We have always considered that a standard survey is insufficient for us to fully report on the condition of some properties.  For this reason we have developed an enhanced building survey which we have called 'Survey-Plus'.  This comprises a building survey with a number of additional tests and inspections.

High level camera survey

We have developed an inspection system whereby a camera is mounted on a telescopic mast which can be extended to a height of 17 metres (approximately 5 storeys).  The camera can be remotely operated so that roofs, chimneys and other inaccessible parts of the building may be examined via a computer screen at ground level.

We have found that our equipment gives excellent results providing both an inspection of inaccessible parts of the property and photographs which are included within our reports.

Test of the underground drains

There are many parts of a building which are concealed and cannot be seen during a survey inspection.  One of the areas is underground drains which are exceedingly important when assessing the condition of a building.  Leaking drains contravene both Building Regulations and Environmental Health Regulations.  Defective drains should be repaired or replaced and the cost of this work is often high, particularly where drains are deep beneath ground and require deep excavation to allow replacement.

Effluent leaking from drains may contaminate soil but is also one of the main causes of foundation movement.  It has varying effects on different types of sub-soil.  Normally stable sand and gravel sub-soils may be washed away from beneath foundations resulting in settlement of those foundations.  Some clays, when saturated, become soft and putty like, losing their strength and building support ability. 

The moisture content of clay sub-soils is very important because clay expands as it takes up moisture and shrinks when it dries.  This can result in subsidence to buildings or 'heave' where expanding soils lift buildings or parts of buildings upwards. 

The 'Survey-Plus' includes a water-test of the foul underground drains where each length of underground pipe is plugged at its lower end, filled with water and left under test for a period.  Where underground pipes are damaged or broken water leaks away indicating a defect.  We are able to report either that drains are leak free or that they require costly repair/replacement.

Thermal image photographs

We take thermal image photographs of the exterior elevations of the building.  Such photographs are sometimes difficult to interpret but record the relative surface temperature of the different parts of a building.  Generally, high surface temperatures indicate heat loss from within the building through uninsulated or poorly insulated walls, roofs, windows and other building elements.  This information may be used to target improvements in insulation reducing heating costs and improving the internal environment.

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Gas leak air test

We test the air close to gas burning installations such as the central heating boiler.  Our test equipment records the level of gas content in the air below the level which may be detected by smell.  Where leaks are found we are able to recommend that gas engineers be instructed to investigate further and deal with any leak.  Our test is not the detailed inspection that would be carried out by a Gas Safe engineer.

Carbon monoxide air test

We test the air close to gas appliances.  The test equipment detects low levels of carbon monoxide within the air.  Carbon monoxide from gas appliances is undetectable by smell and is dangerous, leading to a number of injuries and deaths each year.  Where carbon monoxide is found we are able to recommend that a gas engineer be instructed to investigate further, repairing or servicing the defective installation.

Endoscope inspection within a cavity wall

We inspect the cavity between the external brick leaf and internal block or brick leaf of a cavity wall structure in one location.  The information from one location is assumed to be an indication of the condition elsewhere.

Cavity walls are constructed with metal ties linking the external and inner leaves to maintain structural stability.  Ties have been mainly made from steel over many years.  Some old buildings have untreated steel ties which corrode.  This may break the structural link between the two leaves.  Additionally, corroding steel expands to approximately nine times its original volume.  Expansion of steel ties within brickwork may cause structural movement and damage. 

Later buildings were constructed with galvanised steel ties which, initially, do not corrode but corrosion eventually takes place.  Since 1981 buildings should have been constructed with stainless steel ties where corrosion is virtually non-existent. 

Our endoscope operates through a small hole drilled through a mortar joint within the external leaf brickwork enabling us to view the interior via a miniature camera and take photographs.

Additionally, the endoscope inspection will reveal the existence of cavity wall insulation.  Many purchasers are particularly concerned about energy use and heat loss.  We are able to report that cavity walls either require insulation or have been insulated in the past.

Endoscope inspection beneath parts of some timber floors

One of the areas of difficulty when inspecting older property is the condition of concealed timbers beneath floors.  It is not possible to inspect most sub-floor areas.  Surveyors are able to obtain much information by testing floors for dampness, checking for stability/past movement, checking ventilation beneath floor structures and testing for dampness in adjacent locations.  It is sometimes possible to lift a floorboard and inspect beneath, assuming that other parts of the floor are in similar condition.  It is most commonly not possible to lift a floor board without damaging floor finishes and vendors often refuse permission for invasive inspections. 

Our inspection with a miniature camera/endoscope provides additional information so that we may report more fully on the condition of the floors.  An inspection in one location is made and it is assumed that conditions will be similar elsewhere. 

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How much will it cost?

'Survey-plus' inspections and reports cost a little more than a standard building survey but we believe that they represent the best value for money, particularly where a client intends to purchase an older, period, historic or listed building.

James Flynn Chartered Surveyors?

We are an independent firm of chartered surveyors and have been advising clients on all aspects of property value and condition since 1980 from our offices in London, Surrey, Hampshire, Sussex and Kent.  We mainly cover the London and South East region but travel further afield when this is requested.

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London  | Surrey | Sussex | Hampshire | Kent



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