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Hot Topic Highlight – Residential Defect Case Study 2

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

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What is this week's blog about?

In this week’s blog, we take a look at our second residential defect case study. This is essential reading for all RICS AssocRICS and APC candidates with an involvement in residential property.

All credit must to go Kevin Keane BSc (Hons) MRICS, Chartered Surveyor at Walker Fraser Steele. He is also a consultant to Property Elite providing support on the Residential and Valuation pathways.

You will find a number of photographs below, see what you can spot in terms of defects and what these might be caused by. Then, read on for Kevin’s comments and analysis of the issue.

Cavity Wall Insulation

The round marks indicate application of cavity wall insulation (CWI). Sometimes they are tidier or tastefully finished than others! However, they are a handy indication, for a surveyor, of the wall type.

This tells us that the wall is of cavity construction and that the internal cavity has subsequently been filled with insulation material.

It is reported that up to 1/3 of heat loss in buildings is through the external walls of an uninsulated home, so it’s no surprise that CWI is very popular.

Generally properties, pre 1910/1920, were mostly built with solid walls, whereas properties built after 1990 will have had insulation applied at the time of construction. For anything in-between this time, it is a reasonable assumption that there is no CWI.

Like most things, there is an argument for and against the application of CWI.

In some cases, the property construction is incorrectly identified and CWI is installed when it shouldn’t be - this can cause a range of issues.

When retrofit cavity wall insulation is installed into a property that is located or built in a way that means it should not have the cavities filled, or if the work is undertaken incorrectly, the first and most obvious sign of a problem is almost always internal dampness.

Furthermore, the cavity should be 50mm wide and the walls should be in good condition prior to the addition of any insulation material.

The argument for CWI is primarily cost and sustainability led. By creating a warmer home, we are reducing our energy waste and reducing our heating costs. It is reported that the average detached home can save up to £275 p.a. and 1,100kg CO2, not to mention the increased rating on a property’s EPC.

And, as always - ask a professional! This includes asking a registered installer for a borescope inspection. The installer will drill a small hole in your external wall to see if your walls are hollow or filled.

Non Traditional Construction

This image actually gives us more of a story!

This property is of non-traditional construction, 'Cruden Rural'.

The roof, as we can see, is of cold rolled steel sections, carrying a steel rigid grid covered with interlocking concrete tiles.

Mortgageability of this house type is down to individual lenders’ criteria, as it is of non-standard construction. However, in many areas, they sell on the open market and perform just as well as traditionally built properties.

As we can see, there has been spray foam applied and subsequently removed - this is likely at the request of a lender after an inspection has been carried out by a Chartered Surveyor.

Spray foam insulation has been around for a long time now and the issue is, and always has been, the reduction in airflow around roof timbers and formation of condensation.

In this case, the property is steel framed and the steel could begin to corrode due to condensation.

Most major lenders would automatically decline the property, although some would find it acceptable as long as the rafters aren’t encapsulated.

If in doubt - ask a professional!

How can we help?

Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you.

N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal, professional or financial advice.


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