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Last edited 02 Sep 2020
Building surveys are a means of providing a detailed evaluation of a property's condition and involve an extensive inspection. Whilst not being the only type of survey available to property owners, a building survey is the most common, particularly for domestic clients.
The surveys are generally undertaken to help property owners understand the condition of a property, recording risks and potential expenditure that may be required, enabling them develop the appropriate remedial or maintenance plans. They may also be prepared for individual homeowners, home buyers, or for investors in property portfolios to help inform future investments.
- Structural survey.
- Habitat survey.
- Thermographic survey.
- Ecological survey.
- Tree hazard survey.
- Soil survey.
- Site survey.
- 3D laser survey.
Generally carried out by chartered surveyors, surveys may be presented as a formal, stand-alone report that provides a snapshot of a property at a particular point in time, including all elements of the property that are accessible, together with recommendations for an appropriate strategy for dealing with any issues that might have arisen.
- Listed buildings.
- Older buildings (usually 50 years old or more).
- Buildings facing renovation or redevelopment.
- Buildings that have already been renovated, altered or redeveloped.
- Buildings with unusual designs or construction features.
- Buildings that are being purchased.
As opposed to other reports, there is a lack of standardisation of building surveys, which means that it is important the client makes clear precisely what they require and whether they have specific concerns or interests in certain elements. For instance, a standard building survey might not investigate heating or electrical equipment, but this can be included if specifically requested. The client may have a particular interest in the roof or floor structure, which the surveyor may not be able to gain access to unless this has been arranged.
 Aims of a building survey
The most common aims of a building survey might include:
- Documenting the present condition of the property, highlighting areas of failure or concern.
- Identifying causes of past, or ongoing, deterioration.
- Identifying issues that need attention to prevent serious damage.
- Identifying things that need further enquiries to pre-empt problems in the future.
- Presenting conservation and maintenance recommendations.
- Providing an estimate of the cost of any works that may be required.
- General property condition.
- Identifiable defects.
- Any structural movement, through subsidence or settlement.
- Deterioration due to rising damp, penetrating damp, surface condensation or interstitial condensation.
- Rot or infestations such as woodworm.
- Heating ventilation and air conditioning services.
- Other building services such as electrical services, plumbing, drainage, and so on.
- Alterations that may have been made.
- Environmental issues.
- Legal issues that may require an additional expert investigation or advice.
- Energy performance.
 Techniques of a building survey
The most common techniques used for carrying out a building survey include:
- Visual examination, as opposed to an invasive one where carpets, floor coverings, furniture and so on may need to be moved or taken up.
- External examination from ground level of roofs, chimneys and other surfaces of the building. This also includes an examination of boundary walls, fences, permanent outbuildings and areas in common (shared) use.
- The use of equipment such as a dictaphone, camera, damp-meter, binoculars, torch, a short ladder, and so on.
- Depending on safe access being available, internal examination of the roof structure.
- Floor surfaces and under-floor spaces depending on safe access.
- Photographs, which may subsequently be annotated where necessary for the report.
Surveyors should exercise caution when carrying out surveys. Working at height, in confined spaces or in areas that are not generally habitable can be hazardous, and materials such as asbestos may be present which can be hazardous to health. Particular care should be taken in properties showing signs of deterioration, properties that have been unoccupied or properties where building works are being carried out.
A detailed building survey of a house can take up to a day to complete, with the final report provided to the property owner up to 2 or more weeks thereafter. Larger or more complex buildings may take considerably longer.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Affordable housing.
- Building archaeology.
- Building pathology.
- Building People.
- Conservation of the historic environment.
- Desk study.
- Ecological survey.
- Energy efficiency of traditional buildings.
- Environmental permit.
- Ground investigation.
- Historic building investigation.
- Home Energy Masterplan.
- Home information pack HIP.
- Homebuyer Report.
- Land surveying.
- Listed buildings.
- Measurement of existing buildings.
- Site appraisals.
- Site surveys.
- Soil report.
- Soil survey.
- Surveying instruments.
- Thermography for traditional buildings.
- Vendor survey.
- Walkover survey.
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