Blog by Simon Corbett – Student Building Surveyor
I attended a building survey on a Grade II listed, timber framed property originally dating back to around the mid-17th century with extensions carried out around 1800 and the mid 1950’s.
The property is surrounded by barns to the rear which have the potential for development into residential dwellings. This coupled with the proposed new housing estate opposite will culminate in a loss of privacy and potentially a busier road to the front, depending on the location of access to the proposed estate.
There is a moat to the front of the property and the rear garden is prone to flooding due to the high water table.
On arrival I took a good look around both externally and internally to get a feel from the property. Whilst viewing the exterior I tried to start thinking about where the chimneys were located, where the weak points of the property might be and correlate them to where I am expecting them to potentially manifest internally.
In regard to the chimneys; it was noted that there were two pots on the external chimney stack, however only one fire place was apparent internally. After some investigation it appeared that there had been a partition wall inserted to divide what would have been a large sitting room into a smaller sitting room and study/office area. Without further invasive investigation, we assumed that the fire had been sealed in what was now the study. This highlighted the importance of allowing what you see externally inform how you think about the property internally.
The external chimney in question is secured to the main building by metal straps which suggest it’s instability without them. There was a significant crack running down the right hand side of the chimney and there is a potential area of weakness in between the chimney and the main building where a gulley is formed. The gulley is lead lined but is susceptible to debris collection and water ingress unless kept clear.
The roof is of traditional timber design and is undulating as is expected from a property of this age. The clay tiled roof covering however, is in need to full replacement as it is beyond repair. During the replacement of the roof covering it would be advised to fully inspect the roof structure and to replace any rotten timber members found. The existing tiles should be retained where possible as due to the properties listed status, the local authority’s conservation officers will require the reuse of all possible tiles. As a lot of the tiles are not suitable for re-use it will be required that a comparable tile is sourced which is likely to be of greater expense.
The historical significance of property and the necessity to retain their features by complying with the conservation officer’s requirements are emphasised in buildings such as these. It’s important to liaise with a conservation officer in order to be sympathetic towards a building, yet adapt into a habitable space which is personal to its owners. It’s apparent that this conflict is something that will concern me in my way of thinking as a building surveyor – how can these defects be rectified in the most sympathetic manner? For example the best timber repairs will be those which retain as much historic fabric as possible.
It’s clear that the property is suffering from damp in various forms such as rising damp, water ingress via the buckling of interlocking tiles due to the distorted roof and through gaps created between the infill panels and the timber frame.
The external walls are bulging and distorted in places which is due to the movement of the timber frame. This movement has resulted in gaps forming between the infill panels and the timber frame allowing for potential water ingress, which has led to damage to the timber frame. In order to limit this damage regular maintenance is required.
The rear gable elevation has been replaced in the last 10 to 15 years. However, the panels seem to have shrunk, creating a gap between the panel and the timber frame which again is allowing water ingress.
From being involved in this survey, the importance of researching the surrounding area and the potential for change is essential if I am to give the best advice to clients. By the time the necessary works have been carried out on this property, the landscape is likely to have evolved into something very different to its current tranquil, undisturbed countryside setting. It must be noted that factors such as value and privacy will be limited in the future.
I have also gained more of an understanding that movement and damp are inevitable in timber framed houses of this age. Despite this, it is manageable through regular sympathetic repairs and the use of correct materials.