U&M Group


ASUC Awards November 2018!

On the 23rd November we attended the ASUC Awards, at One Moorgate Place in London.

We are delighted to announce that we received a lovely glass trophy as winner of our category and a certificate for ‘Highly Commended’ recognising our commitment to training.

Guidelines for Underpinning Your Basement

There are many excellent reasons for adding a basement to your home, from creating an independent flat to having an indoor swimming pool. It’s a major job, though, and one of the most important aspects is ensuring the foundations of your house remain strong. This means underpinning to form the basement.

Why Have a Basement?

Growing families eventually outgrow their homes, and one option is to move to a bigger place. That’s not only a huge upheaval, though — it’s also prohibitively expensive for many people at current house prices.

An increasingly popular alternative is to add a basement to the existing house. This could be used as an extra bedroom or living room, or else as a playroom for the kids or a games room for the whole family. It could even be converted into a flat, perhaps for an older teenager.

Why Would Your Basement Need Underpinning?

If you’re having space under your home excavated for a basement, this means digging under its existing foundations, leaving the whole structure at risk. Underpinning will replace the lost foundations and restore the building to full strength.

There are various approaches to underpinning, but the most likely methods to be used when constructing your basement are either mass concrete underpinning and/or mini piles. The method adopted is chosen for a variety of factors: ground conditions, groundwater, access and proximity to other structures to name a few. The ultimate aim is to transfer the load from the existing structure to the proposed basement level while providing a retaining structure for the ground surrounding the basement.

What Needs to Be Done?

The process of underpinning is an integral part of creating a new basement. It’s therefore preferable to employ a contractor that specialises in both underpinning and constructing basements. The things you’ll need to do include:

  • A professional survey of the site, especially the state of the soil, which will help to determine which kind of underpinning should be used.
  • Check the contractor’s record and specialisation before hiring — it’s important not to hire a general builder with no record of underpinning.
  • Check with your local authority whether you need planning permission.
  • Find out if the work will affect any party wall agreement.
  • Plan ahead for how you’ll deal with the disruption while the work is being carried out.
  • Make sure the contractor you hire will fully clear up and restore the site when the job is over.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you want to know more about underpinning your basement.

Five Reasons for Choosing Us as Your Piling Contractor

In spite of being a highly specialist field, you’ll face a wide choice if you’re looking for a piling contractor. How do you tell which will offer the most effective and professional job?

At U&M, we’re confident that we can compete with anyone for expertise and professionalism. Here are five reasons why.

1. We Have the Resources on Hand

U&M has forty years’ experience delivering piling solutions. This means that, unlike general construction companies, we have both the experts and all the equipment normally required for a job. We can be available when you need us and won’t have to pass on the costs of hiring in equipment and consultants. Even in the unlikely case that your piling job is so unusual that we don’t have a particular piece of equipment, we have the contacts to acquire it as quickly and cheaply as possible.

2. We Fully Project Manage Your Job

Instead of simply turning up and doing the work as directed, U&M offers full project management on our jobs. From arranging surveys on your behalf to ensuring the site is handed back to you clean and tidy, we’ll cover everything for you. We also guarantee to maintain the highest standards of health and safety, as well as meeting environmental concerns.

3. We Offer Bespoke Contracts

Every piling job is different, whether that’s because of the condition of the soil, the nature of the building, problems with access or the wider environmental concerns. One size certainly doesn’t fit all in piling. We’ll discuss all aspects of your needs with you before drawing up a bespoke contract that enables us to deliver the solution you require in the best possible way.

4. We Have Multiple Accreditations

Accreditations by professional bodies provide a clear demonstration that a company satisfy exacting standards in areas such as technical ability, quality management, health and safety, environmental, training, and insurance and financial audit. U&M is accredited by five of the leading professional bodies in construction, and we’re constantly working to raise our bar still further.

5. You Don’t Have to Take Our Word for It

In the course of our forty years of experience, U&M has delighted large numbers of customers with our expertise, professionalism and standards of service. A small selection of recent testimonials is available on our website, and we can supply a larger range if you need further reassurance.

If you want to know more about why U&M is your best choice as your piling contractor, you’re very welcome to get in touch with us.

Ten Advantages of Driven Piling

Of the two main methods of inserting piles to support foundations, driving is the preferred method across most of Europe. In the UK, though, there’s a stubborn loyalty to the more traditional technique of boring, also known as drilling.

While bored piles certainly have their place, the advantages of driven piles are clear for the majority of situations. Instead of creating a hole and then filling it with grout or cement, driving involves pushing a metal tube into the soil. This is then filled while in situ and can be withdrawn when the filling has solidified.

Here are ten advantages of driven piling.

1. Precasting Piles

Piles can be precast in a variety of sizes and shapes and brought to the site, helping work to proceed faster.

2. Extra Strength

Because driving compacts the adjacent soil, the pile will be more securely fixed into the ground. Its load-bearing capacity will, therefore, be significantly increased, whereas boring techniques can occasionally lead to subsidence.

3. No Spoil

Unlike boring, driving piles doesn’t involve excavating any soil. This means that no spoil will accrue on the site, making it far easier to keep the site neat and tidy.

4. Suitable for Sites with Groundwater

On some sites, it isn’t advisable to bore holes in case of groundwater. Because driving doesn’t create an empty hole at any point, this isn’t a problem.

5. Maintaining Shape

Unlike bored piles, driven piles don’t bulge in soft ground. It’s also rare that they’ll be damaged when subsequent piles are installed.

6. No Curing Time

Because driven piles don’t need time to be cured, they can be installed on the site in their natural sequence. This makes the process more efficient, saving time and cost.

7. Superior Structural Strength

Driven piles will tend to have greater structural strength than bored piles, with high levels of lateral and bending resistance. This makes them suitable for challenging conditions, as well as for more normal use.

8. Shorter Piles

Because driven piles tend to adhere better to the sides, it’s often possible to use shorter piles to achieve the same results.

9. More Eco-Friendly

The combination of more efficient deliveries to the site with no need to dispose of spoil reduces the CO2 footprint of driven piles.

10. Cost Effective

All of this combines to make driving piles a more cost-effective technique than the alternatives. That’s better piles for less money — a win-win situation.

You’re very welcome to get in touch with us if you want to know more about the advantages of driven piling.

Structural Repair — Bring Your Property Back to Health and Safety Standards

If your property is showing signs of structural damage, the worst thing you can do is leave it alone. Furthermore, hope everything will be all right. If you’re a landlord renting out a property, you have a legal obligation to ensure that it’s structurally safe and meets all Health & Safety requirements. In any case, any property owner would be liable if a collapsing building were to cause any injury or any damage to other properties.

What Are the Signs that You May Need Structural Repairs?

The most common causes of structural damage are subsidence, failure or damage to building materials, and poorly restrained walls, although it can also be caused by a traumatic impact. Crucial signs to look out for include:

  • substantial cracks in the walls, either internally or externally
  • door or window frames pulling away from the walls
  • bulging brickwork on the walls
  • sloping floors
  • leaning chimney stacks

If you notice any of these, it’s vital to call in a structural engineer or a company specialising in structural repairs to find out what needs to be done.


If the problem is subsidence caused by poor soil quality or excavations beneath the building, the usual remedy is to have the foundations underpinned. This can be done by adding an extra layer of concrete beneath the existing foundations, but the more popular method today is piling. Here, piles are driven or bored down to a more secure level, allowing them to support the foundations.

In most cases, underpinning the foundations will prevent any further deterioration. However, it may also be necessary to repair damage already done, and this may need various methods.

Repairing the Structure

If the problem hasn’t been caused by subsidence, or if the subsidence has caused structural damage that won’t right itself naturally, a number of techniques are available. These include:

  • crack stitching to repair failed building materials, using stainless steel or resin grout
  • replacement of cavity wall ties, sometimes without having to replace the old ones
  • resin repair and replacement to strengthen structural timbers
  • replacement of lintels without any demolition needed

Structural repairs may seem expensive. However, in many cases (especially in the case of damage through impact) the costs may be covered by your building insurance. In any case, it’s cheaper than writing off the building — or risking legal action.

If you have any suspicions that your property may need structural repair, feel free to get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to have a look at it.

Piling — The Way It Works

In recent decades, piling has become the method of choice for the majority of underpinning needs. Compared with other methods, it’s quicker, less disruptive, requires less concrete and spoil disposal and is therefore much friendlier on the environment. It can also provide ‘stronger’ underpinning in more poor-quality soils.

What Is Piling?

Piles are either metal or concrete shafts which are inserted into the ground to distribute the load of a structure down to a secure sub-surface layer. They’ve been traditionally used for building large structures, but piling is now widely used in underpinning solutions, although more traditional methods still have their place.

Piles can be either driven straight into the ground or concrete poured into drilled holes. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and one is usually recommended for a given project and ground condition.

Why Use Piling?

If your home is at risk of subsidence, it may need to be underpinned. This could be because the soil quality is weak, there’s a high water table or there are old excavations beneath it.

Piling has the big advantage over other methods of underpinning that the piles reach down much further into the ground. This means they can be anchored in a stronger layer, redistributing the weight of the building down to a level that can hold it.

At one time, the disadvantage of piling was that it required large, disruptive machinery, which wasn’t practical in a domestic building. Modern mini-piles, however, use far more manageable machinery that causes relatively little disruption.

What Are the Types of Piling?

Broadly, piling can be divided into two types. Driving piles, which can focus the power either at the top or toe of the pile, is best suited to soft, squeezing soil. Among the options for driven piles are:

  • Steel Cased Bottom Driven Piles, where the energy is delivered directly to the toe, are an extremely efficient system. This means the machines can be relatively small, so this approach suits confined spaces.
  • Steel Cased Grundomat Driven Piles are powered by compressed air. Sections of casing are inserted and welded together, causing less vibration than other forms of driving.

With augered piles, a hole is bored first and then filled with (reinforced) concrete or grout to make the pile. This tends to have the advantage of causing less vibration than driving. Options include:

  • Sectional Auger Mini Piles are very versatile, especially in restricted spaces. Here, multiple flight sections are inserted.
  • A Grout Injected Continuous Flight Auger is drilled in a single flight or hollow stem. This supports the sides of the hole throughout the process.
  • Helifix Dixie Pile which is a helix ‘screwed’ into the ground providing end bearing capabilities under each helix

If you want to know more about how piling could help you, feel free to give us a call.

Don’t Make These Mistakes When Underpinning Existing Foundations

Underpinning the foundations on a building is a major operation, and the way it’s carried out can have a crucial effect on the building’s future. There are many pitfalls to the process — though fortunately most can be avoided by using expert professionals. Here are the main things to remember.

Get Your Building Professionally Surveyed

The worst thing you can do is dive straight into underpinning. If you see signs that may suggest subsidence, the first step should be to hire a Chartered Surveyor or Structural Engineer to look at the property.

Not all subsidence requires underpinning. Sometimes, it’s as simple as removing a tree whose roots are interfering with the foundations, or getting the drains fixed. The survey will tell you exactly what’s required.

Select the Appropriate Type of Underpinning

Each underpinning technique is the right one in specific circumstances. If you don’t need to excavate far down, traditional mass concrete underpinning may be fine. However, if the survey reveals that the sub-soil is poor to a depth of two metres or more, or that there’s a high water table, you’ll almost certainly need piling.

There are many kinds of piles and piling machines, and the best choice will reflect not only the condition of the ground but also issues such as access and the amount of headroom available. Both the Structural Engineer and the contractor you employ will be able to advise you on this.

Check Out the Legal Aspects

You shouldn’t start any building work without checking whether you need permission. The work may be notifiable under the Building Regulations, and you should also investigate if another building is close enough for the Party Wall Act 1996 to be relevant.

Again, any competent professional can advise you on these points, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you ask the right questions.

Choose the Right Contractor

Underpinning is a job for specialist professionals, not DIYers or a general builder, and your choice of contractor can make the difference between success and a botched job. With a major project, it’s natural to look for ways to keep down the cost, but that can mean going for the cheapest quote, instead of the one offering the best job.

It’s crucial to ensure the firm you choose has substantial specialist experience of underpinning. This will not only mean they have the necessary expertise, but also that they have the equipment required.

Feel free to get in touch with us for any advice or information you might need about your underpinning requirements.

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.