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Q. Do I need building regulation approval for my work?

All new build and most structural alterations require a Building Regulation application for the work. This applies to removal of load bearing walls, new openings, alterations to roof structure, including the removal of props or the addition of strengthening which may re-distribute loading. There is a very good reason for this in that a building may function satisfactorily, but once loads are redistributed to different locations, problems can arise. It is always advisable to write to the local authority and obtain written clarification of whether an application is required.

Alterations where items of structure are being repaired like for like do not usually require an application, but again it is best to check first. Re-roofing does not generally require permission and if decayed roof timbers are being replaced with timbers of equal quality and size in exactly the same place as they were originally, then again this does not normally require permission. This also applies to the re-building of parts of walls and other similar operations. Note insulation requirements though.

A professional in the field of the Building Regulations should always be consulted before works are carried out. A Structural Engineer can advise on what works are necessary to comply with the Building Regulations, particularly where structural alterations are being undertaken. The Building Regulations are there to protect you and subsequent owners, not as a hindrance.

Q. Do I need a contract with my builder?

It is extremely important to have a contract for any works to protect both the Client, Builder and to lay down the terms and conditions under which the work will be undertaken. A contract will define the scope of the works, insurance requirements and price of the works, together with details of when payments should be made. There are numerous contracts to choose from and the most common in use today are the Federation of Master Builders Contract, the JCT Contract (Minor Works, intermediate and full contract), the New Engineering Contract and the ICE Conditions of Contract. The type of contract will depend upon the nature of the works to be undertaken. The JCT and New Engineering Contracts come in many different forms. The best way to decide which contract to use is to obtain professional advice.

A contract protects a Client from unreasonable claims for extras, late completion of a contract and against defective workmanship. It will also ensure that the builders provide the necessary insurances to protect the works during the contract. If the correct insurances are not in force, it may be necessary for the client to bear the cost of any problems such as a fire or collapse, which may not be covered by a normal domestic insurance policy while works are being undertaken.

From a Builder's viewpoint, the contract will lay down the terms for payment and make provision for interest should payments be received late. The contract will also lay down various provisions and will define what work has been priced. Any additions to the contract instructed by the Client can then legitimately be claimed as extras and costs recovered through provisions in the contract. The project may be delayed for a reason outside the Builder's control and the contract will enable an extension of time to be granted to the Builder to avoid liquidated damages being imposed when any delay is outside his control. In order for a contract to work efficiently, it should be administered by an Engineer or other suitably qualified professional.

Q. Can you resolve disputes?

We can advise on the suitability of advice received, the performance of other professionals and prepare reports.

If a Client considers a Builder is overcharging or is unhappy with work undertaken, or a contractor is unhappy about works which he has completed and not been paid for, then a dispute has arisen.

We can help resolve disputes by carrying out a detailed inspection of the works, together with a desk study of contract documents, invoices and events which have taken place. It is often advisable to try to resolve disputes without court action because the costs can be considerable. We aim to prepare a clear, decisive report on the facts surrounding a dispute and to set up a meeting with both parties to discuss the matter and hopefully resolve it. If it becomes necessary then our report can be advanced to a full Expert Witness report to be used in court proceedings.

Q. Do you carry out project management?

We carry out project management where we are responsible for running a project from conception through to completion of construction works.

This can take enormous pressure off the Client, who will receive regular updates on progress and be involved as much or as little as he/she desires.