Our architect wants to add a stage of exploratory works
before the plans for our church repairs are completed. Would you
explain what this is about, as it seems to us that this just adds
another level of cost?
REPAIR works on old buildings can hide surprises for the
professional team and, eventually, the builder; so exploratory
works are often the means of reducing the risk of discovering an
issue with expensive ramifications.
When the issue is identified before the contractor is on site,
there is normally a financial saving: the time the builders are
delayed by waiting for the architect to arrive to assess the issue;
the problems of time and cost of getting in materials to repair
something unexpected; any specialists who will need to be
consulted; and so on.
On roofs, there may be several issues: rot in the underlying
wooden trusses; damaged rainwater goods at high level; the extent
to which slate may be reused, and how much must be new; erosion
present in high-level stone; and many more. If your works include
ground-level repair, then exploration under the floor or into the
earth outside may identify archaeological issues, such as burials,
or earlier works - drains that are so damaged that there is no pipe
run to repair.
Almost always, the preparatory exploration will uncover a sample
area where repair or new works are to happen, and effectively
reduce the risk of the unknown and costly intervention.
I have, more than once, encountered holes dug in church floors,
small areas of slate/tile removal, and, more recently, an upfront
excavation across the churchyard for drainage pipes - the latter to
reduce the risk of archaeological issues that may delay the main
works when the contractors are on site. When workers are on site,
their wages are paid by you, even when they can make no progress
until an expert comes to site.
It is most likely that your architect knows a builder who will
do the exploratory works at reasonable cost, knowing that this does
not imply that when you go out to tender the builder will get
Do ask the architect, with the builder, to give you an estimate,
up front, for the exploratory works, so that you know what you are
committed to. You can then identify how this cuts into the sums
that you have saved for the main works stage.
For larger repair projects, as well as new works, it is
advisable to have your quantity surveyor look over the exploratory
works and resultant reports with you. He or she will be able to
advise you on cost implications that may be outside your original
indicative budget, or may have been hidden in the contingency the
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