Buying a 1950s house – bay windows – cracking and heat loss

Buying a 1950s house

The 1950s was a period of extensive house building following a lack of new housing during the Second World War.  Traditionally built housing of the 1950s is characterised by cavity walls, fireplaces to the main living rooms and bay windows at the front which would provide extra light to the main reception room and the bedroom above.

This article focuses on bay windows of a traditionally built 1950s house.

 

1950s house – cracking around bay windows

It is normal for a building to settle slightly following construction, but cracking can occur where different parts of a building settle at a different rate.   Typically, in a 1950s house, the footings of a bay window will be shallower than the footings of the rest of the house and this can result in differential settlement.  Hence, it is common for cracking to occur at the junction between a bay window and the main part of the house.

If movement is minor and not progressive then cracks can be filled.  Check regularly for any signs of further movement.

If movement is excessive and/or progressive then it is possible that a mortgage valuer may request a report on the movement by a Chartered Building Surveyor or a Chartered Structural Engineer as a condition of the mortgage.  The valuer may even choose to recommend a retention is placed on the mortgage until investigations/works have been carried out.  Note that the Valuer’s duty is to report to the mortgage lender and not to the purchaser, ie, you.

Consider instructing a surveyor to inspect the whole of the building and report to you as there may be other issues of which you should be aware before deciding to go ahead with the purchase.

If you are not seeking a mortgage but have a survey carried out on your behalf then your surveyor will report on whether he or she considers whether any movement is progressive or not, and whether any further investigations and/or remedial works should be carried out.

 

1950s house – heat loss through bay windows

The wall structure to bay windows is often of lighter construction than the walls to the main part of the house.  Sometimes the walls are timber framed, possibly with vertical tile hanging, and sometimes the walls are of a single narrow leaf of masonry.  Such construction can lead to high heat loss through the wall and/or condensation on the wall surface internally.  Heat loss from the room will also be high if the house has single glazed windows.  Condensation on internal wall surfaces is often identified by dampness and/or mould.  However, if this is noted on a house that you are considering buying then this is not generally a major issue as in many instances the walls can be upgraded with insulation.  If you propose to replace the windows to the bay then this is an ideal time to check the construction of the wall to the bay and upgrade with additional insulation.

Checklist

  1. Check for signs of movement, such as cracking, to any bay windows.
  2. Obtain advice from a surveyor or engineer to determine whether the movement is minor or needs remedial works/monitoring (remember that the mortgage valuation is not a survey).
  3. Obtain written details from the vendor for any works carried out, such as underpinning.
  4. If there is significant movement (or if significant works have been carried out in the past) then bring these to the attention of your proposed buildings insurer and check whether any restrictions will be imposed on your policy.
  5. Check the thickness of any walls to bay windows. Check whether surfaces are cold and whether there are any signs of condensation, eg, mould.

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

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