We are buying in Cornwall and are looking for buildings with rat-trap bond walls. What warnings would a surveyor give?
Of all the building materials used across the centuries in the UK, by far the most popular, and the most durable, has been the use of brick. Brick is made of a variety of ingredients, come in different shapes and sizes and colours, and are made for specific purposes from being resistant to acid or chemicals to simple building projects, as well as being either solid or having a variety of hollows deliberately built into their structure, depending on the purpose to which they’ll be put, the budget for the construction and a number of other factors which will come into play.
Because brick has been used for constructing homes and other buildings for so many centuries, bricklayers and designers have devised a wide variety of designs for how the bricks are placed together, from the common and simple stretcher, Flemish and English bonds to the more complex Della Robbia Weave bond.
What the bricks and the way that they are laid all have in common is that they all have their susceptibilities, which your Surveyor Local chartered surveyor will analyse and inspect as part of your survey. Some of the more typical issues are:
- frost attack and damage, where water gets into the brick’s pores and expands as it freezes
- spalling, where the brick flakes and crumbles, usually precipitated by other problems or the poor original construction of the brick
- efflorescence or staining, where salts, metals or other impurities are brought to the surface as the wall dries out
- sulphate attack, which is a serious issue causing instability, where the bricks are subjected to long-term water saturation causing the mortar to cease bonding
- wall-tie failure, where the wall-tie either rusts or wasn’t embedded in the mortar properly, resulting in the walls pulling apart
- weathering and disintegration, a particular problem where the brick is open to the harsher elements and weather
- mortar deterioration, where the bond between bricks breaks down; repointing will fix the problem if caught early enough
In all cases, your Surveyor Local chartered surveyor will inspect the condition of the walls (where the brick is visible) and check for issues, highlighting the state in the report, and making recommendations for remedial action (long-term or immediate) depending on what has been found. It is always worth getting a selection of quotes from accredited and recommended builders for any of the work that has been identified.
If you want to get further advice about the survey process, call Surveyor Local on 0800 038 6667 to talk to an adviser or get your instant quote by filling in the form at the top of this page.
When we saw the unmodernised property we are intending to acquire in Cornwall, there were doubts as to the safety of the electrical system; will a surveyor report anything on the wiring?
One of the areas that your chartered surveyor will look into when they’re inspecting the property you are considering buying is the electrics, reporting on any findings where they suspect any part of the system to be in hazardous condition.
All new electrical work needs to be covered under the British standard regulations (BS 7671), which are properly called the Electrical Installation and Wiring Safety Regulations and cover domestic, commercial and industrial properties, as well as marinas, fairgrounds, external public swimming pools, caravan parks, and other areas where electricity may create a potential hazard for any occupants.
For the residential properties, it covers all wiring, the circuit-breakers, residual current devices (RCDs), sockets, and so on, while special areas that might come into contact with moisture, such as bathrooms (e.g. heating or shaving sockets), swimming pools (internal or external), ponds, or portable outdoor equipment, are given particular focus.
In addition, the IEE (Institute of Electrical Engineers) recommends that a periodic inspection be completed every 10 years on private residential property, or every 5 years if you are renting out the property to tenants, or you own a commercial building. Again, your Surveyor Local chartered surveyor will identify the Periodic Inspection Review document’s existence and confirm its validity and status.
When preparing a Cornwall Building Survey, an RICS surveyor will inspect all accessible parts of the electrical system, noting the location and likely age of the fuse-board, and includes a visual assessment of the superficial parts of the wiring, without taking anything apart for safety reasons. In addition to verifying areas connected to the mains (e.g. the whereabouts of the meter or consumer unit), the surveyor will also choose a selection of sockets and light-switches to ensure they are operating normally.
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We have made an offer for a building with a converted attic in Cornwall; what will our property surveyor keep an eye out for during the investigation?
The problem with roofs is that they are most likely to have defects because they are hit harder by the elements and weathering than other parts of the home’s structure. In addition, there are so many different types of roof design (e.g. bonnet, gambrel, open gable, cross-hipped, clerestory, flat, butterfly, dormer, mansard, etc.), each with their particular foibles and points of weakness, that, even if the structure looks sound, they could well be harbouring a hidden issue. Our surveyors are experts and thorough during their inspection.
The types of material used in their construction can also be a source of problems, whether it is the familiar shingles or slate, shaped or flat, metals like zinc, aluminium, stainless steel, lead or copper, or other coverings such as bituminous felt, plastic, resin or fibreglass.
Because of the importance of the roof to the long life of the property, the surveyor will thoroughly inspect all aspects of the construction (assuming they are readily and safely accessible):
- soffits: the visible underside of the eaves
- downspout: any vertical drainpipe down the side of the property, there to transport rainwater away from the guttering
- chimney: ventilating hot air and gases from within the home
- flashing: protection from rainwater and often seen where there is a perpendicular joint, such as chimney to roof
- guttering: channels rainwater from the roof surface to the downspout
- cladding: the material used to cover and protect the roof structure
- fascias: the vertical boards under the eaves along the roofline onto which the soffits are attached
- barge boards: a type of fascia found on the gable end of a roof
- purlins: horizontal beams on the trusses to support the roof structure and give it rigidity
- trusses: the (usually A-shape) support beams that form the basic shape of the roof
- rafters: the beams that form the support for roofs
- collar beams: the horizontal beam in the trusses to provide rigidity and strength
- ridgeboard: the horizontal board the runs along the apex of the trusses
Most roofing work, unless you are planning a major extension, won’t require planning permission, but may require building regulations certification. Your surveyor will be happy to advise. Since most roofing work, other than simple maintenance tasks, will likely cost a lot of money to resolve, obtaining a number of quotes for any work might be a useful bargaining tool to renegotiate the agreed price with the seller.
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What will the property surveyor examine on a smooth, stucco-coated, Victorian home in Cornwall?
Stucco is simply a kind of smooth plaster render that is applied to brick or masonry, where it hardens to form a smooth, flat finish, or it might be used in making decorative mouldings to complement the rendered finish.
Comprising aggregates and binder to harden the mixture and water, stucco is durable, weather-resistant and is applied in thin layers, and is common on some Georgian and Victorian properties.
However, it can be problematic, and Cornwall Building Surveys focus on issues such as lateral hairline cracking revealing the underlying mortar joints, or where dampness below flashings or where the render has been applied to ground level has resulted in detachment or delamination from the brick or underlying substrate. Problems need to be sorted out as soon as they are identified because they will worsen quickly the longer they are left. Wire mesh is often used, but this is not advised since it can hasten deterioration should the metal rust.
Remedying significant problems with stucco may be expensive as the skills are becoming harder to find, but it is not recommended for the homeowner to attempt repairs themselves. Hairline cracks or other minor issues may be solved by applying another layer of stucco, or even simply a coat of paint.
Want a proactive and skilled surveyor who has a lot of experience in dealing with these kinds of issues? Look no further than Surveyor Local. Give us a quick call right now on 0800 038 6667 to get started.
A builder has mentioned that subsidence may be a problem at a home we want to buy in Penzance. How could this affect the property, and what subsidence-related defects will my survey highlight?
One of the principal defects that a chartered surveyor will look for during the inspection of a property is the dreaded subsidence, which conjures up images of sagging walls, large cracks along the property and even collapse.
Subsidence is defined as sudden or gradual shrinkage in the soil that surrounds foundations of a building, forcing a downward settling of the building as the weight becomes too much for the subsoil to support as it once did, and it usually occurs with little or no movement along the horizontal.
Familiar symptoms of subsidence are:
- the appearance of new cracks more than 3mm wide in the walls; however, not all cracks are an indication of subsidence and may be natural settlement. This is why it’s so important to get a chartered surveyor, like those available from Surveyor Local, involved to check it out and give you their expert opinion and advice
- cracks forming in obvious weak spots, such as the corners of window- and door-frames
- windows and doors beginning to stick where they haven’t before
- new extension parting company with the rest of the property
- sinking of patios and other hard structures in the garden
The Institution of Structural Engineers don’t recommend underpinning for the large majority of subsidence issues; rather this is treated as a last resort, where piles are dug and filled with concrete to support the existing foundations. Since the biggest percentage of subsidence issues are caused by trees and other plants in the vicinity draining the soil, judicious pruning or evening removal may be enough to rectify the problem (but note that such activity may also create other issues, so an expert’s advice should be sought). And, of course, if the drains are broken, then these should be repaired as soon as possible.
The opposite, but rarer, condition is known as ground heave, where the subsoil surrounding the foundations expands and, because it usually can’t move sideways, it is forced upwards. Note that the symptoms are quite similar to subsidence in terms of cracking or sticking windows and doors, but there will probably be other symptoms such as raising of patio slabs or lifting of decking.
Because of the severity of these issues, it is imperative that an expert chartered surveyor from Surveyor Local checks the property in order to report on the condition, the diagnosis and recommendations for any immediate action to be taken to resolve the situation.
You can get an instant quote from Surveyor Local by filling in the form at the top of this page. Or, if you’re ready to appoint a chartered surveyor today, call us now on 0800 038 6667.
Which Cornwall survey includes a valuation and cost of rebuild estimate and how is it calculated?
The HomeBuyer Report contains a professional valuation and a reinstatement cost included as part of the cost of the survey, which includes the cost of rebuilding permanent outbuildings and retaining walls. However, you will need to ask us for that to be added to the inspection, as it doesn’t automatically come with the service any longer. Our advisers will be able to assist you when you call.
To fully consider an accurate value estimate, your surveyor will consider local knowledge of the Cornwall property market and other things about the building (e.g. state of repair). Surveyors also contemplate the materials used and will use key assumptions regarding the likelihood of there being no serious defects.
A Building Survey won't include a valuation as standard, but one can be incorporated for a small additional fee. Alternatively a Property Valuation Report (PVR) can be carried out. It will be assumed that there is an absence of any problematic legal issues, like the property being sold with vacant possession. These will be investigated by your conveyancing solicitor.
Further speculations, such as access to a flat or the property being insurable, are made in addition to local environmental concerns, like tin-mining activity.
Talk to one of our advisers on 0800 038 6667 to discuss which of the surveys is most suitable for your needs and to get your free quote.
There is a semi-detached house in Cornwall priced at £230,000. What things does a surveyor consider when calculating house prices in the county?
A qualified RICS surveyor will go to the property as well as considering the wealth of area knowledge and factors that have a bearing on the value of property. There are a huge number of issues that could affect house prices (for example, the quality of nearby schools, or whether the garden is overlooked). It can help to benchmark selling-prices recorded for similar properties in Cornwall.
This means the average price of completed transactions for semi-detached houses in Cornwall in December 2018 was £224,683, which is £5,317 less than the asking price for the cited property. With regards to other types of property, the averages for the same month in Cornwall were:
Information © 2019 HM Land Registry. Retrieved from HM Land Registry website on 7 February 2019
An impartial way to get a formal house valuation is with a HomeBuyer Report, which includes a Property Valuation Report (PVR) as a core component. A qualified RICS surveyor will be part of the Valuer Registration Scheme, which reinforces professional standards.
If you need further guidance, why not try our Cornwall home survey quote generator (scroll to the top of the page and fill in a few pieces of information) or call our team on 0800 038 6667?
We are concerned about bugs in a house we want to buy in Truro; what advice should we get?
The issue of pests in and around the home is often seen as a small or minor, even irrelevant, inconvenience or annoyance that simply needs to be accepted and managed. However, the threat of many pests is very real and, with certain examples, will have a risk to the occupants’ health or destroy the fabric and structure of a building.
In addition, evidence of an infestation of pests is not always easy to find. Some obvious examples of common pests include rodents, cockroaches, death-watch beetle, woodworm, carpet beetle larvae, and woodlice.
Your chartered surveyor will look out for evidence of the common problems, such as droppings or holes in wood, and make recommendations based on the severity of the problem and how recent the infestation appears to be. Solutions may include the use of poisons, insecticides and traps, but more humane ways of removing pests are available. It’s always worth obtaining a number of quotes from companies qualified to handle such issues so that you can request a reduction in the asking price from the seller.
Because there are so many different pests, the chartered surveyor will not be able to test and check for every single type other than the common instances. If you suspect that a specific issue with pests exists, then you should bring it to your surveyor’s attention and they will be able to focus on finding the particular evidence, should it exist.
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