Property Clinic


Got a query? Ask our experts

Q Some time ago I had heating controls fitted on all the radiators in the house – ten out of 15 of the radiators have covers fitted. A while later I had a gas fitter in the house and when I mentioned to him that I was disappointed with the heating he informed me that heating controls should not be fitted on radiators with covers. Could you confirm that this is so?

A Your gas fitter is correct! You don’t mention what kind of controls are fitted to your radiators but most likely these are Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) which can be set to a temperature ranging from off to full. I also assume you are referring to decorative radiator covers or cabinets made of timber or MDF and not the hard plastic packaging covers that sometimes come with TRV controls?

TRV devices rely on room air moving through them so they can assess its temperature, they then automatically open or close to allow more or less hot water to flow through the radiator to maintain the desired temperature in the room according to the setting on the TRV.

If the TRV is covered then a ‘micro climate’ is created around the valve and it responds to the warmth in the pipe and the immediate smaller space created by the cabinet rather than the relatively cooler air of the room beyond, the cover tricks the valve into thinking it’s done its job and it shuts off the hot water flowing in the radiator!

The same thing happens if the valve is covered by curtains or other objects placed against them so it is important to maintain free air around them.

If it is not possible for some reason to have this air movement directly around the TRV such as that caused by fitting a cabinet over the radiator then a remote ‘capilliary’ sensor can be fitted to replace the top of the TRV to read the room temperature elsewhere.

If the pipe work flowing to other radiators runs beneath the TRV then the hot air rising from them can also trick the TRV to think that it is warmer than the real air temperature in the room, in which case you should insulate your pipes with good quality pipe insulation.

Another thing to look for is if the TRV has been fitted correctly. Find a small arrow cast on the usually chrome fitting, this should be pointing in the direction the water in the system should flow from the boiler.

If not, then the valve will stop or slow the flow in reverse of its designed operation and the radiator can’t operate properly and you should have a plumber inspect and simply reverse the fitting.

It should be straightforward to fit remote sensors and most manufacturers have kits available, if in doubt you should consult a registered plumber or select one from the SEAI approved list to help.

Fergus Merriman is a chartered building surveyor

Q We are about to put our property on the market and have been advised by our agent that we will need to get a Building Energy Rating Certificate. I explained that we would be willing to do so once we sold the property. Can you advise on the situation?

A Building Energy Regulations, introduced in 2009, stipulate that a property for sale or to let must have a valid Building Energy Regulation certificate. The certificate is essentially a guide to the energy efficiency of the property and it rates it on a grade from A-G, with A being the most energy efficient. It covers energy use for space heating, water heating, ventilation and lighting calculated on the basis of standard occupancy.

There are exemptions for certain categories of homes, for example, protected structures and certain temporary homes. The BER cert will accompany a report detailing how the energy efficiency of a property may be improved.

This is consistent with energy regulations across Europe and further information on BER certs, as well as a list of accredited BER Assessors is available on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Irelands website

As of January 9th 2013, a new directive requires the Building Energy Rating of a property for sale or to let to be published on all advertising materials for the property.

Therefore, vendors will need to provide the agent with the building energy rating before the property can be advertised for sale so that the rating can be included on all print and online advertising materials.

Ed Carey is Chair of the Residential Agency Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

Q Our neighbour is rebuilding an extension to the back of their house and proposes to rebuild the boundary wall (currently 100mm). The new boundary wall will be 350mm. We are unsure whether we should get them to rebuild the wall and use the extra required space on their side. They have told us that then we would not be able to build up to the boundary wall if we were to do an extension in the future. I don’t understand this because part of the new wall would still be ours.

A It is assumed from your query that the existing 100m wall is a party wall and that the property (legal title) boundary runs along the centre line of this wall.

Replacement of a party wall by a different wall or boundary type or building on it requires the consent of the other party.

You are right in stating that part of the proposed wall would be yours and may be used to support a future extension you build as it will be a party wall, albeit not centred on the legal boundary. It will be necessary however to ensure that it is designed with adequate load bearing capacity to support both extensions.

It is however usual practice and more pragmatic to centre the party wall on the legal boundary if it is to provide support to buildings on both sides. In this way the foundation is equally shared and this sense of shared interest facilitates cooperation in providing for adequate load-bearing support and in resolving potential jointing and sealing issues which can be problematic in relation to extensions built at different times.

In the absence of an agreement to use a party wall both parties are obliged to build separate walls on their respective sides of the legal boundary. This reduces the floor areas. Unless they are adequately joined and sealed double walls may cause future maintenance difficulties including dampness if there is insufficient space between the extensions for maintenance and removal of accumulated debris.

Niamh O’Reilly is a Chartered Geomatics Surveyor

Your queries answered Send your queries to propertyquestions@irishtimes.comor to Property Clinic, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2.

This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual advice should always be sought