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Beginners Guide Residential Advice

Guide to: The Architectural Process

We all want to live in a home we love, but sometimes we need to make improvements, adaptions and create a little extra space. Building projects begin with a want or need, maybe you’re outgrowing your family home or need some home office space, whatever it is we’ll work with you to turn your ideas into the perfect space. Building, extending or altering a property can be stressful, but using years of experience and heads brimming with creativity, we’ll guide you through every step of the architectural process to bring your vision to life.

So, what does the architectural design process involve?

  • Initial Consultation & Design Brief;

We’ll always begin with a design brief meeting, be that over the phone or in person, to discuss your project, what you’re wanting to achieve, any ideas you already have, and how we can help you. We’ll then issue you with a bespoke quote so you can understand the costs at every step of the architectural design journey.

  • Measured Survey;

Once we’ve had our initial design brief, we’ll come to the site to conduct a full measured survey. This is a comprehensive survey of the site which involves taking measurements ready for initial drawings. We’ll be on-site for a number of hours ensuring we fully understand your property, any issues which may arise, and to discuss our initial ideas in person. We won’t say no to a coffee whilst we’re there!

  • Drawings;

This is when the fun part really begins as we start creating the initial drawings for your project. Don’t worry, we can do lots of iterations until it’s perfect for you. We’’ll produce existing plans of the property and issue design options as per your initial brief, this may include alternative options of the internal layout or external appearance, where discussed as part of your brief.This isn’t just lines on a page, we’ll bring your project to life.

  • Planning submitted;

Once you are completely happy with the designs, we’ll submit them for planning permission, liaising with the council’s planning officer as we wait for approval. It can take 2 months plus for planning to be granted on a residential property, with larger and more complex plans sometimes taking longer, and if the planning office requests changes we’ll need to discuss these with them and potentially make some amendments. Where a proposal doesn’t require a planning application and falls within Permitted Development Rights, we typically advise our clients to submit a Lawful Development Certificate Application to the Planning Department. Permitted Development Rights are always changing  and this verifies the proposed works meet the requirements at the time, preventing any issues when you come to sell your property.

  • Technical drawings;

Once your planning application has been approved, feel free to pop some champagne whilst we create your technical drawings and specifications, working with a structural engineer to achieve approval from building control. These drawings include key elements of the construction, such as the foundations, supporting steels, and electrics, and can be used to gather quotes from tradespeople ready for construction to begin. They are also used to ensure that safety regulations are met and give clear guidance to your builders on how the project is being constructed.

  • Party Wall;

If your project is going to affect the boundary wall with a neighbouring property, you’ll need a party wall certificate. It’s important to start thinking about Party Wall requirements several months before you want to start work and ideally ensure your designer is working with a Party Wall Surveyor during the design process to ensure there are less issues during the party wall process. Making changes to the design can be difficult, particularly post planning stage, where alterations to the external appearance may require further consultation with the planning department.

  • Construction begins.

It is finally time to start the construction and turn your ideas into reality. We’ll always be here if you need to ask any questions. Here’s where we may step away for a less complex build. However, we can be on hand to ensure your work is competitively tendered to achieve the best price, contracts are administered to ensure you’re protected, and works are managed on site to ensure you get the best quality and finish.

So whether your renovating, creating more room or building from scratch, at Fourth Wall we will always put you at the heart of the design process and be with you from start to finish. Get in touch if you’ve got an idea, whether you know if it’s feasible or not, we’re always happy to schedule a call.

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Beginners Guide Residential Advice Tips

Common Issues: an essential guide for homebuyers

We all know buying a house can be stressful, and it’s the biggest purchase we’ll make in our lives, so you need to know your time and money is being put into a sound investment. Whilst some buyers may be tempted to forego a building survey in the hope of saving some money, gaining a full understanding of your property and being made aware of any issues from a Chartered Surveyor is so important, and likely to save you a lot more money in the long run with research finding that 20% of buyers who don’t have a building survey pay £6,000 in unexpected repairs.

Damp

This is a common one and something we see in a lot of properties, but it’s not to be feared. There are a number of different types and causes of damp, but there are also plenty of remedial options.

Rising damp is often found in walls at ground floor level whilst penetrating damp can be located anywhere on a property, usually in an exposed location on the elevation or in close proximity to a rainwater pipe or other water source.

We’ll conduct moisture tests as we investigate the cause of the damp and will always explain your options. If damp is severe and we can’t gain access to enclosed parts of the construction which we suspect are at risk of decay, we may advise a further intrusive survey is undertaken by a specialist damp and timber surveyor.

Rot

You may have heard of some rot horror stories, but we believe there’s always a solution. Dry rot is able to form anywhere where you have timber, high moisture levels and air, and if untreated can develop into a costly issue. It’s one of the most feared types of rot for home owners as it has the ability to spread and develop across materials such as brick and in its final stages spores become airborne to other areas of the house not previously affected. Wet rot is usually confined to the timber where high moisture levels are present, typically rafter feet, joist ends and poorly maintained external joinery such as fascia’s or soffits. Building Surveys are non-intrusive so if we believe the issue needs a further intrusive investigation, we’ll recommend this within your report.

Our reports will highlight any rot issues we find, guiding you through your options and providing budget costs so you understand how much the issue may set you back. However, with any big  hidden issues found, it may be time to negotiate with your vendor on the costs of repair.

Failed pointing & spalling brickwork

We’ve seen this one in a lot of properties. When external walls comprising a traditional brick or stone are repointed using a modern cement mortar rather than an original lime mortar, moisture trapped in the walls has to escape via the bricks themselves as cement does not provide the porosity and flexibility needed. This can result in deterioration of the mortar and damaged or spalling brickwork. It’s not one to worry about too much, provided its dealt with in a timely manner to prevent further damage to the masonry, but it’s really important to use the right materials and budget for this in future repair works.

Structural integrity

Small cracks are often nothing to worry about and usually just a sign of historic movement or deferential settlement, and many localised settlement issues can be related to other defects we’ll identify, however your surveyor will highlight and explain any potential signs of more significant structural movement or subsidence.

The vast majority of structural cracks can be identified and diagnosed by our surveyors within our initial report without further investigation. However, If we do identify anything potentially more serious, we’ll recommend an investigation be undertaken to assess the severity of any issues on the structural integrity of the property.

Roof condition

A roof is designed to last for a number of years, and when repairs are needed, some key elements can likely be retained. We’ll highlight any visible issues with the roof, from slipped or damaged tiles and vegetation build up, to leaking joints and repairs needed to the underlay, and outline how much repairs are likely to cost. Your roof might not be leaking now, but it might be nearing the end of its useful life and soon become a headache, our surveyors provide advice around the approximate age of the covering and a guide on its expected longevity, so you know what you might have to deal with in the long term.

Trees & invasive species

We don’t just look at the building, we also take a look at external areas such as the garden, boundary walls and fences, gates, patios and outbuildings. We’ll include any issues and remedial works needed to these areas within our reports, and will also make comment on potential for issues caused by large trees in close proximity to the building where the roots could cause damage, and if we spot invasive plant species such as Japanese Knotweed or Giant Hogweed. These can be difficult and costly to get rid of, and can cause damage to buildings and gardens if not dealt with, so are important to be aware of before purchasing the property.

Asbestos & deleterious materials

Some issues just can’t be seen to the untrained eye, and especially not on a 15 minute house viewing, but our surveys will highlight materials that can be dangerous to health if not dealt with correctly, such as asbestos, lead pipework and horsehair plaster reinforcement. Although these materials haven’t been used in homes for many years, they are still in place in many older properties and it’s important to understand how they should be dealt with. Managing or removing deleterious materials can be costly and detrimental to the enjoyment of your new home.

Vermin & insect damage

It’s not a nice one to think about but at some point a property may have had a few visitors, be that rats and mice, bees and wasps, or wood boring beetle. We’ll highlight any areas where vermin and insects may have made a home, and if there’s an active infestation we’ll provide the advice you need to get it sorted

Radon risk

The bubble bath we hear you ask. No, that’s Radox. Radon isn’t an issue a lot of homebuyers think of but areas of high radon can be harmful to health and increase the risk of lung cancer. We’ll include the radon risk for your property within your report, and highlight any testing needed and your next steps if there’s a high concentration noted.

What to do if these are highlighted in your survey?

Don’t worry, it’s good to have these issues uncovered now and we’ll be here every step of the way. If we find any issues during your survey, we’ll explain the cause of this in full and thoroughly guide you through the remedial options, providing costings and detailing your next steps.

The Fourth Wall standard

Fourth Wall Building Survey reports are bespoke, developed with you in mind and designed to ensure you fully understand your property and can move forward with your purchase with confidence. We’re passionate about cutting the jargon and making property accessible, so you’ll be met with an honest personal service throughout your property journey.

Our reports provide a unique insight into your property which other types of report don’t, including mobile and broadband speeds, noise and disturbance data, and budget costs as standard, and we provide it in a format which is easy to understand with photographs throughout.