Houses built in the 1970s are now in the order of 40 to 50 years old. They usually have cavity walls with a damp proof course and the roofs are often constructed using a series of trussed rafters with underlay and tiles above. Here we will talk about two issues which should be considered when buying a 1970s house.
Racking roof trusses in a 1970s house
Prefabricated roof trusses were widely used in the 1970s. They have the advantage of being quicker to install than a traditional timber cut roof and can often span greater distances than traditional roof rafters and ceiling joists. However, they have a tendency to rack (lean) unless they have adequate diagonal wind bracing. Trusses can become weakened if timber members are cut out, eg, to accommodate water storage tanks or create storage space within the loft. Also, trusses can easily become overloaded with stored items and cause ceilings to deflect.
If you are buying a 1970s house with trussed rafters, your surveyor should report on any defects to the roof structure. Roof trusses should be checked with a plumbline and if they are not vertical then bracing should be added to prevent them leaning any further. If trusses are plumb but do not have bracing, then it is a good idea to provide bracing as a precaution against racking in the future.
If you are selling a property and your buyer’s survey reveals that bracing needs to be provided or improved then this is not normally be a major issue. In most cases, additional bracing can easily be provided at nominal cost. Lack of roof bracing to roof trusses is not typically a matter which would result in a buyer deciding not to purchase a property.
Artex in a 1970s house
Artex, and other textured coatings, were commonly applied to walls and ceilings in the 1970s to provide a decorative finish. Artex was popular as it required less skill to apply to walls and ceilings than traditional plaster and could be applied in a variety of patterns including a stipple finish or swirls.
If you are planning to buy a house which has textured ceiling or wall coatings, such as Artex, then it is important to be aware that they may contain asbestos. Asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were commonly used in buildings in the 1970s and Artex was just one of a number of common asbestos containing materials used in the building industry at that time.
Some homes may have textured coatings of more than one age or type. It is possible that there may be different textured coatings within the same dwelling, or even within the same room. It is possible that some textured coatings within a property may contain asbestos while others may not.
If you are buying a house with Artex or other textured coatings then you need to be aware of their location and what condition they are in. If any textured ceiling or wall coatings are damaged, flaking, friable, etc, then you must arrange for a sample (or samples) to be tested to check for asbestos content.
Asbestos containing materials are generally not harmful as long as they are not disturbed, cut into, damaged, burned, etc. Many building works, whether major works or DIY works, may involve disturbing potentially asbestos containing materials. Such works include drilling, sanding, cutting, etc. If you plan to carry out any works, even DIY works such as drilling to put up a curtain rail, then sample(s) should be texted to confirm whether they contain asbestos or not.
Even if a house owner does not intend to disturb Artex or other textured coatings it is possible that they could be disturbed unintentionally, eg, by accidental damage. It is possible that ceilings could be damaged by someone accessing the loft and walking on ceiling joists, such as when laying extra insulation within the loft, or even by a homeowner entering the loft to search through stored items.
If you plan to carry out any works which may disturb any Artex or other textured coatings, then a sample, or samples, should be tested for asbestos content before starting any works. If any of the samples are found to contain asbestos then obtain advice from an asbestos contractor on how to manage the material(s). Retain documentation for any asbestos tests whether positive or negative. Most higher risk works must be carried out by a licensed contractor while other works may be undertaken by a non-licensed contractor but it is essential to obtain advice on your own situation.
This article concentrates on Artex and other textured coatings to ceilings and walls but there may be other asbestos containing materials in a 1970s house. See also 1960s houses: common defects.
If you are selling a house and have had any samples of textured coatings tested for asbestos, then it is helpful to provide a copy of any tests to your buyer.
Other common issues with 1970s houses include high heat loss and condensation, wall tie corrosion and pitch fibre pipes, and for more information on this see 1960s houses: common defects. It is important to remember that this information is for general guidance only and advice should be obtained on any items specific to the house you plan to buy or for the house you are selling.