Reviewing a survey of a 1800's Flint Cottage



Independent surveying advice

We can provide help and advice with regard to listed buildings, building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, independent valuations, property surveys, engineers reports, specific defects report, home buyers reports or indeed any other property matters on any age, type and style of property . We would be happy to email you examples of our survey reports. We have surveyed many types of properties including old properties and we have also lived in older properties ourselves so we understand the needs of older buildings. Free phone on 0800 298 5424 for independent surveying advice.

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Listed buildings

Any building that has a Listing, these are Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II cannot in theory be extended, pulled down or changed in any way unless permission is gained from the Local Authority who usually have a specialist in this area but equally may also want to consult other specialist bodies such as The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB).


Restoring old properties

SPAB ( Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) do some excellent courses covering all aspects of restoring old and listed buildings (website

With regards to the building work you do ne ed to be very specific with builders as to what you wish them to do as they will generally resort to new techniques as these are quicker and easier and cheaper for them and therefore more profitable. We would recommend that you view their work and talk to their past clients if they are going to carry out major work for you.


Understanding older properties

Unfortunately many people don't understand older properties.

One of the most common problems that we come across is where cement repairs are carried out rather than a lime mortar which would allow the property to breathe.


Cement repairs

Lime Every Time (Inappropriate Cement Mortar

Re-pointing for the Age of the Property)

Cement repointing is not appropriate in older buildings. Originally it will have been built with a lime-based mortar and this is what should be used for any re-pointing in the future. The use of cement mortar causes deterioration to brickwork and does lead to the face of the bricks deteriorating, which in turn leads to dampness as shown in the sketch below.


Lime every time


Unfortunately once the cement mortar is added it is harder to rectify than not having had repointing work carried out at all. We would recommend ideally that all cement repairs are removed and replaced. A good old bricklayer with a stiff brush can gradually remove the cement mortar and repoint in a lime mortar over a few years. This will cause the least damage as particularly modern cement is almost like an adhesive and causes damage whilst it is being removed forcefully.

It is very important that the lime is matched with the existing lime. To do this we recommend doing a sample and allowing the lime to dry for a colour match.

Always check the condition of the roof structure

If you have roof problems you usually have problems with the whole building therefore it is very important that the surveyor views the roof space. In this instance f rom our inspection in the roof we believe there is a possibility that dry rot is occurring given the conditions within the roof space. Dry rot can be one of the worst things that can happen to the timber elements of a structure although we rarely come across it. Dry rot tends to eat the timber from the inside which can mean that timbers that look relatively good can when pushed with a screwdriver disintegrate.

Damp area to the front

Knife test to soft timbers in roof

We also noted minor outbreaks of woodworm as is often the case in older properties. We didn't notice any frass which is the chewed up wood that active woodworm leave behind so the woodworm holes may be old.




Surveyors should inspect the roof space

We feel that a surveyor doing either a building survey or a structural survey should always go in the roof as this is the only way to identify if there are problems with the roof structure. Unfortunately not all surveyors go into the roofs; make sure that you ask whether your surveyor does inspect the roof space.


A problem with the roof can often indicate problems with the whole building

If you have roof problems you usually have problems with the whole building. In our experience of carrying out structural surveys if there are problems with the roof in the form of movement or letting dampness in then there tends to be problems with the whole building as the roof affects the rest of the building.


Deflection to first floor

There is deflection present in the first floor indicating one of several things:

1) Wet rot is occurring to the joist ends

2) There is an element of woodworm

3) There is dry rot

4) All of the above!


Excessive floor deflection

A possible scenario is that small timbers were originally used when this building was built or that the timbers have been used on their side and have suffered from some wet rot over the years. We viewed some nearby buildings which had tie bars in them to help restrain the movement of the walls that occurs once the joist ends have started to fail as shown in the sketch and photo below.

Tie bars

Tie bar to neighbouring property


Our unique sketches help you understand the survey

As you can see from this article we include many sketches which we have commissioned exclusively so that if the photo does not explain the problem or characteristics of a property sufficiently then the sketches will clarify the problem.



Other surveying articles that may be of interest

The following articles may be of interest to you, but don't forget that we have written articles on many different areas of property:

Lime mortar

My property has been repointed in cement mortar, what shall I do?

Listed buildings

Roof structures - problems with wet rot and woodworm



Client feedback on survey report

Most people would be put off this property with the number of problems it had however from our discussions with the client we believe that they are willing and able to take on the challenge. They commented that the detailed survey report had given them a realistic view of what was involved in restoring the property.

The independent Surveyor at 1st was delighted to help with a full structural survey on the shortlisted property whereby the property in its entirety is scrutinised for any structural issues.


Why have an independent building survey?

Always have an independent building survey as this will highlight any property problems. Caveat emptor means buyer beware and is why you need to have a building survey to find out if there are any problems within the property; the estate agent certainly will not advise you of any. We would always recommend that if at all possible you make sure when you have a survey you meet your Surveyor at the property.



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