1960s houses: common defects – asbestos, condensation, wall ties, pitch fibre pipes

1960s houses are now around 50 to 60 years old.  Construction methods have improved since that time particularly with regard to thermal insulation and safety.

This article deals with just some of the defects commonly found in traditionally built houses built during the 1960s (some can also be found in houses of other decades).

Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) in 1960s houses

Asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were commonly used in buildings in the 1960s.  Common uses include:

  1. Textured coatings to walls and ceilings, including Artex. Some may have had an additional coating (or coatings) applied over the years.  In any one property there may be different finishes which may have been applied at different times.  It is possible that some may contain asbestos while others may not.
  2. Asbestos cement products including soffits, verge boards, corrugated roofs to garages, flue pipes, water tanks, cladding to walls/panels, gutters and downpipes, pipes, man-made slates.  Asbestos cement products at eaves level are sometimes hidden by new PVCu fascias and soffits.
  3. Vinyl floor tiles particularly to solid ground floors, often hidden below carpets or sheet flooring.
  4. Asbestos insulating board (AIB), loose fill insulation, lagging, sprayed coatings.

If any asbestos containing materials are damaged, or if any planned works, eg, drilling, sanding, cutting, are likely to disturb any ACMs then have sample/s tested for asbestos content and obtain advice from an asbestos contractor.    Most higher risk works must be carried out by a licensed contractor while other works may be undertaken by a non-licensed contractor.

Visit  http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/

High heat loss and condensation

1960s houses have walls which typically allow high heat loss compared to properties built to meet the requirements of current Building Regulations.  High heat loss not only results in higher heating bills, it leads to colder surfaces and often results in condensation.  Condensation isn’t just water running down windows.  Condensation can occur within the structure and on furnishings and it can lead to mould on affected surfaces.  In some instances, condensation can be reduced or avoided by increasing the level of heating and ventilation, but where surfaces are cold, eg, window reveals, corners of rooms, walls behind furniture and where cold bridging occurs, it can be difficult to eliminate completely.

High heat loss (and condensation) can be reduced by increasing insulation.  One popular method is to install cavity wall insulation.  However, not all properties are suitable for cavity wall insulation.  If you plan to buy a house with cavity wall insulation then check the property has been assessed by a CIGA registered installer to ensure it is suitable for cavity wall insulation.  Some properties may suffer rain penetration if they are not suitable for cavity wall insulation.   Following installation, the installer will apply for, and issue, a guarantee.  The CIGA guarantee can be passed on to subsequent owners of the property.  (Similarly, if you plan to install cavity wall insulation in your property then contact a CIGA registered installer to check the property is suitable first).

Visit https://ciga.co.uk/about-ciga/

Lack of safety glass

Some 1960s houses have large windows and glazed doors which incorporate low level glazing.  These houses predate the requirement under Building Regulations for glass in critical locations, eg, at low level, to be safety glass.  Full height or low level glazing which is not safety glass will break easily and this presents a danger to occupants, particularly children.  The glass can easily be upgraded by replacing with safety glass or by applying an adhesive safety film.

Wall tie corrosion

The inner and outer leafs of cavity walls are usually tied with wall ties.  Houses constructed in the 1960s were often built using galvanised steel wall ties.  The steel corrodes over time and can cause cracking and/or bowing.  While wall tie corrosion is more common in older properties this is becoming more common as housing of this era ages.  If there are any signs of wall tie corrosion the condition of the ties should be checked to see if additional wall ties need to be installed.

Pitch fibre pipes

Pitch fibre pipes were widely used in the 1960s.  They have a tendency to deform under the load of ground, walls, traffic, etc.  This can lead to blockage of the drains or settlement of any structures above the drain runs.  If you plan to buy a property with pitch fibre drains and suspect there may be a problem then it is a good idea to arrange a CCTV survey to check their condition and establish whether they require lining or replacing.

See also How much does a survey cost?  and  What should I do after having a survey?

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Key steps in the house buying process

The house buying process is not complicated.  Once you have found your new home, most of the work is done by others such as your solicitor, estate agent, etc.  However, it is important to do the right things and instruct the right people at the right time.

Key steps in the house buying process

The list below includes some of the main steps in the house buying process:

  1. Work out a budget and arrange finance for the house you wish to buy (unless you are a cash buyer).
  1. Decide what type of new home you are looking for and select an area. If you are moving to a new area it may be worth considering renting first to get a better idea of which area you would most suit your needs.  See Choosing between buying and renting a property.
  1. Choose and instruct an estate agent (if you also have a property to sell), see Choosing an Estate Agent.
  1. If you have a property to sell, make sure it is presentable before arranging any viewings. Take the opportunity  to clear out things you no longer need.  Tidy up and thoroughly spring clean.  Make sure there are no unpleasant odours, particularly if you have pets.  Any house looks better when it is clean and tidy.  See Preparing your house for viewings.
  1. Arrange an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) on the house you are selling.
  1. Choose and instruct a solicitor.
  1. When you have found the property you wish to purchase, arrange for a survey to be carried out (in addition to any mortgage valuation). Forward a copy of the report to your solicitor as there are likely to be items for your solicitor to check.
  1. Arrange insurance cover for your new house. If you are taking out a mortgage then sometimes an insurance reinstatement figure is included on the Valuation report.  The reinstatement figure is not necessarily the same as the Valuation figure or agreed purchase price.
  1. Liaise with your solicitor to agree exchange and completion dates.
  1. Get quotations from removal firms and book for your proposed moving date.
  1. Make a list of contacts/accounts/utilities to advise of your change of address. Don’t forget any online accounts, etc.


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