your maintenance budgets, or you require more urgent repairs and remediation, then please contact us. Our initial consultations are always free and we would be pleased to provide you with a full quotation based on the level of service you require.

Richard Mountain MRICS

Why pay for a construction professional?

Judges gavel and the scales of justiceWe have picked up several projects in the last 6 months where the clients have had builders start or about to begin works with no formal contract, specification, scope of works or even a sketch on the back of a beer mat. As building professionals we see these as shocking omissions. We implore anyone thinking of embarking upon a building project, whether it is a refurbishment, extension, alteration, repair or cyclical maintenance, to only do so if they have taken appropriate professional advice.

Invariably construction is expensive. People want to limit costs as much as possible. Often the services of construction professionals are first to be omitted, in a bid to shave some of this cost. True, in the first instance money has been saved. The fees of surveyors, architects and structural engineers have been avoided. But the saving often doesn’t remain as the project spirals out of control without formal professional management. Worst case scenario the building owner ends up paying for professional fees to put it right or act as an expert witness in court.

Often a good contract administrator or project manager’s value cannot be immediately seen. But a project that has benefitted from the process of feasibility, design, specification, tendering, contractor appointment, management and communication by a qualified professional adds value to a project. Using a professional to steer you through the process will save you money.

A good proportion of RMA Surveyors Ltd instructions are generated by clients who wished they had sought professional advice in the first instance. We have seen sewer pipes terminate below ground floors, all manner of poor masonry detailing and poor mortar specifications, non-compliant roof conversions, unsupported chimney breasts, undersized lintels, dangerous electrics and all manner of other defects. Often work has not been passed by building control and there is no formal contract in place to protect the client.

Many problems encountered are not even considered at the time of installation, but would have been picked up by an experienced professional. Even if a problem is not noted during or immediately after construction the chances are the problem will manifest itself in years to come. Most likely when the property is sold and a purchaser’s surveyor highlights defects or shortcomings. Inevitably the value of the property is reduced at the point of sale.

Coupled with the above, a project that has not been properly specified will undoubtedly result in spiralling costs during construction. We often hear of clients whose builder invoices an inflated final account where no agreement has been made for the extra costs. But with no formal contract or defined contract sum the client is often bamboozled by the contractors’ technical explanations when trying to negotiate. The result is that both parties become entrenched.

A construction professional may not always seem appropriate and can be a cost to be avoided. But RMA Surveyors Ltd experience is although the value we bring cannot always be calculated; the cost of putting it right when it goes wrong cannot either.

If you have a project you would like to talk about please contact us.

New JCT Contracts now available

JCT Minor works building contract front pageThe Joint Contracts Tribunal published a new 2011 suite of contracts and sub-contracts which are designed to comply with the provisions of Part 8 of the new Construction Act which came into force as of 1st October 2011.

The JCT Contracts 2011 edition reflects new legislation in regard to payment and makes other changes which include:
•    A revised definition of insolvency
•    Integration of the revisions appended to the 2005 form of contract
•    The provision for appointment of the principal contractor under CDM Regulations is extended to cover that function under the Site Waste Management Plans Regulations 2008
•    Reference to the Bribery Act 2010
•    Entries in relation to PI insurance and asbestos and fungal mould are omitted
•    Revised retention provisions in the sub-contracts

RMA Surveyors Ltd will be using the new form of JCT contracts where appropriate.