Technical

General Movement Report

 

Please note our reports should not be confused with what Surveyors used to call ‘Structural Surveys‘ (now called a Building Survey).

Our General Movement Report is where there are more general concerns for subsidence or settlement. This report should be favoured over the defect report if more than three separate defects are noted or where the concerns are more general.

Costs vary from approximately £1000 to £1800 plus vat, depending on the size of the property/no. of flats etc. Prompt appointments are secured by payments in advance, via a credit/debit card.

Background

A general movement report is the same as a ‘subsidence appraisal’ that your building insurers might undertake. It does not deal with all aspects of the skeleton structure, such as floor and roof timbers, Building Regulations alterations and compliance.

When appointing a Structural Engineer, you are appointing a specialist whose concern is the skeleton structure and stability of a property. We are not concerned with more minor defects normally associated with buildings and are not concerned with any non-structural issues, which are the domain of the Chartered Surveyor. We recommend you appoint a Surveyor to undertake a full ‘building Survey’ if you have not done so already.

A useful analogy is your GP doctor (your Surveyor) and your specialist e.g. back or heart specialist (Structural Engineer). Our inspection is analogous to you having an initial consultation/ by your specialist, but without any testing or internal examinations.

The skeleton structure is frequently concealed by plaster/ render/decorations/ coverings and we have to interpret the condition of cracks and distortions of the building together with the age of decorations to undertake our work. We also use our knowledge of the area (often first hand, but also from geological maps), proximity of trees and drains and general topography.

Our ‘General movement reports’ are normally required following a point of sale Surveyors report that identifies several ‘movement’ related concerns, usually possible subsidence concerns. The same sort of report is carried out for owner occupiers on occasions.

Fees

Visits and reports are lump sum fees agreed and normally paid in advance. We assume a single visit to report. If sufficient access is not made available and we visit the property/ agent (people out, rooms locked, keys not available etc) and a visit is abortive, we will need to charge an additional fee to revisit (normally £300 plus vat, to cover abortive travel time).

Once payment has been made and a diary date secured, fees are not refundable in full, as we are unlikely to be able to fill the diary appointment with other clients at short notice. A 50% refund will be made if more than 24 hours notice is provided.

Any additional advice following issue of our report, apart from brief telephone assistance clarification, will be charged on a time spent basis, unless otherwise agreed.

What we do

We make a visual inspection of the external and main internal load bearing walls. We look at the general line and level of windows, doors and floors and look for general signs of cracking and distortion. We look for a variety of tell tale signs such as any significant cracking in decorative finishes.

Our appraisal allows us to form an overall opinion regarding the movement/ cracking. Our visual inspection is carried out by an experienced Chartered Structural Engineer. Out time at the property varies considerably depending on the size of property, condition, number of defects and their complexity. Typical timescales would be 1-3 hours. Total time including travel, reporting and liaising is typically 4-7 hours and lump sum fees, agreed in advance are based on this, together with the level of expertise required.

We prepare site notes and appropriate sketches and/or photographs and then prepare a report. This is commonly available a few days
after our inspection in normal circumstances.

Definitions and Limitations
This guidance note together with our verbal discussions form the basis of our agreement/ brief, NOT phraseology used in Surveyors or lenders reports which we may or may not have seen. Most reports are urgent and are carried out very promptly to avoid delays to sale chains so written instructions/ confirmation are rarely practical. Surveyor’s and lenders recommendations for Engineers reports sometimes include inappropriate requests; most commonly that our advice should ensure the future stability of properties, which is clearly not possible without wholesale underpinning etc. Often we do not get to see the Surveyor’s report.

Our involvement is normally the result of a Surveyors report who has a number of concerns relating to cracking and possible subsidence issues. We comment specifically on these items (if they are made known to us) and provide a more general overview on the subsidence issues affecting the rest of the demise.

When inspecting flats or apartments, maisonettes in multi demised buildings, our specific comments only relate to the particular leasehold demise in question, unless specifically agreed beforehand. I.e. Not the entire building. The inspection involves the main load bearing walls only, and is concerned with any signs of Subsidence/ settlement/ cracking. We do not look in roof voids during this type of report but are pleased to add the timber roof structure to our brief by separate agreement (additional cost typically £500).

The walls within roof voids are commonly badly built and can contain poor jointing and some very old cracks (e.g. from initial building settlement shortly after construction) but are virtually impossible to date and provide no contemporary information unless there is corresponding cracking in the decorated/ habitable areas.

No exploratory work is carried out during an initial inspection. This is rarely practical; particularly during ‘point of sale’ inspections (most reports are for purchasers not vendors) and clients do not wish to pay for something that might not be required. We do not disturb fittings or move furniture, floor or wall coverings or lift manhole covers or test drains. Foundations obviously remain hidden. We are not concerned with superficial cracks or non load bearing elements and do not provide a schedule of all defects noted. When reports are for owners, we can recommend further investigations if required.

This sort of appraisal does not include other elements of structure such as the roof or floor timbers or structural alterations or Building Regulations compliance. It does not include any none structural matters; these are normally looked at by a Chartered Surveyor (roof coverings, services, damp, infestation, decoration etc). Deleterious materials are excluded and not relevant to our type of report.

Our advice only concerns the habitable areas unless specifically agreed beforehand, i.e. it excludes external areas such as garden walls, retaining walls, paths, detached garages and out buildings and the loft space where no conclusions can be reached looking at any very old and dusty cracks.

Our report is based on a single visual inspection only. We do not include any form of Local Authority or other statutory searches such as flooding or Radon etc, search, to check for any history of underpinning or structural works unless specifically requested and agreed.

Our inspection by one person is limited by health and safety at work provisions and excludes standing on flat roofs, accessing confined spaces or standing on fragile building elements or high unattended ladders. Our opinion is based on a ‘snap shot’ in time and you will appreciate that the property may experience movement at a latter date due to weather/climate/trees/drains etc.

You should appreciate that a property may not comply with the Building regulations (including structural), and ‘compliance’ is not part of our ‘general movement report’ brief. There may have been structural alteration (e.g. walls or chimney breasts removed) and identification of these is not part of our remit during this type of report.

Our appointment is in accordance with the Association for Consultancy and engineering Agreement 5 2009 for homeowners for use where the consulting Engineer is engaged to provide a report and advisory services. We can provide a copy of this standard document if you wish.

The advice that we provide is our own professional opinion and is not simply to meet the requirements of third parties such as Surveyors, Builders, Local Authorities, e.g. Building Control Officers who might have less stringent requirements.

 

Access Limitations

In the case of a house, we are normally allowed full access inside and out i.e. into each room. In the case of apartments/flats, access is often limited, both inside and out.

When inspecting for a point of sale report on leasehold flat, we have assumed access will not be possible to adjacent flats. General comments can be made externally and from common parts if easily accessible.

Report
Our report strives to explain matters in day-to-day language, but some technical jargon is sometimes unavoidable.

We aim to be as specific as possible, but occasionally, the cause of an apparent defect is simply not clear. Further intrusive investigations are sometimes necessary. Sometimes the cost of further investigation might be more than the cost of simple repairs, which MAY rectify the matter. If defects reappear then clearly further investigations may be required.

We indicate the relative severity of any problems and the sort of measures that might be involved in repair or further investigation, as appropriate.

Our reports do not include specifications, drawings, or calculations, as the requirement for these are unknown at the time of appointment/agreement of fees; we are pleased to prepare such further advice by later agreement, if our initial report makes recommendation for remedial work or more detailed investigation.

Our report is not a ‘blow by blow’ schedule of defects, nor does it describe every single crack or structural defect. The report provides an overview but with specific recommendations where possible. Indicative costs for likely repairs are not normally given unless specifically agreed in advance as they depend on subsequent investigations, design and specifications. Market forces among builders for small repairs also vary enormously.

We do not undertake building work ourselves. Point of sale reports strive to provide pragmatic advice (normally to the purchaser), since urgent decisions to buy are normally pressing.

Further Advice
We are pleased to assist further if exploratory works, calculations, specifications or drawings are required. If you plan to extend, alter or refurbish the house, we can assist with structural advice and are always happy to recommend appropriate
builder, Architects, interior designers and Surveyors etc.

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Pole Structural Engineers, Admel House,
24 High Street , Wimbledon Village, London SW19 5DX
Tel: 020 8944 9955
Email: mail@pole.co.uk