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What is a Building Survey?

Find out what a Building Survey (previously a Structural Survey) is with our informative guide.

What is a Building Survey?

What is a Building Survey / Structural Survey?

Previously known as a full Structural Survey, a Building Survey is a wide-ranging inspection of a property. Occasionally, home buyers will use the former term, Structural Survey, to refer to a Building Survey. Regardless of which term you use, it is the most comprehensive of the surveys available for residential properties and will provide a detailed evaluation of a property’s condition. 

The Building Survey report will describe the condition of each element of the house and identify the property’s defects, their apparent cause, the urgency of repair, maintenance options and may also include an indication of the cost to repair.

Although the most expensive survey, a Building Survey is the most comprehensive and detailed evaluation of a property’s condition and construction.

Building Surveys are conducted by Chartered Surveyors. It is important to check that the surveyor you select is regulated by RICS, as they set the guidance for surveyors and this will ensure that the advice you are getting is independent, expert advice from appropriately trained professionals. You can get quotes from RICS Chartered Surveyors for your Building Survey through reallymoving.com.

Building Surveys / Structural Surveys are suitable for all properties, but they are particularly appropriate for:

  • Listed Buildings – a building that is on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest

  • Older Properties – recommended for properties over 50 years old

  • Buildings constructed in an unusual way, regardless of age

  • Buildings that you intend to renovate or change

  • Buildings that have already been renovated or significantly altered

What is involved?

A full Building Survey will include:

  • A building inspection

  • A full survey report

  • A property valuation (only if specifically stated to the surveyor).

The survey will inspect all visible and accessible parts of a building, including roofs, walls, floors, windows and doors, chimneys, cellars, garages and outbuildings. Surveyors have a legal responsibility to discover and inform of any major problems with a property, so during the building inspection surveyors will actively search for potential problems and building defects.

This includes looking into cupboards and manholes, and an inspection of the services but it does not, however, investigate enclosed or concealed parts of a building, such as sealed roof spaces.

You can request that certain areas are included to cover particular concerns that you may have about the property. In contrast to the RICS HomeBuyer Report, there is no specific format for the Building Survey report, so the surveyor is able modify a Building Survey to your needs.

If you wish to have a property valuation included in your survey it will have to be specified, however, if the surveyor you use for the Building Survey is approved by your mortgage lender it can be used instead of a mortgage valuation.


Looking to add to the value of your home? Tips for selling your home.


Aspects of a Building Survey


Here is a list of the aspects that can be included in a Building Survey:

  • Most important and more insignificant defects and what they could mean

  • Results of tests for damp in the walls

  • Alterations to supporting walls

  • Renovations that have occurred without necessary planning permission

  • Presence of hazardous materials (e.g. asbestos)

  • Evidence of subsidence

  • Damage to masonry and roof

  • Damage to timbers

  • Large trees close to the property.

  • Woodworm, dry rot and other damage to timbers

  • The conditions of existing damp proofing, insulation and advice on non-tested drainage

  • Information on the materials used to build the property and any relevant technical information

  • Recommendations for further investigations on the property

The report, however, will not report in detail on aspects such as heating or electrical equipment, but if requested your surveyor can arrange for the suitable expert to investigate these further.

The Building Survey, due to its thoroughness, can take up to a day to complete and the final report can take up to two weeks to receive. The report will disclose the findings of the survey and make recommendations for if further specialist surveys are required. The thoroughness of the survey also makes it the most costly house survey available, however, by comparing quotes for Chartered Surveyors you can save yourself money and find a quality surveyor who operates in your area. The cost of the Building Survey will depend on the price of the property.

The Building Survey Structural Report

When the survey has been completed, your surveyor will produce a final report which will reveal whether the inspection has discovered any major and minor defects that are compromising the structural integrity of the building. The report will identify and describe the problems and their cause, provide recommendations for further investigation and an indication of repair costs, and state what could happen if the problem is not remedied.

Cost of a Building Survey / Structural Survey

The Building Survey cost of your property will depend on the type, size and also the location of where you live. The full Building Survey cost will vary from approximately £500-£1,300. To save you money on your survey, compare fees by filling in our simple and quick form and receive up to four instant quotes from our RICS regulated Chartered Surveyors.



Compare Building Survey Quotes


If you’re not sure which survey is right for you – talk to a RICS surveyor as they can give you independent advice on which survey would be the most suitable for you and your property.

If you are buying a property it is vital to employ the expert knowledge of a surveyor before completion, to ensure that you are receiving independent advice on the true condition of your potential property. The comprehensive investigation that the Building Survey involves may uncover a structural problem with the property that would otherwise go unnoticed until you have moved in, so make sure that you get a house survey to prevent any unwanted, and costly, surprises.

 Updated March 2017

Comments (2)

  • osadolor

    posted on 1 Apr 2013

    Nice, got some information, but would have prefer a more datail information


    posted on 6 Oct 2015

    What I would like to know is can I claim compensation if the surveyor fail to find something serious.<p>

    Reallymoving response

    George - you may want to refer to our article 'How to complain about your Chartered Surveyor' http://www.reallymoving.com/moving-advice/surveys/how-to-complain-about-your-chartered-surveyor

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