A non standard construction is simply a property that does not conform to the standard definition.
In order to confirm to standard definition, the walls of a property are constructed either with stone or bricks and the roofs with tile or slates.
If a property does not confirm to above then it’s considered as non standard construction property.
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A Brief History
First and second world war has resulted in renewal of housing and at an accelerated rate.
Given the surplus of timber and steel during the time and lack of skilled resources, construction industry has moved towards pre-fabricating the construction components away from the construction site and prepare them with available resources.
The houses that have survived the times to current date have fallen out of standard definition as and when the standards evolved.
Whilst the houses are strong enough, banks and insurance providers are less keen to take risks of claims resulting from timber and non standard construction.
Property investors today should ensure they have an eye on the houses they purchase and refurbishment, given it takes that extra skill and effort to refurbish such houses let alone increased refurbishment costs.
Here is a quick and easy to understand classification without going into full detail on what non standard construction means.
Non Standard Construction Frames
Steel frames were used within property development due to their agility, easy setup, light weight and most importantly affordability, yet providing strength required.
This becomes an issue from an insurers or lenders eye given steel can conduct both heat and cold and crumble in the event of fire damage.
If you are viewing properties, you will come across steel frame combined with asbestos within construction which as per today’s regulations is dangerous.
Timber frames and roofs are still being used across the world and its not surprising to find timber frames within recently modernised houses too.
Typically you would come across timber frames within barn conversions, legacy self build properties, country houses and like.
In the past this was popular given the frames can be pre-fabricated and made to order, reducing the construction time and reduced dependency on team onsite.
Given this is wood, its combustible and does not help when fire accidents occur.
The structural support is not as strong as metal and hence can result in cracks in walls due to increased load.
Pre-Fabricated Non Standard Construction Structures
Post war era, there was a requirement to renew houses quicker than ever.
This resulted in modularised construction of components where possible and assembled in either at a common place as pre-fabricated unit or at the construction site itself.
You can pretty much identify this with visible lines of construction within and outside the property.
Whilst this helped massively at those times, it isn’t of much help now given the lack of skilled resource to refurbish such units and materials that have been used.
While concrete constructions can be considered as pre-fabricated units there are two methods that investors have to be aware off.
- Pre-Formed Concrete Structures: Where concrete blocks are prepared away from construction site and then put together onsite as per design.
- Poured Concrete Structures: Where concrete is poured in wooden moulds reinforced with steel wires.
You may still find lenders who lend for properties using pre-formed concrete structures, however its difficult to get lending for those properties using poured concrete structures.
Material Based Non Standard Construction Property:
Wattle and Daub
Prevalent for over 6000 years this is a construction technique used where a wooden lattice of wooden strips are daubed with sticky material made of combination of clay, soil, sand, straw and like material and applied on both sides and allowed to dry.
Cob or Clunch
Cob and Clunch are two materials which been heavily used within non standard construction from years.
Cob is is a natural building material made from subsoil, water, fibrous organic material (typically straw), and sometimes lime.
Clunch is made of chalky limestone rock.
While the cob based construction is considered strong and solid, the clunch are considered not to be able to withstand pressures.
It is difficult to get any lender or insurance provider to support investors with any products but few do depending on the year of construction of the house.
Non Standard Construction Of Roofs:
As opposed to the slope you find in modern roofs, flat roofs as they are named are flat or in other words come with approximately 10 degrees pitch.
While the flat roofs appears to let us use the space effectively internally, they can also offer external space for terrace or gardens in modern construction.
However, the water drain can be difficult due to which lenders and insurance providers are not ready to offer their products.
Shingles are those tile strips that are laid in an overlapping style on the roof from bottom edge to the roof top.
They come as flat and rectangular shapes and are generally made of either wood, slate, metal, plastic, cement or asbestos.
While they come with low initial construction cost, the maintenance is considered high and given a variety of material, the issues that can arise come in volumes.
More info on identifying basic constructions can be found here.
Things To Verify Before You Buy
Given that non standard nature of construction, structure survey is a must on such a property to ensure full information is at hand before you purchase.
Lending and Insurance:
There will not be many lenders or insurance providers who would be willing to lend or insure such properties.
Investors usually prefer to do a cash purchase to buy such properties for starters.
While there are insurance providers who will insure the house, expect higher premiums for both lending and insurance of properties.
Go with an idea that, it will be twice difficult to sell the property should you wish to in future.
Alternatively, the property has to be sold at lower than asking price given the regulation changes or high refurbish costs.
It would be wise to check if any such property has been sold within the street ever and the difference between a standard and non standard property price within the street or area.
If you buy a non standard construction property, be sure to survey the property and check which part of property will need complete refurbishment.
Its better to get the costs reviewed by an extra pair of experienced eyes before you consider such a property a deal.
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