A building survey may be required mainly for checking the stability and external and internal condition of a building, but surveys are also required for a large number of reasons, some of which include:
- The sale of a property
- To prepare a measured drawing of the building to enable a plan for alterations, improvements or extensions to be prepared;
- To prepare a report on the condition of a property to be purchased;
- To prepare a schedule of condition for a property to be taken on long lease;
- To advise on repair, maintenance and preservation;
- Work to be carried out to satisfy the requirements of local or any other authorities;
- To advise on the repair of a building damaged by fire or floods or any other man made or natural disasters;
- To make structural appraisal for existing buildings for change of use;
- To prepare plans in connection with party walls agreements.
Any building survey must be undertaken in a systematic procedure so as to reduce the risk of errors/omissions during surveying. The following procedures should help in reducing these errors and omissions and aid in being more organized:
EXPERTISE – the building surveyor must be qualified and must possess the adequate level of skill and knowledge to undertake the survey. Awareness for obsolete construction is essential for examining old buildings.
CARE – Using the appropriate PPE and taking sufficient time to carry out the survey is important as it is safe to carry out the survey in a cautious and safety-conscious manner;
BEING METHODICAL – having a systematic step-by-step approach surveying the outside then inside then outside the property should be adopted so as to reduce sight errors.
The following are the main stages of Building surveying taken in their order:
Instructions – the client’s requirements need to be taken and understood at this stage to determine the type of survey which will best suit their needs;
Type of Survey – determined by the client’s requirements;
Survey Preparations – Arranging access to the property to be surveyed, equipment required which is determined by the type of survey;
Desk-top Survey – an examination of all documentation and information relating to the building to be examined for example plans and drawings showing original structure of building, title deeds, Ordinance survey and geological maps of area, previous building control approvals and other local authority records etcetera.
On-Site Reconnaissance – Establishing the physical and spatial contexts of the building on site;
Exterior overview – External inspection focusing on the main elements of the building. This is usually done top down starting from the roof;
Interior Inspection – Internal inspection usually undertaken from room to room in a clockwise direction
Exterior Review – Reviewing the external side of the building to make sure no sight errors were made
Evaluation and Report – once survey has been completed and evidence collected, the surveyor then evaluates his findings and these will be articulated into the building survey report.
The type of equipment to be used to survey a building depends on the type of survey to be carried out but the following are some of the basic equipment to be possessed by a surveyor:
- A 30m steel tape, 2m flexible steel tape, 2m folding steel rod
- A bricklayers level and straight edge about 2m long;
- An A4 tracing paper sketch pad in case sketch is required
- A telescopic aluminium ladder, if you need to gain access to high ceilings and roof spaces
- A safety helmet, if surveying old buildings or confined spaces;
- Overalls or a boiler suit or nylon slip over trousers;
- A digital camera to take photographs if required
- Code 3 sheet lead to measure mouldings;
- A pair of binoculars;
- A small pocket compass to help with orientation of the building;
General purpose kits
These should include all of the above and the following:
- Electronic moisture reading meter;
- A bradawl, pocket knife, cold chisel, small hammer and pliers;
- A vernier scale for measuring width of cracks, frames, pies etcetera;
- Adhesive material;
- Mirrors for inspecting inaccessible parts of the building;
- Magnifying glass;
- A plumb bob;
- Pencils, pens, ruler’s etcetera.
Most of this equipment is expensive to buy this is why sometimes they can be hired. Typical examples of these are as follows:
- Endoscope – for inspecting hidden voids and cavities;
- Electric drill for removing small cores of plaster or similar to determine moisture;
- Electronic Hygrometer for measuring building humidity and temperature;
- Cover meter to detect presence and depth of steel bars in re-enforced concrete;
- Plastic sample bags;
- Socket tester for inspecting earth safety, voltage and wiring checks;
- Micro-drilling to determine presence of decay in structural timber;
- Thermograph – an infra-red camera to determine areas of heat loss.
There is a number surveying equipment with numerous uses on different surveying tasks. Below are a number of surveying equipment and their different uses.
1) Thermograph – this is an infra-red camera which can be used as a non-destructive means to determine areas of heat loss, voids or leaks in the external fabric of a building. Like impulse radar, its a specialist technique that is normally used in specific cases such as large commercial and residential buildings.
2) Impulse radar or ultra sound – this is also a specialist non- destructive technique to determine the extent of any void areas such as flue routes, hidden or blocked up spaces. It can also be used to detect leaks in the roof and wall elements.
3) Endoscope – Is a fibre optic bore scope with which building surveyors can inspect hidden voids and cavities for problems such as bridging, wall-tie corrosion and fungal attack.
4) Electronic moisture-reading meter – there are two main types currently in use, the conductivity and capacitance type. These instruments measure conductivity and not actually measure content.
5) In order to examine straight lengths of drains, reflectors are useful. They are placed in the channels of the inspection chambers and reflect the light along the drain.
6) A Plumb bob and line is essential when the plumb of a building is necessary.
7) Sticks of wax coated chalks for marking out defects.
8) Micro-drilling – This is a very effective tool to determine the presence of decay in structural timbers using a special low-voltage hand-held drill. It gives digital results which can be printed or viewed in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft excel.
9) Mirrors are very useful for inspection of otherwise inaccessible parts of a building, such as timbers in a roof space and the underside of parapet wall copings. Attaching mirrors to telescopic handles is also useful.
10) A pair of binoculars for examining the roof, parapets and chimney stacks.
11) Personal Protective Equipment when surveying old empty buildings and where ever necessary.
12) A magnifying glass to help identify the nature of fungi, small holes and the condition of surface finishes.
A written record of what is done during a survey is important. The record should show the details of the conditions applicable at the time of inspection, the checks made and what was observed. It should also show what may not have been seen and what parts of the building were inaccessible to avoid future doubt.
The way surveying data is recorded and presented is different and it depends on the type of surveying job. The surveyor might be asked to survey particular parts of the building e.g. the roof and ceiling so the documents in which he records the data on will be specifically for the roof and ceiling only as compared to when he has to do a home inspection for the sale of a house or maintenance as they will be general and for the whole house and inventory.
A Schedule of Condition can be prepared for a specific are general all round survey. It is produced when the Surveyor proceeds to surveying the building. The schedule will begin with the address of the residence may it be residential, offices or warehouse. It will also have contact details of the company and also it will have the date of inspection and the date it will or was published. Below it will contain the name of the surveyor who prepared it, who authorised the survey, the document reference and the date. It will have brief description of things such as the information they received from the client on what to survey and also information like weather conditions when the inspection was undertaken and also why the survey was taken. The following are just brief guidelines which form the basis on which a schedule of condition is prepared and recorded:
A general description – a description of the overall view and conditions of the areas of the building and components concerned and also commenting on if they can be maintained or not e.g. walls, roofs, frame, windows, doors, external decorations, ceilings, internal walls, internal doors, floors, internal finishes and decorations, fences, yards landscaping etcetera.
After the general description is when the Surveyor starts recording more specific survey information on the Condition schedules for different parts of the building e.g. ground floor, first floor(If multi-story), toilets, roof and ceiling condition, internal finishes condition and also stating quality for example if they are in Good condition or Reasonable-Fair-satisfactory condition or poor or very poor condition. At the end of the schedule of condition will contain Attestation/Agreement page which will certify that the survey is a true record of the property which was instructed to be surveyed and will be signed by the surveyor/s and also signed by the witnesses who were present.
A Pro forma is one of the specific surveying documents. It is produced when the surveyor has gotten information from the client and he has gained knowledge of what the client wants to be surveyed.
A Pro Forma includes information such as basic contact details and the purpose of the survey. It will also contain fields with information like job title, the organization you work for, type of inspection, weather on date of inspection, address of the property, orientation of the building, what type of property it is, viewing arrangements (Agents/Vendor in occupation/Met at property), Methodology (how you plan to carry out your survey and time-scale required to undertake the survey) start and finish times, date of inspections, limitations of any inspection(if the property was occupied, carpeted or finished e.t.c.), if there are any contractors involved in taking the analysis and also any unusual features.
Recording information on the Pro Forma depends on the format it has been produced in. it might have been produced by a word processor and you have to fill in the relevant fields manually or it might have been produced using spreadsheets or templates and recording information on it would be simply ticking on the items being inspected and also ticking on the conditions of the items. It might also be important to leave blank spaces on the pro Forma so as to make sketches or plans of the floor and rooms being surveyed.