A Boundary Wall

Chris Ennis
Chris Ennis, Property Doctor

These days I frequently find myself resolving disputes over building matters, and workmanship issues… sometimes with owners, sometimes with tenants, sometimes with managing agents.

I have just returned from one such visit to mediate between managing agents and residents over the need for repair to a substantial garden wall. Let me explain…  the property involved is a large block of high-quality prestigious sea front flats probably constructed about 125 years ago. The flats occupy a very exposed location but all have well-manicured and attractive front gardens. The boundary between the flats and the seafront is defined with a 33 cm-thick rendered dwarf wall about 40 cm high and 100 metres in length.  The wall is penetrated by substantial gate piers with ornate decorative copings. Originally there would have been cast iron mouldings between the gate piers though these had been removed during the war years. A wall of this type would be very expensive to reconstruct.

The managing agent’s attention had been drawn to extensive cracking in the rendered surfaces and they concluded that the wall was affected by foundation inadequacy caused by the proximity of some adjacent decorative hedging. They wanted to rip out the evergreen hedge, and embark on a program of expensive wall re-construction. Acting for many of the residents, I braved the recent wind and rain to make a more detailed inspection.

I saw many fractures in the lime rendered wall surfaces, most less that 2mm in width. I saw loose render, and evidence of ancient repair over many years. I saw no sign of any foundation inadequacy or structural movement. The cause of all the damage was the incorrect use of hard Portland cement to repair deficiencies in the softer lime mortar render. Portland cement is stronger than lime mortar and this had allowed rain water to penetrate the wall and then be affected by frost causing both render and brickwork to disintegrate.

It will be for the residents to instruct the managing agents, but as far as I am concerned, the hedges may remain and the wall does not require reconstruction. With proper repair using the correct materials this attractive structure might last another 100 years.

By Chris Ennis FRICS email: [email protected]  01903 261 217 or




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