Areas only? CCTV survey?
Proposed new regulations for England and Wales from 2010 former PRIVATE SEWERS now responsibility of nine statutory water and sewerage companies so shared drains may be public sewers. Reduced potential liability for repair.
Check for BUILD OVER AGREEEMENT if building is over public sewer – drainage authority has rights of access?
An important attribute for any surveyor is that he or she has a good head for heights and is reasonably sure-footed when clambering into lofts or onto roofs. Rubber soled shoes with good grip are advised and you should always take great care setting up a ladder to ensure that it is correctly angled and properly grounded. As a student sur-veyor I was once sent up a long extension ladder onto the fl at roof of a block of fl ats not, as I discovered later, so that my valued opinions could be given, but to test my resistance to vertigo. Access to roof voids, the roofs themselves and underfl oor areas often require strenuous acrobatic feats and as the years go by and the waistline expands these become more challenging.
It would indeed be unfortunate if, many years from now, the skeleton of a surveyor should be discovered, fi rmly wedged between the rafters in an empty and long aban-doned building. They would know that it was a surveyor because the clipboard and notes would still be there with a fi nal note ‘ rafters closer together than normal spacing ’ . So it is a good idea to make sure that someone back at the offi ce knows where you are when working alone, and that you carry a mobile phone.
Moisture meters are necessary for testing plaster and woodwork for damp and the instrument should be tested prior to use on each occasion since it is important that a meter with failing or fl at batteries should not be used since its readings will then be inaccurance and unreliable.
Binoculars will provide a clearer view of roofs and upper storeys and a selection of tools and manhole-lifting keys are required for gaining access to the drains. A hammer and bolster are useful for easing tight manhole covers. A long spirit level is needed to check plumbness in walls and whether fl oors are level. A plumb line could be useful for check-ing the verticality of walls from upper windows or balconies. A selection of tools includcheck-ing probes to check timber for rot and a key for opening electric and gas meter boxes should be carried. Mirrors are useful for peering around corners under fl oors and within ducting.
For general purposes I carry the following equipment in my car:
1. A4 clipboard with pro forma site notes, fi eld sheets and checklists.
For more specialised inspections other equipment are available; hand augers for taking soil samples and shear vane testers for testing clay soils, for example, or concrete core sampling equipment; calibrated tell tales may be used for monitoring crack damage in walls; radon gas detectors may be used. However, none of this specialised equipment is likely to be used during the course of the initial Building Survey.
All instructions should be agreed in writing and the clients should be asked to sign agreed terms and conditions of engagement. The surveyor’s instructions may be lim-ited to inspecting a particular building or part of a building and providing a report without any need to comment upon the price or related matters so the report will be purely concerned with the construction and condition of that property. Such reports used to be called ‘ structural surveys ’ although the generally accepted terminology nowadays is ‘ building surveys ’ because the use of the word ‘ structural ’ suggests some kind of intrusive investigation into the structure of the building which is not normally practical with an initial building survey report (although more detailed intrusive inves-tigations could well follow).
In some cases the report may also include advice on value when it might be termed a ‘ building survey and valuation ’ . Often a building survey is being undertaken in conjunc-tion with a valuaconjunc-tion for a mortgage lender for a combined fee. Building surveys can be FIG 1.1 Equipment for a Building Survey of a simple low rise structure.
FIG 1.2 Borescope for inspecting inside wall cavities, sub-fl oor voids and other areas. The wide-angle lens provides good depth of fi eld.
FIG 1.3 Environmental issues should be covered in the report but the client must decide whether a problem such as aircraft noise is acceptable or not.
FIG 1.4 Moisture meters are not a new invention. On the left a Weston Moisture Meter manufactured by the Weston Electrical Instrument Corp in the USA in the 1930s. Principally designed to check moisture levels in timber but also having a scale to measure dampness in plaster. On the right an Aquatrace made in England in the 1960s – you press the red button and a fl ashing light indicates damp. The faster it fl ashes the damper the wall.
undertaken on fl ats, maisonettes or other units of accommodation which form part of a larger building in which case it is clearly vital to confi rm at the outset – in the terms and conditions of engagement – precisely what is being inspected and the limitations of the report in respect, for example, of the interior of other fl ats in the same building.
The fee should be collected in advance. Nowadays many clients pay the fee by tel-ephone using a credit card or instruct the surveyor on line using a web site. It is still necessary to have signed terms and conditions of engagement, however, before pro-ceeding with the inspection. There are no fi xed scales of charges for building surveys so each fi rm of surveyors is able to devise a scale based upon a suitable formula.
When dealing with a high volume of survey instructions it is probably easiest to adopt a scale of charges based upon the value of the property, although this can be unfair because the amount of work involved in surveying a small modern house in a high-value area will clearly be much less than a rambling old house in a low-high-value area with the potential liability commensurately higher in the latter case. So the scale of charges might also be weighted to allow for the age of the property amongst other things.
If the survey is being undertaken in conjunction with a mortgage valuation for a pro-spective lender then a single fee for both services is normally agreed providing some saving for the client.