U&M Group


Three Superior Basement Extension Ideas for Summer 2018

In recent years, property prices have gone through the roof, putting the option of moving home beyond the reach of many families, even if they desperately need the space. A far cheaper solution is to extend your existing home, and basement extension has really started catching on recently. Here are three great ideas for a basement extension to think about in 2018.

1. Games Room

Whether it’s the children wanting space to play or the adults wanting their pool or table tennis, fitting it all into a typical family home can be a problem. Equipment needs to be laboriously brought out and set up each time and put away in storage afterwards.

Putting in a basement extension for your games room gives you all the space you need. Your favourite games can be set up permanently for use whenever you want. Or, if it’s primarily for the children, they can have everything from a basketball hoop to climbing ropes installed — though you might want to think about soft flooring.

A games room doesn’t require natural light, though the artificial lighting would have to be efficient. You would need to incorporate good ventilation into the basement extension, though.

2. Self-Contained Flat

Sometimes, their own bedroom isn’t quite enough. Whether you want somewhere for an older teen to feel independent, a granny flat or a guest suite, a basement conversion can be just the answer.

Depending on the amount of space available for your basement, this could be a complete flat or a bedsit. Even in a bedsit, though, careful planning can leave enough room for a small kitchen space, a walk-in shower, a bed and an area to sit and chill.

Unlike a games room, this will require natural light and ventilation to be attractive. That can be achieved by incorporating a light well, also doubling as a means of outside access.

3. Kitchen

A kitchen may not seem the most obvious use for a basement conversion, but it can offer space for the kitchen you’ve always wanted. At the same time, the cramped room you’ve been coping with can be converted into valuable living space.

Like the self-contained flat, a kitchen would need a light well and, even more importantly, excellent ventilation. Outside access to the garden would also be ideal, especially if you grow your own vegetables or herbs.

These are just three of many options for a superior basement conversion to think about for summer 2018. Feel free to get in touch with us to find out more about these or other opportunities.

Why You Should Consider a Basement Construction for Your Home

Very few 20th century houses have basements, but there are signs that this is being rethought. UK homes are smaller than in most countries, and many of us need more space. There seems a choice between moving to a larger property or sacrificing part of the garden for an extension.

There’s an alternative, though. You could add a basement to your home.

Creating Space with a Basement

A basement, whether included in a new build or retrofitted in an existing house, provides an entire extra floor with no extra footprint or height. It can provide extra living space for a growing family, or else you could have your utility room or garage down there, freeing up space on the main floors.

On the other hand, a basement has many possible uses. You could have a games room, a gym, a home cinema or even a swimming pool. Alternatively, you could convert your basement into a self-contained flat, either for a family member to live independently or to rent out.

And, if you think a basement would be too gloomy for some of those uses, it needn’t be. It’s easy enough to include light wells, which can also be used for access, either as an independent entrance or a fire escape.

Saving Money with a Basement

Moving is an expensive business. It’s been estimated that, with fees and expenses, selling a property worth around £300,000 could cost you up to £28,000 — and that’s before factoring in the higher cost for a larger property.

Excavating and fitting out a basement isn’t cheap, but it’s unlikely to come to that much, unless there are major issues. You’ll have the additional advantage that basements are very energy efficient, since there are few exposed surfaces.

Adding Value with a Basement

A basement can be invaluable just for improving your quality of life by providing extra living space without the costs of moving, but it can also give you a financial boost. The simplest way of achieving this would be to rent it out as a flat, but it can also add real value to your home when you finally sell it.

It makes sense that a house with three storeys and 50% more floor space will sell for significantly more than one with two storeys, and the advantage will far outweigh what you’ve paid out. Property guru Phil Spencer’s estimate on his own basement conversion was that “for every £1 invested into the house, potentially £3 was added to its value.”

How much difference would a basement make to your quality of life? Get in touch to discuss your home’s potential with us.

What Is Progressive Scaffolding?

For most people, scaffolding is just scaffolding. It surrounds buildings of all types and sizes that are being built, repaired and demolished and, at a distance, it all looks much the same.

That’s far from the truth. There are many kinds of scaffolding, each type used in certain circumstances and not others — including progressive scaffolding.

What Is Progressive Scaffolding?

If an average semi or detached house needs structural repairs, it’s likely that the scaffolding will be put up at the start of the job and left till it can be removed. For some jobs, though, it’s not so simple, and progressive scaffolding is needed.

Scaffolding is progressive if it needs to be added to during the course of the work. This may involve the same scaffolding being extended around the building to work on different sections. Most often, though, progressive scaffolding is built up one level at a time, as it’s needed.

This creates challenges of its own. It’s the nature of most scaffolding that the lowest level provides the foundation that supports all higher levels. This means that the initial construction needs to be capable of supporting everything that will be added to it — though this still needs to be checked each time a new level is built.

When Is Progressive Scaffolding Used?

The most common use for progressive scaffolding is for constructing multi-storey buildings. It wouldn’t be practical, for example, to build ten levels of scaffolding straight away, before the building has got beyond the ground floor. Each level is normally added when it’s required, until the scaffolding stretches up to the full height of the finished building.

A different type of progressive scaffolding may be required when one part of a building needs to be worked on at first, but the scaffolding has to be extended in later stages. Extending it around the building has challenges similar to building it up

Can It Be Used for Commercial and Domestic Properties?

Multi-level buildings are put to a wide range of uses — blocks of flats, hotels, office-blocks, shopping complexes and many others. The purpose might be different, but the challenges of construction are similar.

Whether the building is to be put to domestic, commercial or public use, it will need progressive scaffolding to be constructed safely. And that’s also true whether it’s three or four storeys or the latest rival to the Shard.

If you think your project may require progressive scaffolding (or any other kind), you’re welcome to get in touch with us to find out what we can offer.

How Are Construction Piles Injected?

Whether you’re constructing a new building or strengthening an existing one, strong foundations are essential. However, especially if you’re underpinning in a built-up area, you’ll also want to achieve this with a minimum of disruption and nuisance.

In both respects, the ideal solution is often to use construction piles.

What Are Construction Piles?

Piling was originally used for large-scale construction projects, with steel piles. They can also be concrete now and are increasingly being used for domestic properties. It’s quicker and less labour intensive than traditional methods of excavating foundations. It also creates far less displaced soil and debris to be removed.

This is the ideal approach when the soil immediately below the surface is of poor quality or the water table’s high. The piles can be drilled or driven deep into the ground, allowing the building’s weight to be evenly distributed and transferred down to a more stable level.

Drilling Construction Piles

Of the two methods of injecting construction piles, drilling (also known as boring) creates a hole into which the pile is inserted, usually by pouring in concrete or grout. This is particularly useful for going very deep into the ground, though the piles can’t be extended above ground. Drilled piles don’t cause ground heave and involve relatively little noise and vibration.

Among several types of drilled piles, perhaps the most efficient are:

  • Sectional Auger Mini Piles — This is a versatile system, particularly useful for restricted spaces, in which the piles are inserted in multiple flight sections.
  • Grout Injected Continuous Flight Auger — A continuous flight auger is drilled into the ground, providing support for the sides of the hole at all times and causing little vibration.

Driving Construction Piles

Piles can also be driven into the ground, either from the top or the toe. Although driving doesn’t take the piles as deep as drilling, it’s unaffected by ground water, and the piles can extend above ground. Driving tends to cause more noise and vibration than drilling, though this can be minimised with the right equipment. Options include:

  • Steel Cased Bottom Driven Piles — Because the energy is delivered directly to the toe, allowing for high efficiency, the machines can be relatively small and access confined spaces.
  • Steel Cased Grundomat Driven Piles — Powered by compressed air, the casing is injected in sections, each welded to the one before. This method causes less vibration than most driven piling.

All these methods offer the best option in different circumstances. Why not get in touch for a chat about what kind of piling would suit your needs?

When Do I Need Scaffolding?

If you ask whether you legally require scaffolding for a given job, you’ll get half a dozen self-styled experts each giving you a different answer. The regulations aren’t always precise, but understanding them will give you a firm guideline to what’s needed.


When Is Scaffolding Required?

The short answer to the question of when scaffolding is needed is when a thorough risk assessment concludes that it’s necessary. A risk assessment must by law be carried out on any job where any employees are working at height. It’s not a legal requirement when an individual is doing the work privately, but it’s common sense to take safety seriously.

Employees working at height (which isn’t clearly defined) must by law be safeguarded. For low-risk jobs, such as minor roof repairs to a domestic house, it might be considered safe to use a ladder, however we would always recommend utilising scaffolding or a working platform for Health and Safety reasons to increase stability and reduce the risk of accidents occurring. If you are planning to be working at height for a long period or moving about at height, then this is when it is imperative that you use a safer working platform such as an appropriately designed scaffolding system.


Why Is Scaffolding Necessary

Even when the law doesn’t specify it, there are numerous reasons why scaffolding is important. Anyone working at height for extended periods, especially in wet or windy weather, could be at risk of falling. Having a stable platform on a secure framework will reduce the risk to acceptable levels. Scaffolding also makes it easier to move around the building without having to constantly climb up and down.

In addition, scaffolding provides an easier means to tether tools and prevent a possible tragedy, since even a small tool falling from height could kill someone below. Besides common humanity, the safety aspect is a legal obligation for the person responsible for the site’s safety — often the contractor, but a business such as a property developer or landlord may have responsibility for work being done.


Properties That Can Use Scaffolding

Any building that’s being built, demolished or substantially repaired is likely to require scaffolding. The size doesn’t matter, nor whether it’s commercial, domestic or public.

A multi-storey office block being demolished will have scaffolding that’s dismantled from the top downwards as the building gets lower. If and when the promised repairs to Parliament get started, we’ll see the Palace of Westminster swathed in scaffolding. On the other hand, you might also need it for substantial work on the roof of your home.

The right scaffolding is available for all of these requirements. If you have any questions about scaffolding, feel free to get in touch with us.


Why Is Piling Used?

If your home or commercial property is having problems with subsidence, you may be advised that one of the solutions to remedy this is piling. Perhaps you have questions like why piling is required, how does piling work and how to do piled foundations work, so here’s a brief outline of the subject.

When Is Piling Used?

Some cases of subsidence can be cured by methods such as removing tree roots or repairing drains. However, if the problem is more endemic, such as weak soil or old mine workings, the foundations will need to be underpinned. There are various techniques of underpinning, but piling is the one that’s most often effective if the ground would otherwise require deep excavations. In the main types of piling, concrete piles are driven or bored down to a more stable level, allowing the weight of the structure to be spread between them.

Piling isn’t only used to underpin existing foundations, though. It can be used in a wide range of new construction projects, ranging from erecting a domestic or commercial building on weak soil to supporting large structures like bridges.

What Are the Benefits of Piling?

A building without piles may be fine, if it’s built on strong, solid, stable ground. If there’s any weakness, though, the structure may begin to suffer from subsidence, resulting first in cracks in the walls and around doors and windows, and finally, in extreme cases, in complete collapse if the problem isn’t tackled.

Underpinning in general is to secure the foundations and redistribute the weight of the building onto strong stable ground. Piling achieves this not only more quickly and with less disruption than other methods, but in most cases more effectively. If the ground is very weak and prone to collapse, simply adding an extra layer to the foundations may not be enough, whereas the piles will be anchored in a stronger layer and make the building far safer. Piled solutions are also markedly environmentally friendly when compared to more traditional solutions, they create less spoil and use less concrete.

How Is Piling Done?

There are several approaches for how piling is done, each of which can be the best approach depending on the building, the ground and the space available. Broadly, though, the choice is between driving and boring the piles.

Driving, which tends to be the best option for soft, squeezing or granular soils, involves the piles being forced down into the ground, often by a Drop Hammer piling rig or Grundomat machine which uses compressed air to hammer each section of the pile down. Alternatively, the pile can be driven by transferring the energy directly to the pile toe, allowing for less bulky machinery that can be used in a confined space.

Boring or augured piles, on the other hand, involves drilling a hole which can then be filled with concrete or grout to create the pile. This can be done, for instance, with a continuous flight auger, which supports the sides of the hole till the grout can be injected, used when ground water is present. In general, boring creates less vibration than driving and requires less headroom, so it can be used easily in confined spaces and built-up areas.


If you have a foundation without piling that you think may need strengthening, why not give us a call to discuss your needs.


What Are the Three Main Types of Scaffolding?

Most construction jobs require scaffolding, whether the work involves repair, improvement, demolition or new building. Working above ground-level without it would be not only impractical, but also unacceptably dangerous.

There are numerous types of scaffolding. Up to a point, each scaffolding job needs to be individually designed to suit the particular environment. In practice, though, they break down into three principal types, along with a number of other more specialist designs.

Supported Scaffolding

This is the type most people think of when they hear the word scaffolding. Supported scaffolding is built from the ground up the side of the building, using materials ranging from metal tubes and couplers (very common in the UK) to timber or even bamboo scaffolding, though the latter is mainly used in China.

Held in place both by the ground and the side of the building, supported scaffolding is generally the safest way of achieving elevation. It’s also one of the most flexible. In the case of a new build, for instance, an extra level can be added on reaching each storey, while that works in reverse for a demolition, where each level is dismantled as the structure is taken down from the top.

Mobile Scaffolding

Also known as rolling scaffolding, this is built up in a similar way to supported scaffolding, but is free standing and mounted on castors. It’s ideal for large sites, especially those with multiple projects, where it would be impractical to constantly dismantle and reconstruct scaffolding.

Of course, this has the potential for extra hazards. It’s essential that the castors are locked before anyone works on mobile scaffolding.

Suspended Scaffolding

Building scaffolding from the ground up is all very well for a two-storey building, or even a ten-storey one, but it can be completely impractical if work is required on a very tall building. In these circumstances, suspended scaffolding is used.

This is hung from the roof of the building and can be raised or lowered to different floors. Its most familiar use is to allow window-cleaners to work on skyscrapers, but it can also be used for repairs or to move equipment between levels.

Other Types of Scaffolding

These are the most common, but there are many other types of scaffolding. Birdcage scaffolding is a small structure to access a particular location, cantilever scaffolding, only fixed at one end, gives access to hard-to-reach places, while an aerial lift provides more flexibility than suspended scaffolding.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you want to discuss your scaffolding needs.

What Should Be Considered When Underpinning a House?

There are many reasons why the foundations of a house may need to be strengthened through underpinning. Not all are due to subsidence, but that’s the most common cause. Underpinning can significantly improve your home if it’s carried out by experts, but it’s essential to follow the correct procedures.

Why Your House May Need Underpinning

The most common reason for underpinning a building is subsidence. You’re likely to be alerted to this by finding significant cracks in the walls, or especially around the door or window frames. This may have been caused by erosion or old mine workings, or the quality of the soil could be too poor to support the building.

On the other hand, you may need underpinning because you’ve made improvements, increasing the load on the foundations, or because you’re building an extension.

Making the Decision

It’s essential to get a professional opinion before you make any decisions from a surveyor or structural engineer, who’ll advise you on the action to take. It may be nothing more than having drains fixed or a tree root removed, but the building could well need to be underpinned.

The report will probably include a recommendation of what type of underpinning will be most effective. Of the two main approaches, the more traditional method is to excavate the foundations section by section and pour in concrete. This tends to be a long and disruptive process, but it’s sometimes the best option.

The alternative is piling, where piles are bored or driven through the weaker soil into stronger soil or bedrock, allowing the weight of the building to be transferred downwards. This is generally a quicker and less invasive method.

Things to Consider

You may be advised by friends or family to avoid underpinning, since it can make your house more expensive to insure. While this is true to some extent, more expensive insurance is better than a building reduced to rubble, which could happen if no action is taken. In any case, there are signs of the insurance industry waking up to the fact that an underpinned house is actually more secure, not less.

It’s vital to take care when choosing your contractor. While it’s always tempting to go for the cheapest quote, it’s much more important to ensure you pick a company that specialises in the underpinning method you’ve chosen, not a general builder offering it at a cut price.

If you have any questions about an underpinning project, feel free to get in touch with us.

What Are Mini Piles?

Of the various ways to strengthen a building’s foundation, piling is the most versatile. Piles come in a wide range of types, but in recent years mini piles have increasingly become the most popular choice, especially for domestic properties.


Piling is used for projects from building large structures to adding a basement to your home. In particular, it’s become a popular choice for underpinning an existing building to counter problems like subsidence or heave.

The two main ways of inserting piles are driving, where the pile displaces the soil rather than removing it first, and boring, where you create a hole for concrete or grout to be poured into. The biggest advantage of piling, which makes it suitable for everything from underpinning to building bridges, is that the piles can go right through weaker soil, transferring the load to the more robust soil or bedrock below.

Mini Piling

Mini piling is a variation on this, using piles with a narrow diameter. This makes them light and inexpensive, but still able to support a considerable load.

For the most common type of mini piling, a hollow steel shaft is either screwed or drilled into the ground. Grout or concrete can then be poured in to form the pile, with the soil supported throughout by the steel shaft. This means that, unlike the traditional boring method, no extra supports are needed, even in weak soil.

Alternatively, especially if there’s limited headroom, sectional auger mini piles can be used. This involves boring down and adding multiple flight sections as you go. Depending on the soil’s stability, the sections can either be removed or left in place while pouring the concrete in.

Is Mini Piling Best?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this. All the various piling techniques have their place, as do other approaches like mass concrete underpinning, and the decision of which to use has to be taken on a job-by-job basis.

There’s no doubt, though, that mini piling has advantages in many situations. This particularly includes cases where the piling has to be carried out in a confined space, since the equipment is significantly smaller than what’s required for traditional piling. It’s also good for built-up areas, since it causes less noise and vibrations, while still producing secure foundations. On the other hand, mini piling has also been used successfully for major structures such as bridges and offshore wind farms.

If you think mini piling may be the answer to your needs, feel free to get in touch with us for more information.

Retrofit Basements — the Facts

It’s hardly surprising that so many of us are trying to find ways of increasing the living space in our homes. Not only are British homes smaller on average than in most developed countries, we also have one of the lowest uses of basements in Europe or North America.

You might think if your home doesn’t have a basement you can only get one by moving, but that’s not true. U&M can build you a retrofit basement.

What’s a Retrofit Basement?

If your home doesn’t have a basement, you can have one excavated, either directly below the house or else separately beneath the garden — a particularly good option if you live in a listed building, though this is subject to Planning Consent. Once constructed, it can be used for anything from a utility room to a swimming pool.

Essentially, a retrofit basement is a concrete box built under the house — though that doesn’t have to be how it looks from the inside. You’ll need to have some form of underpinning as part of the process, since you’re digging under the foundations. All the various forms of underpinning are suitable for specific properties, but mass concrete underpinning forming a retaining wall is most likely to be the way to go.

Cost vs Benefits

Though there are ways of doing it at cut price, a retrofit basement is a major project, and expensive with the underpinning and waterproofing included. On the other hand, a properly built retrofit basement is likely to add considerably more to the value of your home than you pay out, quite apart from the shorter-term benefits.

It’s also far more economical (and therefore also greener) than other rooms to keep at the right temperature, since a basement is largely self-regulating.

What Can I Use a Retrofit Basement For?

A retrofit basement can be used for whatever you’d use any room for, and a bit more besides. You might just want it as a utility room, freeing up space above, in which case it won’t need such elaborate finishing. On the other hand, it could be made into a semi-independent flat (perhaps for an older child, or to rent out), a full family room, a games room, a gym, a home, a garage, cinema, or even a swimming pool.

If you’re going for something like a flat or a family room, it’s easy enough to include light wells in a retrofit basement, and you can have an outside staircase to the surface to allow independent access.

Feel free to get in touch to find out how U&M can help you get the retrofit basement of your dreams.


How to Save Money on Construction

Whether you’re adding an extension, doing renovations or building a new home, it’s an expensive process, and you don’t want to waste money, especially as lenders tend not to offer as good a deal on a loan or mortgage as a few years ago. Money-saving tactics tend to fall into two categories: reducing your costs up front and avoiding mistakes that will be costly to correct.

Upfront Costs

The key to saving on your upfront costs is to shop around, and this starts with trying to get a mortgage or other loan to cover your costs. There’s a wide range of types of loan out there, and the first lender you ask may not have what you’re looking for. This is especially true if you want a mortgage for a self-build, which is very specialist.

The same is true of quotes from contractors. Three is the minimum number of quotes you should get, and it’s important to study these, including any hidden costs, and be sure exactly what you’re going to end up paying. You can also find out if you can buy any of the materials cheaper than the contractor’s price.

Think about seasonal prices, too. It can be cheaper to hire a contractor during the winter, when there’s less work available, but this can also be a risk. If the weather is bad, you could be looking at more down time, which can get expensive.

Avoid Costly Mistakes

Some apparent cost-cutting measures end up being the reverse. When you examine the quotes, for instance, it’s important not simply to go for the cheapest. It’s no good hiring a cut-price contractor who also cuts down as much, or more, on quality of work.

Similarly, it’s important to be realistic about how much you can leave to DIY. If you’re an expert DIYer, there may be a few aspects of the work you can manage yourself, but in general construction is a job for professionals. Relying on amateur work, or on substandard contractors, can end up costing you more to put mistakes right than if you’d paid a little more for experts to start with.

Other Savings

Remember that it’s going to cost you money to heat the spaces you’re having built. Measures you can take to minimise this range from ensuring your rooms aren’t larger than you need to incorporating energy-saving green technology right from the planning stage.

Restoring Your Building from Fire or Flood Damage

Fire and flooding are perhaps the most common types of damage for a home or business premises. Obviously, the immediate priorities are to make sure everyone’s safe and the short-term threat is neutralised, but then the clean-up starts.

Whether it’s your home or your established place of business, you need everything restored as quickly as possible. Our Bush Hill Construction subsidiary has over thirty years’ experience in a range of building work, including fire and flood damage remedial works and restoration.

Fire Damage

Even in a best-case scenario, fire can result in scorching and smoke damage, often with unavoidable extra damage caused by the firefighters’ water or foam. At worst, it can mean structural instability and collapse of walls or roof.

The first thing is to assess the damage, which could be more serious than meets the eye. This may mean a report from a chartered surveyor or a structural engineer, which should be covered by your insurance. Once you have this report, a construction company can carry out structural repairs like replacing damaged support timbers, as well as rebuilding work.

Even if little or no rebuilding is needed, there’ll probably be smoke damage to the interior, and it may be toxic as well as an eyesore. The building can be thoroughly cleaned with an agent like blasting soda, which will remove the grime and toxins without damaging the actual materials.

Flood Damage

Flooding in your home can be caused by anything from overflowing rivers to burst pipes. It’s less likely than fire to cause catastrophic structural damage, though in some cases there can be subsidence, which would need remedial work.

Perhaps the most significant issue from flooding, once the water’s gone, is the damp itself, encouraging mould and mildew to grow. Like the toxic effects of smoke, these can be a health hazard, so it’s vital that the drying process begins straight away. Once that’s done, problems can often be treated in a similar way to smoke damage, with blasting soda or a similar material.

Restoring Your Property

Once the drying and urgent structural work has been done, it’s likely there’ll be jobs from redecorating to checking the electrics. If it’s a business property, you may need it fitted out again, and Bush Hill Construction can do all these.

How Good Are Your Foundations?

However fine your house is, it won’t last long if the foundations are substandard. Even if they were good when the building was put up, many things can compromise them.

What Makes Foundations Fail?

Your foundations could be failing simply because they weren’t that good in the first place. A lot of older houses were built with minimal foundations, which after a hundred years or more might not be doing their job properly.

Usually, however, problems in the foundations derive from the ground either moving or becoming weaker, causing subsidence. Sometimes this is due to a specific problem. For instance, tree roots too close to the house can dry out the soil, or leaking drains can make the soil too damp. These can often be fixed just by pollarding the tree or repairing the drain.

More serious types of subsidence can be longer term, creating a cavity the building partially collapses into. This may be caused by a permanent change in soil quality, or by excavations below the building, such as old mine workings, and these cases require a more far-reaching solution.

How Do You Know There’s a Problem?

You don’t need to dig down to the foundations for signs of trouble. If you find substantial cracks in the building’s structure, it could well be a warning sign.

Some small cracks may be perfectly innocent, especially if the building’s old or a wall has recently been plastered. Larger cracks shouldn’t be ignored, however, especially if they’re around door or window frames, which may also have pulled away from the wall. And, of course, if the building is visibly leaning, don’t delay to take action.

What Can Be Done?

If you suspect the building may be suffering from subsidence, it’s important to call in a Chartered Surveyor to find out where the problem lies. If it’s a specific issue like drains or tree roots, fixing this may be enough.

If the subsistence is chronic, however, you may need to have your foundations underpinned. There are various techniques for this, but the most effective and least disruptive is usually mini-piling. This involves piles being bored or screwed down below the foundations to reach a depth where the soil can take the building’s weight.

The most important thing is under no circumstances ignore signs that there may be problems with your foundations, or what was a building could end up as a pile of rubble. If you think you may have a problem, you’re always welcome to contact us for a chat about your options.

What Are the Main Types of Piling?

There are various ways of creating or underpinning foundations, each of which works in the right situation. Perhaps the most broadly effective, though, especially for underpinning, is piling. This has the advantage of creating secure foundations in unstable conditions.

Piling comes in a number of different forms, depending on the challenge, and there are several ways of constructing them.

Driven Piles

Driving a pile means that you force it into the ground, displacing the soil rather than removing it first. Driven piles tend to be stable in soft, squeezing soils, and if the soil is loose they can make it denser. A couple of effective types of driven piles are:

  • Steel cased Grundomat driven piles — The Grundomat machine uses compressed air to power the hammer that drives each section of the pile into the ground. This is then connected by a spigot and socket joint to the next section, until the required depth has been reached.

  • Steel cased bottom driven piles — Here the energy is delivered to the pile toe, rather than the top, which makes the system very energy efficient. This means that the machinery is relatively small, opening up access to confined spaces.

Bored Piles

This process involves creating a hole for the concrete or grout to be poured into. It has several advantages, especially in built-up areas, since it involves minimal vibration and doesn’t need as much headroom as many other methods.

An example of this the grout injected continuous flight auger. This involves drilling a continuous flight auger into the ground, with the sides of the hole supported at all times by the auger. The grout is then poured in and the auger gradually withdrawn.

Mini Piles

Mini piles, sometimes referred to as micropiles, are piles with a narrow diameter. They’re small, light and inexpensive, but can still carry a heavy load. Different types can be either driven or bored.

Sectional auger mini piles, for instance, are bored with multiple flight sections added down to the desired depth. The concrete can be poured in either with the flights still in place or after extracting them, depending on the stability of the soil.

Contiguous Piling

Rows of piles inserted close together can be used to form temporary or permanent retaining walls. Most typically, they’re used in constructing basements, or to put up a structure close to an existing one.

These are just a few of the most common types of piling. If you have a construction or underpinning issue that piling might solve, you’re very welcome to get in touch with us and discuss options.

The Best Ways of Repairing Your House’s Brickwork and Masonry

The walls of your house keep the building up and the weather out. If they’re not secure, they may be failing to do one or both of these jobs, and they need to be repaired. Methods of repairing will depend to some extent on what type of walls you have (brick, stone, cavity etc.) but many approaches will be similar for all types.

Repairing Eroded Brickwork

Some brickwork erosion can give an older house a charming period look, but there’s a risk of damp getting inside. If the outside layer of bricks is eroded away, exposing the softer interior, the gaps can be filled in with lime mortar containing enough brick dust to match the colour of the surrounding bricks. Sealants can be used, but many sealants will trap moisture inside, increasing the risk of damp.

Severe damage could make it necessary to replace sections of the wall. This would be a major job for one of the main walls of the building, but freestanding walls, such as roof parapets, can be rebuilt far more easily. It’s important not only to match the new bricks to the originals, but also to use the same bricklaying techniques so it doesn’t look untidy.

Repairing Cracked Walls

If you have cracks in your outside walls, it’s vital to call in a structural engineer to identify the cause and extent of the problem. If the damage is too great to be corrected by removing the cause, the engineer will recommend the best approach for the situation.

If the cracks are horizontal, this may involve cavity wall tie replacement, but vertical cracks often require removal and replacement of the damaged bricks or stones. Alternatively, you can drill holes along the crack and inject them with thixotropic resin grout, then use the coloured mortar method to cover the repairs.

Repointing Your Walls

Mortar tends to get soft and crumble over time. This isn’t necessarily a problem, but if gaps between bricks are deep enough for water to collect, they need repointing.

First, take out the existing mortar to a depth of 20mm, and then spray the interior lightly with water. Fresh mortar can be pushed into the gap, scraping it flush with the wall as it starts to harden.

Get a Professional In

Most of these jobs aren’t for amateurs, though an expert DIYer may be capable of jobs like repointing. Some, such as replacing cavity wall ties, are absolutely for specialists only.


Feel free to contact us for advice about any repairs your walls may need.