Buying a Non- Traditional House

as a family home, a review


If you are thinking of buying a house with a non-traditional construction please call us for help and advice first. Over the years our independent Building Surveyors have come across all types and style of non –traditional properties and have carried out all kinds of surveys including, building surveys, structural surveys, home buyers reports, independent valuations, property surveys, engineers reports, structural reports and defects reports, so please call us on 0800 298 5424 for a friendly chat.

Non–traditional structural frame

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Is buying a non-traditional house a good idea?

We recently carried out a survey for a client who had decided to purchase a house that he had known for most of his life as it had been owned by his grandparents. The grandparents had lived in the house for many years and now our client had the chance to buy it and keep it in the family for another generation. As the house was a good size and as our client has a growing family it seemed to be ideal. The only problem with buying this home is that the construction is non-traditional.

Non-traditional property

Can you get a mortgage on a non-traditional house?

Obtaining a mortgage on a house with a non-traditional construction can sometimes be difficult. The mortgage companies prefer to lend against traditional builds that use the normal bricks and mortar style of construction.

Our client found himself needing to have a building survey carried out by us after the valuation survey carried out by the mortgage company picked up on various issues in the property which we will discuss shortly. Firstly we will explain a little about non–traditional construction properties.

Panel construction

What exactly is non–traditional construction?

The term non –traditional construction basically refers to a system of constructing houses, quickly and economically often in large numbers and not in a traditional way. After the War there was a dire shortage of housing available and so non –traditional construction housing was born!

This type of construction involved using unusual techniques and materials including metal and concrete structural frames, metal cladding and concrete panels and also Asbestos – which is a whole other story!

Non-traditional metal frame BISF construction

There were many different types of these houses built including Airey, Cornish Units and BISF. The house our client is trying to purchase is a BISF construction. BISF is the acronym for British Iron and Steel foundation and obviously has a metal structural frame usually with metal cladding attached to this and often rendered at lower level.


Airey house

Are there good reasons for buying a non-traditional house?

Often this type of property can offer good value for money as they are usually generously proportioned in comparison to some of their traditional counterparts and are often much cheaper to buy……if you can get a mortgage!


Updating non- traditional construction houses

Today many of these non – traditional properties remain and many have been amended and upgraded over the years with new roofs, plastic cladding and double glazed windows etc. to make them appear more traditional and to improve their thermal efficiency, however the structural frames remain.

Modified non-traditional house with plastic cladding, pebble dash and plastic double glazing

Non-traditional construction house looks different with vertical tiling and new windows

As mentioned our client wanted to buy this BISF house that he was familiar with and was happy to amend and upgrade the property to a standard that the mortgage lender would be happy with.


External appearance on the property

Our client was fully aware that improvements externally needed to be made as the house had been poorly maintained over the years. The render was deteriorating and bare metal was visible to the cladding.

Deteriorating render

Paint peeling off cladding, bare metal visible


Windows and trickle vents

The metal single glazed windows will also need to be replaced as they were rusting, they are prone to condensation and are not thermally efficient. However if these windows are replaced they need to have ventilation in the form of trickle vents to allow air movement in the property and reduce condensation problems.

Air movement

Trickle vent internally

Trickle vent

Asbestos roof

The property also had an asbestos roof which needed replacing – not only because it is asbestos but also because it was leaking which in turn is affecting the metal roof truss, causing it to rust.


Asbestos roof on BISF house

Metal roof truss is rusting

Metal truss roof


The metal structural frame

The structural frame was the main issue with the mortgage lender. Unfortunately we could not see this structure without opening up the walls and the floor which was our recommendation in our report as the way forward.

Metal frame construction

Happy endings

Once the structure has been opened up and if no major structural problems are found than the mortgage should be approved and our client can proceed with turning this much loved, non-traditional property into a great family home.



Non-traditional house


Independent Building Surveyors

We are experienced independent building Surveyors who are knowledgeable in carrying out structural surveys on all types, styles and eras of Non- Traditional and Traditional buildings. If you are looking to buy a property it makes sense to have a structural survey carried out by an Independent Surveyor. Phone us for a friendly chat on 0800 298 5424.


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