Advice needed on roof structure

Discussion in 'Engineers' Talk' started by Malpighiales, Feb 26, 2021.

  1. Malpighiales

    Malpighiales New Member

    We're in the process of buying a mid-terrace Victorian/Edwardian (estimated at 1900) house and have just received our Home Buyer's Survey. Unsurprisingly, given the age of the property, it gives the impression the place is about to fall down! Most of the issues are things you'd expect of a property of this age and are not really causes for concern, but there's a big thing that we think needs urgent attention and aren't sure of the costs and work involved.

    We need help!

    The problem
    A previous owner took out the chimney breast from the first floor but left it in on the ground floor and left in the stack. They supported the stack with gallows brackets. This hasn't adequately supported the stack and the damage to the roof structure is now pretty major. Here are some quotes from our survey:

    Some chimney breast masonry has been removed and the remaining masonry is supported on gallows brackets in the roof space. This is considered bad practice and an alternative means of support should be installed which complies with current Building Regulations ... The main roof covering has been replaced with heavier tiles. The roof structure has not been adequately strengthened and improvements are now needed ... The roof structure is defective. Supporting timbers are poorly supported on the walls and have bowed in places. Repair and upgrading is now needed. The right hand party wall contains holes and gaps. The gaps should be sealed to the underside of the roof covering. Some of the boards laid down for storage and access purposes are poorly supported ... Leakage is occurring past the chimney flashing and roof abutments. Repair is needed and nearby timbers checked for decay ... Flashings to the roof are pulling away from the wall and poorly detailed in places ... The mortar pointing to the stacks is weathered. Some repointing is required to reduce further deterioration and structural problems arising. Repairs are needed to the flashings around the middle stack as they are leaking ... Repairs are needed to the bricks and render to the stacks as they are cracked and spalled.

    So, in summary, the roof structure needs urgent repair and the stack needs to either be supported with something like a steel beam or it needs to be taken out (depending on whether the neighbour would be happy with us doing that as it's a mid-terrace house). We could see the roof was bowing when we viewed the property, but we didn't expect to uncover so many causes.

    The ask
    Does anyone have any experience of doing this sort of work? Would we need a structural engineer to inspect the roof structure for quotes? Do you have any idea what it would cost to repair the roof structure?

    Long-term, we'd like to convert the loft anyway. Would it make more sense to just wrap all of that into one big job rather than repair the roof structure and then convert the loft later?
  2. Bob Rathbone

    Bob Rathbone Screwfix Select

    Get the seller to have the rectification work done before you buy. Then get a second homebuyers survey. The survey has done what it should and has saved you a bundle of cash. The roof and chimney issues are the most serious as the roof has not been adequately supported to take the new covering, the solution would be strengthen the roof structure or change the covering for a lightweight solution. The chimney is shared with the neighbor, this is a very difficult issue that could lead to litigation from the neighbor as the stability of his chimney has been compromised by the work done on you proposed house. This is a minefield, get the major issues fixed and accepted before you buy.
    Malpighiales and rogerk101 like this.
  3. quasar9

    quasar9 Screwfix Select

    It’s pretty good for a homebuyers survey. A building survey (previously called structural) will be more thorough and may discover further issues but it will also give a ballpark figure for remediation.

    your choice, get a builder to give you a quote and negotiate with the vendors for a reduction or walk away, unless it was priced to allow for these defects. I do realise you have invested time and money to get to this stage but at the end of the day you have to decide if the cost of the property plus repairs exceeds the real price. Ask your estate agent of how much the house will fetch if in good condition and decorative sate to help you in your decision
    Malpighiales likes this.
  4. Bob Rathbone

    Bob Rathbone Screwfix Select

    The stability of the chimney stack is a major issue as it affects your neighbor's property. This must be corrected before completion, if not any remedial work to the neighbor's house will be your responsibility. I would not proceed until the stack at least has been made safe.
    Malpighiales likes this.
  5. Malpighiales

    Malpighiales New Member

    I forgot to thank you all for your help – cheers everyone!

    Update: we had the sellers get a structural engineer to assess the chimney stack and gallows brackets. He was satisfied with the brackets as they are and, with his report, the local council regularised the work. I'm not entirely reassured as the engineer only inspected photos, and he doesn't seem to have factored in the fact that the neighbour has a dormer conversion that required cutting out some of the thickness of the wall. So, we're going to get a second opinion from an engineer friend and go from there. For now, we have the regulation certificate, we negotiated down the price and we're in about as good a position as we could be. Thanks again
  6. jonathanc

    jonathanc Guest

    Except you have a structural engineers report that you cannot rely on abc if your friend is wrong no way of suing them for negligence

    the better approach is to appoint your own engineer and rely on their opinion
  7. Malpighiales

    Malpighiales New Member

    I appreciate that, but it also comes at a cost and we have the council inspection to support it. With their structural engineer, our structural engineer friend and the council, I think we've crossed the Ts and dotted the Is.

    Here are some photos:
  8. Hans_25

    Hans_25 Screwfix Select

    If you are having a mortgage on the place, get the defects sorted and your **** covered.

    Best of all, invest a bit of money to have your own structural engineer do an actual inspection and report to you on their findings. That will give you peace of mind and some idea of the cost of remedial work (if required) and provide you with leverage on the sellers to drop the price accordingly.

    This is not a minor issue, its structural and affecting next door too. Avoid the cost and hassle of having to get things sorted with party wall agreements and such like.
  9. jonathanc

    jonathanc Guest

    you cannot rely on the council inspection: the offer not warranty on indemnity to third parties or home onwners. Many i's not dotted here or t's crossed. at the end of the day if there is an issue with nextdoor and they come after you then you pay. worse still your insurer will not as you were aware of the issue and did not seek professional advice you could rely on.
  10. stevie22

    stevie22 Screwfix Select

    OP has an SE report that the sellers have commissioned. Is there any reason to doubt his competance?

    I think I might just run it past the solicitor to make sure that the SE's PI would cover you as you were not party to that SE contract. Shouldn't be a problem as the inspection is for the purpose of selling the house. You also have the Council saying it complies with building regs.

    Worst case your insurance would be stuck with it because you have been told by a professional and the council that all is well and both of these have to be considered as professional advise you can rely on. You have done everything right.

    FWIW the installation looks fine except a couple of the studs are sticking out more than usual. This may be they're too long or may be not drilled deep enough.
    Malpighiales likes this.
  11. jonathanc

    jonathanc Guest

    The structural engineers report is to the sellers. The report like any professional advice cannot be relied upon by third parties ( like the buyers) Rely on it and find out something goes wrong and you cannot pursue him. Neither will your insurer pay out as you did not seek a structural engineers report you could rely on

    you really don’t understand how professional advice works. An advisor advises their client and accepts no responsibility or liability to anyone else.
  12. stevie22

    stevie22 Screwfix Select

    I'm a professional engineer FWIW.

    You seem to have missed my advice to check with his solicitor for his views.
  13. jonathanc

    jonathanc Guest

    waste of time. No professional will provide reliance to third parties on their advice and if that are daft enough to do so they’ll not have PI cover.
  14. Bob Rathbone

    Bob Rathbone Screwfix Select

    I refer you back to my first post, if it's not too late.
    jonathanc likes this.
  15. Mr Rusty

    Mr Rusty Screwfix Select

    Have to say mid terrace houses are not exactly uncommon, and it would have to be pretty special otherwise to want to take one on with a load of issues.
  16. Tyler Worgan

    Tyler Worgan New Member

    What is the basic structure of a roof?
  17. Malpighiales

    Malpighiales New Member

    The roof and stack have since been seen by a few roofers and another structural engineer. All have confirmed that the roof is nowhere near as bad as the survey suggested and that the gallows brackets are OK as is. It seems to really just be a case of replacing a few cracked tiles, repointing the stack and reinforcing a couple of timbers. Not especially expensive to put right and about what you'd expect for a house of this age

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