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A car careered off the road hitting the front single storey extension, causing damage to the hallway, the front room and the bathroom. This was how Thursday morning started for one unlucky driver.
Overview of what happened (but we'll never really know)
Various phone calls followe to discover that the car had come off the road, sliding sideways, hitting the semi-detached two up two down property (luckily with no-one inside) at just after midnight. The neighbours advised that soon after several police cars, fire engines and an ambulance had arrived. The person in the car was rescued, but they had to be cut out. We were also advised that the structural engineers from the local authority had been called out that night, as they were uncertain if the building should be classified as a dangerous structure or not, which had resulted in various acrow props (the trade name for supports) being put underneath the roof of the structure to hold it in place and local builders being called out to board up the property.
The next day's appointments were rearranged so a visit could be made. Surprisingly, upon arriving, as we drove towards the house it looked like very little had happened, due to the way the house had been boarded up (which must have been quite a task as it was dark when the work was being carried out). Outwardly the property looked to have a rendered face as the plywood was the same colour as the render next to it and did not look out of place.
Structural damage to the property
Our inspection involved not only looking at the area of impact damage but also the property as a whole, as both the initial impact and the subsequent change in the dynamics of how the structure works could affect the overall structural integrity of the property. There was a hole in the wall, to both the side and front of the property, which is approximately 12 metres squared (far larger than a car). As mentioned, it had taken part of the front and part of the side of the property from ground floor to roof level in some areas, the debris being pushed through the hallway and into the adjoining bathroom and lounge, as well as into the front garden area. This ha also hit the mains water supply, bending the pipes over, which had duly been turned off by the emergency services, along with the electricity. The rafters in the flat roof were exposed (this is a single storey extension) and had been supported using acrow props. Bricks are strong in compression but not in tension, as are blocks.
Bricks and blocks are strong in compression but not in tension
The sheer mass of debris is due to a wall being far stronger in compression, which is the downward force, than in tension, which are sideways forces (trees are very strong in tension so don't run into one of these, as the car will be far worse off). The hitting of the wall with the side of the car almost causes an explosion of brick and blockwork, which does make the accident seem much worse than it is.
In the cold light of day; the structural problem
In the cold light of day we can see that the acrow props really had been a belt and braces measure as although the roof timbers have been exposed they were supported by the remaining perimeter walls and an internal studwork wall. We checked the surrounding brickwork and whilst there was some diagonal step cracking (by step cracking we mean cracks that run along the steps of the mortar) there was no further structural damage in the area and that action required was to re-build the outer brickwork wall, the inner blockwork wall and reinstate the pipework.
Inspecting the rest of the house for structural problems
We still thought it was worth inspecting the rest of the property for further structural problems. Our main areas of concern were the two storey gable end wall and the roof as the property was approximately 100 to 150 years old. The wall was being rendered so we weren't certain of the construction and the roof may well have had other problems, such as wet rot, dry rot or woodworm, which would have caused further problems too.
Inspection for structural problems within the roof
We started by inspecting the roof structure, accessing via the loft hatch. We were pleased to see that the original roof structure had been replaced, probably in the 1960's, with a modern cut timber roof with pre-treated timbers, so there was no obvious visual problems of woodworm, wet rot or dry rot. We examined the truss roof rafters to the end of the property that had the impact closely and could find none that had been split or damaged, so we were happy with the roof space.
Checking the rendered walls for structural damage
We had a close inspection of all the external rendered walls to see if there was any new cracks from the impact damage and were pleased we couldn't find any. The way you spot the difference between a new and old crack is to see how clean the cracking is and if there is any ingrained dirt it. A clean crack without ingrained dirt would tend to be a newer crack. In this case there weren't any.
Getting the building work carried out to sort out the insurance claim
It was important to get the people back into the property so we decided to organise the repair work as quickly as possible. Later that day we met up with a bricklayer as this was the key trade needed, who advised us that the external brick was quite a specialised brick and may be difficult to match. So the hunt began for a matching brick, but first we needed to work out how many. For those that don't know this is as simple as counting the number of courses of brick upwards and across and multiplying to find the number and as difficult as then subtracting all the bricks that you can save and as the bricks are hard to find we were saving as many bricks as we possibly could. The final estimate was 350 bricks and we started our search at Travis Perkins, who duly advised us that they didn't have a brick like that and actually recommended several of their competitors. Luckily we decided to have a look as they did say they had about sixty different types of brick in stock.
First we found a near match and then we found a very good match. At the same time we had been asking around for stocks of old bricks and we managed to find approximately 100 of these that the people were happy to let us have free if we came and took them away. That's when we discovered the price of reclaimed bricks was expensive. We will never look at a brick the same again!
It was also discovered from further inspection that the outside brick boundary wall needed rebuilding as well, so we may well be short of bricks but we thought we'd start with 350 and go from there, as they only had about that number. Interestingly there are approximately 520 bricks on a pallet.
So how do builders price work?
It is as simple as the cost of the labour and the materials and any excess requirements, such as trestles, ladders or scaffolding and any equipment such as cement mixers, wheelbarrows, etc and equally it's as difficult as all those things. Labour rates for a skilled tradesman differ considerably in different areas, as does the amount of time that it's estimated to carry out such work.
We decided to do this work on what is known as a day rate, which we wouldn't recommend unless you have close control over the trades people, or a very good working relationship. A day work rate is literally where you pay them for the day's work plus any costs of materials, equipment and excess. So let's have a look at how the quote for this work was built up:
One element that we can't price is the late night repair work, which included the acrow props and the boarding up.
We then needed to look at the time/labour element of this:
Disposing of rubbish
The disposing of rubbish is easier said than done. One of the questions that arose was just how do you dispose of builder's rubbish? We tried the rubbish tip, to be advised that we were only allowed one wheelie bin per week and our van full of rubble exceeded this! After the man extracted a look of horror on our faces he then advised that he did know where we could get rid of the rubble and we were directed to the local quarry. It certainly is like a scene from a different planet.
Having donned our high visibility jackets and driven through the site we finally arrived at the builder's rubble pile.
We also saw this machine, you can just see it in the distance at the centre of the photo, which takes the pile of rubble on the left hand side and makes it into the dust on the right hand side.
The finished brickwork
Close up of completed brickwork
We have intentionally not put the costs in but broken everything down. We would be interested in your estimates of how much each section costs.
You may be interested in these other articles we have prepared:
If you need help and advise with regard to a building claim or insurance claim, commercial surveys, building, structural surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, specific defects report, home buyers reports or any other property matters please call 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat.
We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).
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