Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Patchit & Bodgit Builders do more harm than good

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Ugly cement mortar will damage the stone

A recent survey of a Grade II listed stone church yet again confirmed how advice from a builder can be fraught with problems.

They say “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” and it certainly is!

Leaking gutter joints had been patched with an adhesive tape material. It may last a while if the rust has been well cleaned; but what chance of that?

The gutters had been repaired but the split rainwater pipes had been ignored!

Those issues are relatively minor; they can be easily remedied. And the gutters and pipes will need replacing in due course.

The greater sin was the ‘repointing’. The dark grey cement mortar, smeared all over the fine honey-coloured stonework is unsightly and has disfigured the walls. But worse than that, it will lead to accelerated deterioration of the stonework.

Mortar joints are designed to be ‘sacrificial’; they erode in preference to the stone. It’s much easier and cheaper to repoint a wall than to replace the stones.

Sandstone is relatively soft compared with clay bricks or concrete blocks, so a lime-sand mix is traditionally used; it’s weaker, permeable, lighter in colour and much more ‘forgiving’; small cracks in the joints will tend to heal themselves.

The strong cement mortar used is harder than the stone and the existing lime mortar; it is impermeable so moisture can be trapped behind it. Trapped water will freeze and shatter the stone. Salts in the trapped water can crystalize; the crystals will grow and force stone particles break-off – erosion.

Anyone can buy a van and be a builder; a Chartered Surveyor has many years of formal training in their specialism, and at Barlow & Associates we have many years of experience too.

How much to rebuild your building?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Catastrophe can strike at any time

If your premises burnt down or were flooded where would your business be? 

Could you move out and continue elsewhere as if nothing had happened?

Would you have to stay and put it right?

If you own the premises could you afford to fix them or would your business be destroyed?  Even worse, would you still have to pay-off a loan on them?

Whether we like it or not, buildings insurance is a necessary evil.  We cough-up each year for something that might never happen.

It’s tempting to skimp on the premium to save a few pounds but to under insure could be a nightmare.  When disaster strikes the Loss Adjuster (note the word ‘Adjuster’) will be out to limit the insurer’s liability.  If you’re 20% under insured they will pay out 20% less than you need; then where do you fund the shortfall from?

If you’re over insured you will be paying too much.  That’s safer than being under insured but you’ll be paying too much year-on-year.

Who knows what the right sum to insure for is anyway?  Don’t trust your broker to get it right.  What does he know about rebuild costs anyway?

Don’t be misled by the price you paid for the property.  Commercial value is measured by the use to which it can be put, its location and possibly the condition it’s in. And the price will include the land.

The cost to re-build is completely different.  That will depend on the size, design and materials used.  The rebuild cost is often hugely disproportional to the market value, a common problem where historic or iconic buildings are used for normal commercial uses.

Chartered Quantity Surveyors are experts in building costs.  They can help you get it right so you don’t pay too much or too little.  And, when the Loss Adjuster comes trying to reduce the pay-out, a QS is well placed to fight your corner to make sure you don’t lose out.

Why a surveyor should appraise your draft lease

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

A property lawyer challenged me recently to explain how a surveyor could add to his legal advice for a tenant taking a new lease.

 I explained that it’s not until you try to apply some of the clauses to practical situations that you realise just how unreasonable, unworkable and inadequate some lease are.  It’s the experience of using them that a surveyor can bring to the pre-lease negotiations.

All too often leases are drafted and negotiated between lawyers with little regard for the intentions of the parties.  And inexperienced tenants expect their lawyer (if they have one) to protect them and the lease to include the promises made by the letting agent when he was closing the deal.

But all too frequently historic precedent documents or ‘standard leases’ are regurgitated regardless of the nature, age, location and condition of the building or the lease term.  I believe it’s not enough to insert the ‘agreed’ Heads of Terms and leave it at that.  They need to be put in context of both parties’ intentions, the whole lease and the particular building.

Dilapidation claims relate mainly to: Standard of repair, cleaning and redecoration, reinstatement of alterations, landlord’s fixtures and fittings and loss of rent.

I’ve seen covenants fit for a property in Mayfair applied to a run-down tin shed

Repairing covenants vary greatly.  I’ve seen covenants fit for a property in Mayfair applied to a run-down tin shed on an industrial estate.

I’ve heard it said “The rent is low to reflect its condition” and then torrentially worded repairing clauses applied far exceeding the reasonable intentions of the parties.

A short lease on a nearly new office building required the Tenant to clean all the brickwork and concrete at the end of the term.  How can that be reasonable? How often are building facades normally cleaned?  What would be the loss if it wasn’t?  A specific requirement to remove any graffiti, paint, oil or grease, or such like would have been more appropriate.

On the other hand cladding manufacturers specify cleaning and repainting regimes for maintenance of their cladding.  This should be covered specifically, but never is.

Decoration clauses are frequently inappropriate.  I’ve yet to see the wallpaper, graining and French polishing referred-to in the lease for an engineering workshop.

I’m not just suggesting ways to protect the tenant.

How can the Landlord’s surveyor know whether the Tenant has made alterations or removed Fixtures and Fittings without a record attached to the lease.

And why would a landlord want to relieve his tenant from the obligation to redecorate internally at the end of his lease because he’s done it in 12 months previously?  The Landlord is going to expect the place clean and freshly painted.

An experienced surveyor understands the financial implications to both parties of these ‘throw-away’ clauses included in leases and can bring some common sense to the drafting

Rising Damp

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I got a call from an old lady in Burton this week. She was panicking about rising damp on her kitchen wall so I called in on the way back from Redditch.

I find that ‘rising damp’ is hardly ever the real thing; it’s usually a local problem like a leaking rainwater pipe or gutter.
So I checked outside: a loose rainwater pipe and kitchen waste pipes were possible culprits. Then I went inside and removed the plinth from her kitchen cupboards and found a leaking dishwasher cold water feed pipe.  She didn’t even use the dishwasher but it was still connected and the pipe had split. 

That was the culprit.  It cost her a cup of tea and saved her the cost and disruption of a damp-proofing specialist.