We had a question this week from a building owner who was undertaking a loft conversion, which included raising the Party Wall, using timber.
We thought it would be helpful to publish this question and answer on our Party Wall Blog, as in our experience this is an issue that arises a fair bit when undertaking loft works.
Building Owner’s Party Wall Question:
I am currently having a loft conversion at my 1990s terraced house in East Dulwich, South London.
I served section 2 party structure notices on both my neighbours to request consent to build dormer cheeks “upon the part of the party wall” (forms for one neighbour attached).
Although I asked the loft company to stay within the midline of each party wall, one side is built so close to the boundary that battens and tiles will overhang the midline and encroach into the neighbour’s airspace. The neighbour does not currently live in the property so is unaware of the issue.
The loft company has told me that I can legally use the full width of the party wall, but my understanding from what little I have read is that I can only use the full width if raising the party wall with similar materials to the existing wall (brick and thermalite blockwork). The dormer cheek is timber and, as far as I can understand, should sit inside the boundary, but I might be wrong about this.
My question is whether my understanding of the situation is correct and, if so, whether I should insist the loft company rectify the build. Or should I raise the issue with my neighbour and instigate a party wall survey or dispute resolution, potentially halting the build before the structure is weathertight. Any advice you could give me would be much appreciated.
Party Wall Surveyor’s Answer:
I can confirm that you do have the right to raise the party wall to its entire width, however, it does tend to be done in brick or block as opposed to timber.
The fact that it has been raised in timber, wouldn’t prejudice your neighbour’s future rights to use the raised wall, as all they would need to do is remove the outer layer of tiles and then build directly off the dormer cheek.
This effectively means that the flank cheek of the dormer becomes a Party Wall.
Walls tend to be raised in brick or block’ as they tend to have far better insulating qualities when compared to timber construction, however never the less, with the right insulation both thermal and sound, the satisfactory finish can be achieved.
A point to also bear in mind is that the wall is being built as a Party Wall when the adjoining owner builds directly off the dormer cheek in the future, an enclosure payment will apply.
You can hear a little more about enclosure payments on our Party Wall Podcast episode titled ‘Party Wall Enclosure Costs’.
In effect, the fact that the dormer check has been built as a Party Wall means that both yourself and the adjoining owner will save cost in the long run, as you are sharing the cost of the construction, as opposed to each paying for an entire dormer check to be constructed.
I would suggest discussing the matter with the adjoining owner so that they are aware of the thread of events.
I have included a photograph of a similar situation we have dealt with in the past. The dormer on the right, enclosed upon the dormer to the left.