A Local Authority Owned House, otherwise known as a council house is a form of social housing provided by the state originally intended for working class people at an affordable rental rate to solve Britain’s housing problem.
One of the first ‘council estates’ built was the Boundary Estate in the East End of London. It was opened in the early 1900’s and is now a Grade Two Listed structure. In 1919 David Lloyd George launched a campaign to build ‘homes for heroes’, this was to be housing suitable for returning soldiers and funding was secured from the government. The Second World War intervened with the house building programme and it wasn’t until after the second war had finished the council house hey-day began.
Its estimated that around 4 million British homes were destroyed leaving many people homeless, the government provided large amounts of funding to provide new homes and suburban estates and introduced the New Towns Act 1946 which would shape the social housing we see today.
There was a small number of high rise developments introduced in large cities such as Kingston upon Hull, Birmingham and Coventry our focus in this blog is the social housing within London and the south East.
Typically across London’s sub-urban housing estates two and three bedroom semi -detached properties were built with a front and rear garden, hot running water and private indoor toilets and bathrooms. Inner city developments didn’t follow suit with many 3-4 storey low level flats being built albeit to similar standards of construction and private bathrooms and toilets. High rise structures were deemed more suitable for areas of inner city slum reform with prefabricated ‘system building’ being implemented for the design and construction of high rise developments.
Many High Rise tower blocks have been subject of sub-standard build and problems have arose with these structures such as the ingress of damp, structural defects and huge concern over their ability to with stand unexpected forces such as a gas explosion which is what happened at Ronan Point in East London in 1968.
Council housing declined rapidly during the ‘Thatcher era’ with the ‘right to buy’ scheme being introduced, laws were put in place preventing the proceeds of property sales and local taxes being invested into the councils housing stock causing the properties to have a rapid decline in structural integrity.
Council estates within London and The south East are still standing and with investment from the decent homes project providing key funding to bring the dwellings to a decent standard of living will ensure the properties suffice. Newman Building Solutions have played a key role within the decent homes standard and are proud to have brought many properties on estates up to standard.
Newman Building Solutions have worked with councils and housing associations in order to upkeep and reform their housing stock bringing back to life many void properties for use as homes once again. As well as void properties Newman Building Solutions has extensive experience and contracting skills whilst restoring tenanted properties.
That phrase is commonly heard within the Newman Building Solutions office, being a common problem to Victorian and Edwardian built properties we are able to offer modern methods of structural repair to prevent and restrain outward movement.
Bowing walls are caused by a lack of lateral restraint, which allows the masonry panels to move independently often outwards severely weakening the structural integrity of the property.
This is often evident at the levels of the masonry where the floor joists run in accordance to the floor and ceiling joists. Tying into the floor and ceiling joists is essential in repairing and restraining the movement and traditional tie bars which are visible on many period properties are no longer required.
Newman Building Solutions utilise the Twistfix Heliforce system providing lateral restraint by inserting 1.0m, 1.5m or 2.0m ties into the floor and ceiling joists with a resin fix into the brick work providing an almost invisible repair once aesthetic brick repairs have been carried out. Incorporating lateral restraint ties with helical bar creating deep masonry beams and replacement wall ties remove the need for expensive intrusive and dangerous remove and rebuild techniques that may have been previously used.
Residential Victorian Properties and how they were constructed.
The style of Victorian properties varies across the country and the main focus of this article is those properties built in the South East and London.
The general era defined by the Victorian period of rule is of 1830’s to early 1900’s and it was an era that changed the face of Britain’s house building. With the industrial revolution introducing innovative techniques and rapid economic growth leading to a boom in domestic, commercial and industrial property building.
The Victorian era of house building led the revival of many previously popular styles of architecture and incorporated these styles that define the Victorian era. Houses were a sign of status and the more wealthy the owner the more elaborate the property, incorporating elegant fascia boards and dog teeth brickwork and high brick built chimneys and large bay windows.
The exterior of the property was usually built using solid wall construction using yellow stock bricks laid in a 1 sand and 1 lime mortar mix in a Flemish bond. Flemish bond is a strong bond but the typical mortar mix used is a fairly weak mix with a high permeability to moisture absorption. There is a benefit in using a fairly weak mix with lime in the mix as this allows the structure to withstand a fair amount of structural movement which is why movement joints aren’t found amongst period properties and often aren’t required. The cause for a large proportion of external cracking within the exterior of period properties is caused by common factors such as lintel failure, outward movement causing lateral instability and ground movement causing subsidence and heave.
Internally the structure is commonly found to have 9 inch solid brickwork for load bearing masonry partition walls and lathe and plaster separating walls both of which are strong and allow some amount of structural movement. Ceilings are often very high and found with intricate internal plasterwork, decorative mouldings and joinery.
The Victorians also installed large timber sash windows that are often load bearing and upon replacement, with non-load bearing uPVC windows, causing lintel failure. The elaborate brick arch lintels often fail upon removal of the timber windows and doors as they are often left unsupported, allowing them to sag causing the brick work and mortar to crack in a common stepped cracking. With stair cases usually running parallel to the external flank and gable walls Newman Building Solutions usually find that there are no ties from the external wall into the floor joists or stair case. This allows the flank or gable wall to act freely leaving a lateral instability but with the skill and knowledge our surveyors have we are able to restrain this movement using the innovative Twistfix helical bar creating masonry beams combined with Twistfix lateral restraint ties.
Victorian foundations differ dramatically from Modern structures that are usually built on large foundations typically on concrete ground beams or reinforced slabs and commercial and industrial buildings being built on piled rafts. The Victorians often didn’t use this method of construction for foundations and instead used to build shallow footings out of a course of 5-6 bricks in a ‘pyramid’ shape spreading the load across the ground and in some cases the footings are no more than 200mm’s deep. Many of these Victorian buildings have stood the test of time and we are often asked “with such shallow foundations, why hasn’t my house fallen down yet?” There is no simple answer to this but the loads from a house typically weighing around 100 tonnes doesn’t actually impose huge forces to the ground as the weight is distributed evenly across the structure and the ground.
The problems with the shallow foundations arise due to the shrinkage and heave of the clay soils that are found across London and the South East. Subsidence is a major issue within the South East of England as clay is prone to subsidence which is the shrinkage of the soil and the not so common heave which is the swelling of the soil. This structural defect is usually dealt with by your insurance company of which Newman building Solutions are highly regarded for as a skilled contractor offering piling underpinning and superstructure repairs for a network of insurance companies.
If you are thinking of purchasing or renovating a Victorian property Newman Building Solutions are able to help with our range of surveys and structural repairs, there isn’t much we haven’t seen or designed and installed repair programmes for so be sure to visit us and get in contact for a consultation.