Monthly Archives: April 2022

 

13 
Apr

Signs of structural damage to look out for in your house

signs of structural defects
Whether your home is a new build or pre-owned, there’s the possibility of latent structural defects in every building. A structural defect is a fault that compromises the integrity of the structure – such as a damaged roof or foundation.

The majority of structural defects stem from negligent or deliberately poor quality construction work, but they often aren’t obvious. A latent defect can take a long time to develop, only becoming a serious problem, months or years down the line.

From cracks in walls to leaking roofs, it’s important to nip these defects in the bud before they get any worse. The longer you leave them to deteriorate, the more difficult and costly they’ll be to fix – and it could even cause parts of your house to collapse.

While the extent of structural faults may not be obvious or even visible straight away, there are still some tell-tale signs you can keep an eye out for. Here’s our quick guide to the causes and types of common structural defects, and how a building warranty can help you to avoid expensive home repairs.

What causes structural defects?

There are many possible causes of structural flaws, but they often start with defective design and workmanship. For example, an architect could make a mistake in their building plans, an engineer could make a miscalculation, or a contractor could purchase the wrong materials for the project.

Whether the plans are accurate or not, the construction workers can also be careless, either on purpose or by accident. Failing to follow proper procedures and installing things incorrectly can lead to countless issues, such as weak spots in the walls, uneven flooring, and unstable foundations.

Of course, all homes need to comply with building regulations for residences and local planning permissions, but any person or even several people can overlook an error at any point in the process. It’s also possible for this to happen later if you make further structural alterations.

This is just one reason why diligent structural inspections are important. When your property has a structural building warranty, part of the package involves a chartered surveyor inspecting the site at regular intervals during the build, which makes it more likely for mistakes to be discovered earlier.

Other frequent causes of latent structural defects include the following:

  • Subsidence – sinking movement due to loss of foundational support (e.g. dry soil shrinking)
  • Heave – shifting due to increased pressure from underneath (e.g. wet soil swelling)
  • Slope creep – slow and uneven downhill movement due to gradual landslips
  • Settlement – natural sinking as the structure compacts soil underneath (can be uniform, tipping at an angle, or differential with only part of the foundation dropping)
  • Water ingress – weakening from damp, mould, and rot caused by gaps in waterproofing

Improper ventilation and insulation can cause structural materials, like the mortar between bricks, to expand and contract with changing temperatures and airflow. This causes cracking and eventual destabilisation – as can climbing plants and invasive weeds, if they get a foothold in the masonry.

Signs of structural damage to your house

When you see your home every single day, you may not pay close attention to small changes. On the other hand, since you know what it’s supposed to be like, you might notice a defect right away when there’s a crack in the wall that shouldn’t be there or your windows won’t open properly anymore.

No matter if you’re a particularly observant person or not, you should periodically check both the inside and outside of your house for signs of structural damage. At least once a month or so, do a thorough visual inspection of the exterior and interiors to look out for the following problems:

  • Cracks in walls, around windows or door frames, or in masonry
  • Gaps where walls and floors should join due to warping/sagging
  • Tilting chimney stack or cracks in any part of the chimney
  • Slumping or buckling roof (weak or rotting beams/rafters)
  • Bowing walls that bulge or curve inwards, with or without cracks
  • Nails popping out of plaster/drywall from too much pressure
  • Windows and doors sticking in their frames from low settlement
  • Sloping floors and/or doors swinging open due to uneven subfloors
  • Migrating porch/front steps due to soil shrinking away from foundations 

These are just some of the most frequent visible signs of structural failure. While it’s normal to see small hairline cracks as a house settles over the years, large and long horizontal cracks and vertical cracks that follow a ‘staircase’ pattern are an urgent warning, as they’re signs of structural erosion.

If you notice the first hints of any of the above, don’t just ignore them or try to work around them. Filling in gaps, painting over cracks, and adjusting hinges won’t fix the underlying defects, which will only continue to get worse. It’s crucial to identify the source and tackle it promptly and completely.

What to do if you find a structural defect

The last thing any property owner wants is to discover a latent defect that requires expensive repair work. Even if the damage isn’t your fault, you’ll still have to foot the bill yourself if you don’t have a contract that holds the responsible parties liable – unless you have a structural warranty to rely on.

If you begin to notice signs that something is wrong with your structure, don’t brush them off. You could be putting yourself or others in danger – both physically and financially. The steps you’ll need to take depend on how long it’s been since the completion certificate was issued for the property.

When it’s been less than 2 years from the date of completion, you’re still in the defects insurance period. This means you should be able to report defects directly to the builder/contractor, who is obligated to conduct the necessary repairs during this time and recoup costs via their own insurance.

If it’s been more than 2 years, but less than 10 years, you’ll be in the remaining structural insurance period. During these 8 years, the policy only covers serious latent structural defects, and you must submit a claim through the provider – like ourselves at Architects Certificate – instead of contacting the builder. The terms of your warranty will specify which defects you can claim for and the amount.

What to do about defects if you don’t have a structural warranty

Unfortunately, without a structural building warranty in place, your options are limited and likely to be pricey. You can either pay for assessments and repairs yourself, or take the party you believe to be responsible to court (e.g. a builder or architect) – in which case, you’ll have to supply evidence proving their liability and negligence, and arrange legal representation, none of which will be cheap.

If you don’t have a building warranty to fall back on, you can still hire an expert to conduct a one-off structural inspection. They should be able to identify the defects and their probable causes, explain what must be done to fix them, and provide a report that can help you with organising repair work.

The sooner you uncover a defect and take action, the less money, time, and stress it should involve to put it right. If you are buying or selling a new property and need a structural warranty, or you already have a policy with us, you can get in touch with the ABC+ Warranty team on 0161 928 8804.

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Published Date: 13th April 2022
Category: building warranty, structural warranty


 

11 
Apr

Can you get a building warranty for a barn conversion?

While many first-time buyers prefer the reassurance of a brand-new building, lots of people want to live somewhere more unique than a ‘cookie-cutter’ development. For some, their dream home is a self-build from the ground up, but for others, it’s an existing structure renovated into a residence.

With land at a premium, it makes sense to look for existing properties to upgrade, which is why conversions are popular. Common examples include department stores turned into apartments, and disused churches and barns transformed into avant-garde businesses or private accommodation.

However, the issue with converting an older building is that it’s unlikely to have a current structural warranty, but it is likely to have some structural problems. They won’t necessarily be latent defects originating from poor construction, but the older a building is, the more wear and tear it will have endured over the years.

So, is it possible to get a new structural warranty for a barn conversion? This blog explores some of your barn conversion warranty options, answering common questions about why it’s better to have a structural warranty for your barn conversion project and how to set one up. 

What counts as a barn conversion?

A converted barn is an agricultural structure that has been renovated for another use, whether that’s domestic or commercial. Originally used as storage for farming equipment and housing for livestock, barns are typically found in rural areas, making them ideal to convert into rustic homes or quirky businesses. Barn conversions have been known to become restaurants, offices, and more.

Developers and individuals are often on the lookout for modifiable buildings with a unique selling point, and an idyllic adapted barn fits the bill. While other structures such as cow sheds can also be converted into dwellings, a disused barn is more likely to have desirable architectural features, like:

  • Double doors and lots of windows
  • Vaulted ceilings with exposed beams
  • Double-height rooms/mezzanine floors
  • Open-plan layouts suitable for modern living

Convertible barns are solid structures with plenty of space inside, usually in a prime countryside location. However, the aesthetics and the views won’t matter if the structure is unusable. You need to consider the materials used for the barn’s construction, such as timber or stone, and the age of the structure and degree of deterioration. The type of structure is also important, as it could be:

  • Box construction (four walls to support the whole structure)
  • Cruck frame (internal A-frames to support roof and walls)
  • Post and truss (internal frames to support roof joined with vertical posts)

These are the most common barn types, but whichever construction method was used, and whether it’s a stone barn or a timber barn, converting it into a dwelling in line with building regulations is likely to take a lot of time, effort, and money. After all, an unused barn probably has no plumbing or electrical wiring, and little insulation, which are all basic requirements for a liveable modern home. 

Can you get a barn conversion structural warranty?

Yes, you can. It may not be as straightforward as getting a new build warranty, but it’s possible. The difficult part is finding a provider who doesn’t perceive a barn conversion to be a risky investment. Barn conversion insurance is a small market, with few lenders willing to take those financial risks.

As a large-scale project, with an older structure and lots of installations and restorations involved, there is a greater potential for structural defects to occur than if you were building a barn-style home from scratch. Therefore, if you do secure a warranty, it will require much more exhaustive and frequent assessments before and during the development, and probably paying higher premiums.

Ideally, the cover for your barn conversion project should follow a similar format to the standard structural warranty. This would include an initial defects insurance period of two years, then a structural insurance period of eight years. Those first two years hold the builders or contractors accountable for fixing construction issues, while the remainder covers major structural defects only.

During this secondary period of cover, you would have to claim for repair costs directly through the warranty provider, who would pay for a significant portion of the necessary works if your claim was successful. Since the kinds of structural defects that might occur in a barn conversion can be very different from a regular house, it’s crucial to set up a bespoke barn conversion warranty early on.

Does a barn conversion really need a building warranty?

Since structural warranties aren’t legally required, even for converting old buildings, some people believe it’s a skippable expense. However, doing so could get you into hot water later on, especially if you aren’t self-funding the project. Most banks refuse to lend to self-builders without adequate insurance, because they risk losing their money if the structure develops defects that need repairing.

Even if you are putting up the money for the barn conversion completely by yourself, you should want to protect that investment even more. If anything goes wrong with the design or construction, but the defect isn’t evident until later, what will you do? Do you want to be left footing the repair bill yourself, too? Or paying to take third parties to court and provide evidence of their negligence?

Having a barn conversion structural warranty to fall back on is a much more convenient option. This not only gives you some peace of mind, but also makes the property more attractive to tenants or buyers if you plan to rent or sell the completed barn conversion. Overall, with a structural warranty to help cover the costs of latent structural defects, there’s simply less hassle and stress to deal with.

There are so many factors associated with converting a barn that it would make no financial sense to see it all wasted because of other people’s errors. Don’t make the mistake of skipping a structural warranty to try and save money, because it will cost a lot more in the long run to fix latent defects.

How can you get a barn conversion warranty?

If you’re currently on the hunt for a barn conversion warranty, then you’re in luck. At Architects Certificate, we offer an adjustable ABC+ Warranty that can provide latent defects cover for a variety of building types. While insuring barn conversions can be tricky, we’re always up to the challenge.

For the best chance of securing coverage and an agreeable quote, start the application process as soon as possible – around 6 weeks before any work starts, at least. Preparing all the documents in advance will also help if you’ll be applying for a bank loan or mortgage. You’ll need to provide:

  • Site plans (including drawings, specifications, and location details for the whole site)
  • Structural report (listing condition details, ground levels, and conversion suitability)
  • Photographs (full-colour pictures of the interior, exterior, and surroundings)
  • Waterproof envelope (existing damp-proofing materials and proposed waterproofing)
  • Ground investigation report (explaining ground quality, soil strength, contamination, etc)
  • Valuations (of the existing structure and planned development once completed)
  • Design/construction contracts (specifying building works, timelines, and estimated costs)

The more thorough your supporting evidence, the better your chances of getting a favourable contract. To find out more about how Architects Certificate can help you or to request a barn conversion warranty quote, you can fill out and submit our online application form or call us on 0161 928 8804.

Our chartered surveyors are experts in carrying out thorough structural assessments, and can provide detailed reports on the condition of the structure. To see some examples of the kinds of building conversions we’ve worked with before, take a look at our gallery of previous projects.

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Published Date: 11th April 2022
Category: ABC+ warranty, building warranty, structural warranty, warranty enquiries


 

04 
Apr

What kind of construction defects does a new build warranty cover?

new build construction defects

When purchasing a new house, it’s usually the responsibility of the buyer or their representative to make sure it’s structurally sound. This often involves hiring a qualified surveyor to carry out an inspection of the property before completion, or multiple inspections throughout construction.

Unfortunately, every construction project carries the risk of defects occurring. Even the most diligent of designers, architects, and construction workers can make mistakes sometimes, whether that’s failing to complete a task to the adequate standards or not recognising a defect during the project.

This is why the developer and/or seller should have some kind of policy to ensure that the property isn’t misrepresented to the buyer, and that if any defects are discovered, the appropriate insurance can help to cover the repair costs. Typically, there should be a relevant structural warranty in place.

Buying a new home can be stressful enough without having to worry about structural defects. So, if you’re in the housing market and want to be prepared, this blog addresses the important questions – what exactly is a structural defect, and who is responsible for them under a new build warranty?

What is a construction defect?

A structural defect, also known as a construction defect, is part of the work that doesn’t meet the specifications set out in the contract and/or construction law. There are many types of defects, but structural defects tend to result from faults in the design, materials, or quality of construction work.

Examples include workers using the wrong materials, installing elements in the wrong order, or laying foundations or load-bearing walls that aren’t strong enough. Mistakes like these can lead to further issues like breaches of planning permissions, cracking foundations, or even total collapse.

In extreme cases, hidden defects can gradually worsen until windows and doors get stuck or break, roofs or floors cave in, or walls crumble. The longer it takes to notice or address the fault, the more expensive it’s likely to be to fix it – if it’s possible to repair the structure rather than write it off.

When facing the possibility of structural defects in your new build home, it’s best to have an expert such as a chartered surveyor on your side, who can help you to identify problems before they get to that point. They can also make the important distinction between patent defects and latent defects.

What is a patent structural defect?

In construction, a patent defect is an easily recognisable fault that can be picked up early in the process. This could be during the building works, or within a limited period following completion of the structure. If anyone involved identifies an ‘observable’ defect during this time, whether it’s the workers themselves or a third party inspector, then the contractor is responsible for fixing them.

These surface defects are often referred to as snags; the client or their representative will usually do a walk-through at the end of construction and draw up a snagging list of visible defects. The seller and contractor should rectify these issues before the buyer completes the purchase and moves in.

Patent defects are more straightforward to take care of. Since they’re generally obvious to the eye, people can pick up on them quickly and resolve them before they become more substantial. They’re also likely to be discovered sooner, meaning they can often be corrected before the build is finished.

What is a latent structural defect?

By contrast, latent defects are not immediately detectable. A latent defect can either be concealed or not yet developed, and can take weeks, months, or even years to become apparent. These are more serious for the homebuyer, as the issue tends to be severe by the time there are visible signs.

For example, it may not be possible to assess a defective foundation after completion, and shifting of the ground and subsequent movement of the structure can happen so slowly that nobody notices until the building is sinking or the walls are cracking. Similarly, once all the plastering and laying of floorboards is done, it can be difficult to assess the load-bearing elements for potential defects.

Since they aren’t usually identified during construction or even the first few years after completion, latent defects can be more difficult to resolve. Depending on when the defect becomes known, the original developers and builders may no longer have a contractual obligation to rectify it for you.

Who is liable for structural defects?

The responsibility for new build defects, or structural defects of any kinds, depends on the contracts for the works and the insurance policies of the parties involved. Accountability can be a grey area, especially for latent defects, as it can be difficult to determine who was at fault years afterwards.

Catching patent defects early is preferable, as it’s easier to identify the responsible party, and they will likely be obligated to fix the problems in line with the specifications of the ongoing contract. On the other hand, if a latent defect develops down the line, taking corrective action can be complex.

Firstly, determining the extent of the damage and who is at fault for the flaw (architect, designer, builder, contractor, etc), and whether they are still contractually bound to rectify defects, is an onerous process. Secondly, legal liability often depends on the terms of your property’s structural warranty. If you don’t have one, or a specific liability period has passed, you could be in trouble.

How can a homeowner seek redress for new build defects?

The best way to protect yourself against potential structural defects is to make sure that a new build warranty is already in place before you finalise the sale, and that you’re happy with the terms. Generally, the protections of a structural warranty don’t kick in until the date of completion, but some warranties can also cover you if the developer or seller goes out of business before completing the build.

If a patent defect is discovered during construction, you’re likely to be covered by the building contract itself, as they legally must meet certain specifications in order to fulfil the contract. It will also be difficult to get a certificate of completion if defects and other snags aren’t rectified first.

However, if you pick up on a defect after practical completion, you may only be able to contact the contractor about it if this happens within the first two years. This is the defects insurance period of a structural warranty, during which you can report any problems with the completed work for fixing.

After this (two years from the date on the completion certificate), the next part of the new build warranty kicks in, which is the structural insurance period. This tends to last for eight years, as the remainder of what is usually a ten-year policy. During this time, if a latent defect arises, you can no longer contact the seller or builder. Instead, you must claim the costs directly through the warranty provider.

Depending on the scale and type of defect, the warranty may only pay for partial repair expenses, or none at all if the value is below a certain amount. While you can claim for a variety of problems with the home during the first two years, the following structural insurance period only covers serious structural defects.

How can buyers protect themselves against defective new builds?

As a property buyer, you have several choices. Often, the easiest route is to take on the seller’s own structural warranty, which they should have set up before beginning construction work on your new build. You may be able to adjust the contract terms after consulting with the seller and the provider.

Since it isn’t actually a legal requirement to have a new build warranty, you should make sure to set one up yourself as soon as possible if the developer hasn’t yet. The more the warranty provider’s chartered surveyors can inspect the build throughout, the less likely it is for defects to go unnoticed.

Alternatively, as extra security on top of your latent defects insurance, you could ask the developer about a collateral warranty. This would extend their original construction contract to include you as a third party, creating a direct legal link that should theoretically make it easier to handle defects.

If you’re looking for a new build structural warranty, why not try the ABC+ Warranty quick quote form? Here at Architects Certificate, we provide a range of structural warranties to suit a variety of construction projects, with expert structural assessments included in our many services. For more information, give our team a call on 0161 928 8804 or email us at info@architectscertificate.co.uk today.

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Published Date: 4th April 2022
Category: ABC+ warranty, building warranty, structural warranty


 

 

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