What You Need to Know About Party Walls
You need an agreement with your neighbours before working on any shared structure. Read on for expert advice on party wall policy
The process is usually coordinated by a party wall surveyor (and that’s the highly recommended route to take), but you can also simply agree to the works in writing. Here are the 10 most common circumstances in which you’ll need to get yourself covered.
Chimney breasts like this exist in the majority of older houses. If you share this wall with your neighbour and would like to remove the chimney breast, or make the opening bigger, you’ll need a Party Wall Award, because it’s an integral part of the wall.
It’s especially important to have old brick walls of unknown quality looked at by a party wall surveyor.
Learn about costs you may not have considered when it comes to your renovation
If you have a narrow rear garden – as many terraced and semi-detached houses in London do, for example – you might be keen to extend full-width. In this case, your new external walls will become party walls, or rather, extensions to the existing party walls of your property, so you will need a Party Wall Award.
To build the walls, you’ll also need to have new foundations that are at least 1m deep for single-storey extensions, and digging down near existing (party wall) foundations requires an award, too.
Take a look at the dormer on the top of this house. On the left-hand side, building the new wall would have meant the existing party wall had to be extended upwards, so this would have required a Party Wall Award.
Moreover, if you’re making the loft space habitable, you’ll definitely need new steels supporting the floor, and these are inserted into holes at each side of a party wall.
Gen up on what to consider when planning a loft room
If you decide to dig down under your existing home, you’ll have a multitude of permissions and designs to go through – Planning Permission, structural design, various desktop studies and so on.
The structural design will give your builder details on how to extend new foundations under your existing, often very shallow, foundations on either side. This is called underpinning. All of this will require a Party Wall Award.
Take a look at these top tips for basement conversions and browse the basement photos page to get more ideas.
If you live in a flat, your ceiling is also a party wall. Your leasehold likely excludes any of the external (brick) skin of your house, as well as the structure of your floor and/or ceiling. Any alteration to these will not only require a Party Wall Award, but, very likely, permission from your freeholder.
Imagine for a moment that these beautiful decorative beams in this country home are the timber joists usually hidden in your ceiling. If one or more of them needed replacing, and the new joists could go in their place, you wouldn’t need a Party Wall Award.
If, however, you needed to install a new joist or a metal beam, and it required a hole either side of the wall to fit it, this would need an award.
In this example, there’s a new (white rendered) party wall to the right-hand side of the new extension. On the left, however, the extension is set back from the existing fence – a party wall fence.
Your surveyor would be able to advise if, by digging the new foundations of an extension like this, you’re sufficiently distanced from the fence to get away with not needing any extra paperwork.
Bear with me on this one… Imagine you’re able to dig down from your existing ground floor, perhaps only at the back of the house, to create a new, lower-ground floor kitchen-diner. You’d then, as in this picture, like to step out into the garden and see it on the new (lower) level.
This would likely mean you’d need to remove a substantial amount of soil from the back, and maybe add new foundations to your shared fences. This will – you guessed it – require a Party Wall Award.
This picture shows two joined rooms across two houses with the joining wall partly removed. If you’re the owner of both adjacent whole properties, you won’t need a party wall agreement with yourself, of course!
If, however, you’ve simply bought apartments on the same level in two adjacent properties, and want to remove the wall in-between, you would need a Party Wall Award with the freeholder – even if you own a share of freehold.
This one probably goes without saying! If the wall pictured in this example is a party wall, you’d need an award to create all the many small windows.
Do you have any tips for getting your neighbours onside? Please share your advice and experiences with other Houzzers in the Comments below.