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My builder has removed a ground floor and first floor chimney breast on a party wall and has not supported the chimney stack on the left hand side. The steel beam spans across 2 gallows brackets but the chimney stack is not resting on the steel beam on the left hand side. He has not had a structural engineer come up with a specification/calcs. etc before the supports installation. He tells me this will be done on September 4th. He will send a builder round to look at the problem on Tuesday. As far as I know he's ripped the chimney breasts out without engaging with the neighbour /council. From what I've read on here about party walls it seems he has been remiss. Am I right and what should I do?
As far as the supports go, my gut instinct tells me a structural engineer should have been involved before the installation and should certainly be involved before any remedial works are carried out. I'm inclined to get my own structural engineer and workman.
What should I do?
My builder would not touch a chimney breast removal without a structural engineers report
I would stop all work get one in asap as it may not be safe. They are not cheap though
Speak to the neighbour to warn then of a potentially unstable structure and get a party wall agreement if required
Check your buildings insurance and checked if your builder has PI insurance
Make notes of your conversations to date with him and the nature of your terms of engagement as you see it
This could go pear shaped.
Jonathan Clarke. http://www.buytoletmk.com
Many thanks for your advice.
The project is nearly finished. Tenants are living in it. I've only just found out about the problem which is/has been one of many. It's too late for a party wall agreement. I have emailed him about the problem so have a written record of his actions.
He has not been on site for many weeks now and is really making my life difficult. I fully expect to end up in court with him.
I'm outlining my problems with him on another thread. I intend to name him in about a week's time after he has come back to me after visiting his solicitor. He's drinking in the last chance saloon.
For starters, fear not. Yes, there is a gap at the left hand side of the supporting steel but the way that brickwork spreads its load means that this does not present an immediate danger or issue. It's not possible to see how the gallows brackets have been fixed to the wall so I'm unable to make make an accurate summation of the efficacy of the chosen method but it would appear* sufficient (it should be resin fixed to the brickwork on minimum M12 studs)
(*I am not a structural engineer so am only offering my opinion based on experience)
The work has now been done which means it's too late to engage your neighbours in a party wall agreement. A party wall agreement covers all sides in the event of a problem arising. It's chief purpose is to keep legal spats out of court by setting out an agreed framework on how the work will be done and how problems will be addressed should they arise. Non-compliance with the Party Wall Act can often land you in hot water if your neighbours aren't happy and are clued up in terms of stopping the work from continuing. You also open yourself up to "your work did this damage to our side of the wall" accusations. Without a proper party wall award it's impossible for you to fight back. Your surveyor would have inspected and photographed next door prior to the commencement of works to protect you from such issues. Once the work is done it's not too late for complaints to be logged against you but if no-one has spoken up yet it's unlikely they will in my experience. There will be repercussions when you come to sell the property - the buyers solicitors will want to see the Party Wall Agreement and Building Control paperwork. You won't be able to provide the PWA but that can be mitigated using an indemnity insurance policy (your solicitor will be able to guide you with this). It is imperative now that you get Building Control Approval of the work that has taken place. For that you will need structural calcs and a site visit. If your builder will be arranging for these then great. Even better if he is submitting them to Building Control for you and handling them for you. You would be wise to keep an eye on who they are engaging; making sure they are correctly qualified is paramount although Building Control will let you or them know if their work isn't up to scratch.
As for remedial work. Again, just based on the photo and my experience I'd say there is just some pointing required to fill in the gap between the steel and the brickwork. That will suffice to spread the load across the whole length. If you feel you need to engage your own structural engineer to check then do so. It will put your mind at ease. You can't put a sterling value on that.
Bottom line. Have you paid your builder for all the work? If not don't pay another dime until you've had the calcs provided, approved and had Building Control visit to check and approve the work. I never pay the balance until I have the completion certificate in my hand. It's amazing how organised and proactive your builder can be when their money hangs on it.
I should know. I used to be one! As has been said on threads on here before - you're not the first person this has happened to and you certainly won't be the last. Take comfort in that and stay sharp in terms of getting your paperwork and all will be well.
Many thanks for your advice and reassurances.
I've requested a method statement, calculations and specification but none are forthcoming until 4th September (allegedly). Unfortunately I have already paid him for a lot more work than he has done.
He has not been on the job now for several weeks and the project is nearly finished. It started in January and was supposed to finish in April. He told me he'd paid the Building Regs fee in January and had had them out to site twice. I checked with the Building Control office and they have never been out to site and he only lodged the application on 25th July! I expect this to cause me problems. To compound matters I am selling the property (5 bed HMO) and so far have only got the gas safety certificate from him.
The whole experience has been a nightmare. I am outlining my problems on another tribe forum and expect I'll be back on here for more advice before the nightmare is behind me.
We have removed dozens of these and used gallows brackets, though this system is starting to be frowned upon and some building inspectors wont accept them.
Given the situation you are in, you don't want to make this into a bigger problem than it is. It would have been good for the builder to check if the neighbour has done the same, and if he has then the stack really needs to come down but the absolute priority here is to get some slate packers or steel shims into the gap on the left hand side and further along where there is a gap. You have some brickwork under the steel and if thats tied in and supported by some timbers that will also help.
If you get some packers in there, then get a structural engineer to have a look I think he will tell you thats fine, at that point you can then mention it to the neighbour. The brickwork narrows towards roof so am i right in assuming chimney is only about 4ft above roof?
Stewardson Developments Ltd.
Burson Land Ltd. & Jennings & Gilchreaste Ltd.
Follow me on twitter - @philstewardson
Many thanks for the advice.
Yes the chimney stack is only about 4' above the roof.
THERE SHOULD BE A STEEL PLATE SEALING THE UNDERSIDE OF THE FLUES, RESTING ON THE BEAM AND BRACKETS. AND IT NEEDS PACKING/WEDGING (ASSUMING BRACKETS ARE ACCEPTABLE IN THIS INSTANCE, WHICH BC WILL ADVISE) BETWEEN THE MASONRY AND THE STEEL PLATE.
BUILDING CONTROL NEED TO INSPECT PROB. UNDER THE REGULARISATION PROCEDURE.
Thanks for that Joe. When it rains one of my tenants can hear running water and dripping in the en-suite where one of the chimney breasts used to be located. Seems like water is still getting down the flue.
THE SEALING PLATES WOULD HAVE STOPPED THAT. AND THE POTS SGOULD BE RENEWED WITH CAPPED AND VENTED TERMINALS.
I've had a roofer on the job and he's taken some great photos of the top of the chimney. It has most definitely not been sealed properly and it's no wonder water is getting in. I'll be posting these pics in the Investing in South Yorkshire thread on the Multi Lets/HMO forum as soon as he emails them to me.