Does my decking need to be replaced?

Your property queries answered

Composite decking is easier to maintain and has a much longer life. Any new decking should also be installed on a slight slope to one side so that when rain water falls upon the decking it will fall off along the grooves towards one side. Photograph: Thinkstock

Composite decking is easier to maintain and has a much longer life. Any new decking should also be installed on a slight slope to one side so that when rain water falls upon the decking it will fall off along the grooves towards one side. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

Q The raised decking at the rear of our house is nine years old. For the past year or so water has been collecting in the centre of it. I have tried to unblock the space between the timbers and I have drilled holes in the decking but with little success. Within a short period, water again collects in the centre. Naturally this makes the deck very slippery, but I am also concerned about the effect this constant weight of water has on the decking structurally. What can I do to solve this problem?

In addition, I noticed recently that there was a lot of give in the hand rail on the decking. What is the age span of handrails and decking generally? How do you know when your handrail/deck needs to be replaced?

 

A From the description provided it would seem that your decking boards have started to deflect between the structural timbers supporting them. It would be advisable to take off a board at the affected area and place a long spirit level on it. This would give you an indication if the timber itself has warped.

The problem could also be related to deflection of the structural timber beneath, which should be treated timber to deal with the constant saturation from the deck above. You need to establish if the reason for the deflection in the timber boards is due to the poor condition of the timber boards or the structural timber below, as either or both may need to be replaced.

You stated that there is a lot of give in the handrail and this would indicate that there is an issue with the integrity of the timber.

Timber decking that is adequately treated every two to three years should last 15 years. However, if it is not been treated regularly this timeframe will shrink drastically.

If it is found that the timber structure was sound and only the visible decking needed to be replaced I would advise consideration be given to replacing this with a composite decking which does not have the same maintenance requirements and has a much longer life. I would also recommend that any new decking is installed on a slight slope to one side so that when rain water falls upon the decking it will fall off along the grooves towards one side. This will also prevent any future deterioration due to standing water.

Kevin Hollingsworth is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) Building Surveying Professional Group

 

Renovation costs for old versus new

 

Q I’m looking at houses with the intention of buying one to live in it with my family permanently. We’re looking at four-bed semis of about 140sq m (1,500 sq ft).

We’re looking at a very specific area where there are only two suitable estates. One has houses that are just over 40 years old, the other where they are 15 years old. We envisage a lot of work being needed on the 40-year-old houses to bring them to the standard where they’ll be fit for purpose for the next 30 or so years. Is there any general rule of thumb on what the costs associated with that are? Things like insulation, rewiring, changing radiators etc.

We’re trying to, as best we can, compare like with like on the asking prices in both estates. I’m sure it’s not as simple as “modernising a 40-year-old house costs €X per sq m” but if there was any broad approach we could keep in mind. At the moment it seems as though asking prices take no account of the differences in standards, so while we slightly prefer the 40-year-old houses we are leaning towards the 15-year-old ones.

AWeighing up the pros and cons when deciding whether to purchase an older or newer property can be quite a task without the help or advice of a construction professional. While older houses may be more attractive, refurbishment costs to bring the property up to current habitable standards can be costly. Assuming that the property mentioned is a typical estate-type house built in the 1970s, potential unforeseen problems include dampness, dry or wet rot, foundation settlement, damaged roof or severe cracking in perimeter walls.

While some properties may not be affected by any of these issues, older houses would typically require an overhaul of their heating and electrical systems, roof, windows, kitchens, bathroom fittings and finishes and general decoration in order to be more comfortable for the owners. It is difficult to put a fixed figure on the refurbishment works of a house of this age as every property differs considerably. However a complete refurbishment would be in the order of €1,200 to €1,400 per sq m. This cost would be on the basis that no structural works to the property are required.

The aforementioned issues can also occur in newer houses, although these would be considerably less common. Houses built in the 2000s will generally require less work as these should have been built to building regulations. However, some elements of upgrade works may include increasing insulation in the attic and perimeter walls, replacement of kitchens and upgrading existing bathroom fittings and finishes, replacement of floor finishes, upgrading boilers, internal and external decoration and external works (ie landscaping, etc). Typical costs for the above works could amount to €30,000 to €40,000 depending on the size of the property and scope of works.

It is also worth noting that grant schemes are available, such as the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme (HRI) and various Sustainable Energy Association Ireland (SEAI) grants. The HRI grant is provided by the Government and property owners can avail of a tax credit at the 13.5 per cent VAT rate for expenditure on renovation works to primary residences. Under the HRI scheme a minimum expenditure of €4,405 is required up to a maximum limit of €30,000 before VAT. Please refer to the SCSI Home Renovation Incentive Guide for more details on the scheme. The SEAI grant scheme provides grants for energy upgrade works to existing properties, which include the upgrade of insulation (roof and walls), boiler replacement, solar panels and heating control upgrades. Details of SEAI schemes can be found at seai.ie.

Please be advised that these estimates are indicative only and costs can vary depending on the condition of the property (irrespective of age) and the proposed scope of works. I recommend you contact your local chartered quantity surveyor who will be able to provide you, prior to purchasing a property, with a more detailed cost estimate for the works.

Kevin Brady is a chartered quantity surveyor and a member of the SCSI Quantity Surveying Professional Group

 

Calculating CGT

 

Q I bought a house from my father last December to avail of no CGT if I keep the house for seven years. As my father was selling to a relative, I availed of the 75 per cent value. As I have already availed of my full free CAT entitlement to buy the house, am I now liable for CAT on the 25 per cent write down.

AI am assuming from your question that your father gave you a gift of cash to purchase the house and that’s how you have exhausted your Class A threshold. I will base my answer on this assumption.

The Class A threshold is €225,000. You indicate that you have purchased the house at 75 per cent of the market value in December 2014. Please note that you will have a capital acquisitions tax liability arising on the total market value of the house, less any of your own funds that you put towards its purchase, less the €225,000 capital acquisitions tax threshold and the annual €3,000 tax-free exemption. I have also assumed you have received no previous gifts or inheritances from your father or mother. The capital acquisitions tax liability should be paid by October 31st, 2015.

I assume the stamp duty was correctly paid on the market value of the house and I also assume the market value was used to calculate your father’s capital gains tax liability, as he would be liable to capital gains tax on its transfer to you. Your capital acquisitions tax liability may be offset by your father’s capital gains tax liability as both tax heads arise in respect of the same event.

Donata Jureviciute is a tax consultant with Baker Tilly Ryan Glennon