Building defects: your structural risks revealed

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Both residents and owners of commercial properties ought to be aware of the numerous building surveys that may need to be employed during their term.  One such survey offered by chartered building surveyors such as Bradley-Mason LLP is the building defects or pathology survey, and it’s a particularly important process when it comes to retaining the structural integrity of a property and the safety of its occupants.  So what is a building pathology survey, what is it for and what do we look out for when we visit your commercial property?  Our short guide seeks to make the whole process that much clearer…

What is a building defects survey?

A building defects or pathology survey is essentially an overview of any weaknesses a commercial property might possess.  Such surveys are important when a property changes hands – either through sale or lease – or when any occupants or owners have identified what they believe to be a problem.  Building pathology surveys are necessary to keep both occupants of and visitors to a property safe, whilst maintaining the structural integrity and security of the building in future. There are different levels of building pathology survey, with the specific details to be agreed ahead of time by the client.  Once the chartered building surveyor has viewed and analysed your property, they will issue a detailed, clear report outlining any defects and the actions necessary to remedy them.


What defects do we look out for?

During the course of a building pathology survey, the chartered building surveyor will look out for a number of potential defects that could undermine the safety of staff, customers or visitors, as well as the value of the property.  Below are just a few of the issues we look out for on our surveys:


  • Timber decay – Timber decay is an issue that affects many commercial properties, particularly older or listed buildings.  In some older properties, roofs and ceilings are supported by robust timbers; should these rot or degrade over time then the structural stability of your property could be jeopardised.

  • Dampness – Damp is a pervasive problem in properties both old and new, and can cause any number of different health and safety issues: from respiratory problems to infection.  Damp can also damage the structure of your building, undermining floors, walls and ceilings.

  • Cracking – Cracking is a problem that often hints at more serious issues, including subsidence.  Building pathology surveys can determine the cause of cracking and offer suggestions as to how to rectify the issue in future.

  • Flat / metal roofs – Flat and metal roofs are particularly common in commercial properties, but both can cause problems for occupants and owners alike.  Inclement weather conditions can take their toll on the roof of your property, but building pathology surveys can help to work out the extent of the problem.

  • Cladding – Certain materials are more suitable for external cladding than others, particularly in areas of increased exposure.  Timber cladding has become increasingly fashionable in commercial properties of late, and so building defects surveys need to be on the lookout for water ingress.

  • Non-structural defects – Whilst the above examples all deal with structural elements, surveyors may also note more cosmetic defects such as damaged gutters, broken windows or collapsed property fences.  These will rarely impact the structural integrity of the property in question directly, but may have knock-on effects if not corrected to value and long-term upkeep.


The above are just a few of the potential issues your commercial property could encounter, and defects surveys are necessary to ensure that such problems are not allowed to progress unchecked. If you should be in need of chartered building surveying services this year, contact us to find out more about how we can help.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and not intended as advice. Each project has its own set of unique circumstances, all potential issues should be investigated by a surveyor on a case by case basis before making any decision.


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