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Old 11.08.2011, 12:06
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What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

Hi, I've searched the forum but can't find the answer to my question...

We are looking at buying an apartment in Basel-Stadt which, apart from needing a new kitchen/bathroom etc, would benefit from some changes in the internal layout.

I was wondering, are there any rules on what we can/cannot change within an apartment that we own?

As an example, we would like to move the kitchen from it's current location, turning that room into a bedroom, and then re-site the kitchen in the large lounge-diner.

We would also like to knock a couple of walls down and possibly also build a new wall, turning one huge room into two smaller rooms.

Any advice is appreciated! It makes a big difference whether we buy this place or not...

Thanks,
Naomi
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Old 11.08.2011, 12:25
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

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We would also like to knock a couple of walls down and possibly also build a new wall, turning one huge room into two smaller rooms.

Any advice is appreciated! It makes a big difference whether we buy this place or not...

Thanks,
Naomi
If you need to ask this sort of question here then you really need to get the services of an architect.

I know which walls in my apartment are load-bearing and which aren't, and so can be removed. It's also clear on the plans - to someone who can read them.


So, in summary - some walls can be removed and others can't. It can be difficult (and expensive) to move kitchens because of plumbing. Again, you need the plans and the ability to understand them.
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Old 11.08.2011, 12:28
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

Agreed, you need to go to an architects office, before you think of such changes.

There are building regulations and extra walls can bring the complete building down.
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Old 11.08.2011, 12:35
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

Not quite what you were asking, but I hope helpful too

Worth checking with tax people - you can get advantageous tax treatment on true renovation costs

eg if your bathroom is in terrible condition, and you put in a new one exactly the same (plus or minus), you can write this off against your tax liability. But if you fit the new bathroom with jacuzzi and gold taps, you can only claim the cost of the basic work...not the upgrade.

Similarly - if you have one bathroom now and want to build a new one - you can't claim that as this would be investment ie it increases the value of the house

Worth bearing in mind - 30% of half of the cost of a project can make a big difference!
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Old 11.08.2011, 13:00
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

In addition to Gemeinde/cantonal building codes, you will also need to research the specific regulations for that building. If there is a Verwaltung or management company, this would be the best place to start looking for those rules.

For instance, some buildings require you to get written permission from all residents of the building, some from a majority of residents - even for things that would normally not require building permits from the Bauamt. This is due to noise, disturbances, etc. I've known a few people prevented from renovations because of this; sometimes neighbors just oppose change on principle.

You also need to research accessibility for the builders/trades people involved in the project - is there parking, do you need parking permits? This is also a common stumbling block.

Good luck!
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Old 11.08.2011, 14:12
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

[QUOTE=Tom1234;1297222]If you need to ask this sort of question here then you really need to get the services of an architect.

I know which walls in my apartment are load-bearing and which aren't, and so can be removed. It's also clear on the plans - to someone who can read them.


Hi, thanks everyone for your very helpful advice

Can anyone recommend an architect? Always better to get a recommendation I think...

Regarding knocking down internal walls... I really wanted to know whether it is, in theory, allowed (which it looks like it is). For load-bearing, is there any reason why you say they can't be taken down? Surely we can use RSJs and similar in Switzerland? Or would that be prohibited in an apartment? Maybe I should mention it isn't a big apartment block, just 2 floors.

My only experience is renovating 3 or 4 apartments and houses in the UK and it wasn't a problem taking down load-bearing walls as long as we conformed to building regs and made sure the required supports were put in.
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Old 11.08.2011, 14:30
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

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Regarding knocking down internal walls... I really wanted to know whether it is, in theory, allowed (which it looks like it is). For load-bearing, is there any reason why you say they can't be taken down? Surely we can use RSJs and similar in Switzerland? Or would that be prohibited in an apartment? Maybe I should mention it isn't a big apartment block, just 2 floors.
Naynay, load-bearing walls are structural walls that are supporting the building. Meaning, if you tear them down, there is high chance the whole building will collapse.




In a concrete structure building, like this example, the concrete pilars and concrete walls of the staircase are load-bearing: if you tear it down, the building collapses. The non-loading inner walls will be filled later with another material, probably brick, and can be changed.

For this reason, though it is possible to change load bearing walls (because there is a structural flaw for example) it usually is not allowed or advised unless there is a really good cause for it (which does not include making a room bigger). It is possible to change kitchens, but these are the most difficult rooms to change. Reasons include security and ventilation and electrical norms. The electrical cables, ventilation and water tubes are usually inside "cases" hidden behind the walls, which are usually shared by kitchen and toilet. There are norms to how long a tube can be, and the maximum inclination allowed so the water is drained properly. You cannot change the kitchen to a point of the house too far away from those cases for practical reasons.

This, of course, is applied to modern (as in general buildings post 1950), but there are exceptions. I can't advise you an architect, but I would advise you against the kitchen. Something you might not be aware, but one of the highest costs in a house is the kitchen planning. Moving it will probably be so expensive, buying an apartment more adequated to your wishes might be more useful.

Last edited by Helm; 11.08.2011 at 14:44.
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Old 11.08.2011, 14:59
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

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For load-bearing, is there any reason why you say they can't be taken down?
Because they keep the building standing. If you take them down the building may collapse.
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Old 11.08.2011, 15:14
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

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Because they keep the building standing. If you take them down the building may collapse.

Hehe I think there is some confusion here...

I don't plan to "tear down" walls by myself!

It was a theoretical question - if we wanted to remove a load bearing wall, would it be possible from a planning/building regulation point of view.

I'm not a structural engineer but I'm pretty sure you can in fact take down load-bearing walls in many cases, so long as the structural integrity of the building is not compromised. That would mean inserting appropriate studs, support beams, or adjacent wall braces etc.

Not wanting to cut short this lively debate but I think we've covered the "load-bearing topic" pretty well

Thanks again everyone
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Old 11.08.2011, 16:28
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

Naynay, you might want to hire an architect to do a feasibility study before you proceed with the sale.

This will likely cost you a few to a bit more than a few thousands, but if your renovation plans are a deal breaker, engaging an architect to give you a run-down of what is possible and what is permissible (two different things) would be a good investment.

Once you have that report, take it to the building management and the Gemeinde Bauamt for confirmation. In writing.

And only then go ahead with the sale if your renovations plans are a deal breaker.

I've been there, not done that ('cause we couldn't get the permits despite assurances) with a house - and a flat could be even more difficult because it is shared space. So do be sure you dot your Is and cross your Ts before going forward.

Last edited by meloncollie; 11.08.2011 at 18:29. Reason: spelling
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Old 11.08.2011, 16:38
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Re: What are the rules for renovating an apartment - BASEL

I would recommend finding out how much relocating the kitchen is going to cost. I think you may find that is the deal breaker. It may not be possible or be prohibitively expensive (distance to water + waste pipe) or your neighbours won't agree due to your new kitchen being above their bedrooms/living area. You will also probably end up with a neighbour's kitchen above your new bedroom.

In Zug, every wall addition/removal requires a building permit or at least signatures from all neighbours in your block. Speak to a planner/builder - our house had the heating controls and tubes where we wanted a door. Moving them would have added CHF 20-30k+ to the project.
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