Party Structure Works and Party Wall Notices
We often get asked what are specific works to a Party Wall that require a Party Structure Notice to be served on the Adjoining Owners.
1. Cutting into a Party Wall
Notice under Section 2(2) of the Act is most commonly required for works involving the insertion of steel beams and supports into the party wall. Steel beams are favoured in home projects for their exceptional load-bearing capacity, durability, and versatility. Their use enables the creation of spacious, flexible floor plans by minimising the necessity for interior columns. This makes them a popular choice for crafting contemporary living spaces. They serve various functions, including providing support for chimney breast removals, constructing box-frames for bi-folding doors, and bearing the additional load of a new floor when converting the attic into a habitable area.
Another typical notifiable party structure work is installing materials such as; lead flashing to divert water or a damp-proof course to prevent moisture penetrati
on and damp into the party wall. While the ultimate goal of these installations is to shield the party wall from water intrusion, incorrect installation could potentially harm the structure. This is because the process involves creating a groove or channel in the party wall, which, even if sealed later, poses a potential risk. Hence, the party structure notice is essential to make the Adjoining Owner aware.
Inserting a wall plate or joist hangers into a party wall is typically considered a minor and non-invasive task and it typically does not require a Section 2 Party Wall Notice. However, in specific circumstances, if the installation of joist hangers involves more substantial alterations to the party wall, such as cutting into it or causing structural changes, it may be considered notifiable work. This is especially true if the work could potentially affect the stability or safety of the wall. Obtaining advice from a party wall surveyor on your particular project is the best way to ensure that you are complying with the Act.
Finally, creating alcoves, niches, or recesses within the party wall, would fall under cutting into the party wall and require a party structure notice.
Any cutting into the party wall should be done in a manner that ensures the structural integrity of the wall is maintained. Additionally, all work should comply with local building codes and regulations.
2. Cutting off Projections from a Party Wall
A common party wall projection that homeowners wish to get rid of are chimney breasts. Chimney breasts often create awkward nooks in rooms that you must work around. Hence, to maximise the space of existing rooms, chimney breast removals are a popular project to undertake. Chimney breasts that are attached to party walls would involve cutting into the said wall, thus requiring a party structure notice to be served on the Adjoining Owner. Special care must be taken if the flues on the other side of the party wall are in use (your Adjoining Owner uses their fireplace). Covering an active flue when installing a steel beam support for the remaining chimney breast is a mistake that no contractor wishes to make. Chimney stacks are not considered party structures each owner takes care of their respective half. However, removing a chimney stack will likely uncover the party wall that was previously encase by the stack and therefore would constitute an agreement between the neighbours. Read more on Chimney Stack Removals on our blogpost where we discuss the topic in-depth, here.
3. Raising, Lowering, Underpinning, Demolishing & Rebuilding a Party Structure Raising or lowering a party wall to make it higher or lower than it currently is, complete removal and reconstruction of a party wall are works that come under Section 2(2) of the Act. Underpinning a wall is the process of strengthening and stabilising existing foundations. It involves excavating sections beneath the foundation and replacing them with reinforced concrete. This process provides additional support, preventing settlement or structural damage, and is crucial for maintaining the integrity of a building over time. All these works are relevant for Party Fence Wall also.
Before undertaking any such work, it is imperative to serve a Section 2 Notice to the adjoining property owner(s) as required by the Party Walls etc. Act 1996, and seek any necessary permissions or agreements. Consulting with a qualified party wall surveyor or a professional with expertise in construction and property law is highly recommended to ensure compliance and avoid potential disputes.