Why should I get a survey? - Surveyor Inspection

“Should I get a survey?”

Every year, thousands of property buyers ask the same question. Why should I spend money on a home survey?

You’ve had a look round and it seemed ok. The paintwork was good and it all looked well maintained.

But there is a reason that a wide array of building surveys exist. It is because all buildings deteriorate over time and because the cost of a suitable survey pales in comparison to the cost of repairing expensive defects.

“The advice of a surveyor, be it delivered verbally or presented in a written report, will reveal the nature of the problem, present options for repair and give you indicative costs.”

For a new building, there are two main reasons you should consider a survey:

  • Most new properties come with a 10-year NHBC guarantee. If you catch a defect early, the builder will need to rectify it for you. If you miss something and the time period elapses, you’ll be responsible.
  • New properties are subject to a lot of risks – they dry out, take on water, shift, settle and, very often, they crack as a result. If the construction calculations are only a small margin out, the result can be a large repair bill.

For older buildings, the risks are even greater:

  • The life-cycle of a typical building material is around 60 years. Whilst many materials might still safely be in a property after hundreds of years, others will deteriorate quickly. Much of this is dependent on the conditions, which can speed deterioration greatly.
  • Defects can worsen over time. A huge number of defects can develop and accentuate over time, including wood rot, structural movement and a variety of damp types (rising, condensation, interstitial). Catching such defects early means remedial methods are cheap and easy; letting them develop can mean thousands of pounds of repair bills.

A Chartered Surveyor looks for a huge number of possible defects when inspecting a house, however old, large or complex it is. We take a look at a few common ones below:

Damp

Finding damp in your home is extremely irritating and, for many, a great concern. Unfortunately, serious cases of damp can occur in any house – new or old.

The most extreme cases are often caused by ‘rising damp’, the process whereby water from the ground is absorbed up into the wall through ‘capillary action’. This is commonly mistaken for condensation, which often plagues bedrooms and kitchens in warm, damp areas of the UK.

Under damp conditions, skirting boards can rot, plaster can lift and paint flake. The presence of such a consistently high level of damp being drawn up through the wall can also lead to black mould growth higher up and, in more serious cases, structural issues as the rigidity of the wall is compromised. Unfortunately, the cause of serious damp issues can be difficult to pinpoint and rising damp can often be mis-diagnosed in cases of interstitial condensation, failed wall-ties or a breached damp proof course. Without professional advice, most homeowners will not know quite how bad the problem is or for that matter, what’s causing it. With the wrong advice, you can end up spending money on elaborate but unnecessary and ineffective solutions.

Cracks

Potentially even more serious; if you discovered a crack in a wall of your home what would you do? Ignore it and hope that it would go away? Or call a professional to make sure your wall isn’t structurally compromised? Most of the time, the crack will only be as deep as the render, but this can still be a problem. Unless that crack is sealed, there is a chance of water entering the building through the opening. This, in turn, could loosen the render and turn a small patching job into a large-scale re-rendering.

Again, the advice of a surveyor can put your mind at rest when you’ve noticed a crack, or alert you to a serious issue which needs rectifying. Catching structural issues early is key to keeping costs down and early strengthening solutions are a lot cheaper than emergency measures like underpinning.

Subsidence

Likewise, subsidence is a common problem in British homes and can be devastating to your property, your domestic life and your chances of a mortgage. Subsidence is the (typically) downward movement of the site on which the building stands, usually meaning that the soil in unstable and causes parts of your house to effectively ‘slide’. This can cause devastating damage, with wide cracks opening and walls becoming unstable and even dangerous.

As with all cracks, if you manage to spot the preliminary signs and catch it early, the solutions are relatively simple and cost-effective. A professional Chartered Surveyor is trained to spot the symptoms and can advise you on how to proceed – helping you to select a reasonable solution without paying over the odds.

All of these defects are covered in the various building surveys undertaken by Right Surveyors for clients looking to buy a house. For those who find such defect in their own homes, we usually recommend a Single Fault Assessment. This is a written report, compiled by an RICS regulated Chartered Surveyor, that presents an analysis of the defect, its causes and proposes appropriate solutions.

“At typically the cost of only half a day’s work for the surveyor, this is very often a sensible, minor investment before proceeding with remedial works.”

Our Right Surveyors can provide this survey for domestic property owners and commercial owners alike, for personal use or insurance purposes across England and Wales. If you’re worried about any aspect of your property, do call us directly to see how we can assist on 0800 880 6024 or email surveys@rightsurveyors.co.uk.

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