What are common walls in a house and how do they affect your living space?

Common walls, also known as party walls, are walls that are shared by two properties. They are most commonly seen in terraced houses where two homes are attached to each other. These walls are divided along the property line, and each property owner is responsible for maintaining their side of the wall. Here are some important things to know about common walls:
  • A common wall can be a partition wall, parti-wall, common wall, or a demise wall.
  • The party wall is usually built at the same time as the two properties, and its width is shared by both properties.
  • The shared wall is an important component in the structural integrity of both homes. It provides stability and support to the structure.
  • Homeowners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their side of the wall, including painting, caulking, and any patchwork.
  • Any changes made to the common wall, such as drilling holes or installing fixtures, must be approved by both parties to avoid any damage or disputes.
  • In some cases, homeowners may need to access the other side of the common wall, in which case they must obtain permission from the other homeowner. Overall, common walls are an essential part of many homes and an important aspect to consider when buying or maintaining a property. It’s important for homeowners to work together and communicate effectively when it comes to caring for the shared wall to ensure the safety and stability of both properties.
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    Understanding Common Walls in Your Home

    As a homeowner, it is important to understand the different types of walls that make up your home. One such type of wall is the common wall, also known as a party wall, a partition wall, a parti-wall, or a demise wall. These walls are found in homes that are divided into two or more separate units or apartments. Common walls are shared by the occupants of these units and are usually constructed along the property line dividing the homes. Knowing the details of common walls in your home will help you care for and maintain them properly. In this article, we will explore what exactly a party wall is, the different types of common walls found in homes, how to determine if a wall is a common wall, and the importance of maintaining them. We will also touch on the legal issues surrounding party walls and provide tips on soundproofing these crucial structures.

    What Exactly is a Party Wall?

    A party wall is, in essence, a wall that is shared by two properties. Generally, party walls are erected to separate two adjoining homes or apartments and are a common feature of terraced or semi-detached houses. The wall is usually built directly on the property line so that each owner has equal rights and responsibilities towards its maintenance. Party walls can either be full-width or half-width, depending on the local building codes. A full-width party wall is the dividing wall that separates both properties completely and is typically used to support the roof and the floors above it. On the other hand, a half-width party wall is only a partition wall and only supports its side of the roof and floor above it.

    Types of Common Walls Found in Homes

    There are several types of common walls that you may find in your home. The most common are:
    • Vertical common walls – these walls run from the foundation to the roofline like other exterior walls but are shared between two adjoining homes.
    • Horizontal common walls – these walls separate the upper and lower floors of a multi-unit dwelling and are shared by the occupants of both floors.
    • Demising walls – these walls are often found in multi-unit dwellings and separate units from each other, providing sound insulation and privacy.
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    How to Determine if a Wall is a Common Wall

    One way to determine if a wall is a common wall is to check for a property survey or title plan of the home. In these documents, any shared walls will be clearly indicated. If you do not have access to these documents, you may be able to tell if a wall is a party wall by checking its thickness. A wall that is thicker than usual may be a party wall. Another way to determine if a wall is a common wall is to check with your neighbor. If the wall is shared, they should be able to tell you. However, it is essential to approach this conversation with care and respect to maintain a good relationship with your neighbor.

    The Importance of Maintaining Common Walls

    Maintaining common walls is critical for the safety and well-being of both properties that they separate. Neglecting maintenance can lead to structural damage, dampness, and other issues that could reduce the value of your property. It is essential to ensure that any damages are repaired promptly and adequately to avoid any further complications. In addition to structural damage, neglected common walls can present issues like soundproofing breaches, moisture leaks, and pests. For this reason, it’s vital to have a maintenance schedule in place to ensure that any potential problems are caught and addressed early on. As mentioned, each party has equal rights and responsibilities towards the shared wall. This means that both parties must maintain and repair the shared wall as necessary. Additionally, the law provides for certain rights in respect of the party wall, which include:
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    • Access rights – allowing owners to carry out works on the disputed wall, including necessary repairs, under specific circumstances;
    • Notification rights – requiring that 14-days written notice is provided before works commence (except in urgent instances) straddling the party wall;
    • Certain oversights from legal anti-social behaviour.
    If there are disputes concerning the ownership or maintenance obligations of a party wall, professional advice may be necessary, as this can be a rather thorny issue.

    Tips for Soundproofing Common Walls in Your Home

    Whether it’s noisy neighbors or a busy road, sound intrusion can be a significant source of discomfort if you share a common wall. Here are some tips to help soundproof a common wall to improve its effectiveness:
    • Install sound insulation materials such as acoustic foam or cellulose insulation;
    • Build a staggered stud wall which creates an air gap between the common wall;
    • Install dense or massive materials such as gypsum board, plaster, or brick to absorb sound;
    • Use sound-stopping curtains or heavy cushioned furniture to absorb sound waves.
    In conclusion, a common wall is an essential structural component of a multi-unit building, and it’s essential to keep it in the best shape possible. Understanding the different types of common walls, maintaining them correctly, and staying within regulated legal boundaries will ensure a harmonious co-existence with your neighbor.

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