Moving house in autumn – heating, insulation and freezing pipework

When moving house in autumn there are a number of items which take priority over longer term plans.  Alterations, and sometimes even decorating, can wait until a convenient time, but first it is important to make sure your new house is prepared for the winter months ahead.

If you are moving house in autumn remember to:

  1. Check that the heating system is functioning and have the system serviced (unless this has been serviced recently). Ideally, ask the vendor to show you how to operate the system before completion takes place.  If the system has recently been serviced then ask for the documents.
  2. Check that any plumbing pipework and water tanks in the roof space are fully lagged to reduce the risk of freezing. The same applies to any pipework in unheated outbuildings and pipework to outdoor taps.
  3. Check whether cavity wall insulation has been installed if the house has cavity walls.  Cavity wall insulation can reduce heat loss and improve the level of comfort within a house, but note that not all properties with cavity walls are suitable for cavity wall insulation.  See also 1960’s houses:  common defects. 
  4. Check gutters, gullies and drains to make sure they have not become blocked by leaves, etc.
  5. Check any paved areas to ensure they are draining adequately and are not ponding. Any areas which pond may become slippery with algae and/or ice.
  6. Check the level of insulation within any roof spaces.  Don’t forget the roof spaces to extensions, bay windows, etc.  If insulation is insufficient, then topping up before the cold weather arrives should help improve the level of comfort within the house.

When moving house in autumn, a few simple checks should help to ensure that you are prepared for the colder, winter months ahead.  If you are unable to check the house for yourself, consider instructing a surveyor.

 

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Buying a 1950s house – bay windows – cracking and heat loss

The 1950s was a period of extensive house building following a lack of new housing during the Second World War.  Traditionally built housing of the 1950s is characterised by cavity walls, fireplaces to the main living rooms and bay windows at the front which would provide extra light to the main reception room and the bedroom above.

This article focuses on bay windows of a traditionally built 1950s house.

 

1950s house – cracking around bay windows

It is normal for a building to settle slightly following construction, but cracking can occur where different parts of a building settle at a different rate.   Typically, in a 1950s house, the footings of a bay window will be shallower than the footings of the rest of the house and this can result in differential settlement.  Hence, it is common for cracking to occur at the junction between a bay window and the main part of the house.

If movement is minor and not progressive then cracks can be filled.  Check regularly for any signs of further movement.

If movement is excessive and/or progressive then it is possible that a mortgage valuer may request a report on the movement by a Chartered Building Surveyor or a Chartered Structural Engineer as a condition of the mortgage.  The valuer may even choose to recommend a retention is placed on the mortgage until investigations/works have been carried out.  Note that the Valuer’s duty is to report to the mortgage lender and not to the purchaser, ie, you.

Consider instructing a surveyor to inspect the whole of the building and report to you as there may be other issues of which you should be aware before deciding to go ahead with the purchase.

If you are not seeking a mortgage but have a survey carried out on your behalf then your surveyor will report on whether he or she considers whether any movement is progressive or not, and whether any further investigations and/or remedial works should be carried out.

 

1950s house – heat loss through bay windows

The wall structure to bay windows is often of lighter construction than the walls to the main part of the house.  Sometimes the walls are timber framed, possibly with vertical tile hanging, and sometimes the walls are of a single narrow leaf of masonry.  Such construction can lead to high heat loss through the wall and/or condensation on the wall surface internally.  Heat loss from the room will also be high if the house has single glazed windows.  Condensation on internal wall surfaces is often identified by dampness and/or mould.  However, if this is noted on a house that you are considering buying then this is not generally a major issue as in many instances the walls can be upgraded with insulation.  If you propose to replace the windows to the bay then this is an ideal time to check the construction of the wall to the bay and upgrade with additional insulation.

Checklist

  1. Check for signs of movement, such as cracking, to any bay windows.
  2. Obtain advice from a surveyor or engineer to determine whether the movement is minor or needs remedial works/monitoring (remember that the mortgage valuation is not a survey).
  3. Obtain written details from the vendor for any works carried out, such as underpinning.
  4. If there is significant movement (or if significant works have been carried out in the past) then bring these to the attention of your proposed buildings insurer and check whether any restrictions will be imposed on your policy.
  5. Check the thickness of any walls to bay windows. Check whether surfaces are cold and whether there are any signs of condensation, eg, mould.

See also How much does a survey cost? and  What should I do after having a survey?

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