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Hi all,

I'm in the process of buying a first floor maisonette, and the downstairs maisonette directly below has recently undergone refurbishment and had its old wooden bay windows replaced with new uPVC ones. (The house is an old 1910 semi-detached house that is now split into 4 x maisonettes)

The flat I'm looking to buy appears to have no issues, but since the downstairs bay windows were replaced in October 2020, a large horizontal crack/gap in the render has immediately opened up directly above the new window frames. It looks like this crack wasn't there in July 2020 before the new windows were installed, and also wasn't there immediately after installation in October 2020 (photos attached). It appears as if the bottom new windows are sagging down from the render above, and it's happened in the last 3-4 months since window change.

Apparently the window company were FENSA accredited (I'm chasing certificates and details on lintels/supports) and they also told the downstairs owner something along the lines of 'you might see a crack/s in the render develop shortly after installation', but this seems more than I'd expect?

I've had a full structural survey on the upstairs property and also a structural surveyor now look at the crack issue. Both suggest it could be something significant but hard to tell and needs further investigation. Suggested next steps would be to obviously investigate the window installation to check if lintel/supports are in place, and also monitor crack for coming months etc. Am hoping it's not foundational issues that could require underpinning etc.

The structural survey didn't report any dropping in the floor on the first floor bay window, however the structural engineer did say there was perhaps a tiny slant down, but barely noticeable.

Photos attached of before new windows, straight after installation and also from now showing the crack. From experience to anyone here, does this seem like a definite issue with poorly/insufficiently installed windows and something that will 100% need attention/repair, or is there a chance this isn't an issue and would settle?

I'm hesitant to buy anything if it's likely to have major issues, particularly with the downstairs bay that isn't even the same property so its complex to sort (it's a 50/50 share of freehold purchase). Or otherwise I'll plan to negotiate a new price if I want to de-risk things.

Any advice appreciated! Thanks
 

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The last photo, looks as if it bows down in the middle, hence the full width cracking. I would suggest having it properly investigated by a structural engineer. It's not a foundation/underpinning issue, probably the original wooden frame was giving some support to the bay above it and the new UPVC one is not giving much support.
 
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Thanks for this. Yes I think it's most likely they've not been installed with correct support and will need to be fixed. I've already had a structural engineer out to report on the issue, and he's suggested as much - that we need to investigate the window install but also look at other causes to eliminate foundation issues.

I'm just trying to decide whether I should proceed with the purchase of it or whether this is enough of a worry/risk to pull out.
 
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Looks like new windows are slightly smaller [or set back more than previous] and not providing support for the old fillet which is now detaching.
 
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Are you buying the structure or just leasing the flat? Who has responsibility?

That type of bay window replacement invariably causes some movement to the bay above. Normally the home owner sorts that out with the installer, but in this case you have problems with who is responsible for it (cause and remedy) and also whether you are in fact buying an existing defect or an ongoing one - which may have implications for future liability.

FENSA is for windows only not structural works such as additional supports, although reinforced frames should have been used in the first place. But you have no contract with the installer in any case - so he may not have any liability to you.
 
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Thanks for the replies. I'm planning on buying that flat which includes both the leasehold agreement and also a 50% share of the freehold agreement. So any structural works to the building would currently be the responsibility of the two share of freeholders together. A potential structural issue to the building, which has been caused by works one of the share of freeholders did to their own property (i.e. the windows), I could see getting complicated to agree on.

Hence I'm veering towards asking for a reduction in price as I can see potential legal and repair costs coming my way if I do continue the purchase and take over the first floor lease & 50% share of freehold.

I was just trying to establish if I should pull out altogether if the issue is severe enough. I obviously wouldn't want to buy a first floor property if there was a hugely concerning structural issue caused by works done below.
 
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You need to get advice from your legal adviser, who should have reviewed all the agreements and be able to advise on liabilities in various scenarios if you purchase.
 
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The vertical crack where the bay meets the wall is indicative of settlement of the bay in to the pvc cill -where no significant structural support is in place . There may be a bay pole/post but TBH I would wager it is not bearing onto the masonry below the pvc cill and has no spreader plate at the head of the pole/post carrying the weight of the structure above . To rectify this ,the bay would need to be propped and ideally the bay window refitted,with stuctural bay posts fitted , its a job that would only take a day to carry out. This is the kind of bodge that fensa /Building control should police.
 
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