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Common Party Wall Works

Jan 7, 2023

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Thank you for clicking on today’s Property Surveying blog post, today we are going to be looking at typical party wall surveying works so that we can help fully inform you of the likely works that will fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

The Party Wall etc. Act is the governing legislation that is in place to implement a framework to handle specific types of construction work in England and Wales.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 came into force in 1997, since then owners who were planning on undertaking specific types of construction to their properties were duty bound to adhere to the legal requirements of the Act. 

The Act is a follow on and evolution of the Part 6 of the London Building Acts (Amendment) Act 1939 and is designed to not only reduce the risks of a building owner’s planned construction work.  It is also designed to ensure that adjoining owners are given necessary consideration in the lead up and run up to the building owner commencing those planned works.

Typically, when a building owner is approaching the start of their construction project, they will often go through all of their necessary statutory requirements including planning permissions, Listed Building consent (if applicable), Building Regulations application, contractor tender and selection and structural design. 

However, they will commonly overlook the requirement of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

In many cases becoming informed of the need to go through the Act late in the day, usually in the weeks or days before they planned to start the actual works on site. 

Through this blog post, we aim to help building owners and adjoining owners alike understand the typical and common type of party wall works that fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

New Walls

The first distinct type of work that is covered by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is the construction of new walls. 

New walls will form the outer leaf of all planned structures.

However through the eyes of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, it is usually a new flank wall of extensions that will find themselves being applicable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

In order for new walls to be applicable under the Act, importantly, the construction and location of those walls must be up to, or astride the boundary line.

Astride is the typical referral for a wall that is built half on the building owner’s land and half on the adjoining owner’s land.

The logic behind this from the Act’s perspective, is that in many cases when a wall is built up to or astride the boundary line, the building owner will rightly so want to gain some form of access onto the adjoining owner’s property in order to safely construct this planned wall. 

The Act therefore does give building owners the legal right of access to facilitate this.

This access being carefully and closely guarded through the Act’s wording and ultimately through a Party Wall Award prior to the planned works commencing. 

It is important to note that when it comes to access it is not going to be for the entirety of the planned project.

Instead, it is going to be limited to a handful of days to couple of weeks.

While also ensuring there is sufficient temporary protection in place during the entirety of that planned access. 

Ultimately, the aim is to ensure that the risks associated with that access are at their lowest points, thereby reducing the knock on chance of issue or damage to the adjoining owner’s property. 

Works Directly to a Party Wall, Party Structure or Party Fence Wall

This is the widest area of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 when it comes to the types of work that it covers. 

In essence, both insertions and removal to a party wall will be governed by the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

Party Wall

However, it should be worth noting that the planned works need to be robust enough for the Act to come into play.

Minor fixings to the party wall, such as every day shelving is outside the realm of the Act for obvious reasons. 

Generally speaking the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 will deal with structural proposals to the party wall typically a lot of the works it deals with being loft conversions, internal alterations and changes and removals of chimney breasts to the party wall. 

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 also deals with works directly to a party structure. 

Party Structure

A party structure much like a party wall is the shared structure between two properties that are separated with a horizontal barrier. 

Commonly, this will be the floor and/or ceiling between two respective flats. 

Again, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 deals with these types of works and often changes the floorings, adjusting joists or other similar works to a party structure will all fall within the realm of the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. 

Party Fence Wall

The Act also deals with works directly to the party fence wall.

The party fence wall is also commonly called a shared garden wall. 

That shared garden wall being in equal ownership between the building owner and the adjoining owner. 

If any planned works are going to take place to a shared garden wall, again the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 will come into play.

Excavations

The final types of work that the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 deals with are excavations.

Excavations will need to be within a 6m radius of the adjoining owner’s property. 

However, importantly they will also need to be at a depth deeper than the adjoining owner’s existing foundation.

A common question we find ourselves asked here at Stokemont, is how the building owner would ever have an understanding of the foundation depth of the adjoining owner’s property. 

This really comes down to engineering knowhow and estimations of foundation depths based off the age of the property, surrounding soil type and also taking a look at the building owner’s foundation depths.  This of course assuming that the building owner’s property is of a similar construction to the adjoining owner’s property.

Party wall surveying procedures are naturally going to be confusing, especially if a building owner or an adjoining owner has not gone through them in the past.

If you would like to discuss party wall surveying procedures with our team of experienced and qualified party wall surveyors here at Stokemont, please feel free to pop us an email, or give us a call today.  We will be more than happy to assist and advise you.

We are also very proud to have an industry first party wall surveying video FAQ.  This FAQ goes into a lot more detail than some of the more typical questions answering them in an informative and handy medium.

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