Review of a survey of a 1950's
semi-detached house for a repeat client

Having a building survey

When you are buying or leasing a property we always advise you have a building survey carried out by an independent chartered surveyor, i.e. a surveyor who is not affiliated to an estate agency, bank or building society, who are working solely for you and no-one else and who can offer you independent advice.

Free phone us on 0800 298 5424 for help and advice.



Don't buy a problem property buy a survey

Our surveyors carry out surveys on all types of property, from houses and homes, to commercial surveys, dilapidations, schedules of conditions.

We can offer you advice on a specific problem within your home, such as cracking, movement, dampness, etc and offer you solutions on how to solve the problem. We also carry out boundary reports if you are having an issue with the line of the boundary of your house.

Client's using our surveying services once again

The clients on this particular survey are repeat clients having used our surveying services before. They told us that they had been so pleased with our previous service that they did not hesitate to contact us again for a survey on the next home they were thinking of buying.

What type of property was being surveyed?

The house that we were surveying was from the post-war years era, in other words it was built in the 1950's not long after World War II had finished. This was a time when there was a rationing of materials and limited skilled labour available, therefore there was sometimes unusual construction hidden beneath what appeared to be typical construction.

Built on a sloping site

The property was a semi-detached house in an area of similar properties. The house was built on a sloping site, which meant that it discharged water from the rear towards the house. This can sometimes lead to dampness getting into the property and in this case there was decking to the rear of the property and we were concerned that dampness would lead to rot of the decking.

Decking can also become very slippery if not looked after properly and you be aware that rodents may get underneath it. Regular maintenance of decking is essential.


Sloping site

Cold bridging

With this era of property cold bridging, or thermal bridging, are a common problem.

Cold Bridging Defined

Cold bridging is caused by a colder element in the structure allowing coldness to pass through the structure much quicker when warm moist air is present in the property, often caused by things like having a shower or a bath, cooking or washing, particularly if you are drying washing on the radiators. This is also caused by the general climate which results in condensation on the element.

This together with the information we already gained made sense of the 3D puzzle that we call the structural survey.


Cold bridging / thermal bridging

In this house the windows were old style metal windows and these do allow cold bridging.

We recommended, as we do with all such properties where there may be cold bridging or condensation, that large humidity controlled extract fans are added to the bathrooms, kitchen and other rooms where the drying of clothes may be carried out. We find that often the existing extract fans within a property are just not large enough, or efficient enough, to cope with condensation / cold bridging. Replacing metal windows with plastic double glazed windows is also a good idea.


Older style metal windows that have cold bridging

Polystyrene ceiling tiles are a fire hazard

In this property, and indeed in a few properties of this era that we have recently surveyed, there were polystyrene ceiling tiles. These were often put up to hide poor quality ceilings. They are, of course, considered a fire hazard and should be removed.


Polystyrene ceiling tiles

Artex ceilings may contain asbestos

Properties of this era often have Artex ceilings and you should be aware that these often contain Asbestos, which is a highly dangerous element. Do not attempt to sand down or remove the Artex yourself, consult an asbestos expert. You can get a skim coat of plaster put over the top of the Artex without rubbing it down or damaging it in any way.

If you suspect there is asbestos in your property you should consult an asbestos specialist. Please note we are building surveyors and not asbestos surveyors and as such the only way to be a hundred per cent certain with regards to Asbestos in a property is to have an Asbestos Report carried out.

Get old electrics checked by an expert – you can never be too careful

The fuseboard was from about the 1960's and therefore dated and we advised that this should be replaced.

When moving house please note that The Institute of Electrical Engineers standards (IEE) recommend a test and report whenever a property changes occupancy. This should be carried out by an NICEIC registered and approved electrical contractor or equivalent.

Old electrics may be unreliable and possibly dangerous so we would always advise you get them checked by an NICEIC registered electrician, or equivalent.


Remember to have all your services checked

Similarly, the same applies for heating; the boiler in the property was also dated and we advised that the client budgets to replace this.

We noted many of the radiators were not situated underneath windows and that they were single panel radiators. Positioning radiators underneath windows creates a far better through flow of air in a room, as the sketch opposite shows.

We recommended our clients think about moving the radiators, where possible, underneath the windows and replacing them with double panel convection radiators which are far more efficient than single panel radiators.


Good air movement from a radiator located under a window

Don't forget the gas!

Gas can be a silent killer and you must regularly have your gas boiler serviced by a Gas Safe registered plumber and we always recommend you invest in a gas alarm to let you know of any gas leaks.

Our surveyors work from top to bottom of the property

Our surveyors carry out a detailed survey of the whole property, working from the top of the property, starting with the chimneys and roofs, down to the bottom of the property, looking at the walls, damp proof courses and air bricks.

We look at the front and rear gardens, noting if there are any large trees whose roots may potentially cause movement and cracking, or whose leaves may block gutters and drains. We look to see if there cracks in boundary walls and pathways which could also denote possible movement, and whether the property is on a sloping site which may cause dampness go get inside the property, as we have mentioned with this property.

Our surveyors then carry out a detailed survey of the inside of the property, from ceilings, walls and floors, and we have a look at the services in the house.

Thermal imaging and dampness testing

Sometimes we are asked to carry out a thermal inspection of a particular part of a property, i.e. to see if there is heat loss from roofs or windows and we have a specialist thermal camera for this.

On every survey we carry out damp meter readings at high level (lateral or penetrating dampness) and at low level (rising damp), though rising damp obviously does not need to be tested on anything other than the ground floor on a block of flats or apartments as it only rises up from the ground itself. We have specialist damp meters for such testing. We also use equipment for reading condensation inside a property.

We take a long ladder with us on every survey to look inside the loft space, in case there is no loft ladder present in the house.


The red areas show heat loss through
the roof of this house

Surveying articles

In our survey reports we may include surveying articles we have written that relate to problems relevant to the property you are buying, in this case cold bridging.

We have also written hundreds of other surveying articles that may be of interest to you when buying or leasing a property, or if you have a problem with your property. These can be found on our website. Here are a few examples that may be of interest:

Building surveys, known as structural surveys
Mortgage surveyors won't do a building survey
Damp, mould and condensation
Thermal imaging technology

Come along and meet the surveyor at the survey

We always suggest that you come along to the property and meet us during the survey. This is a two way process, in that we can find out if you have any particular concerns regarding the property and we can also explain to you and show you any problems we find and offer you suggestions of what you can do to put the problems right. We also offer you, where possible, an estimate of the cost of sorting out the problem.


Survey reports made just for you

Upon completion of the survey we will produce a comprehensive survey report, listing any bad points we find in an executive summary at the front of the report, together with suggestions of remedies and anticipated cost of works. We then move on to the main body of the report which lists every area of the property in full detail, both outside and inside the property, listing every room in the house.

Free phone us today on 0800 298 5424

If you are interested in having a survey, whether you are buying a house for yourself or for investment, or if you are buying or leasing a commercial property, such as a warehouse, office or pub then please free phone our surveyors on 0800 298 5424 for help and advice.

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