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Survey highlights costly repairs in Clapham, London

Released On 19th Apr 2018

Our case study tells the story of a Victorian ground floor flat in Clapham, London SW4, where our building survey saved the prospective purchaser around £30,000 in unforeseen repair costs to this apparently "fully modernised" property! 

The property

53 Tremadoc Road, London SW4 7NA; a ground floor flat in a mid-terrace, three-story Victorian property in the Clapham area of London (SW4). 


We were approached by the prospective purchaser of the flat, who wanted to know whether he should get a building survey or Homebuyer Report, the flat having been the subject of recent refurbishment by a developer.  As the property had apparently been completely modernised, he asked for our opinion as to whether any survey was required, and if it was, would a Homebuyer Report suffice, as he expected us to find very little of note.  

Our recommendation

We gave our opinion that we should report on the whole of the exterior of the building, as he would be potentially liable for a third of the costs for any external refurbishment programme in the future. The building survey format was far more suited to a property of this age and type.  Slightly reluctantly, our client agreed to our recommendation, perhaps feeling that the full building survey we were proposing was overkill.  

The survey findings

Rear elevations in poor condition

Clapham flat - survey of rear elevation

We found that the exterior of the property as a whole, particularly the rear elevation, was in poor condition, and had had no maintenance work carried out for a very long time.  

It’s not at all uncommon on traditional London terraced properties for a building survey to find neglect to rear elevations, even if the front elevation does have some maintenance carried out over the years. This is primarily due to the difficulties of getting scaffold to the rear of the property, which cannot come through the flats, and therefore needs to go over the roof.  It’s unsurprising that rear elevations can often go for decades without being re-painted or refurbished. 

In the case of the subject property, our survey discovered cracking to the rear elevation around a number of the window openings. This would entail the removal of the render and making-good works to the structure behind, before re-plastering works took place, in combination with full external redecoration and other associated repairs being required.  

Cracking to rear elevation around window openings

Costly repairs for parapet walls

The parapet walls to the main roof were also in poor condition, and we estimated the cost to be somewhere in the region of £30,000 for a full external refurbishment, to include the scaffold, VAT and professional fees.  There was therefore an expenditure that the client was going to have to face in the near future of £10,000, which he had not budgeted for, as his third share of the proposed costs.

In addition, there were a number of items that we discovered specifically relating to the subject flat, which, in theory, should not have been present where a flat had been fully modernised.

Painting over timber decay around windows

Timber decay around window of Clapham flat

Firstly, some of the original single glazed windows and doors had been retained and, despite having been painted, timber decay was discovered beneath the paint finish.  The developer had made no effort to change the windows for double-glazed replacement types, and had simply covered over areas of timber decay, rather than repairing them before any paint finish was applied.

Poor quality materials and workmanship to rear subsidiary roof leading to damp

Secondly, our survey discovered that a rear subsidiary roof directly above one of the bedrooms, which should have been covered with sheet metal, had simply been overcoated with mineralised felt, which is the poorest quality roofing material available. In this situation, the felt would only be used in an effort to reduce cost. Certainly the felt could not be relied upon to give a long-term waterproofing solution into the future.  

Not only had inappropriate felt been used, rather than, say, sheet zinc or lead, but the perimeter detail had been made good with waterproof tape, in an effort to keep out water penetrating around the perimeter. The left side parapet wall, which should have had proper concrete coping stones on top, had simply been covered over with the felt.  Dampness was penetrating at high level into the room in the flat beneath as a result. The roof needed urgent recovering.

Paint disguising rising damp

Finally, throughout the flat, rising dampness was discovered.  It was not visible to the naked eye, but the developer had made no effort to ascertain whether such dampness was present, and had simply painted the rooms with the rising dampness still active at low level.  In order for this to be treated, all of the plaster in the affected areas would have to be removed, the brick walls behind injected with a chemical damp-proof course, and then significant re-plastering works would need to take place to complete the damp-proofing procedure. 

Essentially therefore, areas of plaster and the associated dirt and disturbance throughout the flat would need to be actioned in a development that was being advertised as fully modernised.

How our building survey helped our client

We estimated the cost of these repair items, plus other items found within the subject flat, at around £20,000.

The prospective purchaser was therefore facing expenditure of £30,000 over and above the amount he had anticipated spending. He therefore made immediate overtures to the developer with a view to substantially reducing the purchase price by at least £20,000, and if this did not prove successful, he was proposing not to buy the flat and to look for another, better quality two-bedroom flat in the Clapham area.

If you think you would benefit from a building survey on a property you own or are thinking of buying, get in touch for jargon-free advice and a quote.

Call us on 07711 491000 or email


Category: Case Studies

Tags: Older properties, London, Render, Window problems, Full building survey, Terraced houses, Price negotiations, Rising damp, Cracks, Penetrating damp