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Well that's a poke in the eye with a pointed stick




I haven't posted to my blog for a couple of months, mainly because we haven't been able to progress until we got the Structural Engineers report.

This was promised in 2 weeks and ended up taking 10.


I now suspect that this was because they didn't want to tell us the news.


Our build is a barn conversion so we've had to jump through lots of hoops. ,making lots of money for other people.


But, particularly for the SE, first it was the report where they said to planning that the barn was convertible.


Then the 1st phase ground contamination report, no issues there.


Planning approved with condition of phase 2 contamination report.


So, back to the SE to do this, no problems with that.


Then we started preparing the site, documented in previous blogs, we did this thinking that it would benefit us with the SE report to get the building regulations drawn.


How wrong we were.


One of the limitations of the barn conversion was that one side of the building can only be 2.2m high.  We worked around this by designing rooms so it wasn't needed for walking.


Yesterday, I received the report, only to be horrified to see that this low side of the building, 2.2m remember, needs underpinning foundations of 'at least' 2.4m.  How can a single storey build possibly need foundations deeper that the height of the building.

The opposite side is 3.15m high to the roof, here the SE say we only need 1m deep foundations, figure that out.


The soil is not clay, not sand, there are a few 3" elm trees that are being knocked down so no large roots.


But, it gets worse,  they say that this must be done 1m at a time, doing 1st meter, then 3rd meter, then 5th meter, then 2nd meter etc.etc.

This particular wall is 25m long.


They have no issues with the existing internal walls.



I've never been so glad to be stupidly busy at work to take my mind of this fiasco.


So, what do we do.


The thoughts I have are:


1. Can we knock down the back wall leaving the rest and build only 1m deep like the wall on the opposite side,  but I would still need to get planning.

2. Do we write off all the work we've done and all the money we've spent (lots) and try and get planning to start from scratch with a kit house.  It would have to be self build though due to the extremely limited funds available.


3.  The long wall splits into utility, 2 x bathrooms, 3 x bedrooms and a pantry.  Do we knock down the wall for each room and then rebuild it bit by bit and with what foundations.


4.  Do we start on the high side of the conversion and work backwards ignoring the problem for now.


The sides vary from 1m front to 2m foundations at the back.


The most disappointment I feel is that the SE passed the building as fit to convert, including digging holes to look at the existing foundations with no mention of anything like this.

I don't know if it makes any difference, but the original SE was probably about my age, in his 50's, whereas the recent one (same firm) was barely out of nappies and didn't want to talk to us when he was here to discuss anything.


What I have done is:


a. Requested a meeting with the SE and his manager to ask why so deep and about a new wall.

If we can knock down the wall and put in 1m foundations then that is manageable as with the digger we can knock the existing one down and dig the trenches before getting a groundworks crew to do the rest.


b. Started compiling an email to send to the planners, but with the current situation I don't think I will hear anything.  Also, I'm a bit wary, if we say what is required can they pull our planning and still not allow us a new build.


c. Started looking at some kit companies who provide self build kits to get some ideas of costs.


The one thing that we cannot do is dig down 600mm x 2.4m a meter at a time.  Maybe a groundworks company could, but at what cost for what, in reality, is a tatty barn which, if we could have got planning we would gladly have knocked down and crushed.


I spoke to the planners after we got planning to ask about this route and we told that we had no chance.


Here's a little reminder of the layout.




The wall is the bottom one up to where the ensuite wall is and the top of the WC on the left.


I now feel so demoralised, building is stressful for many reasons, but I didn't expect it to be quite so impossible.


Time for whine I think ?


Enjoy the heading picture of the kittens, to cheer me up.





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Just a thought. Does the SE know the elm trees are being removed? Will he believe you if you tell him or is it his brief to design on what he actually sees on site?

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2 hours ago, patp said:

Just a thought. Does the SE know the elm trees are being removed? Will he believe you if you tell him or is it his brief to design on what he actually sees on site?

I will find out on Tuesday, and we will cut them down tomorrow so I can send him photos.


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3 hours ago, Mr Punter said:

Be very aware that to qualify for Class Q this must be a conversion and incorporate the existing structure, not a replacement.  This seems very stupid and petty in your case, but it is the law and from what you have mentioned your local authority would keenly enforce it.


I understand that new foundations are a no-no for Class Q.


The SE report, bit of it above included, says 1m foundations, which was received by the planners prior to planning being approved.  So, that suggests that they read this and know, but probably not.


I've been trying to get hold of planners for a while to ask a few things, but to no avail.

Since we got our planning 2 years ago, the local planners have approved a lot more class Q conversions than they used to, suggesting that things have relaxed a bit.


I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.  If I can't do new foundations then I may be able to do piles.  I  shall talk to the SE on find out what he knows.


Another barn near here was approved under class Q and then last summer they got planning to demolish and rebuild, in a different place only overlapping by about 3 feet.


So, I am going to see about that as an option, and also an extension on time as it should be done by the end of next year.

Not impossible, but does depend on external parties.



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3 hours ago, saveasteading said:

can we see the trial hole results please?


I will dig them out tomorrow as they are in a separate report.

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9 hours ago, saveasteading said:

can we see the trial hole results please?


Plus one...


Had a glance at the photo of the cut soil face.


If you want some good pointers / free advice then you need to provide pretty much full disclosure.


Something is not stacking up here.

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Today we have cut down all the saplings and 1 tree, plus a few dead ones.  We've left one tree as it's not technically ours being in the boundary of the farmers field.  Will take some photos when I have daylight, forgot to take my phone with me.

The farmer has about 15 feet along the end of his field totally left to weeds and some trees.  Been the same for over 20 years since we've been here.  This runs along one whole side of our land (a triangle).

There were a lot more trees originally, but there is an electricity cable that runs along the boundary and the electricity board got someone to come and cut them all down to 6' under the wire about 10 years ago.  None of the trees, except the 3 conker trees survived, but obviously the elm roots threw up saplings.  We do have lots of wood though.


Now we've cut those down, next weekend we will get the digger out and dig out any roots and stumps left.


On that side of the site our planning is actually for another 1.2m along the length as they included the roof overhang, but we were going to use the existing wall so just left it.


So we are now considering (with the relevant planning) investigating building an entirely new cavity wall about 50cm from the existing one, if we can have reduced foundations.  This would also help down the way as we were going to install EWI, if we did this then we can simply render.


Once that wall is done then we will knock down the existing one and join the internal walls.  We are going to discuss with the SE and then the planners.


The 1.2m extra is only on this wall, so the 2 side walls that also need deeper foundations (2m) will need further consideration.


I've still not dug out the hole results, but it is definitely on this computer somewhere.



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I recommend you speak to someone about remedial screw piles - these should be fairly simple, quick, and "relatively" cheap to install on the necessary walls if you've got decent access for the rig. 


We looked into this when we thought we'd need to underpin our bungalow foundations before building up, but the SE did ground bearing analysis on 3 trial pits and lots of calcs for Building Control to convince them that the existing footings are adequate, so we didn't go down that route.


But that would have been our preference over underpinning footings to 2.0m with concrete, 1m at a time.

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But, it gets worse,  they say that this must be done 1m at a time, doing 1st meter, then 3rd meter, then 5th meter, then 2nd meter etc.etc.

This particular wall is 25m long.


In case it's not obvious you can normally do something like meters 1,4,7,10,13,16 etc all at the same time. Then do 2,5,8,11,14,17 etc at the same time. In three or four iterations (not 25) you have done it all.


I haven't read your whole thread but did you get a ground condition report done? Test pit etc


Have you exposed the existing foundations to see how deep they are?


Ask the BCO for his view pointing out the building has been there 10+years with no movement and you aren't increasing the loading? 



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Hi Temp, yes I did realise about the odd meters done at the same time, but that still sounds pretty tricky (and expensive).


We had a ground condition / contamination report carried out as a pre-planning condition and a phase 2 done as a post-planning condition, both by the same company.


We knew we would have to underpin as the existing foundation a about 8" deep, but we were led to believe that these would be about 1m.  The SE also said that the building was structurally sound as it was.


Over the last week I have had a number of conversations and email exchanges with the SE.


The first thing we did was dig a trench the length of the wall, all 25m.

About 1/2 of the length was sand, then about 10m of loam, then at the end about 2m of clay.


I sent pictures to the SE and asked him to come back and inspect again, but he is adamant that this makes no differenced and if we dug deeper we would find that it was all sat on clay.


This is some of the comments from him.


  • As you can appreciate the boreholes undertaken in the contaminated land investigation were for the purposes of collecting samples for chemical testing and establishing the depth and composition of any made ground present and were limited to 1.0m depth.

So, even though this didn't show clay he said that it will be below this.



  • The minimum depth of trench fill foundations is typically 1.0m deep when soils are not subject to the influence by vegetation. The foundation design needs to consider the soils beneath the foundations to ensure they are not subject to volumetric changes which would in turn affect the structure above. For example, if clay soil is encountered within 2.0m below ground level and trees are present it would be necessary to design the foundations to reduce the risk of heave.

About 5 years ago the power company had all the trees topped so there was no risk of them affecting the power line.  They subsequently all died so we cut them down for wood.  Since then the area has become bushy with some old roots growing.  We always intended to remove these as they are not attractive.  This is the vegetation he mentions.  When we dug the trench they were some roots in the top 30cm, none thicker than 1cm and nothing below that level.


  •    Bore holes undertaken indicate clay soil below the sand and gravels extending to at least 1.5m below ground level where the borehole was terminated. At this relatively shallow depth the soil will be influenced by the water demand of the vegetation .

All vegetation has been removed and we always intended to build a retaining wall so we could move the back further from the back of the house.



  • The trees along the South West Boundary have the potential to influence the soils. The foundation depths have been designed in accordance with NHBC chapter 4.2 based on the current tree heights of the existing trees which are to be removed and the trees which have been previously removed.

So here he does accept that the trees will not be there in the future and that we removed some previously.


The long and short of it is that we have no choice as things stand, but to underpin to that depth.



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