What does a Surveyor do on a
Structural Survey?

Free phone us for Building and Structural Surveys

If you would like help and advice with regard to buying a property; by auction or via an estate agent. We can carry out a structural survey, also known as a building survey, or a specific defects report, engineers reports, defects reports, including things such as movement, cracking, dampness, condensation, foundation problems, etc, home buyers reports. Please free to phone 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat.

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Chartered Surveyor versus Surveyor

The first important thing to remember is that very few people can call themselves Chartered Surveyors, approximately 100,000 people in total. This is because they have had to undergo training which takes approximately seven years, which includes academic training and training with a surveyor on a broad range of subject areas and then a specialist area / core subject is chosen which are examined on again and then you are registered by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors as a Chartered Surveyor.

As a Chartered Surveyor you have to keep your knowledge up to date in your specialist work areas.

chartered surveyor

Chartered Surveyor versus Chartered Building Surveyor

Within the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors there are various disciplines of different types of Chartered Surveyor and whilst everyone can call themselves a Chartered Surveyor only Chartered Building Surveyors who specialise in building surveys can use this designate. This is who you need to instruct to carry out a structural survey also now known as a building survey.

Building Surveys versus Structural Surveys

Nearly everyone still calls us to ask for a full structural survey however in recent years the term building survey has been used. It more accurately describes what the client wants as you want a Surveyor to look at the whole of the property, not just the structure so this would then include for such things as woodworm, wet rot and dry rot and other structural issues and some non-structural issues, for example we will often comment on close by trees, drainage problems, old electrics, old gas installations; all things that are not necessarily structural but can cost you money.

How much time have you actually spent looking at the property you are going to move into

When the market is busy estate agents rush perspective buyers around the houses as they have so many people to show around the property. When the housing market is not so busy there is lots of pressure from the estate agents for you to buy the property. Either way you don't have the ideal time and environment to look around the property. If you employ a Building Surveyor they have this time and our Building Surveyors take as long as it takes.

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It's all about time

Sometimes it's just literally the amount of time that you have at a property that ensures you get to see things and understand things. When you are a purchaser looking to buy a property often you can be rushed around by the estate agent or have other things on your mind such as when you have to collect the children or what the children are doing in the bedroom whilst you are looking at the front room! Or will your dining room table actually fit in the dining room and all of these things take your mind off other basic things, such as has the property got any structural problems or other costly issues. It's these costly issues that a Surveyor will pick up and it's a combination of years and experience in property of being able to look around a house without the estate agent moving around rapidly and the owner talking about all the things they have done with the property (yes we have recently had this experience).

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Knowledge and Technical knowledge

We are not certain what other Building Surveyors do on their surveys but our surveyors always combine the technical knowledge we have with the day to day experiences that we have from looking at properties, to give the best insight to buyers as to possible problems. Often we have said that if we can see a slight problem on the surface it may well be hiding other problems beneath such as poor workmanship and materials, meaning the property suffers from problems.

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Problems in new and old buildings

We find that older properties were built to a standard that have been mended and altered sometimes inappropriately and we find that newer properties have been built to a price that things can just be missed out or the tradesmen, as they are all subcontractor tradesmen simply are only bothered about their own section of the work and don't think about how they all work together, or indeed are in such a rush because their price is so tight that they have very limited time to do the job they have been paid to do properly. We thought we would give you a few examples of problems that can occur.


A perfectly innocent looking manhole however it's the wrong type and not suitable for heavy traffic. This is at the entrance of a driveway within a brand new development which will eventually end up like the photo below or worse with a car wheel suck in it.

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A modern lightweight manhole

It does make you wonder whether cost cutting has been taken too far.

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A deflecting manhole due to the
weight of the car going over it.

It's a myth that modern properties don't have problems

Modern properties we find that are built to a price, in some cases a very strict budget and as such problems can occur. Often developers are copying old problems with modern materials. We find that there is very little thought going into the modern properties once they are off the design board and there is a lot of salesmanship that goes into selling them. We also find they tend to be built using subcontractors who have tended for the lowest price and therefore are trying to get in and do their job, only their job and are not concerned about the rest.

Beautiful windows without much thought given to their design

We came across this recently on a survey of a new property, where a lovely set of windows and French doors had been put to form a Juliet balcony at first floor level, however the balcony had been put so close to the windows that they couldn't actually open.

This shows there has been little thought in the designs as to how it will or won't work. Ventilation is so important especially in modern properties where condensation can occur.

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Basic design errors such as windows
not opening as they hit a balcony

Every builder has a bad day on a job but sometimes mistakes are inexcusable

Everyone has a bad day now and again but a builder's bad day or mistake or lack of knowledge can cause you big problems in years to come. On this new window installation the windows requires a seal around them which is normally carried out in mastic to stop draughts and rain getting around the side of the window. In this case the sealing has been carried out with cement mortar which will degrade very fast as cement breaks as it is very brittle and dampness may get into the property.

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Windows put in without a thought for
the future.

Sometimes we think the builders just don't care

Sometimes we find very basic things missing such as in this example the end caps on the plastic windows.

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The end cap is missing to the plastic

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An end cap

Flats what does what?

We look for the stopcock when we carry our surveys, as should you have a leak it's important. However, in this particular flat development there is complete confusion as to what does what in the water supply. If you look carefully at our photos you can see that the numbers have been crossed out and changed round.

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What do these numbers relate to?

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Fire Regulations in flats and other multi-occupied properties

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We could see the fire signs but couldn't see
any fire extinguishers

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Fire extinguishers were found stored under
the staircase

Something that we are seeing more and more commonly is where air bricks that allow a flow of air underneath a property have been blocked up by either builders that don't know what they are doing, or by people adding pavements and driveways that block them over, or plants that cover them up.

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This is what a suspended timber floor looks like and it needs air ventilation underneath it, this goes by the air bricks.

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chartered surveyor

The airbricks are acting as gutters

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Another airbrick acting as a gutter

Here's another very simple error. It could mean that you will need to
re-build the garden wall. This property has been built on a sloping site.
If you look at the sketch you'll see how the rain has to move from the
top of the site to the bottom. Unfortunately the wall
hasn't had any weep holes put in it to help drainage.

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chartered surveyor

This retaining wall hasn't got any
weep holes

Smoke alarms are great ideas if they are working

We recently found this in a block of flats that we were looking at where the smoke alarms still had their seals on them even though the block of flats was occupied. This particular one was in a very good location as all the electric services were around it, however it was sealed.

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Within the electric cupboard here we
have a smoke alarm that is
covered over

Eyes wide open

We put all these different things we see together and give you advice on what repairs are needed or what problems there are with the property and help you stop buying a problem property. Equally we can help you with how to repair things and where a tradesman is needed.
The examples we have given above are ones we have found over the past month carrying out surveys. We would remind you that a builder is quite happy to walk away leaving these signs when they don't know what they're doing on the surface, which to a surveyor are so obvious. It then leads us to wonder what cannot be seen and that's when things get really interesting.

Independent Surveyors

If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a surveyor, with regard to valuations, mortgages, mortgage companies, surveys, building surveys, structural reports/engineers reports, specific defects report, structural surveys, home buyers reports or any other property matters please contact 0800 298 5424 for a surveyor to give you a call back.

Commercial Property

If you have a commercial property, whether it is freehold or leasehold then sooner or later you may get involved with dilapidation claims. You may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at www.DilapsHelp.com and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site www.DisputesHelp.com .

We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human)

The contents of the website are for general information only and are not intended to be relied upon for specific or general decisions. Appropriate independent professional advice should be paid for before making such a decision.

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