Fires, Flues & Chimneys: What Can Go Wrong?

Learn the questions you need to ask to ensure a successful installation, with surveyor Andy Butchers’ insider advice.

fire

Whether your taste is for a cosy inglenook with an open fire or an eye-catching modern stove, the right solid fuel heater can add style and panache not just to the room it’s in, but to the entire house. For many self builders and renovators, however, it’s not simply about aesthetics. Combined with other technologies, these can be genuine heat sources that form an important part of the overall energy performance strategy for your home.

The basics

As with most elements of a major project, it’s crucial you do your research before finalising the spec. What sort of fire do you want, and will it be used as a primary or secondary heat source? Do you want a formal fireplace and chimney or just a flue, and does the type of structure you’re proposing cater for the installation requirements? Check back with your local authority, too, as some restrict the use of open fires and the fuel types you can burn.

An important step is to hire a suitably-qualified installer – look for HETAS or OFTEC registration for solid fuel appliances, and Gas Safe for gas. They’ll advise on specifications and, on completion of the installation, will provide a certificate to show that it complies with Building Regulations.

A certification plate is often fixed to the flue to verify testing has been undertaken. A warranty provider won’t usually cover these appliances unless there’s a suitable certificate in place.

Read More

Push-Fit Plumbing: What Can Go Wrong?

Andy Butchers shares his insider tips to help troubleshoot this part of your project.

Plumbing

Push- or quick-fit plastic plumbing has been around for some time, and has gradually taken a sizeable share of the water supply materials market – both in the self build and renovation sector, and for commercial developments. Despite some initial teething problems, the technology has come on immensely, and many die-hard traditional plumbers have now moved across to this system.

The benefits

A key advantage of push-fit is that it allows for much quicker installation than traditional connections. That’s because it’s easier to cut, more flexible when it comes to threading through the building structure and – of course – the joints are much faster to make.

Typically, the push-fit connectors feature an ‘O’-ring seal and metal-toothed grab ring to secure the pipe and form a watertight seal. The system is interchangeable between plastic and copper. This flexibility means it can be used in refurbishments, as well as for temporary connections.

Read More

Roofing: What Can Go Wrong?

Andy Butchers shares his insider knowledge to help you troubleshoot this key element of your building project.

roofing

It may be stating the obvious, but every house needs a robust roof to close up the structure and protect it from the elements. Given it will be acting as a first line of defence, it’s perhaps not surprising that roofing issues are by far the biggest area of insurance and warranty claims. And what’s the most common problem? You guessed it: water ingress.

What’s frustrating for self builders and renovators who encounter this kind of scenario is that, with a little more thought from their designers and contractors, most of these problems can be completely eliminated. Here’s what to watch out for on your project.

Read More

How to Get Planning Permission First Time

Getting planning consent for the perfect scheme can be a major stumbling block on the road to a successful project. Mike Dade shares the secrets that will give you the best possible chance of winning approval.

Most self-builders and renovators, having secured a plot or building to convert or refurbish, want to get on with the build as quickly as possible. With planning applications taking at least two months from submission to decision, nobody wants to go through the process more than once if they can avoid it.

So, what are the causes of delays and refusals in the planning process – and what steps can you take to avoid them and give yourself the best possible chance of securing consent at the first attempt?

Common sticking points

The most frequent causes of delays and refusals can be grouped into three broad categories: content and presentation of the application; conflicts with policy and planning officers’ opinions; and political issues. Many applications are delayed on submission because the council won’t validate and register them.

Forms, plans, accompanying reports and information and the necessary fee must all be correctly presented. The eight-week period for determining the application won’t start until the council is satisfied that everything is present and correct.

Once underway, any conflicts with local or national planning policy (or the planning officer’s interpretation of those policies) can result in rejection – or at least a request for you to make amendments, which will have obvious ramifications for your schedule.

Finally, where the project is locally contentious, applications can sometimes be rejected at committee, even if you have the support of your council’s planning officer.Working with a specialist design and build company, such as Potton, can take some of the hassle out of the planning process. The company’s expert team came up with a sensitive plan to knock down the Kings’ existing 100m2 bungalow and replace it with a new, eco-friendly dwelling that was twice the size. Planning was quickly granted without a hitch.

Read More

MPs call for end to dominance of large housebuilders

An investigation by a House of Commons select committee into the housebuilding sector has called for the dominance of the large housebuilders to end to fix the UK’s broken housing market.

large housebuilders

The Communities and Local Government committee said it had found that the eight largest firms were building over half of all new homes in the country making the industry over reliant on an “alarmingly small number of commercial actors”.

The report added that while no evidence of land banking by the housebuilders had been found there was little incentive for them to build any quicker. In addition, the committee said that land was in such high demand in some areas that developers were paying over the odds which in turn meant they were having to increase the density of homes on schemes and reduce levels of affordable housing to recover their investment.

Developers were also building more slowly so as not to saturate the market and lower house prices, the report said, and recommended the case be examined for public intervention.

Read More