Listed Building Surveys

Listed building surveys are a specialised field - done properly by an historic building surveyor, you will learn a great deal about the building.  The default organisation covering Historic, or Listed buildings is used to be the IHBC (Institute of Historic Building Conservation) - Peter has been a long time member of IHBC and has been very active within the organisation.

They are sometimes referred to a Historic Building Surveys.

Most ordinary Chartered surveyors are not experienced or qualified to understand these buildings. The reasons are very simple:

A  Listed Building Surveyor needs to fully understand the legislation that protects Listed Buildings.  There is a lot of it, and it constantly changes - from the old PPG15, through PPS5 to the NPPF that we currently work with.  Pete has had an active role in helping shape this legislation through his involvement with IHBC, and the Consultations group which advises HMG on policy changes.  

To be able to survey a listed building, you also need to understand the building.  This means knowing your bricks, timber types, mortars, and roofing materials.  Years of study will give you an insight as to how buildings have evolved over time, and how construction methods change.  

When we advise clients about Listed Buildings, we use our extensive knowledge of the cost of work to them.  We have taken Listed Buildings apart, and rebuilt them.  We know what it costs to repair a heritage building - what materials to use, how to use them, and where to get them.  We never stop learning - attending CPD courses on a regular basis - run by SPAB, Weald and Downland Museum, Historic England, IHBC and others.  

Listed or Heritage buildings seem to suffer from damp and timber decay problems.  Actually they don't - it is the people living in them that create the problems, and we work tirelessly to educate the public about how to keep a Listed building free from damp.  It is not hard, and it is not expensive.

You also need to be quite fit to be a listed building surveyor.  We often have to access tiny holes and hatches that lead to hidden parts of roof spaces, or priest holes behind chimney stacks that many people did not even know existed.  We don't wear shiny shoes and white shirt and tie, or a jacket. You need to crawl under floors, and climb out of windows and tiny hatches that access the roof.  Jeans and sweatshirt are the norm - you get dirty surveying a Listed Building! 

What we do:

Listed Building Surveys for buyers

We survey the building exhaustively - looking at structure, the materials it is made of, its history and development.  

We look for any unauthorised alterations or additions the previous owners may have carried out. Don't forget you will automatically assume responsibility for these if you buy the building - it passes with the building not the person who did the work.  We look at the planning history of the building, and examine all Listed Building Consents that have been approved or rejected to understand what is legal and what may not be.  This can have a substantial effect on any financial negotiations. 

We look at the feasibility of any changes you are thinking of making.  Often these may simply not be possible - or by changing the way they are presented, they may be eminently successful.  We know the planning guidelines for alterations to Listed Buildings, and can assist with advice on what will succeed.  We understand the materials to be used.  Unlike other Listed Building Surveyors, we have worked with the materials, used them extensively, and understand what works and what does not.

Building Conservation is the buzz word these days - we help with all things 'Conservation' - working with BS: 7913 as the broad overview.  Leading on from this, we look at the cost and nature of any repairs needed.  We look at the materials needed - the skills required, and help to cost these repairs so you have a structured budget and specification.  This will take into account the roof, chimneys, stormwater drainage, walls, ground levels, and internal plasterwork.  We look at how to maintain windows - the cost to take these into a Linseed Paint system, which reduces joinery maintenance.  We look at floors - how to work with limecrete floors, and introduce low level underfloor heating.

Listed Building Surveys for home owners.

We work with owners of Listed Buildings to help you understand the history of the building and how it developed over the ages.  This informs our understanding - what has happened since then - what materials have been used, and why.  From this, we begin to build a picture of what may be wrong with the building - why is it damp, why is there decaying timber, and why is brickwork and stonework deteriorating.  We explain the mechanisms which take place.  Peter is an expert in geochemistry - he understands decay, chemistry, and the effects that salts have on masonry.  

Timber framed buildings require particular expertise.  The Team have worked on, taken apart, and rebuilt historic timber frames.  We have studied and understand wood, and joinery. It is this deep seated understanding of timber frame building that sets us far apart from any other surveyors.  We do a lot of Listed Building surveys in Kent, where there are many timber frames.  Pete works with medieval Hall houses in Wales, and timber frames all over Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.

We help prepare Listed Building Consent applications.  Unlike other surveyors, we have in house architect services, and prepare all the drawings needed - using architectural experience with in-depth knowledge of Listed Buildings.  We prepare a detailed Heritage Statement and Design and Access Statement.  

Finally - we have all worked with  craftsmen on numerous projects.  Unlike most surveyors, we have run teams of contractors on Conservation projects across the country.  We have excellent connections in London, Kent and the South East, the Midlands, and much of Northern England.  We will help wherever possible in finding and selecting the right people to work on your building - and making sure they stay closely with the specifications and budgets set.


A Historic Building Horror story

Pete recently surveyed a Listed Building - Grade 2.  Peter Cox damp proofing (a PCA company) had been sent in by a valuation surveyor to do a 'timber and damp' survey. They had recommended stripping priceless historic plaster and early Georgian skirtings and architraves - in order to 'damp proof' perfectly dry walls.  Pete did a Historic Building Survey.  Had the clients gone through with this scandalous Peter Cox Ltd recommendation, they would have been held liable for criminal damage of a Listed Building.

This is the full story:

What is Listed?

Listed Buildings are mis-understood by many. Often we hear of solicitors telling clients that 'only the outside' is Listed, or that 'the listing only applies to the staircase'. The reality is that the entire building, inside and out, and anything attached to, or near it, will either be Listed or Curtilage listed.  If in doubt - assume that it IS protected. This does NOT mean that you can't maintain the building. Repairs and maintenance are exempt from the need for Listed Building Consent. Repairs MUST be done using materials sympathetic with the building - this is where most of the problems we find with Listed buildings can occur.  Timber frames for example, are repaired using modern silicone sealants and glues which rot the timber almost immediately.  Infill panels which were once wattle and daub are replaced with wire mesh and cement render - this also immediately rots the timber.  Brick walls are re-pointed with cement which causes spalling of the brickwork. Property Care Association registered damp companies will do their 'damp surveys' and sell injection damp proofing - which actually constitutes Criminal Damage of a Listed Building.  You cannot cause irreversible damage to a Listed building - if you do, you are likely to end up in court.  That said, using traditional, breathable materials to maintain an old building is fun. Learning about them can be fun too - there are lots of great courses available, and the people who are involved are nearly always nice too!

Listed building surveyors have a duty to find out if there are any unauthorised works to the building.  If, for example windows have been replaced with UPVC plastic windows, this will be viewed as illegal, and you are likely to have to replace them at your cost. The team are very experienced at picking illegal works - part of the survey involves looking at the Listing, and comparing it with what is currently there.  We look at the planning history of the building to ensure that any applications have been carried out legally, and any conditions imposed have been met.  Often conditions are not discharged.

For example; in a recent survey Pete checked the Conditions - which clearly stated to the developer that all Gutters and Downpipes should be replaced with cast iron.  They were all plastic.  The seller was made to replace the plastic with new cast iron materials so the Condition was met, and the sale could proceed.  

Don't forget - when you buy a Listed Building, you INHERIT legal responsibility for anything that has been done previously, even if you didn't have anything to do with it.  It becomes YOUR responsibility.  So be careful!

A big part of a Listed Building Survey is helping our client understand the building - the materials it is built with, how it has evolved over the ages, and how to maintain it. We take a close look at costs and materials - and help you schedule maintenance  so you don't suddenly get landed with big bills for unexpected work.  A well maintained old building with all the right materials, should not cost much to keep in top shape. 

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