New to the Cairns Area? 5 Things You Should Consider

Cairns Esplanade

New to the Wet Tropics? Here are 5 Important Things to Consider

The Cairns Region is within the Wet Tropic zone, which means it has particular climatic conditions that make it quite different to places in drier and cooler environments. The main differences in Cairns compared to other regions, particularly through the “wet season”, are intensity and amount of rainfall, extremely high humidity levels and minimal daily temperature variation.

There’s no doubt North Queensland is a beautiful area – reef and rainforest abound, virtually right in our backyards, so it’s no wonder many southerners flock to the tropics to escape the cold winters of the southern states and gain a more laid-back lifestyle. But if you’ve decided to make that commitment and are considering purchasing a property in Far North Queensland, there are a few things to keep in mind before making an offer.

  1. Roof Drainage/Plumbing – In Cairns and the surrounding areas, rainfall can be intensive for days on end. It is not unusual for the Cairns region to experience the equivalent of a southern city annual rainfall in just a few days. Roof drainage and associated plumbing therefore needs to be capable of coping with these intense rainfall periods with gutters and downpipes needing to be somewhat oversized compared to other regions in Australia. If the drainage/plumbing is not able to cope with the rainfall, the house could experience internal flooding and damage to walls and the structure. Often gutters or downpipes are allowed to overflow onto surrounding ground, and if this is the case then specific attention should be paid to ground drainage (refer below).

Another factor to be conscious of is blockages in downpipes and drains. This could simply be as a result of organic matter collecting, particularly if trees are close to the dwelling. If the downpipes or drains are blocked this may be the cause of visible internal water staining in the ceiling or down the walls. While the solution is cheap and easy- to unblock the drains- the damage caused could be costly to fix. A good quality gutter guard can be a real advantage, so if it's already installed at a property you’re keen on, that’s a plus.

Ground drainage and tree roots

  1. Ground Drainage – similar to roof drainage, the grounds surrounding the dwelling need to be able to cope with intense prolonged rainfall periods. No installed underground drainage can quite simply mean that water will pool around the house, possibly seeping into the footings and walls. Poor water run-off can compound this problem (the surrounding ground slopes towards the building, rather than away from it).

Cairns is part of the Wet Tropics and flooding rains are common in the wet season

Look for properties that already have in-ground drainage installed to assist in transporting the water away from the footings and walls, or factor installation into your budget when considering a home without it.

Cairns has many suburbs where the soils have a reasonable clay content and are not very free-draining, and the underground water table is quite high. If it’s a dry time when you’re looking at a property, the most reliable way to get information about how the grounds deal with our torrential rain is to talk to the neighbours and ask them if the property tends to flood – you’ll more than likely find they’ll be happy to have a chat!

  1. Vegetation – in the Tropics, with a combination of high rainfall, extreme humidity and warm temperatures, plants grow very quickly. With this in mind it is important that vegetation is trimmed back regularly and kept well maintained, especially if it is directly against a wall or eave. If not cut back the vegetation can readily become dense, hard up against the walls. If this is allowed, vegetation can encourage moisture and mould.

Ground drainage and tree root damage can be noted in a building inspection report

Also, any trees or plants with extensive root systems that are permitted to grow uncontrolled close to a structure can adversely affect its foundations. This can happen by either:

  • The roots sucking the moisture from the ground during drier periods which then causes the founding soils to dry out with a potential to lead to settlement of the structural footings. This can then lead to cracking in walls and pavements; or
  • Roots growing into the joints in the footings or walls. As they grow, they expand leading to cracking, impacting the structural integrity of the building.
    1. Corrosion (rust) – in humid tropical environments corrosion, or rust, can be a major concern. This mainly occurs in steelwork that is exposed to moisture. Generally, steelwork is protected by a coating such as paint or galvanising. When the integrity of the coating is affected this allows moisture to make direct contact with the steel which then will more than likely lead to corrosion. Once corrosion starts it causes expansion of the steel surface which then leads to further deterioration of the coating – and thus ultimately leading to a total breakdown of the protective coating. The resulting stain is usually the result of the brown iron-oxide that is produced through the corrosion process. This staining could be evident in such areas as the roof cladding or in steel structural elements such as balcony posts and balustrades.

    A building inspection will detail the state of a Queenslander roof

    If the corrosion is extensive the structural integrity may be compromised which may require significant work to repair. If detected early enough, even though there might be a lot of rust staining, the fix may simply be a clean back to sound steel material followed by re-coating (eg. painting).

    Ventilation – in the Cairns region during summer the humidity can be uncomfortably high. To help both from an ease of living point of view and to minimize build-up of moisture, it’s important to have good ventilation throughout your home. There are two schools of thought when it comes to ventilation and keeping cool – to use air conditioning, or not to use air conditioning. If you choose not to use the air con 24/7, cross ventilation is the ideal manner to promote air flow which will then minimize the accumulation of moisture and reduce condensation. In order to achieve this, doors and windows should be openable across from one another facilitating the crossflow of air. It is important for these opening windows and doors to have mesh protection both from a security and insect perspective. Good quality ceiling fans are also a must.

Building Inspections in Cairns. Yes we inspect Queenslanders

Sub-floor ventilation can assist with both a cooling effect as well as assisting with prevention of the build-up moisture. This is why, in the absence of modern-day air conditioning it was common for houses to built on an elevated open frame allowing free flow of air underneath (the typical old “Queenslander”).

A building and pest inspection immediately after signing a contract can highlight any of these issues in a comprehensive report. Contact All Building Inspections today to make a booking.

Retaining Walls – 3 Things to Look For

Beautiful retaining wall

Retaining Walls – 3 Things to Look For

Knowing what to look for when a property has retaining walls, especially if you are about to purchase, can save significant heartache in terms of expensive remedial works that might be required later.

What are retaining walls?
Retaining walls are structures that hold back, or retain, the earth behind them. They are very common in properties that are on sloping sites and are generally constructed either:
• As part of the building structure to enable floors to be built at one level – quite often requiring the ground to either be excavated or for soil to be imported to increase the height of the ground;
• As part of general landscaping or driveway construction – in order to create level areas on a sloping block.

This type of construction is often known as “cut and fill” as shown below.

The anatomy of a retaining wall explained

What are Retaining Walls made of?

Retaining walls can be constructed of any type of material. Common materials used are masonry (blocks or bricks), concrete and timber. Sometimes large rocks are also used simply as a “mass” or “gravity” wall. Regardless of the material, it is advisable and often necessary in accordance with Council regulations, to have the retaining wall designed and certified by a structural engineer, especially if it is over 1.0 m in height.

Three Important Things to Look For

  1. Cracks

If a retaining wall is constructed of a rigid material such as concrete or masonry the design and construction need to be in accordance with Australian Standards in order to minimise any cracking. While some movement can be expected which may lead to minor cracking, anything over 2 to 3 mmm wide is a sign of possible structural damage.

Generally vertical construction joints are incorporated every 6 to 10 m along the wall in order to manage shrinkage and/or expansion of the building material. For internal walls

these joints should be sealed with a flexible waterproof jointing compound to stop moisture seeping through.

Block retaining wall beginning to fail

  1. Tilting from vertical alignment

Walls are usually built vertically and so therefore if a wall is tilting or leaning over there is a potential structural issue. Walls start to lean over when they can no longer hold back the pressure of the soil behind. If a wall has started to lean over then it is most likely a sign that the wall’s integrity is compromised. Sometimes it can take years for a wall to display such signs.

How a retaining wall is built

3. Moisture

External walls:

When walls are built outside exposed to the weather it is not necessary to waterproof the rear surface. Quite often there are seep holes incorporated into the wall that allow water to pass through the wall. This alleviates the build-up of water pressure behind the wall. The only negative side to this type of construction is that often the seeping water leaves stains on the wall which can be unsightly. To avoid this the rear surface of walls are often sealed against moisture preventing water from seeping through.

It is advisable that all retaining walls have a free drainage layer immediately behind them to assist with minimizing build-up of water pressure.

Internal walls:

Walls constructed as part of a building that form an interior surface require special attention. The main concern with these type walls is the seepage of moisture through them which can result in unsightly staining of internal wall finishes (plaster or paintwork) or build up mildew and mold. The rear of all internal walls should generally be lined with a waterproof membrane and have free draining material immediately behind it. Usually internal walls will not have seep holes installed but rather look to stop any water from getting through. This will then prevent any moisture from seeping through and possibly affecting the finished surface inside the building.

In addition to the membrane, free draining material is placed against the rear surface. This minimizes the potential build-up of water pressure. This drainage material needs to be sloped and directed to a point where the water can escape, either through open drains or plumbed-in drainage into the stormwater.  Often internal walls end up below natural surface level (such as in basements) which then requires installation of a collection point or sump, which will then need a pump to be installed to get rid of the water. Without any of the above is it likely that moisture problems will exist.


Buying a home and signed a contract?

Buying or Selling a Property? You need a Thorough and Impartial Building & Pest Report
If you have found a home you love and have signed a contract to make an offer, it is vital to get a property inspection report done before the inspection date on the contract. The inspection window is generally either 14 or 21 days but can be as short as seven days, depending on the contract. Structural defects, signs of termite infestation and other problems could be lurking just out of sight. A thorough pre-purchase property inspection will give you the confidence you need to go through with a transaction that could ultimately be the biggest purchase of your life.

The Importance of an Impartial Pre-Purchase House Inspection
At All Building Inspections, our goal is not just to provide thorough property inspections, but also to be as objective and impartial as possible. We regularly work with buyers, real estate agents, builders and sellers/vendors. Regardless of whether we’re performing a vendor inspection or a buyer inspection, we will always deliver honest reports. We don’t alter our work or turn a blind eye to shoddy workmanship or structural problems to benefit either party, even if that party is our client. Here’s why that impartiality is so important:

  • You can trust us. We are professional inspectors, and our chief inspector has 40 years of experience as a registered builder in Queensland and New South Wales. We call things as we see them and provide the unvarnished truth in our reports, simply because we know it’s the right thing to do and have been in the industry for long enough to understand its importance.
  • You don’t need to get a separate timber pest inspector. Building and pest inspections can be expensive—especially when you need to hire different teams to carry out building inspections, pest inspections and (if applicable) pool inspections. All Building Inspections, as our company name implies, carries out all these inspections as one and delivers the same level of objective reporting for each.
  • You can buy with confidence. The last thing you want is to buy a home only to find that it has a costly problem that is now your responsibility. Maybe the second-to-last thing you want is to be in the buying process and have that fear in the back of your mind that the house might have an unseen issue. We eliminate both concerns and enable you to buy with complete confidence.

Benefits of All Building Inspections
We’ve already mentioned some of the top benefits you’ll experience from hiring us for your pre-purchase house inspection. Our 40 years of industry experience and holistic inspections are two things our customers love. Here are a few others:
Our urgent services. If you need a buyer inspection or vendor inspection urgently, let us know. While we can’t guarantee same-day service, we will try to fit you in as soon as we possibly can.
Our clear reports.
When we deliver a property inspection report, you won’t have to have us translate it for you. Our reports are clear, concise and written in plain English, without any super technical construction industry jargon.
Our repair services. If you are inspecting a property you already own, our history in the building industry qualifies us to provide repairs and other rectifications for you. If we find any faults during our inspection, we can provide quotes for what we would charge to fix them.

Why Trust All Building Inspections with your Pre-Purchase Property Inspection
    Between our decades of industry experience, our commitment to impartiality and our versatility as both inspectors and builders, you can count on us to provide a property inspection report you can genuinely trust. Contact us today to schedule your inspection.