So what is a property of non-standard construction?
The following are regarded as traditional construction:
• Cavity outer walls of brick/reconstituted stone with inner walls of brick or block.
• Cavity outer walls of brick/reconstituted stone/blocks rendered with inner walls of brick or block
• Timber framed property with outer walls of brick/reconstituted stone, built 1970 or after
• Timber framed property with rendered outer walls of brick/reconstituted stone/block, built 1970 or after
• Solid Stone
• Tile (concrete)
• Thatch (reed or straw)
• Felt, asphalt
• Copper, lead
So a property of non-standard construction is built using different materials than those listed above.
Non-standard Construction Homes
There are lots of examples of non-standard construction homes, but they tend to be very specific to an area, depending on the type of materials that were readily available to build. They can be built purely of timber to concrete and prefabricated homes. There are nearly 1.5 million of the latter types of homes in the UK and were mainly built during and post-war as ‘cheap’ housing. Unfortunately unlike brick or stone, concrete doesn’t last as long, as a result it’s difficult to get both a mortgage and insurance to purchase or live in these types of properties.
The reason mortgage companies don’t like lending on these types of homes is that these properties aren’t deemed as ‘safe to lend’ for various reasons. The main reason is that the demand for non-standard homes is restricted, so if you default on the mortgage, then it will be more difficult for them to sell and recoup their money. The other reasons include the difficulties in maintaining a timber or concrete home, and therefore they don’t want to lend in case the property hasn’t been properly maintained, which can result in it losing its value very quickly. Again, this means it’s more difficult for the mortgage company to recoup their money should you default on payments for any reason.
The main types of properties classified as non-standard construction include the following:
• High rise flats
• Concrete construction (In situ)
• PRC (pre-cast reinforced construction)
• Ex-local authority council flats
• Steel frame or clad properties
• Flying freeholds
• Flats above shops
• Properties classed as defective under the 1985 Housing Act
In the late 1940s and 1950s a number of properties were built using various systems-built techniques which are a non-traditional method of construction. The systems used are known by the manufacturers’ or builders’ names.
In the 1980s a number of faults came to light with a number of system-built properties and Section 528 of the Housing Act 1985 enabled the Secretary of State to designate particular types of construction as “defective” provided they met two conditions:
• That they are inherently defective by design or construction.
• That their value has been substantially reduced by virtue of this having become generally known.
The ‘Cornish Unit’ (see right) is an example of a PRC property, these houses came about after the Second World War as a quick, cheap form of housing. Concrete was by far the most successful and widely utilised building material and basically these houses are made from pre-fabricated walls that are pinned together.
The Problem with Concrete Houses
Defects were discovered in the load bearing columns of many of these PRC house designs leading to large numbers of them being designated as “defective” (see above). Essentially the steel rods used in the construction of these properties, was low quality and over time they have suffered from corrosion and metal fatigue; weakening the structure of the house. The outcome was a decision by the major lending institutions that they would no longer accept such properties as satisfactory security for mortgages.
Repairing PRC Houses
The PRC repair process is dependent on the design of each type of home. Typically the process involves removing the concrete panels completely and rebuilding the structure with traditional block work and brick. Work is overseen by a structural engineer who will issue a ‘Certificate of Structural Completion’ when the work is carried out to their satisfaction. This will make the property acceptable to most banks and building societies.
Non-standard construction techniques
Thatched Roof – thatched roof houses are still very popular in the UK today, and this is classed as non-standard construction (dependant on type) mainly due to the increased fire risk. The method of heating and age of wiring also play an important factor.
Cob Construction – Cob is an ancient form of building block that has been in existence for over 600 years. Originating in Devon its main constituent is mud, this is often mixed with straw and sometimes animal dung. It is often rendered with cement and often this does not allow it to breathe and dry out properly which can result in its collapse over a period of time. Modern Cod techniques can now produce a block which is pre dried and thus produces a minimal amount of shrinkage.
Timber Framed – many modern home buildings are now constructed of timber frames and it is a safe and reliable form of building with all new construction having to meet certain building regulations and standards. Many older style buildings that are listed are timber framed and often these are sometimes considered to be standard because of the sturdiness of construction. Buildings made entirely of wood such as holiday chalets are always considered to be non-standard.
Weather Boarding – weather boarding which is particularly prevalent in a number of areas is usually added to property for decorative reasons and not part of the main construction. Vertical battens are usually fitted to brickwork or in place of brickwork as an attraction or to provide some extra protection against the elements.
Mundic Block – See our earlier blog entry “Mundic Testing here we come”.
Wattle & Daub – in constructing a property or part of a property from Wattle & Daub, a woven latticework of poles or stakes are daubed with a mixture of clay & sand sometimes straw and dung. The wattle and daub is then whitewashed to help keep in waterproof.
As well as the above construction techniques, you may find that you property contains to varying degrees any of the following: asbestos, corrugated Iron, plastic sheeting, metal, prefabricated materials, stramit (straw and resin board).
Whilst the lay person cannot be expected to be well versed in the construction of property, surveyors are and you should look to your survey report to obtain a description of the property and its construction method. If you make a false declaration to your insurance company with regard to the construction of your property, you may find that a claim will be declined.
Non-standard construction properties can be turned into ‘standard’ construction properties by either securing planning permission to take down and rebuild, or by doing remedial work such as taking away the concrete panels and replacing with bricks and mortar.
If you buy the property at a good discount, it may be that you could either rebuild or renovate and you may be able to add enough value that you could sell at a profit in the future.
Examples of system build properties:
Adams – Airey – Arial – Arcon – Anchor – BISF – Bison – Bell-Livet – Boot – Buswell – Bryant – Craft Cast Concrete – Camus – Cobb – Cornish I & II – Cramwell – Cussins – Carey – Crosswall – Dorlonco – Doran – Dyke – Fairclough – Forrester – Gregory – Hawthorn-Leslie – Incast Houses – Howard – Laing-Easiform – Lindsay-Type – Lowe-Riley – Livett-Cartwright – Malt House – Mucklow Plan – No-Fines – New Land – Nuttall – Paragon – Parkinson Frame – Riley – Smith – Smart – Stonecrete – Stanley Block – Trusteel – Telford – Tee Beam – Trada – Weller – Wentworth Modified – Woolaway – Wesex – Wimpey No Fines Wates – Weedon – Whinston-Fairhurst – Winget.