Condensation and Cold Bridging in a Non Traditional Construction House


Independent Surveyors

We are independent building surveyors who give all sorts of property advice.  We generally give advice for people buying houses or homes in the form of building surveys or structural surveys.  We can also carry out independent valuations or we will look specifically at any problems you may have.  Please free phone 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat with one of our surveyors.


What is a Non Traditional Construction house?

Firstly, let us explain what a non traditional construction house is.  We would emphasise the word construction. This is a system of building houses that effectively means the buildings can be mass produced.  Often it involves innovative construction such as structural frames and cladding. The structural frames can be metal, concrete or wood, probably the main criteria was that they could be built very quickly as they needed to fill a need for housing after the Second World War.  As such we have heard it said that many companies were building aeroplanes and bombs one day and transferring to building houses the next.  We can imagine it must have been chaos.


Non traditional construction house

Certain types of buildings are more susceptible to Condensation and Cold Bridging

We are finding more and more examples of Cold Bridging.  This happens in certain types of property and to some extent it could be argued that it is a characteristic of that type of property and quite a complex issue to resolve.  Unfortunately it means condensation is more likely.  

We are finding non- traditional construction properties can particularly suffer from cold bridging.


Non traditional construction
property that Cold Bridging
can be a problem in.

What is Cold Bridging?

Cold Bridging is a term and a problem we feel will become much more common in years to come.  

The sketch is a good indication of the typical things that cause Cold Bridging in a house and how extraction from humidity generating areas such as the kitchen and the bathroom can reduce problems.  You do need to look at how you live in the house.


Cold Bridging/condensation

What causes Cold Bridging?

Cold Bridging is caused by a colder element in the structure or fabric of the building allowing coldness to pass through.  When warm moist air is present in the property and it passes through the colder elements of the structure we have what is known as Cold Bridging.

This is often caused by a combination of issues.  It can occur from things such as having a shower or a bath, cooking or clothes washing, particularly if you are drying washing on the radiators.


Cold bridging in commercial properties

It could, in commercial properties, be a large gathering of people breathing (this can cause a large amount of humidity) in a building that has stood cold and empty for some time such as a church, village hall, sports centre or a crèche.  These human atmospheres create a climate which can result in condensation on the cold elements of the structure and fabric if the room is not ventilated properly.


What is the difference between cold bridging and thermal bridging?

As we understand it, nothing, these are different terms used for the same thing.

Non-traditional buildings and Cold Bridging

Non traditional buildings have more than their fair share of problems particularly those built from a steel/metal frame.  Unfortunately today we have increased insulation and increased heat in houses and the way we use them therefore there is more likely to be condensation problems.


Non-traditional construction

Check the roof

You do need to check if you are buying a non-traditional construction house that the surveyor understands the problems and will definitely look in the roof as this is normally the place where you can best see what is happening to the structural frame with rusting, etc.  Ideally, and we would recommend, the walls need to be opened up to check the structural frame at key points such as the floor, the first floor and the roof level.


Example of rusting that we have
seen in the roof of a metal
framed building

Cold Bridging isn't just about condensation on mirrors

Cold Bridging isn't just about condensation on mirrors.  Not only can it be an original characteristic of the building it can be encouraged by all types of extension and alterations.


Extension to ground floor of non
traditional house

Other surveying articles that may be of interest

We have gathered together a few other articles that also look at non traditional houses as well as condensation, mould and other similar things which we hope will be of use to you.  We suggest that once you have read this article you look at these:

Condensation and Cold Bridging. What is Cold Bridging?
Condensation, Mould and Air Movement in your home
The History of Non-Traditional Building
Non-Traditional and Traditional Properties, What are they?

Examples of Cold Bridging

Cold Bridging often occurs on metal lintels.  We note that some modern metal lintels now have insulation in them which we assume is to reduce Cold Bridging.


Do not over insulate a metal framed property

It is essential that you do not over insulate a metal framed property as condensation will be created, which will contribute to rusting the structural frame.


Metal frame construction


Over insulation of a metal framed
property which causes


Rusting tubular metal frame within
the roof of a metal framed property

Sketches and photos

As you can see from this article w e use many sketches and photos.  Within our building surveys we also use lots of sketches and photos to make the report as clear as possible.  

We literally have commissioned hundreds of our own survey sketches developed over many years depicting property issues; we find they are particularly useful when a photo doesn't show the problem.

What do the circles and ovals mean?

In our building surveys and structural surveys we also use circles and ovals (as you can see in the photo above) to highlight property problem areas so that you are not left wondering what the property problem is.

How to solve Cold Bridging or can Cold Bridging be solved?

The difficulty is resolving Cold Bridging.  Normally, where condensation is involved, if you get the balance of warm and coolness of the air, ventilation and movement you can reduce considerably the chances of condensation.  Airing the room by opening the windows, which seems to have gone out of fashion, can help considerably.


Air movement within a room

Is your lifestyle a factor in Cold Bridging?

This is often a contentious and difficult question, particularly where the occupier is a tenant and there is a disagreement between the landlord and the occupier as to why there is mould in the property.  In our experience the major factor is the size of the family living in a property.  This is especially the case with large families with young children and where in turn there is a lot of washing of clothes being carried out.  This is particularly the case in the winter months, with the wet washed clothes being dried on radiators.  Also showers and cooking all lead towards a more humid atmosphere.


This is generally known as the lifestyle of occupants and can be a major factor particularly where there are legal cases as to the problems within a property.

Is Cold Bridging and Condensation a design problem or a lifestyle problem?

This really is a difficult question to answer.  We have been involved in a number of cases as expert witnesses or advocates and the answer can vary.  We would comment that there are factors that can be changed and factors that can't be changed.  For example, the occupiers lifestyle can in most cases be amended.  This may involve the occupier having an understanding of the problems they are causing.  For example, drying lots of washing on a radiator inside may be causing excessive moisture in the atmosphere.  Equally not opening the windows and closing or sealing up vents can be a problem.


Design of the Building

Sometimes it really is down to the design of the property.  Where there are cold elements in it, such as a metal or concrete structural frame or metal or concrete lintels, when these are in contact with moist air condensation occurs.  Sometimes this is impossible to stop but often it is possible to reduce it by having a better circulation of air with a better heat and coolness balance and the removal of any moist air.



Extensions and Cold Bridging

Increasingly we are coming across problems where properties have been extended and it has not been planned or thought through properly.  We have come across dormer roofs that simply have no insulation so any heat in the property is going straight out of the dormer roof.  We have also come across property problems where an extension has resulted in colder areas within the property and which although not problem areas, as such, our clients have found them not pleasant areas to be in.  It is not a great outcome if you have just spent tens of thousands of pounds on a new extension that you are not happy with.


Dormer windows and Cold Bridging

Why have an independent building survey?

Always have an independent building survey as this will highlight any property problems.  Caveat emptor means buyer beware and is why you need to have a building survey to find out if there are any problems within the property; the estate agent certainly will not advise you of any.

Remember the building Surveyor that you employ will be the only person working for you with your interests at heart.

Our Executive Summaries make things simple Our Good, Bad & Ugly Surveys!

In addition we would also like to introduce to you what we call our Good, Bad and Ugly survey which is a building survey, sometimes known as a structural survey, and is something that we have developed over many years, in fact several decades.  We have listened to feedback from our clients and amended and altered our surveys to make them easy to read and describe issues clearly.  The key factor we believe is that our surveys are easy to understand in plain English.

We highly recommend you always make sure when you have a survey you meet your Surveyor at the property.


We can email you examples of our structural surveys

If you are interested in having a Structural Survey we can email you examples of our structural surveys please call us for a friendly chat on free phone 0800 298 5424.

We would also be happy to email you some examples of our tailor made reports, Schedules of Condition, Structural Surveys and Property Reports.  We have carried out surveys on many different types of non-traditional construction.


We can talk and talk about property

We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have included is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

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