Advice Hub: Walls

Interior and exterior walls are a large part of our survey work. We have investigated walls that are leaning and pose threats to individuals, interior and exterior structural walls with cracks, garden walls that are falling down and those that have problems caused by tree and plant roots. These articles look at the problems we find with walls and how they can be prevented and resolved.

Gallows Bracket

When should gallows brackets be used?

Gallows brackets are supports made of steel or iron that provide support for a remaining chimney breast or stack when removing an internal chimney breast. They are used in pairs and should be used when there is no steel beam. They must be attached to a party wall and cannot be used if the supporting wall's brickwork or mortar is in poor condition. It's essential to get the brackets and fixings designed by a structural engineer and obtain building regulation approval.
Eccentric Foundations

Extensions: maximising space with eccentric foundations

Eccentric foundations can be a useful solution when building an extension up to a boundary line without disturbing a neighbour's land. With eccentric foundations, the wall sits on the outer edge of the foundation, allowing for digging the trench right next to the boundary without crossing it. Obtaining party wall agreements and necessary planning permissions beforehand is still essential. Traditional foundations can still be used with neighbour consent and without restrictions.
a large crack in an external wall

“Help! My house is subsiding!”

Houses crack sometimes due to regular thermal and moisture changes in the structure and brickwork. However, if you see diagonal cracks that are wider at the top than at the bottom, it may be subsidence. The most common cause of subsidence is tree roots, which take water from the soil and cause it to dry and shrink. Other potential causes are a broken drain or prolonged dry weather. You should also do annual checks of your property to ensure there are no blockages.
deep excavation, JCB, party wall notice

Do I need a party wall agreement for…

Homeowners planning to renovate or undertake a construction project should be aware of party wall agreements as they are often overlooked. A party wall is a wall that straddles a boundary line or divides two premises and forms part of both. Homeowners need to follow the Party Wall Act if their work requires any structural changes to a party wall. Excavations near neighbours and building on boundaries also require a party wall agreement.
building on the boundary - hoarding , site safety, protection

Advising neighbours of building work

In most cases, there is no obligation to formally notify a neighbour of building work unless the work falls within the notification requirements of the Party Wall Act. However, there are some circumstances where notification is required, such as building a new wall up to or astride the boundary with a neighbouring property. If a neighbour does not follow the notification requirements, affected parties may need to seek professional advice and potentially take legal action.
survey of a house in hythe, kent

There’s more to your home’s foundations – pt 2

Researching the history of your home is not only fascinating, but it can also yield valuable information. A wide range of sources can be used to gain an insight into the story of your house, including old photos and local authority records. Some great photo and image archives online offer aerial photographs and impressive databases of images. Local authority planning websites and land registry are other useful sources, as well as local historians.
Bomb damage springbank road hither green lewisham building survey report

There’s more to your home’s foundations – pt 1

Researching the history of your house can be especially useful if you're a surveyor, as it can help explain unusual features and construction details. Old maps are a great place to start, and there are several online sources you can use to build a picture of your house's history. You can also use Google Streetview or an equivalent to identify more recent changes.
large roaring fireplace with leather chairs in front of it and traditional decor

Would you ever have thought removing a chimney breast needed permission?

Removing a chimney breast is not a simple task as it may be shared with the neighbouring property if it is on a party wall. You are required to notify adjoining owners before starting any building work involving a party wall or structure. A written notice must be served, if an agreement is not reached, surveyors must be appointed to resolve the dispute.
use a Party wall surveyor not Bob the Builder

Who can act as a Party Wall Surveyor?

Appointing an inexperienced or untrained person as a party wall surveyor can lead to disastrous consequences. Building owners can't act as their own surveyors, and appointing someone without the proper knowledge can result in errors and disputes. It's important to hire experienced professionals to handle party wall matters and ensure that the process goes smoothly.
broken rat run garden wall; party fence wall; blackheath; london

When garden walls lean, collapse and go bad

It is important to inspect garden walls to ensure they are in good condition, as they are subject to collapse and can cause accidents. Different factors can cause walls to lean, so when carrying out a building survey, inspectors look for misaligned walls, deteriorated brick piers or pointing, flaking or eroded surfaces, and cracks.
party wall act notice time periods

When does a Party Wall Notice need to be served

The Party Wall Act contains specific time provisions regarding the service of Party Wall Notices and the commencement of work. It's recommended to seek professional advice in this situation. If a neighbour dissents and appoints a surveyor, the party wall process can take at least 4 to 6 weeks to conclude.
garden wall failure

The power of roots and poor retaining walls

This garden retaining wall was found to be cracking and failing during a single defect survey. The absence of reinforcement and weep holes, combined with growing tree roots caused the wall to bulge outward. Proper design, including reinforced concrete and weep holes, is essential for retaining walls to hold back ground and prevent premature failure.