Large cracks appearing

A

armour

Hi all, I've got a 2 up 2 down semi, built in the 1890's with the bathroom and kitchen at the back. growing cracks are appearing in the upstairs party wall where the bathroom/kitchin part of the house meets the main part. The neighbouring house has cracks in the same wall too.
These cracks have only appeared in the last 3 months. The neighbours are having a loft extension done. The work started 4 months ago. I feel that there must be a connection - How would I go about finding out for sure? I guess I'd need someone suitably qualified, surveyor/ building engineer? - How would I go about finding one?
 
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They should have notified you of work under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. This notification should have included structural engineers calculations for any structural changes to the party wall. You have to agree the work before it starts or otherwise go to arbitration.

I think failure to notify you of work under the Act lays them open to damage claims beyond the cost of remedial work. If you appoint an SE to check the calculations and/or work, they have a statutory right of entry into your neighbour's house. Likewise, their SE can enter your house.

As they have had the work done, I'd ask them (and their SE) to sort it. Maybe the 1890's foundations aren't up to much and main part of the party wall has subsided.
 
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Your neighbour may not have had a S.E. They may not be doing conversion under Building Regs. Have they chopped any steels into party wall, if so, even though it is not worth the paper it is wrote on, have you a party wall agreement in place.
Would suggest you speak to your neighbour and express your concerns. Consult an independent S.E, not your neighbours, even if they have one, as if he has not allowed for any additional load to existing founds, he is not going to admit to it.
A lot of properties built round about that time had no foundations as we know them, they only had a shallow four or five course spread brick footing, that could possibly not take the additional loading of the conversion, hence you have a slight settlement of the main house to the back addition.
Without seeing your house, can not say any more.
oldun ;)
 
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armour

Thanks for all the advice. I should have mentioned that the neighbour did serve me with a party wall notice - He came around one night and explained that he wanted to get the loft converted and asked me to sign something, which I did. I believe that his surveyor/engineer should have inspected the condition of my wall before work started. He didn't.
I've phoned a few structural engineers (thanks for the links PrenticeBoy ofDerry) & got differing advice.
One said that he should liase with the neighbours surveyor/engineer and that I wouldn't have to pay a penny!
Another said that It would be impossible to prove that the cause was the neighbours loft conversion.
A third said that it's quite normal to have settling of foundations when additional load is placed on a building, that it was probably nothing to worry about and advised me to get a quote for repair from a firm called Anderton Structural Repairs.(anyone had any dealings with this firm?) He said that they would be able to tell me if the damage was structural or not.

Number 3 would seem to be the best option at the moment, What do you all think?

Once again, thanks for the advice
 
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Firstly you should record the condition of your house at present. This should really have been done before work starts but unfortunately time machines haven't been invented yet.

Make a written record of any cracks or anything that looks odd on the walls, ceilings and floor. Check level/plumb with a spirit level and photograph all the surfaces including close ups of any cracks. Include something in the photograph to give a reference - i.e. a ruler or something with a known scale on it.

If you signed a party wall agreement you should definitely approach the neighbour and inform them officially of the problems - i.e. in writing. If you employ your own engineer or surveyor it will be at your cost and you will not be able to claim it back. Go through them, and they should cover all professional and repair costs. Only if they do not act should you consider spending your own money.
 
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I would have a word with Building Control at the council.
Good idea. BC should have been notified of the work and seen SE's calculations before work commenced. They should have inspected the work too.
 
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Involving b.c. will only seek ensure that the works are carried out to regulations and will not remedy the problem regarding the party wall; i.e. if the cracks were anticipated and allowed for then it will be a case of agreeing remedial works with the homeowner.

Involving b.c. will just look like sour grapes and seek to inflame relations.
 

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