Your Build­ing Dilemmas Solved

Look­ing for ex­pert ad­vice on your project? Our team are here to an­swer your need-to-know ques­tions. This month, the ex­perts tackle re­mov­ing in­ter­nal walls, pack­age builds and choos­ing be­tween pitched and flat roofs

Homebuilding & Renovating - - Contents -

From re­mov­ing in­ter­nal walls, ex­ten­sions and pack­age build com­pa­nies, our ex­perts solve your build­ing ques­tions


I’ve been look­ing into pack­age com­pa­nies and have heard the term ‘turnkey’. What­does this mean and how do i de­cide whether it’s the route for me?


OLIVER GRIMSHAW SAYS: In a nut­shell, ‘turnkey’ is a term given to a com­pleted prod­uct. What con­sti­tutes a com­pleted prod­uct could pos­si­bly be open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion among var­i­ous pack­age build com­pa­nies. At Hanse Haus, for in­stance, when a client in­structs us to build a turnkey prop­erty for them we com­mit to de­liv­er­ing a house which is ready to move into.

Al­though it al­ways de­pends on the in­ter­nal fit out and ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign – both of which are de­ter­mined ac­cord­ing to in­di­vid­ual spec­i­fi­ca­tion – the es­ti­mated cost of a turnkey house is ap­prox­i­mately £1,500/m2. This price in­cludes ev­ery­thing from floor cov­er­ing, til­ing, stair­case, in­ter­nal/ex­ter­nal doors, and all plas­ter fin­ishes, to paint­work, sanitaryware, skirt­ing boards, in­ter­nal win­dow sills, elec­tri­cal work, plumb­ing and un­der­floor heat­ing, as well as a heat re­cov­ery sys­tem.

The only thing we stop at is the kitchen – giv­ing our clients the run of the mar­ket – al­though we work closely in co­or­di­nat­ing with cho­sen kitchen sup­pli­ers. Bear in mind that most pack­age com­pa­nies do not un­der­take the ground­works, foun­da­tions and ser­vice con­nec­tions. How­ever, we do work with and have long­stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with ground­work­ers to de­liver this as­pect of the build.

Our turnkey ser­vice al­lows us to man­u­fac­ture and com­plete a project ac­cord­ing to our clients’ pre­ferred stan­dards. That in­cludes build­ing to any level of en­ergy ef­fi­ciency (as long as that level is high!), and also fin­ish­ing the house with al­most any ex­ter­nal or in­te­rior fea­tures re­quested. The Hanse Haus sam­ple cen­tre in Ger­many, for in­stance, is home to thou­sands of in­te­rior and ex­te­rior fit­tings from which to choose from within the turnkey op­tion — with brand names such as Villeroy & Boch, Huppe, Hansa, Velux, Du­ravit, Hans­grohe and many more on of­fer.

Turnkey homes un­dergo count­less ex­ter­nal and in­ter­nal qual­ity checks, and the ben­e­fit of a site fore­man and project man­age­ment ser­vice means that there is al­ways some­one re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing qual­ity con­trol. In terms of whether it’s the most sen­si­ble route, self-builders look­ing to pro­tect them­selves from un­ex­pected costs and those seek­ing over­all peace of mind when it comes to qual­ity would likely find the turnkey op­tion their pre­ferred route to build­ing their dream home.


Wear­ere­placin­gourold fla­troofex­ten­sion­witha new, larger ad­di­tion, but we’re un­de­cided on whether­to­stick­with­afla­troofor go for a pitched roof de­sign. How can­webesureapitchedroofis­the bestchoice­forourex­ten­sion?


Pitched roofs are the most com­mon form of roof for UK homes. Al­most all roofs are ac­tu­ally slop­ing, but any roof with a slope of more than 5° would be considered pitched, and any with a slope of less than 5° is considered flat. Pitched roofs are typ­i­cally formed with tim­ber rafters (joists on a slope) thatare­sup­port­e­donthe­wall­so­fa­house, with fur­ther­sup­port­frompurlin­sandtruss­eswithin the roof space. A water­proof roof­ing felt is laid over the rafters be­neath hor­i­zon­tal tim­ber roof­ing bat­tens (reg­u­larly spaced small strips), which in turn sup­port roof tiles or slates.

If you are ex­tend­ing a house with a pitched roof, very of­ten a match­ing pitched roof over an ex­ten­sion can be the most pleas­ing form. How­ever, it is im­por­tant to try to keep to the same pitch an­gle, oth­er­wise it can look in­con­gru­ous. (Al­though, a match­ing pitched roof isn’t the only way to stay in-keep­ing.)

You’ll need to con­sider the height of your ex­ten­sion too. If you are propos­ing a pitched roof that slopes away from the house (of­ten known as a lean-to roof), then height could be an is­sue. As­sum­ing youmatch the pitch an­gle ofthe­main­roofandy­ouhavea­heighto­fatleast 2m at the low­est point, then, de­pend­ing upon the depth of the ex­ten­sion, you may find the roof would hit the house above the first-floor win­dows, so this needs care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion.

The roof over­hang in re­la­tion to the bound­ary will also in­flu­ence your choice as to whether a pitched roof is the best op­tion. The most­stan­dard­fea­ture­atth­elow­est­pointofthe slope (or eaves) is for the roof to over­hang the wall­be­low and there tobe a gut­ter on the edge. If you are ex­tend­ing right up to a bound­ary, how­ever, youwould ac­tu­ally need to build the ex­ten­sion wall well inside the bound­ary line so the roof edge doesn’t over­hang your neigh­bour’s prop­erty. Un­for­tu­nately this will re­duce the us­able space inside. Away to avoid thi­sis­touse­aslight­lyraised­para­pet­de­tail­with a box gut­ter be­hind.

When you’re ex­tend­ing close to a neigh­bour­ing prop­erty, the height at the bound­ary is cru­cial too when it comes to get­ting­plan­ning­per­mis­sion passed. Apara­pet can raise the wall height, so you must think care­fully about what de­sign you have for the junc­tion where roof and wall meet, and per­haps con­sider get­ting an ar­chi­tect to help with a spe­cial­ist de­tail such as cut­ting a slot gut­ter into the edge of the roof.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, pitched roofs tend to be a more ex­pen­sive choice than flat roofs – usu­ally by 20-30% – as they re­quire more work and­costlier­ma­te­ri­als. Forex­am­ple, ify­ouwere build­ing a mod­est flat-roofed rear ex­ten­sion, with a con­struc­tion el­e­ment in the re­gion of £20,000, prob­a­bly about £4,000 of that sum would be for the roof. With a pitched/tiled roof, it might be roughly an­other £1,000 or £1,500, as it would re­quire more tim­ber, more labour and­more ex­pen­sive roof fin­ishes (tiles or slate rather than EPDM rub­ber roof­ing or GRP fi­bre­glass roof­ing).

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, pitched roofs tend to be a more ex­pen­sive choice than flat roofs — usu­ally by 20-30%”


I’m ren­o­vat­ing a 1970s de­tached house and look­ing to open up my home­byre­mov­ing­some of the in­ter­nal walls. How best do I go about this?



Open­ing up spa­ces in older homes is be­com­ing more com­mon, and while it’snot­par­tic­u­lar­ly­d­if­fi­cult, it­need­sap­proach­ing cor­rectly— notjust­toen­surey­ourhome­doesn’t de­velop an alarm­ing lean, but so that you max­imisetheben­e­fit­so­fopeningupthes­pace.

You can typ­i­cally re­move any in­ter­nal wall — sup­port­in­gorstudpar­ti­tion. Theim­pactithas on­therestofthe­home­andtheamountof­work you’ll­need­to­car­ry­out­de­pend­son­whetherit per­forms a struc­tural func­tion or car­ries the weight of any walls above. Re­mov­ing a load­bear­ing wall will cost more and re­quire more in the way of as­so­ci­ated works (such as adding in piers and beams to en­sure the struc­tural in­tegrity of the home).

How­ever, from a de­sign point of view, it shouldn’tputy­ouoff. One­ofthe­most­com­mon forms of do­mes­tic build­ing projects in the UK – the side-re­turn and rear ex­ten­sion – re­lies on struc­tural walls at the side and back be­ing re­movedan­dreplacedelse­where. Sodon’tstart from the po­si­tion of wor­ry­ing about load­bear­ing walls — that’s what struc­tural en­gi­neers are paid to do.

De­pend­ing on the scale of the job, you will prob­a­bly have en­gaged ei­ther a builder or a de­sign­er­toassess­the­p­ro­ject. Ifit’sjust­knock­ing through to turn two rooms into one there isn’t a lot of de­sign work in­volved and you might workdi­rect­ly­with­abuilder. Ifit’sparto­falarger re­model, a de­signer is prob­a­bly the best place to start. Ei­ther way, the next step you should takeis­to­en­gageas­truc­turalengi­neer. The­yare the best peo­ple to eval­u­ate the walls and the role they play, and whether they are non­load­bear­ing or load­bear­ing. Your builder or de­signer will prob­a­bly be able to rec­om­mend some­one they have used pre­vi­ously.

Non-struc­tural walls can typ­i­cally be re­moved­with­outany­compen­sat­ing­mea­sures be­ing nec­es­sary, bar mak­ing good the walls, ceil­ing and floor.

If you’re re­mov­ing load­bear­ing struc­tural walls, youwill­need­toin­sertabeam­to­sup­port what is above it in­stead. This is usu­ally steel, and the struc­tural en­gi­neer will cal­cu­late the depth and width of the steel beam needed to hold the weight. They will also cal­cu­late the po­si­tion­so­fanypiers(anupright­to­sup­port­the beam, like a goal­post) and as­so­ci­ated works.

The larger the span of space the steel beam is re­quired to cover, the big­ger the depth of the beam. This­can­some­times­re­sul­tinit­pro­trud­ing in­tothe­roombe­low— usu­al­lyre­ferred­toas­the down­stand. At this point, you might want to con­sultwith­y­ourstruc­turalengi­neer­todis­cuss ways in which it can be hid­den — prefer­ably, in the­floorstruc­ture­above. Thiswill­no­ton­ly­give you valu­able inches in terms of head height, it will also look bet­ter.

For a ‘typ­i­cal’ open­ing up project in­volv­ing the re­moval of a 5m-wide load­bear­ing wall, builder­swould­typ­i­cal­lyquote­be­tween£1,000 and £2,000 (plus VAT, where ap­pli­ca­ble). This would cover the tem­po­rary sup­port of the struc­ture, de­mo­li­tion of walls, build­ing of re­quired pad­stones and sup­ports for the new beam, in­ser­tion of the beam, plas­ter­board­ing out, and mak­ing good at wall, floor and ceil­ing junc­tions.

“Non-struc­tural walls can be re­moved with­out any com­pen­sat­ing mea­sures be­ing nec­es­sary”

Ja­son Orme The for­mer Edi­tor of Home­build­ing & Ren­o­vat­ing mag­a­zine, Ja­son is an ex­pe­ri­enced self-builder and is cur­rently ren­o­vat­ing a 1960s home.

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