Writing The Specification

It is a advisable to start the specification with a detailed description of the work involved; this is known as 'scope of works'.

When starting to write the specification of the works, it is advisable to describe the works at the very lowest levels of intended alteration which may, in some cases, mean modifications to foundations and will contain descriptions for:

• Providing temporary support for floors and existing ceilings in order to strengthen or replace lintels;

• Preparing, probably, even at this early stage, the stairwell which will afford access to the works in the intended conversion area.

Specify precisely; leave nothing to question by the builders or even yourself at a later date at the time of construction, thinking through and describing all of the building operations from the start of the element being considered to its natural conclusion of the reinstatement of surfaces and decorations. An example is given below for the replacement of an existing lintel with a new lintel capable of carrying a new floor load above:

'Window W4: carefully remove carpets and provide dust-proof screen on dining room side of window. Provide temporary structural support to ceiling and roof above by fitting a temporary purlin in the roof space above over the areas of the rafter currently supported by the lintel. Purlin to be supported off struts directly on bearers onto ceiling joists.

Fit a spreader beam immediately beneath the struts under the existing ceiling and support on Acrow or similar props. The Acrows to be set on a bearer on the floor. When all load has been taken from the lintel by the propping system, carefully remove the existing lintel, replace with new lintel and bed solidly. Do not remove props until mortar has set. Not less than 48 h after the replacement of the lintel, prop system can be removed and the area restored, made good and decorated as necessary.'

Avoid vague and incomplete specification clauses such as, 'Fit new floor to attic space.' This should be specified as follows:

'Provide and fix 19 mm tongued and grooved jointed, V313 flooring grade chipboard conforming to BS 5669:1989 Type C4. Board to be fixed with 63 mm long annular ring shanked nails, including gluing all tongued and grooved joints. 38 x 50 mm softwood noggings to be used around the perimeter of the room to support flooring and at any square edge joint in the board.'

This will avoid:

(1) the supply of inferior boarding;

(2) falling below the requirements for a V313 moisture-resisting grade chipboard in bathroom areas;

(3) the irritating problem of squeaking floors caused by incorrect nails and incorrect jointing of the boards;

(4) the flexing of the floorboard between floor joists through inadequate support.

The result is, of course, a good sound job at the price quoted, and if any of the specified items have not been carried out at the time of inspection, or a badly creaking floor becomes evident after use, then the employer has a legitimate claim against the builder. The moral of all this is to spend time in the preparation and planning and you will save hours if not days of delay and frustration later. Remember, if you are the architect or builder, that your client may well have to remain in occupation throughout the conversion and the minimum of disruption is therefore desirable. Delays caused by unspecified and therefore unforeseen work will not easily be tolerated at this time of great disturbance to the household.

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