for People with a Passion for Period Property
Ask an Agony Uncle!
Stephen Boniface - Stephen Boniface specialises in building conservation providing multi-disciplinary consulting services. He is Chairman of the Building Surveying Faculty and member of the Residential faculty. He serves on the RICS Building Conservation Forum Board and is the 'Agony Uncle' on the Period Property UK website (www.periodproperty.co.uk).

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Our experts are all specialists in matters directly involved with older properties. So, if you have a problem with an older building - or if you think you might have a problem - ask an Agony Uncle...

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SUBJECT:
Wet rot causes floor dilemma
FROM:
Kevin McArthur
(Fife)

We are renovating a 200 yr old cottage and have lifted the old wooden floors in the bedroom due to wet rot. We are presently raking out the old lime mortar and re-pointing. However we are unsure as to what type of floor to go with, either back to timber or move to a conc. slab with a floating floor on top of it. We cannot dig down any further because we are one stone above the foundation one and where considering raising the floor levels 100mm as we have the room. It really damp inside the cottage and seems to be built on a large bed of clay!

There is so much conflicting advice around, can one tank stones walls or will this lead to the deterioration of them.

Kevin McArthur

Your question does not state how old the present wooden floors might be (whether original or later replacement). If they are original and yet only now deteriorating due to wet rot is this because the dampness is something that has recently occurred or is it that the dampness is not so great and therefore the floors have now deteriorated having lasted for a long time

If the latter it would suggest that good quality wooden floors laid back on to this structure might eventually rot but not for a long time.

On the assumption however, that the dampness is quite a recent occurrence you need to think about how the dampness is moving into the property and how to manage it and encourage it away. The installation of a concrete slab and tanking might prevent the floor and walls from exhibiting any dampness but is likely to drive that moisture elsewhere and could cause problems to other parts of the building (or a neighbouring property). I would tend to consider the installation of concrete floors, tanking etc. as a method of last resort.

Consider using brick laid on a sand and lime bed with dry lime mortar brushed into the joints etc. This will allow a breathable floor. If the floor is damp it will come through and will be visible but should evaporate quickly. If the dampness is not so great it may be that it does not become apparent. In any event I would not recommend laying a fitted carpet over such a floor. If you lay rugs or other loose coverings these can occasionally be lifted to air the floor and allow moisture below to escape.

You could consider creating a timber floor but with a ventilated gap beneath so that any moisture that gets below the timber can escape. The issue is how to ventilate that void and whether you have to then create ventilation holes etc. around the perimeter walls or whether it might be appropriate to ventilate into the room itself (grilles in the floor surface under radiators can sometimes do a reasonable job).

Another alternative is to use a modern membrane that incorporates a series of raised pimples on it (such as Newton, Proton or Delta membranes). These can be laid over the floor and then more or less any flooring put on top of this. The moisture can still come through the floor but is prevented from causing dampness by the membrane although the gap created by the pimples allows the moisture to move around under the membrane. You will of course need to create some method of getting rid of that moisture. This could be by ventilation around the perimeters, or perhaps into a small sump and then some drainage system or something similar to take the moisture away. When these membranes are used in basements etc. they are often used in conjunction with a sump that has a semi-submersible pump in it so that as the moisture drains into the sump it is then pumped away.

Similar comments apply with regard to the walls in that rather than tanking them I would suggest you look at traditional methods either using lime plaster or perhaps if necessary creating some form of dry lining. The membrane mentioned for the floor can also be taken up the walls and used to create a dry lining without having a detrimental effect on the wall itself and without stopping the movement of the moisture. It can sometimes be disguised by a form of dado panelling.

These notes should only be taken as a guide and you really ought to seek professional advice from someone who understands the issues and can advise based on an inspection.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
House leaks during storms
FROM:
Stuart Lines
(Worcestershire)

During stormy conditions rain water drips from the inside of some beams on one large wall of my house. I believe this is getting through gaps between the oak beams and panels. I have tried filling the gaps with a frame sealant but this has only been partially successful. The house dates from the 1500's and has been painted Black and White for many years. The beams are in need of painting. Can you please advise me on the best method and materials for sealing the walls and beams. I want to keep the black and white finish.

Stuart Lines

This is not an uncommon problem with timber framed buildings that have an exposed frame with rendered panels. You do not say what the panels are formed of. If they are a cement render rainwater hitting them will run down the face until it reaches a beam and then it will find a way in through joints and gaps etc. The risk of the frame rotting is high because the water is directed into the frame joints etc.

However, with a lime rendered panel the lime render tends to absorb the rain rather than it running down the face. Therefore less water runs into the joints and affects the frame itself. With lime rendered panels the deterioration of the frame is far slower. I would therefore firstly suggest that you look at the rendered panels themselves. With lime rendered panels it is generally easier to re-seal the perimeters using a lime render mix etc.

With regard to the frame I would generally not recommend painting the frame as if it were joinery. Modern paints tend to seal in moisture and yet with a frame the joinery is not completely smooth and it is therefore extremely difficult to guarantee total coverage. Water will therefore inevitably get in and cause rot. I would therefore prefer to see the paint removed and a breathable finish applied. I have seen coloured limewash but the closest to black that one can get with limewash is probably a dark grey. The alternative is to use something that is commonly known as black tar paint (often used on farm buildings etc).

You could try using a modern micro porous paint but in my experience these are not that far removed from a more traditional oil-based paint and will not really allow the timber to breathe.

The creation of the black and white appearance is very much something that largely dates from the Victorian period and in my experience (in East Anglia) it causes quite a few problems. If I were inspecting the property professionally my first question would be how the building is performing and what materials have been used that might affect the performance and create problems. I would firstly look at the panels themselves and then look at joints etc. to see if there are pockets of rot being caused.

In the short term you might wish to seal the gaps etc. with some form of sealant and this might prevent some of the water ingress but in the longer term any moisture that does get in will simply become trapped and accelerate any decay.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
How should I treat external exposed timber frame
FROM:
Sam Hughes
(Buckinghamshire)

I recently purchased a 17th century timber framed thatched cottage in Buckingham. I believe the exterior timbers need treated to preserve them, other properties in the area have the blackened treated timbers, however at present mine are bare (unsure if any treatment on before). What treatments should I put on the timbers, specialist or off the shelf. I don't mind adding a little colour in the form of a stain. However would like to avoid the black colour if possible. I have spoken with English Heritage who told me their advise would be to leave it untreated, others like Cuprinol etc. have told me differing information.

Sam Hughes

You do not say what timber the frame is formed from. I assume it is oak and in which case the oak is quite durable without any treatment.

When repairing timber frames and dealing with external frame members we would usually leave them untreated or sometimes apply a limewash over both the frame and any rendered panels etc. The limewash could of course be pigmented with a colour.

In terms of timber treatment I would suggest only targeted treatment to areas that might have active infestation rather than wholesale treatment. Please bear in mind that Cuprinol are a producer of chemical treatments and it is in their interest to sell you their product.

Most external frame members do not need timber treatment as such. Some owners of oak-framed buildings apply linseed oil to surfaces or even beeswax but in my view most of this is unnecessary.

You do not say what the panels are formed from and I would refer you to the answer above (regarding the black and white building in Worcestershire) for comments with regard to any rendered panels in a timber frame.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
My clay lump property is rendered with cement
FROM:
Junaid Hanif
(Norfolk)

We have a clay lump property in Norfolk. It had cement render with some damage to the west facing walls, which have all been repaired and the wall and lime based render applied. I have painted the internal walls with "clay paint" because it is meant to be breathable. Can I use the same paint for the outside wall? Does it have to be lime wash? Lime wash sounds as if it is quite laborious to make and to apply. It also probably needs to be repainted every 1 or 2 years. Is there another paint I can use on the outside that is more durable, easy to apply and suitable for a clay lump property (built in 1850).

Junaid Hanif

My knowledge of earth paints is limited to their internal use and I would suggest that you speak to the manufacturer about their external use. I see no reason in principle why they should not be used externally but I cannot say for certain that they are intended for external use.

You seem to think that limewash is laborious and difficult but in actual fact it is quite straightforward. Limewash involves an application of three or four coats on the first occasion and then maybe a coat every year for the next couple of years. Thereafter once several layers of limewash have built up on the face you may find that it is quite a few years before it needs any further attention. Some owners tend to limewash the building quite regularly but I have met others who have not had to touch the limewash for 20 years or more. The performance of the limewash itself can vary significantly depending upon the orientation of the building, exposure to weathering, whether it is surrounded by trees and the micro-climate etc.

The important thing with a clay lump building that has had a lime render applied is that the finish must be breathable and certainly as breathable as a lime wash. Modern micro-porous paints are not nearly as breathable as limewash and should therefore be avoided for this type of application.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Authorities insist on damp proofing
FROM:
Vicky Dennison
(Leicestershire)

We are about to renovate an old coach house (grade II), which has brick (In one place double thick) floors, cobbles and unglazed tiles. All laid on earth. On a preliminary site visit the Building Regulation officer, the Conservation officer and our architect all maintained that the floors would have to be damp proofed. At present there is so much ventilation that the floor is perfectly dry! Surely this will just push the damp up the walls? How do you negotiate through the need for insulation against the need for ventilation?

Vicky Dennison

Your description of the problem leaves me slightly confused. It seems that you are saying the floor is dry and yet the officers involved and your architect want to see the floor protected with damp proofing.

If there is a problem of high water table and water dampness under the building then laying a damp proof membrane under a floor can indeed redirect water into the walls and increase the amount of damp at base of walls. However, if the area is generally dry and the soil is free draining the likelihood is that laying a concrete floor with a membrane will not have too much, if any, effect on the level of dampness at the bases of perimeter walls. That said I would generally regard damp proofing a solid floor as a last resort.

I am not clear as to why you have to touch the floors at all if they are in sound condition with no problems. From a building control point of view there may be a requirement to undertake various works to bring it up closer to modern day requirements in terms of insulation etc. but if you are not taking up the floors it may be possible to achieve this with increased insulation in the roof, the walls etc. It is no longer the case that any specific element has to reach a specific level of insulation. A more holistic approach is now acceptable. On this basis you could probably leave the floors alone and undertake no work if they do not need any work.

However, if the floors do need to be taken up then you will be expected to attempt to upgrade them. So long as you can show some improvement it is not necessarily the case that you have to ensure that they come up to modern day standards.

You may have read about or heard of limecrete floors and there are quite a few postings on the forum on this website regarding limecrete floors. This is a method of creating a breathable floor structure that is insulated and yet retains breathability and controls dampness. You might wish to consider a limecrete in this instance. That said limecrete floors are very expensive.

An alternative might be to use a modern membrane system such as that described in the answer above regarding the property in Scotland.

I would suggest you undertake further research by not only looking on the forum of this site but also speaking to SPAB. Their technical officer (Douglas Kent) will probably have quite a lot of information on modern approaches to dealing with this problem and certainly their training officer, Marianne Suhr, has tackled these problems on her own property.

Finally, please bear in mind that the approved documents associated with building regulations are not the building regulations themselves. The approved documents are a series of papers that quite simply show methods of construction that if used will comply with building regulations. They are therefore a handy reference and a quick easy way of ensuring compliance. That said the approved documents are not the only way to comply with building regulations. If you can find other ways to demonstrate that works you proposed comply with building regulations (although not specifically with the approved documents) then it should not be a problem in satisfying the requirements of building control. You might need to find an enlightened building control officer as well. Please bear in mind that with historic buildings whilst there is no exemption as such they are given special consideration when it comes to building regulation matters, particularly insulation etc.

You need to speak to your architect about these matters as your architect should be acting on your behalf and researching these matters and advising you properly.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Where are my mullions?
FROM:
Catherine Caton
(Lancashire)

We have recently moved into a Victorian property which has, mostly, all the original sash windows to the rear and side of the property. These will all be completely restored. My issue lies with the front of the house. Previous owners have removed two stone mullions from the downstairs front large window and replaced the space with a large window. It is split into three windows so is safe but I want to replace the mullions and somehow put back the sashes. The two bedroom windows above have also had the sashes replaced with wood windows. I want the character of the rear of the house but can only find companies that rip out the old and replace with new or they put mock ones in which I don't like. Can I somehow find original windows with weights etc that will fit or will I need to get new ones made that don't have the character of the old ones.

Catherine Caton

Your question is not entirely clear as to whether you intend to reinstate the stone mullions. If so you will of course need to find a suitable mason to undertake the work.

Dealing only with the replacement of the windows themselves you could look at various salvage companies in your region and perhaps further afield to find out if there are any second hand sash windows of the right type and size to fit the window openings required. The only other alternative is to have them made. There are quite a number of joinery manufacturers that will make traditional sash windows. A well made new window constructed in timber etc. could be made to match the original precisely and therefore have the character of the original with no visible difference other than the fact that it is not historic fabric.

If you go to the more common window replacement companies they will not be able to undertake the work but if you do more research into traditional joinery manufacturers I am sure you will find companies willing and able to provide you with the sash units you require.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Potential hidden properties could leave me broke
FROM:
Edna Pattenden
(Suffolk)

I made three offers on a Grade 2 listed building near Diss, the third being accepted. The property's rear wall is single brick in thickness and probably has a rotten concealed timber frame. Other issues with damp, stud walls, three floors but loft room no proper stairs were confirmed. We have renovated a listed building before. It's hard to know the value now in a worst case scenario and what it would be worth if I spend my limited budget. My fear is that I would not have sufficient funds to renovate it. It is very pretty in a conservation area. Everyone says let it go!!! Any advice would be welcomed. I have been interested since March and I have been the only one to make an offer and the vendors have reduced by 20k. I think its true value is nearer 110k but the offer accepted was 125k.

Edna Pattenden

I am sorry but you raise a number of issues and the main question that you want answered is not clear. It is not possible for me to provide you with absolute advice on value and I cannot provide any guidance on what you should or should not be paying for the property. Ultimately the price you pay is a matter of negotiation and if no one else is interested in the property and the vendors cannot sell it for the figure they want they will either have to sell it for a lower figure or not sell it at all. From your point of view you should offer what you think the property is worth (based on your own research of likely cost of work etc.) and go no higher. If you lose the property because someone else comes along prepared to pay more or if the vendor withdraws it from the market then you should simply accept the situation and walk away.

With regard to the works necessary it sounds as if quite a lot of work is required to the property and you will need someone to provide you with detailed advice as to what is necessary and the likely cost.

The usual situation is that you would have a survey undertaken and perhaps have a builder go into the property to provide you with guidance on likely costs for the various works. Once you have this information you can revise your offer for the property. It is not clear to me why you are talking about retention of funds at this stage. It is still the case in this country that it is for the purchaser of a property to undertake the research and to make an offer that they feel is appropriate bearing in mind everything they have found out about the property. There is always an element of risk when you purchase a property about what might be uncovered after you have moved in. It is not for the vendor to undertake that research for you but on the other hand it is inappropriate and not acceptable for the vendor to lie if you put any specific questions.

Quite simply you need to undertake the research necessary to establish precisely what is needed to the building etc. including costs and then make an offer. If it is accepted then you buy the property, if it is not then you walk away.

If you are concerned about hidden parts of the building you will either need to allow a contingency to cover those areas or ask the vendor if they would be prepared to allow you to undertake some limited opening up to investigate.

I hope this is of some help but I am afraid I cannot provide any further guidance on the information you have provided.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Damp proof survey raises concerns
FROM:
Lynne Breaker-Rolfe
(Essex)

We are thinking of purchasing a timber frame cottage, the survey shows damp all round in the lower half. Does this mean the walls have to be stripped back to expose the timber then does the whole frame have to be repaired or just the lower timbers? Also would it then need under pinning? I guess this would cost a lot of money and we are not sure if the proceed or not. We think the cottage is about 250 years old and is not listed.

Lynne Breaker-Rolfe

It is not possible to give you a definitive answer because the information you provide is insufficient and without and inspection it would not be possible to give absolute guidance.

The survey has probably been undertaken with a hand held moisture meter and it may well have indicated dampness. The issue is whether this is a form of dampness that can be readily resolved or whether it is more complex. The other issue is what damage it has caused.

With many timber framed buildings the problem is one of moisture being trapped in the plinth below the frame and for the sole plate of the frame to then rot. Sometimes the bottom sections of the posts etc. will also be affected.

Until the frame is exposed it would be difficult to know how much work might be necessary. A surveyor experienced in the inspection of historic buildings may be able to give you further guidance on the likely risk of concealed problems etc. but I would normally expect a surveyor undertaking a building survey on a historic building to have been able to do this anyway.

Without knowing the extent of the problem, the severity of the problem etc. I cannot give further guidance on this matter.

With regard to underpinning you do not mention issues of structural movement and I therefore question why you raise the matter. If there is structural movement to a historic timber frame it is actually quite rare that underpinning is necessary. However, if by underpinning you mean the rebuilding of the plinth wall when repairing the sole plate and base of the frame then the repairs can often mean that the plinth and the footing have to be re-formed. Some would classify this as underpinning but it is not underpinning in the same context as underpinning to remedy subsidence etc.

Please also remember that in some instances if the dampness is a serious problem and causing rot and failure of the frame then the work will be needed urgently. However, in some instances the work can be left for some years without causing any major problem and for most timber framed buildings I would recommend tackling the work on a phased basis over a period of time. This helps to keep both the extent of work and the cost of the work manageable rather than tackling everything at once. Therefore it will be necessary to consider prioritising work particularly with regard to frame repair.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Missing Listed building consent could hold up sale
FROM:
Nina Johns
(West Midlands)

I am currently in the process of selling a flat in Bristol. It is a flat within a listed terrace house, which was converted in 1983-4. Despite planning permission by Bristol City Council at the time, there is no listed buildings consent. The mortgage lender for the purchaser has asked for listed buildings consent and as the work was carried out over 25 years ago I'm not sure how to proceed, especially as I do not wish to affect the sale (and subsequent chain).

Nina Johns

The first question is to ask when the property was listed. If the property had planning permission I would be extremely surprised if they omitted to deal with listed building consent at the same time. If there is no listed building consent it is probably because the building was listed after 1983/4 when the planning permission was given.

If the building was listed after the work took place then there would be no consent and it is not possible to ask for any proof of consent etc.

If the building was listed but consent was not formally obtained this would be extremely unusual bearing in mind that planning permission was granted. After a period of 25 years I would be extremely surprised if the local authority would be prepared to expend public money on pursuing a case that might be extremely difficult to prove especially as one could argue that it was their own incompetence that failed the system (how could a Council provide planning permission without listed building consent on a building that is listed?).

You simply need to find out when the building was listed and look at the planning file (you can often go in and look at the file) to find out exactly what happened at the time. Once you have that information you should supply it to the mortgage company and ask them to see sense.

I should add that there is no strict time limit for taking action for contraventions of the legislation regarding listed building consent. That said one has to take a realistic view and point out that after 25 years it is extremely unlikely that the council would be willing to take action. That of course assumes that there was a contravention and I am not convinced on the information you provide that a contravention occurred.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Busy local authority yet to make contact
FROM:
Glenda King
(Yorkshire)

Can you tell me if there is a time limit after contacting a local authority regarding commencement of works on a grade 2 listed building when work can commence without involving them? Having purchased a property and contacting the historic buildings dept. over three months ago, I got a response that they would contact me later as they were busy. How long should I wait as costs are accruing?

Glenda King

Your question is not entirely clear as to your situation. You have purchased a property and appear to want to undertake work to it. If that work is simple repair and it could not be deemed an alteration to the character of the building then I see no reason why you should not simply proceed with the work. It makes sense to notify the Conservation Officer of the work that you intend to carry out and this can be undertaken by a letter. This helps to give the Conservation Officer peace of mind in case someone reports you as having undertaken unauthorised work. It also helps to build a good relationship with the officer for future reference.

If you believe that the work is an alteration to character or the repairs are so extensive that they might amount to an alteration in character then you must seek listed building consent in advance.

I suggest you try to contact the Conservation Officer again but if you are unsuccessful you may have to formally write or even make an application to prompt the Council into some form of reaction.

If your contact with them has only been by telephone there is probably no record of it. If your contact is by letter or email there should be a record and they should have a response time that they should adhere to.

The simple answer to your question is that if your contact with the Local Authority is to ask whether the works require consent and you have not received a reply you should speak with your contractor and any professional adviser to decide whether or not normally consent would be necessary and if the answer is yes then make a formal application. If the answer is no then there is no reason for you to delay work any further but it is sensible to keep the Conservation Officer informed.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Flue advice needed for thatched cottage
FROM:
Heather Kemp
(West Sussex)

We have a lovely thatched house in West Sussex with an adjacent bungalow (also attached by thatched) in which my mother lives. Unfortunately she does not have an independent boiler (oil fired) which we need for her heating and hot water. Can we, or how do we, achieve this given that we need a new balanced flue and we do not have a chimney available? Are there flues that can "go round" the thatch?

Heather Kemp

Unfortunately your description of this situation is not entirely clear. I assume that you mean the boiler presently used is shared between both properties and that it now needs to be replaced. It seems that you do not have a chimney in which the flue can be run and therefore you are asking about different types of flues that might be fitted to boilers.

Generally speaking there are no flues that can go round the thatch as you have put it. If using a balanced flue the flue should project far enough so that any hot gases do not rise up to the underside of the thatch particularly into the eaves where the thatch might be dry and have a low combustion point. The flue will need to project far enough so that hot gases rise clear of the thatch.

It might be possible to create some form of flue vertically through the thatch. There will have to be a separation between the flue itself and the former that creates the hole. The hot flue must not come into direct contact with the thatch itself.

Without photographs or a better description I am afraid I cannot help you any further but I trust the above is of some assistance.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Unauthorised terrace could be causing ceiling cracks
FROM:
Harriet Pearce-Smith
(Greater London)

We have a flat that is half of the ground floor of a double-fronted semi detached house, built 1895. It is in a conservation area. In the 1980s the house was converted into 5 flats.

The planning permission on the Council database gave permission for conversion and a ground floor flat roof extension, with the proviso that the flat roof should not be used as a terrace.

There are no records of the extension having been inspected by Building Controls.

The upstairs neighbours have doors onto the flat roof; it is fully decked and adorned with very large heavy potted plants. We have recently noticed multiple large cracks in the extension, running along all wall and ceiling joins and also running vertically down our hall.

I am concerned that the roof wasn't built strong enough to be used as a terrace, wasn't approved and may indeed fall own! Do I have any comeback to my neighbour for the cracks? I also suspect there may be a leak from the terrace

Harriet Pearce-Smith

This is more of a legal matter as such. The first issue to establish is whether the cracks and damage are directly linked to the use of the flat roof as a terrace area. If the answer to this is yes then further investigation would be needed to establish what has been undertaken and whether there are in fact weaknesses etc. If it is found that there are problems directly related to the use of the flat roof as a terrace and there is no specific permission either by way of the planning permission, building regulation approval or indeed of the lease itself for use of the flat roof as a terrace then solicitors will need to write to your neighbour and ask them to stop using it.

There is a possibility that there was never planning permission or building regulation approval but for some reason the lease may allow them to use the roof as a terrace. This is a more complex situation in terms of the law and a solicitor will need to advise you further.

If you can prove that damage to your property is in any way caused by a neighbour from above then you do have some legal comeback on that neighbour for rectifying the damage and dealing with any problems relating to it, regardless of their legal right (or otherwise) to use the roof.

I suggest you speak to a solicitor who should investigate the planning permission, the building regulation approval and the lease terms to find out what is actually permitted and approved. If the neighbour is contravening any of these they will need to be asked to stop.

Regardless of the legal or illegal use of the roof area if it can be shown that anything your neighbour has done has caused the damage to your property then you have some recourse for the costs of the remedial work now necessary.

I suggest you contact your insurance company firstly because there may well be a claim on the insurance for the damage caused. Secondly I suggest that if you have legal costs cover within your insurances then you use this for legal advice and the possibility of pursuing a claim against the neighbour. Any solicitor involved will however, have to check the planning permission, building regulations and the lease terms before considering what action might be taken.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.
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SUBJECT:
Supposedly defective roof structures leads to concerns
FROM:
Nik Warden
(Kent)

We have just received a building survey stating the roof structure 'seriously defective'. The report states that the timber rafters are mainly original (Victorian round cross section) and that the original roof coverings have been replaced with heavy concrete roof tiles and the roof structure itself has been poorly upgraded. In addition, there areas signs of wood-boring insect attack in the main roof timbers- the surveyor could not state whether or not this was active. Could you please advise on the initial course of action? We will need to know the extent of the problem repair costs prior to deciding on proceeding with a sale/negotiate price. If we had a woodworm contractor inspect for any active woodworm, would they also be able to advise on the structural integrity of the roof timbers and any strengthening action to be taken, or would only a roofer be able to advise on this?

Nik Warden

My first response would be that you should go back to your surveyor and ask for his or her further advice on the matter.

It is quite common to find older buildings with roof structures sufficient for the original roof covering but weak when re-covered with heavier coverings such as concrete roof tiles etc. The problem is exacerbated if the roof timbers are then weakened further by wood boring insects etc.

The first course of action is to establish what is really necessary. It may be that some timber treatment would deal with infestation and localised strengthening of the roof carried out from within the roof space might be possible and a quick easy way of resolving the problems.

However, you may find that the roof is so defective or so difficult to repair in this way that the only remedy would be to take off the roof covering, repair the frame and then re-cover the roof. This would of course be far more invasive and expensive to undertake.

Your first enquiry should be back to the surveyor and perhaps you may need to involve a structural engineer. You will probably need to seek advice on treatment of any active infestation and then finally a contractor will need to advise on the practicalities of repair either from within the roof or by stripping the roof, repair and re-covering.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at The Whitworth Co-Partnership for responding to this question.