Properties in the UK fit into one of two categories:
Most houses, bungalows and low-rise flats are brick or block wall construction. They generally have a sloping roof and will either have solid or cavity walls, depending on the era they were built.
Anything other than a brick or block wall construction is defined as ‘non-traditional’. These include metal framed, pre-cast concrete, in-situ concrete and timber framed properties.
The reason they’re split into categories is so that buyers and mortgage lenders are aware of any potential risks with the property. Mortgage lenders will want to know that a property is suitable collateral for their loan. Buyers will want to be sure that they won’t have to pay too much for repairs over time and that they will be able to sell their house fast should they decide to move.
Now, let’s look in more detail at each of the constructions and what to be aware of if you’re looking at a property without much additional information.
There are around 140,000 metal framed houses in the UK and a number of aluminium framed ones. The majority were built after WWII when rapid re-building was required due to bomb damage. They are, however, made to look like standard houses with finishes of brick, render or imitation brick and many of them are so convincing that a specialist eye would be needed in order to confirm whether they are actually metal framed or not.
One way to find out if the house is metal framed is to look in the roof space. There will usually be unlined sheathed metal framing or metal stud framing, lined with plasterboard.
Around 284,000 houses in the UK have concrete panels as their main wall structure. These were built throughout the 1920s, then again in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
There are two types of pre-cast concrete houses – panel and pre-cast.
Panel systems are created in a factory before being transported to a building site for construction. If they are used as external walls then they will either look like concrete, or will have brick or tile affixed to them, imitating a traditional house.
Pre-cast concrete systems are concrete frames with in-fill panels. The panels will be slotted into the frame and can mostly be found in two-storey properties.
Introduced during the two great wars in the UK, in-situ walling was intended to keep costs low and construction time down. However, they ended up being more costly than traditional builds. The most well-known buildings with in-situ concrete were the Wimpey homes built between the 1940s and 1970s.
Houses with timber frames will usually have cladding on the outside that protects the property from the elements, as well as making them look more appealing. From around 1920 to the late ‘70s approximately 108,000 timber framed houses were built in the UK. During the ‘80s brick and block constructions became more popular, until the ‘90s when timber frames made a slight come-back again.
Recognising whether your property is timber framed or not depends on when it was built. Pre-WWII houses were mostly clad with timber as well as the structure being built from it. However, post-war constructions were clad with bricks that made them more traditional in appearance. There will usually be indicators somewhere within the property as to whether it is a timber frame or not and a specialist will be able to work this out.
Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)
More recently there has been an increased need for housing, at the same time as there is a lack of skilled workers. Therefore, the Government is now encouraging property developers to use MMC to fulfil demand. Methods such as using Aircrete blocks, thin joint systems and structural insulated panels are helping to evolve more traditional masonry and timber frame constructions.
Similarly, steel frame systems have developed, along with in-situ concrete techniques which has led to insulated concrete forms becoming a more popular choice.
The point of MMC is to find ways of reducing construction time on site, whilst increasing the number of properties built. The quality of the properties isn’t compromised and developers are able to more accurately forecast costs and turnaround.