Peter Clarke has been measuring and surveying sites since 1988 and has overseen the construction of more than 3800 Conservatories and Sunrooms. In this article Peter outlines the key things he investigates before signing off on an order.
There is a wise old saying, “measure twice and cut once” and it is one that I follow religiously when surveying a home. I am a firm believer that if the proper time is spent at the design and survey stage then the project will run smoothly thereafter, there will be no hidden surprises and both client and contractor know from the outset what issues need to be addressed.
The following are Twenty of the key issues I look at when surveying a home, issues you the client, should be aware of and issues which we as the contractor will take care of;
1. Is this development exempt from planning permission? Has there been any previous extensions, garage conversions or attic conversions which may affect the planning status?
2. What are the existing ground conditions at the site? Was the house built on piles, is the site boggy? Is the house constructed on a hill and if so, is there a danger that the area for the Conservatory/Sunroom may have been in-filled with soil which may need to be dug out again? This is THE most important issue to determine and the most expensive to rectify if there is a problem. Your new Conservatory/Sunroom will be built to proper building standards and this starts at the foundations. If the ground at the site is poor then it will have to be excavated until suitable conditions are reached, if good ground conditions are not met at five feet deep then piling may have to considered. While we endeavour to observe and note the ground conditions when measuring, there is no real way of determining the conditions until the foundations are dug out and the soil exposed.
3. Is there sufficient access to the site, is there a side passageway or will materials have to be brought through the home? If materials have to be brought through the home, will the new door frames etc. fit through the existing hall/doorways? Is there a safe place to position the skip? Is a permit needed from the local authority for the skip?
4. What is the condition of the existing boundary walls? Most homes in town and cities have a boundary wall with their neighbour and in many cases the new Conservatory will be built close to this wall and often will incorporate a new wall built directly inside the existing wall. It is important that the condition of the wall is inspected to ensure that there are no cracks or settlement, if there are then they should be pointed out to neighbours before any works start. I will normally photograph any defects before works start.
5. What is the condition of the existing sewers? Are they clay or plastic fittings, is there any sign of blockages/residual matter in the pipes? If so, now is the time to deal with it while excavations are taking place. What pipes etc. have to be moved, can they be moved successfully to accommodate the new room?
6. Where does the main sewer line run? Remember you cannot build a foundation on top of the main sewer. How do we find the line of the sewer? Generally by lifting the manholes and inspecting the direction of the pipes.
7. Can the existing house plaster finish be successfully matched or if not how close a finish is achievable?
8. Are we adding onto/incorporating existing walls in the garden or extensions and if so are they square to the house? Very few walls are built exactly at right angles to each other, not important when building traditionally but very important when building using glass, glass does not bend!!. If the walls are off-square we will build your room taking these issues into account so it will fit like a glove!
9. Are there timber floors in the existing home and if so, where are the floor vents for these? It is quite likely that the new floor may cover some of the vents, in this case arrangements are made to extend the vents through the Conservatory floor using piping to ensure continued adequate ventilation for the timber.
10. Are there existing trees/shrubs which have to be moved/dumped? Are there any potential roots which may cause problems for the foundations?
11. What is the condition of the upstairs gutters, fascia boards and windows? Your new room may make access more difficult in the future, so, now is the time to carry out any necessary cleaning, painting and replacement work which may need to be done.
12. Are there any height restrictions? This is particularly relevant to bungalows which generally will require some design changes to accommodate the existing roof heights, but is also relevant to two storey houses which may have low windows upstairs or pipes etc., which may be in the way.
13.Are there existing lights on the back wall of the house/garden and if so, where is the best place to move these to?
14. Are there new doors to be fitted? How will this affect the existing flooring in the room? Will a door saddle be required or can the existing flooring be extended? Will the alarm system have to be moved, will new sensors be required? Will the new doors have room to open without taking up too much space?
15. What are the existing light conditions in the home, what direction will the new room face, will it get much sunshine? Will the new room block much light getting into the house? Will it darken it?
16. Are there privacy issues to considered? Will the new room be overlooked by neighbours, has the correct roof glazing been chosen to deal with this?
17. Are there any TV satellite wires which are in the way, if so the relevant company needs to be notified and arrangements made to have them moved. I will advise where these should be moved to.
18. Are there existing patios and decks which will have to be moved? Will the new room require that these are redesigned or removed or extended. Has the client budgeted for this?
19. What is the proposed type of flooring for the Conservatory? This is important as the different types of flooring are different heights, laminate timber 8mm, tiles 8-10mm, timber floors 16-20mm. We adjust our new concrete floor height to accommodate the new floor finish.
20. Are the neighbours aware that work will be taking place/do they understand the heights of the new walls etc? During my visit I always mark the height of any new walls on the main house wall, this allows the client to explain the issues to the neighbours and also serves as a marker for both parties so there can be no confusion over heights etc. after the works begin.
The list doesn’t finish at 20 items, but I hope it gives some confidence that when we ‘measure you up’ we make sure we investigate the site thoroughly and that you the client will be fully informed of any issues before the work starts. Good luck with your build!