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The Building Survey

(“Level 3” for purposes of RICS Home Survey Standard 2019)

This is a detailed survey report, which was formerly referred to as a “Full Structural Survey”. It is suitable for any residential property but offers particular benefits when reporting on older properties or ones which are either very complex or in poor condition.

Inspection

The report will be based on a careful visual inspection of all ready accessible areas of the property. The principles of the inspection process are actually not that different from the Home Survey, but there tends to be far more to record and assess with a much greater variety of materials and methods of construction. Extensions and refurbishments from different periods provide further complexity that must be analysed. Consequently the inspections take that much longer to complete. I would anticipate a minimum inspection time of about four hours with many taking the larger part of a day. It will be very much dependent upon the size, age and complexity of the building.

Formal test of the services will not be carried out but where the property is occupied and where possible water will be run through taps and showers and the heating system fired up. Where possible water will be flushed through the foul drainage system and the drains inspected from readily accessible chambers. Unless otherwise agreed, the grounds and outbuildings will not be inspected in the same level as the main house. For these I will only be looking for major defects.

Report

It is in the report that the major differences from the Home Survey will be found. It is critically important that before advising on the condition or repair of any old building that a surveyor understands its historical context and development as well as how it works as a structure. Unless the building is very simple, you can only do this if you first draw out a floor plan for each level so that you fully understand how the elements on each floor relate to those above and below. Without an understanding of the complete structure there is a risk of inappropriate or unnecessary repairs being recommended.

In the report, before dealing with the condition, there is a description which briefly covers the historical context and explains how the building works. It will follow the path of the loads from the roof, down through the walls and the floors to the soil below. My aim is that, equipped with this and the floor plans, the client will gain an understanding of the structure and be in a much better position to make decisions about improvements and repair as well as any proposed alterations.

The main body of the report describes what the various elements are made of, what condition they are in and why the defects have occurred. It will give a brief outline of the repairs required. It will also advise on improvements which could be made to stop problems occurring in the future.

Most of the nation’s houses built prior to 1850 were constructed using traditional permeable buildings materials. These allowed moisture both in and out of the building in such a way that, if properly maintained, high moisture levels rarely built up. The approach in the 20th century has been to create barriers to moisture using impervious materials. Unfortunately these materials have been incorporated into most of the nation’s old housing stock and tend to trap moisture increasing the risk of decay. Whist I would nearly always prefer to see a reversion to the traditional method, a pragmatic approach needs to be taken depending how much damage, if any, is being caused. The report will advise you on these issues and covers other areas where improvements could be made to stop problems occurring in the future.

Advice will also be give on current insulation levels and the need for appropriate improvements.

The Building Survey can be tailored to the clients’ needs to a large degree although as a building is an integrated structure it is not always possible to report on elements in isolation. Common variations are to report on the house only, ignoring the grounds and outbuildings or just the main structural elements ( i.e. the roof covering and frame, the chimneys, gutters and downpipes, the walls and partitions, damp course and floors together with the drains).

Download a sample Building Survey (pdf 4.1MB) Download Terms and Conditions Relating to Building Surveys (pdf 95kb)

Main Features

ESSENTIAL FOR OLD TIMBER FRAME & PERIOD PROPERTIES

 

The report includes:

Floor Plans

Building Survey - Floor Plans

 

advice on the condition of the various elements with photographs

Building Survey

 

and sketches

Building Survey - Sketches