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What is a Full Structural or Building Survey?

Owain Banfield
Written by Owain Banfield
6th April 2018 (Last updated on Monday 19th November 2018)

A Building Survey or Full Structural Survey is a detailed and comprehensive look at the condition of a property, dealing with hard to reach places and structural issues. Although one of the more expensive options of survey, the level of detail in the report makes it vital when buying an older properties (over 50 years old).

To mitigate some potential disasters when moving home and give themselves a good level of peace of mind, many people will have a professional property survey undertaken in order to spot any issues and work out how they are going to remedy them.

There are a number of surveys available, all with a different price point and with a different level of information and detail included. In this guide, Compare My Move detail one of the more expensive, yet more comprehensive surveys. This survey is often known as the Building Survey or Full Structural Survey.

This article will cover the following points

What Does A Full Structural Survey Cover? When Do You Need a Full Structural Survey? How Much Does A Building Survey Cost? How Long Does A Full Structural Survey Take? What Does A Full Structural Survey Report Look Like? Building Survey vs. Homebuyers and Valuations Save on Your Building Survey

What Does A Full Structural Survey Cover?

A Building Survey is one of the most comprehensive surveys you can undertake on a property. It is similar in many ways to the Homebuyer survey in as far as the fact that it looks at certain aspects of a building and gives details of the condition and any potential concerns of them.

However, unlike a Homebuyers, this type of survey is much more detailed and will look into areas such as those that are hard to reach and those that may be of special concern given the building in question. It will outline any defects of the property, their apparent cause, the urgency at which repair is required and in most cases cost considerations for making those repairs.

Specifically, the report will look at areas including:

  • Any defects that may be a cause for concern.
  • Testing for damp within the walls.
  • Any notable hazardous materials such as asbestos.
  • Any extensions or renovations that have been undertaken without planning permission.
  • Any information found about the property such as the materials it is made from.
  • Any damage to the roof or structural timbers including woodworm or rot.
  • Any large or threatening trees within close proximity of the property.
  • Any recommendations on further investigations into areas of concern on the property.

When getting quotes for your building survey you need to make sure that you are working with a competent Chartered Surveyor. It is also important to ensure that they are regulated by RICS, as this is the organisation that get the guidance and standards for surveyors and therefore guarantees a level of professionalism and provides you with peace of mind.

When Do You Need a Full Structural Survey?

Much as the name suggests, the Building Survey or Full Structural Survey can indeed be used on any type of property. However, it is much more popular for building that are over 50 years of age or buildings that have specific and obvious defects that need reviewing. This is primarily due to the level of details included within the report and the relative cost compared to other options.

For example, for homes under 50 years of age a survey such as a Homebuyers Survey is likely to be suitable as it will cover any areas of major concern but without costing a large amount of money. Likewise, for a new build that won't have long-term structural issues, it's recommended that you at least get a snagging list. For buildings over 50 years old where it is more likely there will be structural or ‘hidden’ damage then this type of detailed a Full Structural Survey is ideal.

On occasions where the property is of an unusual construction or made of unusual material, where you plan on undertaking renovation or extension work, or where extensive renovation or extension has already been carried out on the property then this survey is also a worthwhile investment.

If you are purchasing a historically unique or listed property, read our guide on Listed Building Surveys, where we explain what is basically a specialist Building Survey. And remember, if you're moving within or to Scotland, check out our guide on The Home Report.

How Much Does A Building Survey Cost?

Depending on the size of your home, a Building Survey costs will be around £500 to £1,500.

As we have previously mentioned this is one of the most expensive surveys that you can have undertaken on your new home. The exact cost varies widely depending on the size, condition and location of the house, as larger homes and those in clear poor condition are likely to take longer to complete. Accessibility may also impact cost as the surveyor will need to access almost every area of the building and limited access can lead to extended time or specialist kit being required.

We've put together the average cost of a Building Survey for a range of property prices. 

Property PriceAvg. Cost of Building Survey
up to £99,000£500
£100,000 - £249,000£700
£250,000 - £349,000£800
£350,000 - £499,000£900
£500,000 plus£1,300


Data from Which

It is always worth getting a number of quotes for this as prices can vary widely dependent on the supplier. For guidance on why a Building Survey is worth the cost, check out our guide on why a property survey is needed.

How Long Does A Full Structural Survey Take?

A Building Survey can take from between 4 to 8 hours to complete depending on the size of the property, with the report being completed within 5 to 10 working days. The timing will vary depending on access and property size, so let's have a look at what goes into the timing of a Building Survey.

Booking the survey

You can book a building survey whenever you like. However, it is most commonly undertaken once an offer has been accepted on the property. Offers are usually accepted on the basis that no major findings of concerns or potentially costly defaults are found upon survey. Once the survey has been complete, often the price can be negotiated based on any major work that needs to be done on the property to make it safe and habitable in the long term.

It is important to communicate well with your surveyor beforehand and understand the areas which they will need to access. This will allow you to make sure that each area can be reached easily and safely ahead of time. For example, if your new property has a loft, it is a good idea to make sure that you have a ladder ready for them to use or check they have a ladder suitable to reach.

If your new home still has its old tenant on site, you will also need to make sure you coordinate with them to ensure it is ok for the survey to take place. This can be quite a disruptive process, so it is a good idea to check when they are happy for you to carry it out.

On the day of the survey

Again this widely depends on the size, accessibility and location of the property you are purchasing. For smaller properties, it will likely take 2 to 4 hours to complete and for larger properties it is likely to take anything from 5 to 8 hours in total.

When will you receive the report?

Depending on the size of the property and how many different aspects the surveyor needs to cover, it can take anything from 5 to 10 working days to produce the full report and for it to be delivered.

Your surveyor should be able to give you a clearer indication of how long this will take once they have completed the home visit.

What Does A Full Structural Survey Report Look Like?

You are likely to receive your buildings survey report via email. Although in some cases you may receive it via the post.

The report will give details on the findings of the physical survey that was undertaken at your home including details on any defects that may be a cause for concern, testing for damp within the walls, any notable hazardous materials such as asbestos, any extensions or renovations that have been undertaken without planning permission, any evidence of substances, any damage to the roof or structural timbers including woodworm or rot, any large/threatening trees within close proximity of the property, any recommendations on further investigations into areas of concern on the property. 

It will also include further information found from discussions and desk research. This will include who wants the property and where it is located, what the weather was like on the day of the survey, a history of the property and how it has been adapted over the years (including approved and unapproved extensions, renovations etc). If you have also asked the surveyor to specifically look at anything it will likely highlight this area in further detail.

How do you read the report?

Buildings surveys are designed to be easy to read and use a clear ‘traffic light code’ to highlight which areas are of most concern and may need looking at immediately. To give an indication of how this code works:

Green refers to ‘Condition Rating 1’ and indicates that the area referenced needs no repairs and has no area of concern, these should continue to be maintained in a similar way to previously.

Amber refers to ‘Condition Rating 2’ and highlights areas with defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered as urgent or serious. These areas are unlikely to impact the overall value of the property, but are likely to need some maintenance or repair in time.

Red refers to ‘Condition Rating 3’ and highlights defects that are in need of urgent or series repair, need to be replaced or investigated urgently. Practically these areas are those that should be seriously considered as part of the overall purchase. They may be areas that make the purchase void, or they may be areas that warrant re-negotiation based on potential costs to fix these issues.

However, unlike the Homebuyers report the Building Survey will go into more detail on each aspect as well as covering a much wider variety of aspects about the building. In addition, the report will also include details on what possible repairs and maintenance may cost as a result of findings. This is especially useful if you choose to renegotiate on the cost of the property moving forwards.

Check out our guide on what to do with bad survey results for more information on your next steps if the survey flags some issues.

Building Survey vs. Homebuyers and Valuations

When it comes to buying a home, there are three main types of surveys which can be explored. Here we compare the main types of survey, including Building Survey, Homebuyers Survey, and a basic valuation.

Building SurveyHomebuyers SurveyValuation

Pros

  • Excellent for older homes, those that may have structural issues or are built in an unconventional way.
  • Comprehensive and thorough survey with hands on approach, access difficult to reach areas.
  • Can include projected costing and timelines for any repairs.
  • Useful if you plan to convert or extend a property.
  • Excellent for the majority of homes.
  • Highlights most common areas of concern based on the general condition of the building.
  • Relatively low cost compared to building survey.
  • Useful in helping you secure a mortgage on the property.
  • Helps you ensure you are not paying over the odds for the property.
  • Often paid for by your mortgage provider.

Cons

  • Dependent on the size of the property it can take up to a day to complete.
  • The most expensive type of survey.
  • Only areas that are easily accessible are surveyed.
  • Areas such as drains and under carpets are not accessed or assessed.
  • Gives no details on the condition of the property or any potential issues that may be faced.


You can check out our detailed guides on both the Homebuyers Survey or Valuation Survey to get fully informed about your survey choice.

Save on Your Building Survey

We hope that this guide has helped you understand every aspect of your Building Survey, and that you're fully informed on if you need this particular survey type. Although the more expensive option of survey, Compare My Move can help you save money when it matters by connecting you with up to 4 RICS accredited surveyors. Just fill in this quick and easy form and compare and save on your surveying costs.