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Consulting Engineers

The Cost of Employing an Amateur

I was recently asked to carry out a survey on a large semi-detached property Richmond, that was showing signs of cracking and the client was hoping that I would report that the underpinning in the property had failed in order to make an insurance claim.

I asked for all relevant the documentation, an old home-buyer’s report and details of underpinning. I went along for the site inspection, only to find that the property was in a bad state of disrepair. The current owners had purchased the property 20 years ago, after the underpinning had been carried out. The home buyer’s report listed other defects, including a loft that had not been built properly and was causing cracking in the walls below.

By “a loft not having been built properly” I mean there was not enough thought or design that went into the changes to the roof trusses that support the roof above and this affected the walls below – the space had been used as a teenage bedroom and dark room, without the floor being designed or installed correctly. The strain that this loft had created on the party wall was such that there were now several cracks in the walls, with one being a 5cm crack opening into the neighbour’s property above ceiling level, which was also a fire risk.

This could all have been fixed years ago when the property was first purchased before the cracking continued into the property as well as their neighbours.

Sometime contractors do think that engineers place too many steel beams when doing loft conversions (which understandably is expensive these days), but in the long term the costs can be so much more when the loft is not designed and built correctly. As they say “If you think it is expensive to employ a Professional, wait until you get the cost of employing an Amateur.”

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