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When do you Need a Full Structural Survey?

When do you Need a Full Structural Survey?

A full structural survey, also known as a building survey provides much more information about the structural fabric and integrity of a property, compared to a home buyer survey, which generally looks just at the overall condition of a home. As frequent full structural survey providers in Suffolk, East London, South East London, Kent, and Essex we are often asked by clients whether they really need this type of survey, so here is our short guide to the types of building where a thorough building survey is a definite must in order to allow you to make a more fully informed decision to proceed with your purchase.

Older and Rundown Buildings

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recommends a full building survey for any older or rundown buildings as this could affect their structural integrity and their safety as dwelling places. Defects are more likely in these types of buildings for a number of reasons including:

  • Would not have been built to modern building regulations or maintained.
  • More likely to have been altered or renovated without adherence to building regulations in force at the time the works were done.
  • More likely to have, or previously suffered from, rot, damp, woodworm or other issues that can affect integrity over time

Major structural issues and lack of maintenance will always have a detrimental effect on the saleability of a property and ultimately its use and enjoyment by the new owner.

Regardless of the age and more importantly, the ‘perceived condition’ of any property, Anderson Associates always advise on having a full building survey done as it is the only sure way of determining the overall condition of a property and if there any issues (large or small) that could ultimately have an influence on weather it is purchased.

Extended Buildings

Whether old or new, a building which has been extended will be inspected in the same way as any other to ensure the integrity of the extension itself, and to determine any effect it may have had on the original building.

Even if a property has been extended very recently and there is appropriate planning permission and building regulations approvals and completion documents are in place, the extension is still inspected.

Again any building with a longstanding extension, and for which there is no appropriate documentation in place will be similarly inspected to the same level as the rest of the property.

As well as checking the construction and soundness of the extension itself, this type of survey will look at the impact of the extension on the original building, particularly the method of attachment, whether it has its own supporting structures and the integrity of any joints.

Converted and Renovated Buildings

It can be tempting to think that newly converted or renovated buildings will be immune from structural defects, simply because they look new. Historic conversions can also sometimes mislead buyers into thinking that “it has stayed up this long, so it is probably OK”.

Just as for extensions, converted and renovated buildings have the potential for structural problems, due to building regulations not being followed, or defects arising due to age, lack of maintenance and so on. And, in the case of renovated buildings (especially those that have been renovated with a view to immediate resale) it is important to ensure that any renovation work has not simply covered up deeper problems, rather than dealing with them properly.

Whilst the superficial and cosmetic aspects of renovated or converted buildings may be in ‘as new’ condition, the ‘shell or ‘main structure’ are still original and unless properly renovated and repaired potentially significant issues with these could still remain. It is therefore highly recommended that any such building receives a full structural survey.

Again, any converted and renovated building, will be similarly inspected to the same level as any other property.

Unusual Construction

“Unusual construction” refers to anything other than standard brick, stone and timber. This might include thatched roofs, buildings made entirely out of timber or concrete and prefabricated buildings, amongst others.

A further reason for seeking reassurance from a building survey involves the matter of buildings insurance. Most insurers will offer quotes based on “conventional brick and timber construction” and either refuse to insure the property or charge higher premiums or excesses for unusual types of construction or materials. Many mortgage lenders will also take a similar view and an unconventional construction may require a mortgage from a specialist lender.

It is often beneficial, therefore, to have a full building survey done which demonstrates the soundness of the building in question – or enables you to take appropriate action to rectify any problems.

This can often give insurers reassurance that the likelihood of an ‘insurable claim’ is less.

Listed Buildings

Most listed building will almost certainly be over 75 years old anyway, and should therefore have a full survey as a matter of course. But many listed buildings can be centuries old, and may often have been subjected to repeated extensions and renovations. So simply on grounds of age and past renovation work a full survey makes sense.

Listed building status is very likely to impact on your ability to carry out some types of repairs, alteration and renovation work and can be much more costly than for a non-listed building.

For instance, you may be required to use specific materials or methods to carry out repairs, or you may be prevented from using certain modern materials, repair or renovation methods that would be perfectly acceptable to use in a non-listed building. For these reasons it is especially important to know what you are in for before buying a listed property.

Defects Noticed During a Viewing

Anything that you spot during a viewing and which gives you cause for concern is always a good reason to have a full survey, even in a property which does not fall into any of the above categories. Some of the issues which would warrant a full survey and which you can instruct us to pay particular attention to include:

  • Leaning walls
  • Damp, condensation or mould
  • Cracks in walls or around windows
  • Sagging roof lines
  • Doors or windows that do not fit properly in their frames

Not Sure?

In many cases, buyers hesitate to opt for a full building or structural survey as most building surveyors charge more than for a home buyer survey.

Andersons charge the same price regardless of the type of survey. That is because we want to make sure that our clients have the most detailed information possible on which to make one of the biggest purchasing decisions of their lives.

If you are uncertain, or require advice on any aspect of building surveys, you can talk to an experienced chartered surveyor to discuss the property in question, in addition to any specific concerns you may have. We will advise on what we think is best suited to your needs.

Just call us on 0800 652 8285, 01473 623656 or contact us for a quotation. You can also email us at or


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Whether you need a simple valuation or a full structural survey as well as being expert building surveyors we’re happy to give you free, impartial advice on anything to do with buildings and property.
Anderson Associates
(Head Office & Correspondence Address)
Warneford House, Portal Avenue
Martlesham Heath, Ipswich
Suffolk IP5 3QY
T. 01473 623 656
T. 0800 652 8285
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Registered Office: Anderson Associates (Surveying) Ltd. | Warneford House, Portal Avenue, Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk IP5 3QY
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