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Spotlight on Refurbishments & Conversions

Building conversions as we know are often difficult to complete, frequently with costs spiralling as unknown defects surface.  Good and correct investigation can reduce the unknown, however we often see work proposed with minimal investigation or inappropriate investigations employed, based on a standard approach.

Refurbishments and conversions can come with their problems which may result in claims being made. This can include issues of damp, mould growth, water ingress and failing roof coverings.

CIRIA 111 (Structural Renovation of Traditional Buildings) provides guidance on the level of investigation as well as typical construction methods used and issues frequently encountered, it is applicable to most low rise buildings of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries.

However even with these fairly well understood buildings, issues occur, we often see remedial DPCs injected of inappropriate type for the wall construction, and increasingly at the wrong height (eg above structural floor joists) inadequate investigation of embedded timbers or a reluctance to re-cover a roof that although may initially appear to be in good order has in reality never performed to modern requirements and importantly modern expectation.

Unfortunately Planning conditions and Conservation control can reduce the appropriateness of a building for conversion to residential use, it is not the case that we don’t agree with these controls, its more that unfortunately new home purchasers have expectations that their new home will perform in the same way as a newly built property and often this isn’t the case, from single glazed windows causing condensation to appear during colder months, to ongoing maintenance requirements and increased sensitivity to a changing climate, the pitfalls can be huge.

Fact is that most properties built in the last 150 years are robust, unfortunately unsympathetic use, poor maintenance and simple issues such as increasing ground levels can introduce the enemy of most buildings – moisture, by far and away the greatest defect we see in buildings proposed for conversion is water ingress through failed roofing and gutters/downpipes (usually as a result of poor maintenance) and moisture rising, not through a failed DPC but usually a bridged perfectly good DPC with resultant rot to timbers both visible and invisible behind wall coverings and other finishes.

More recent buildings are not devoid of these issues, more that they contain less timber, and were built to more modern standards, however these present other problems such as concrete defects, cladding issues, and in some cases structural issues.

There is a lot of guidance out there to assist in the process of conversion, however the aforementioned CIRIA document is an excellent start, but reference to British Standards and even some historic association documents can provide an excellent source of further guidance, and don’t forget we can help you too!

Involve us early and we can recommend the type and level of investigation, so that when you start hopefully there won’t be so many unknowns, and where practical we will agree the retention of elements or make clear where replacement is the only realistic approach.

 

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