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Timber framed house

(30 Posts)
Youcannotbeserious Wed 05-Mar-08 11:13:05

Just found out the house we were planning on buying is timber framed (approx 30 years old)

The survey will have a caviat so that any future problems will not be the Surveyors liability.

There are a few other issues, but nothing serious.

what are the likely problems of an older timber frame building? we have no way of checking whether the structure is sound or whether treatments and / or maintenence have been carried out effectively

Should we pull out?

DiscoDizzy Wed 05-Mar-08 11:16:12

My DH is a building surveyor and although I can't talk to him now he'd be able to give you a response later this evening if you could wait. I do recall him saying that a lot of properties are built with a timber frame now and are even used by firms such as Persimmon Homes etc.

Let me know if you want me to get him to have a look at this post and respond later.

Youcannotbeserious Wed 05-Mar-08 11:21:36

Oooh....... yes please, if you don't mind!

What worries me is that this house is 30 years old - so I am not sure what treatments would have been used then or how those chemicals would have reacted over time....

It may be that CCA would have been used (I'd have less problems with this than many of the newer organic wood preservative which leach / breakdown and can actually become a food source for the target organisms) I'm an industrial chemist blush

Could you please also ask him if it's normal that replacement windows wouldn't have been attached at all to the structure - that sounds odd to me, but maybe it's not?


DiscoDizzy Wed 05-Mar-08 11:25:00

Will do but as I say it will be tonight (after 7pm).

Youcannotbeserious Wed 05-Mar-08 11:30:20

Whenever he has a chance would be great

It's much appreciated.

DiscoDizzy Wed 05-Mar-08 19:45:46

This is Mr DiscoDizzy here.

I can offer the following gems of wisdom from my professional experience to date:

Older timber framed houses are often a cause for concern to Surveyors as so much depends upon how they have been built, treated, maintained and altered.

I positively detest surveying older timber framed houses because there is so little that can be seen and you are always left with only being able to offer vague advice intertwined with as many warnings as possible. I usually turn down doing surveys of timber framed properties if I know what I am going to look at in advance.

I am not at all surprised to see that your Surveyor has included caveats against any liability for the condition of the timber frame in a building of that age. I am unaware of the strength of the caveat should it be tested in court in the event of you making a purchase and a defect being discovered one you are in occupation as it is like saying "I can write whatever tosh I like in this report and it doesn't matter one jot because I accept no liability for it anyway - ha ha!" but clearly your Surveyor is spelling out to you in BIG WORDS that you are buying something for which no guarantees can be offered and he possibly feels quite unsure about.

Apart from the weasel words about the timber frame, did the survey throw up any major problems - particularly to do with dampness, woodworm, rot, external ground levels etc? It's dampness and timber decay that are the biggest threats to a timber framed property.

Another issue with older timber framed properties is the reaction you are now having - "are timber framed houses ok? Surveyor doesn't seem keen.............what's this about the windows....................should I pull out.......etc etc etc. There is a large degree of uncertainty and mistrust about timber framed houses in the psyche of the majority of the general public at large and there is a known resistance by some purchasers to buying older timber framed houses as some of the examples around the age of property you are looking at have had problems.

When considering what to do you must think that if you are having doubts about the purchase because it is a timber framed property, it is likely that future purchasers will suffer similar doubts. I have surveyed timber framed properties for purchasers where I have found no significant defects but they have still pulled out of the purchase just because of the timber framed construction.

Personally, given the scenario that I were in the position of buying one of two similar 30 year old houses, the first being timber framed and the second being traditional bricks and mortar, my money would go into the traditional build every day of the week. Less uncertainty, easier to maintain and easier to alter / extend.

Notwithstanding any of the above however there are an awful lot of older timber framed houses about and they do sell so really the choice is yours i'm afraid.

As my lovely wife notes in her earlier post, timber framed houses are being built all the time now with many of the national house builders adopting them so the form of construction is becoming better accepted by purchasers but there is still a general suspicion about the older examples.

In closing - the question about the windows makes no sense to me at all as they must be attached to the structure to stay in place and I have no idea as to what (if any) preservative would have been used (another issue when surveying older timber framed houses!).

Sorry to go on but hope the above helps.



Youcannotbeserious Wed 05-Mar-08 20:20:34

Thanks Mr DD... that is much appreciated!!

No, the surveyor hasn't noted any other particular problems, other than some condensation in the loft.....

I do appreciate that more modern houses are often timber framed, but I am guessing that these come with more guarantees / NHBC sort of thing....

Apparently the windows are attached to the brick cladding. Not the actual frame.

Thanks again, it really is much appreciated.

barking Wed 05-Mar-08 20:37:26

Hope you don't mind me gatecrashing Youcannoteserious.

MrDiscoDizzy - there is another mumsnet property crisis that I started on another thread.

The property dh and I are trying to buy is a woolaway bungalow. It isn't near a coastal area, was built in the mid 1960's and is nearly completely surrounded by a block built extension, apart from the back wall.

We have been in contact with the surveyors department (they aren't allowed to talk directly with the client as it's a valuation) and he has recommended a total retention of mortgage amount until I have a full structural engineers report.

I'm so frustrated as this means the surveyor sitting on the fence will cost a further £1000 and there is still no guarantee we will get the property. We have 2/3 of the purchase price as a deposit. The Abbey said they are tightening their lending criteria so are very cautious.

There is damp in the property but couldn't see anything of major concern. The structural engineer I talked to on telephone said he wouldn't put any guarantee on the property and also advised extreme caution as it will be hard to sell on. We are thinking in the long term (5-10 years) of knocking it down and building a kit home.

Help - any advice appreciated.

scanner Wed 05-Mar-08 20:41:23

Have you thought about taking out hidden defects insurance? It does what it says on the tin, insures you for any defects that were hidden.

CarGirl Wed 05-Mar-08 20:47:30

Just wanted to say we have a 40 year old part timber framed house and it's been fine. Although as we replace windows in the downstairs we replacing the wood underneath with bricks!!!! Actually house seems to be mainly glass thanks to the 60's design......

DiscoDizzy Wed 05-Mar-08 20:48:44


It sounds as though you are looking for someone to say "this is fine, carry on, everythings going to be great", however from what you have told me, your professional advisers do not seem to think this is the reality of the situation. If you propose to demolish the property and rebuild then the issue of current condition is largely irrelevant but you will be paying what I would assume over the odds for what you see as a building plot (although I don't know your area) and you must consider that if your circumstances change between going ahead with the purchase and the 5-10 years you envisage for the rebuild you will be stuck with a property that you may not be able to move on.

From what you are saying about the comments from your structural engineer, he is telling you that regardless of what he finds on the day, he will be giving you a report that features heavily on the theme of doom and gloom and beware all souls who enter here. I assume he has knowledge of these properties in your area and would not like to have any problems associated with them hanging over his professional indemnity insurance for the next 6 years.

IME as a surveyor I often get the impression that clients want the reports to simply say, "this house is great and everything is going to be hunky dory, you would be a complete imbicile (sp) not to buy this property despite any significant problems I have uncovered". This however is not what a survey report is about, it is black and white document that tells you what you need to know when making your own choice about purchasing any given property.

You have the choice of making an informed purchase decision based upon the professional advice you have received to date or you can follow your emotions and hope for the best.

Mr DiscoDizzy

barking Wed 05-Mar-08 20:51:34

Youcannotbeserious - I know how you feel, this is all so fraught, we keep thinking of pulling out and staying put - then there is the slightly unhinged eccentric part of me dreaming of my new family life in the other place.
We would rent, but it would be twice as expensive so we are trying make the right decision- whatever that means wink

The caviat your surveyor has written into the report - I'm just wondering whether I go back to the Abbey and ask for this instead of forking out for an engineers report

Scanner - thats very interesting, I have never heard of this insurance, is it much higher than average?

scanner Wed 05-Mar-08 20:55:31

Not sure, but I suspect you could google it.

Youcannotbeserious Wed 05-Mar-08 20:57:45

Hey!1 Everyone is welcome!! MOre the merrier!

Sadly, in my case, it's not our 'dream house'. That would be a large old Victorian place.... Mr DD is right though... I'd look past pretty much any fault for the 'dream house'..

No THIS house is very much what we need, what we can afford and a sound investment (or atleast I'm hoping it will be!)

SO, yes, am considering carefully whether to pull out. Still haven't managed to talk to DH about it, so jury is out!!

Structural surveys sound nightmarish - apart from the cost, I am guessing the Surveyor is having to list every single possible problem (partly, of course, to make sure he isn't held liable for anything in the future!)....

DiscoDizzy Wed 05-Mar-08 20:59:21

Apparently Allied Surveyors deal with hidden defects insurance.

barking Wed 05-Mar-08 21:09:17

MrDiscoDizzy, Thanks for replying so quickly. We are currently living next door to someone with mental health problems and live in a very expensive area - I think it's second to London for house prices so the decision is a very emotional one.

I guess we would only be motivated to rebuild if we were looking to sell on which is sad, as at the moment I would live in a tent if for only some peace and quiet.

The bungalow would be worth at least £100k more if it wasn't woolaway, but then we wouldn't be able to afford to live in such a nice spot.

I remember reading some advice saying to 'always go for the worst house in the best street' but in this instance it's trying to factor in the time, stress, cost and energy of taking on a house with this problem and young children.

Plus there is the worry that we are buying when the market is threatening to crash - what do you think?

barking Wed 05-Mar-08 21:18:51

Youcannotbeserious - Thanks smile I have never gatecrashed another thead before.

I nearly keep making that phone call, then putting it off. My poor dc3 is going loopy with me being on the phone all day chasing bits of paper and trying to talk to someone in authority.

So you and dh haven't had a chance to talk yet either? We got up at 6 the other morning just to try and make our minds up. Is it me or am I the only one that has to make all the big life changing decisions in our house hmm

its so hard when the stakes are high, but then on the other hand who wants sensible?

Though it could be an albatross.....

Thank you Discodizzy for insurance company. I will think about putting this forward to them, would this mean I wouldn't have to seek the structual survey?

DiscoDizzy Wed 05-Mar-08 21:19:14

Hi Barking, the addage about buying the worst house in the best area generally stands true however i would advocate that it only really counts if you are buying a property which is somewhat like for like with the surrounding properties and is not blighted in any way.

Do your market research and see if the woolaway houses are problematic when being moved on (as it sounds as if they are) and what the local feeling about them is. i must admit that we do not have woolaway houses around here so I do not know their inherent problems however we have problems with houses built with substandard structural floor fills and wall make ups which can be very costly to repair and hence have limited value and marketability.

My point about rebuilding related to a change in financial circumstance so while you have mentioned that you would only rebuild if you planned to sell, you have to consider being in the position where you have to sell because you cannot afford to stay where you are therefore you will not have the funds to rebuild.

JingleyJen Wed 05-Mar-08 21:24:53

Can I just add something, our house is a timberframed house. No problems at all.
really like it, built in 1987.
have changed the windows to double glazing without issue.

Didn't have a problem with insurance or mortgage.

That said obviously only you and your Dh can decide smile

Onlyaphase Wed 05-Mar-08 21:32:20

Not sure what the deal is with timberframed houses - we have just sold our timberframed one, 400 years old, timber was fine. In fact the only problem with the house and frame were on the 1970s extension, which had rotten timbers and a LOT of dampness. Actually, thinking about it, I'd buy a period timberframed house in a flash, but wouldn't touch anything built in the 1970s again. Seemed to be the decade of crapness with design and structure in my neck of the woods

QuintessentialShadow Wed 05-Mar-08 21:43:07

I am from Norway, where around 90% of houses are totally timber except the foundation, it is cement, it has been this way since the dawn of time up there. I dont know why it is so frowned upon in Britain, is it different timber, are the builders lacking the necessary skills, is the climate different. In any event, "back home" timber is the favoured material because it is "living" and breathing, withstands the test of time, in fact to really make it sturdy they let the house have a winter untreated before priming and painting/varnishing it. I, on the other hand, am more sceptical towards brick and plaster, but hey ho. I am not a builder, neither a surveyor, so hav no professional opinion. grin

Have a look at this, a beautiful selection of timber houses, you select your house out of a catalogue and they build it for you. Couldnt be easier? timber houses

barking Wed 05-Mar-08 21:43:31

Thanks MrDiscodizzy smile

They are I think 4 in the village built on this one quiet lane just on the outskirts. You have made me think it may be worth talking to the neighbours and see if they have any problems or solutions with their houses - also check they're not bonkers!

Yes - you have hit the nail on the head about rebuild and selling on. That is another reason for us thinking about moving at the moment, we would be downsizing to release some equity, even though we would be getting (on the surface), a good sized bungalow with garden and garage.

barking Wed 05-Mar-08 21:49:30

Quintessentialshadow - lovely name!
Just perusing the website you gave - this is just the sort of thing I would like to do eventually.
I want the 'Nexus'!

barking Wed 05-Mar-08 21:52:42

Here are my favourite timber framed house builders
carpenter oak

Look and drool!!

QuintessentialShadow Wed 05-Mar-08 21:54:27

grin My friend who is an architect has altered the Sirius 6 for me, made it bigger, changed internal layout a little, taller windows, bigger balcony around 1/3 of the house, etc..... Hopefully we start the build in June.

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