Purchasing a Non Traditional House

A survey review and how we can help you

Independent advice

We can provide help and advice with regard to building surveys, structural surveys, structural reports, independent valuations, property surveys, engineers reports, specific defects report, home buyers reports or any other property matters on any age, type and style of property including non-traditional construction .

Free phone 0800 298 5424 for independent surveying advice.

non traditional house

What is a non traditional construction house?

Firstly, let us explain what a non traditional construction house is. This is a system build which effectively means the building is built on a structural frame and clad.

The structural frames can be metal, concrete or wood.

non traditional house

Non traditional construction house

BISF House

In this case the house was a non traditional metal framed construction commonly known as a BISF house which stands for British Iron and Steel Federation. There were various different types of these houses; this particular property looked to be a type A1 built between 1944 and 1950 of which there were approximately 35,000 built. They were designed by Frederick Gibberd. The house would have looked quite different when it was built with a shallow pitched profile asbestos cement sheet roof with external walls rendered to first floor level and vertical profile steel sheets above this.

non traditional house

Typical BISF house

The risks of buying a non-traditional property

As the property is a non traditional construction this does limit companies who will give mortgages on them and as the vast majority of people buy properties with mortgages it limits the market you can sell into. We would add further that their lending criteria changes from time to time which does mean they will lend on them some of the time and then not lend on them.

Other surveying articles that may be of interest

We have written many surveying articles on non traditional construction which may be of interest to you:

The History of Non-Traditional Building
Non-Traditional Housing
Non-Traditional and Traditional Properties, What Are They?
Survey of a Non-Traditional Semi-Detached Extended Property
Survey of a Non-Traditional Ground Floor Flat

Client feedback on survey report

Our client was fairly happy with our comments with regards to it being a non traditional house. Non traditional construction usually puts buyers off in our experience but in this case our client commented that he couldn't get anything of that size in that particular location for the price. This is due to the non traditional build factor in our opinion and we know it seems strange to be talking about selling the house before it has even been bought but it must be remembered that when the time comes to sell the house it may have limited appeal.

non traditional house

Meet the building surveyor at the property

We would always recommend if you have the time and can get to the property whilst the survey is being carried out that you meet your independent surveyor who will be more than happy to talk to you about any concerns and possible problems that you think the property may have together with any potential alterations and improvements that you may be looking to carry out to the property. We will, of course, be happy to speak to you about the survey report once it has been completed.

Check the condition of the steel frame construction

It is always important to check the condition of the steel frame. In this case the parts of the steel frame that we could see within the roof we found to be in average condition however the only way to be 100% certain as to the condition of the structural frame is to open up the structure. To do this you will obviously need to obtain permission from the present owners. We are always more than happy to return and re-inspect once the structure has been opened up. In addition you will need to have a builder close it up satisfactorily.

non traditional house

Metal frame, purlin and metal truss

What did the survey uncover?

As well as the main issue of the property being non traditional construction our surveyed uncovered some other issues:

Sloping site

The property sits on a sloping site which concerned us as without an adequate way to divert the rainwater and groundwater around the property any rain is discharged against the rear of the property and could affect the steel frame.

non traditional house

Sloping site

non traditional house

Garden on sloping site

Floor level

Furthermore, we noted the floor levels between the outside of the property and the inside were practically the same which does mean when it rains water will travel due to the sloping site from the top down and will tend to sit against the property which could affect the steel frame.

non traditional house

High ground level

High ground level

non traditional house

Inside and outside floor levels
almost the same

Our unique sketches help you understand the survey

As you can see from this article we include many sketches which we have commissioned exclusively so that if the photo does not explain the problem or characteristics of a property sufficiently then the sketches will clarify the problem.

What do the circles and ovals mean in our reports?

In addition to the sketches the red circles are a system that we use within our structural surveys, building surveys and schedules of condition to highlight problem areas on our sketches and photographs so that you are not left wondering what the problem is.


When this non traditional property was built asbestos was a common popular material which was used almost as commonly as wood. As mentioned it formed the roof material and it also generally formed such things as the fascias and soffits and the gutters and downpipes. The generic sketches below show typical areas where asbestos can be found in these properties

non traditional house

Asbestos - outside

non traditional house

Asbestos - outside

Possible asbestos hidden by overcladding of fascias and soffits

In this case the plastic fascias and soffits around the property look to be overcladding of the original timber or possibly asbestos fascias and soffits. It is important to confirm whether this is overcladding or whether the original fascias and soffits have been removed remembering they could be asbestos. If it is overcladding we would recommend complete replacement and removal of any asbestos if there is any.

non traditional house

Overclad fascias and soffits

non traditional house

Fascias and soffits overclad

We would advise that we are not asbestos surveyors and t he only way to be certain all asbestos has been removed from a property is to have an asbestos report carried out by an asbestos specialist.

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

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

Compare our website and compare our surveys

Please feel free to have a look at our website to see for yourself the quality of our website, articles and Building Survey reports. We pride ourselves on our professional standard and easy to read reports written in plain English which we have been carrying out for many years on every era, type and style of property across the UK.

We can email you examples of our building surveys

If you are thinking of buying a property and are interested in having a Structural Survey carried out or if you are trying to sell a property and would like a Pre-Sales Survey please call us on free phone us for a friendly chat on 0800 298 5424. We would be happy to email you several examples of our tailor made reports. We have carried out surveys on many different types of non-traditional construction.

non traditional house

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).

The content of the website is for general information and entertainment only and is not intended to be relied upon for specific or general decisions. Appropriate independent professional advice should be taken before making such a decision.

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