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    Preserving the past - lets-do-diy.com

    Structural stability

    Structural Stability Text - lets-do-diy.com

    If an old farm labourer’s cottage sounds idyllic or a Georgian, Victorian or Edwardian property is more to your taste, the first step must be to determine that the building is structurally sound. As with any property purchase this involves a survey of the property prior to contracts being exchanged, but it is worth engaging the services of a surveyor with specialist knowledge of old buildings and who is familiar with Section GNA 2 of the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) Appraisal and Valuation Manual (also known as the Red Book).

    Not only will the surveyor’s report offer professional assurance of the building’s stability, it will highlight other problems particular to older properties which can include damp, dry rot, infestation by death watch beetle or a “mundic” problem. All these problems can be serious, but it is the latter that can have the most serious consequences.

    “Mundic” problems largely occur in South West England and affect properties built with concrete using mine waste as aggregate, which has now been found to accelerate concrete degradation.

    A test is carried out to discover whether a “mundic” problem exists or, if there is a problem, the degree of concrete deterioration or the potential for deterioration occurring in the future. The test results will classify the property: Class A and AB indicate a pass, while B and C signify the property has failed the test and you’ll be unlikely to find a mortgage lender willing to finance the purchase. Concrete construction of this type was prevalent prior to 1950 and so testing any period property for a “mundic” problem makes good financial sense.

    Furthermore, a surveyor with specialist knowledge of older properties is unlikely to make the mistakes common to colleagues with limited expertise in these types of buildings.

    The most frequent mistakes include:

    • Misdiagnosing a damp problem and recommending chemical treatment. Period buildings often have naturally higher moisture content than modern ones because traditional construction techniques rely on evaporation to control the moisture levels.
    • Advising the re-pointing of lime mortar with cement – lime should always be used.
    • Signs of structural movement also cause problems for those uninitiated in the quirks of older houses. Older buildings move more and consequently cracks and fissures may have occurred over many years. They don’t necessarily indicate a serious structural fault.
    • Insect infestation is frequently misdiagnosed, resulting in unnecessary and costly timber treatments. Only in cases of active infestation should treatment be recommended.
    • Replacing damaged joinery when repair offers a less expensive alternative and also preserves the integrity of the period feature.
    • Applying modern building standards to period properties can lead to seeing problems where they don’t exist. For instance, by today’s standards roof trusses can appear weak but function perfectly.

    Surveyors with knowledge and experience of older buildings not only find the problems that need to be rectified, they save you money by not recommending unnecessary repairs.

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