BISF House of My Dreams in Braintree Essex

Hello, I’m currently buying a BISF house in Braintree, Essex.
It’s my first house and I want to do a huge renovation.
I have read through the entire forum and It’s amazing.
The first time I heard about BISF houses was from my Estate Agent, when I had my first viewing.
At first I was scared but now, after read this forum, I’m really happy that I bought it.
I’ve just finished building school and I’ve been working for 7 years in UK in maintenance, 2 years ago I also got my electrician qualifications. I have a lot of experience with refurbishment, decorating, plumbing and electrics, but I don’t have any experience with BISF houses.
I Know that it’s only the construction type that is different, but it’s also the most important part of house.
I haven’t bought the house yet, but I want to be prepared for everything before I have the keys in my hand. After this I will just get on and DO IT!
I hope that all professionals and BISF house owners will help me.
I can promise share on this forum with my all new experience acquired during the renovation.


My first idea:
I read somewhere that in BISF houses I can take out all of the internal walls.
For me it’s possible because all weight from upstairs take huge steel floor beams.
Can anyone confirm this?
With external walls I want just make additional doors for toilet and doors from existing kitchen to existing toilet make wider about 60cm.
I worry a little about the water heater tank between bedrooms 1 and 2. If need I to, can I move it or remove it and buy a combi boiler?
I will remove fire and chimney.
I will put some images to help you understand my idea.
Thanks for any help
Tom

Responses

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    1. Tom

      At last there is another person with a BISF house in Braintree on this message board, most of the houses are still council owned so they would not bother on this forum. I brought this as my first house 9 years ago now. I am on Rosemary Avenue near St. Francis school so you must be close on Coldnailhurst or Deanery Hill/Gardens. You really have grand plans with your house. What have you done so far?

      I have completely refurbished my house but did not go the extents of changing the glass fibre insulation. Instead I used a bubble wrap with foil to reflect the heat in with an air gap then plasterboard on top. I don’t know how effective this is but it was allot cheaper and easier then filling with expanded foam type of insulation. I completely stripped the old plasterboard and hardboard from the walls and re-built the internal stud walls. I have changed the layout upstairs slightly to make a bigger bathroom, removed the old chimney and made the old airing cupboards into built in wardrobes. Downstairs I still have the hallway and lounge with double doors into the dining room. I blocked the back kitchen door off which makes the kitchen allot bigger and put bi-fold doors where the dining room window was. This opens onto decking and paving but still have to finish the 130 ft garden. Eventually I want to put a conservatory on the back too. I have plans to make the coal shed extension into a utility room with a door into it at the bottom of the stairs. Where I want to put the door there is a diagonal brace which people on this forum think it is al right to remove as other people have done this.

      Greg

  1. Hi and welcome Tom! It’s a big and exciting task you’ve got! We were in a similar situation two years ago but as I work full time it has been coming on fairly slowly.

    Anyway, about the internal walls. Upstairs there are no structural elements in the internal walls at all – all the support for the roof is in the external walls and roof trusses. Downstairs though there are three steel elements in the internal walls.

    1) A large steel beam across the width of the house in the top of the wall between the living room and dining room, living room/kitchen and hall/kitchen.

    2) A steel stanchion supporting the above beam roughly half way between the doorway opening between the living room and dining room and the chimney flue.

    3) Another stanchion where the living room/kitchen/hallway meet.

    I found this photo of a BISF house where the wall between the living room and dining room has been removed that shows the first two.

    Ed

  2. Thank you for your response Ed..
    That steel beam across the width of the house looks huge and holds just upstairs floor and walls plus furnitures. It’s not problem form because I will do 2 or 3 ceiling levels, and will be cover. For me problem are that two steel stanchions. Who can tell me what I have to do to remove them?
    1. Any local professional building company?
    2. Any building designers?
    Other question is that I need any permission to do this job before, or any confirmation, assent after this. Who can do that certification?
    Tom

  3. Tom,

    What you are talking about here is HUGELY SIGNIFICANT structural work, by no feet something you should be underestimating by any means what so ever. To get the interior of a BISF house like that of your picture, the only resemblance of a BISF house that would remain is the fact it has some steel beams in the structure. You would have to speak to a highly competent structural engineer and spent many 10s of thousands of pounds to replace the central steel beam and its associated support, but this aside the one major factor you would be considering in your plans is the fact that you are buy a SEMI-DETACHED property. Any such would would also have HUGE ramifications on the neighbours structure and I highly doubt you would every get the approval to go ahead with it. Not to mention even if you did, the money to do so would make it pointless going to such an effort as you could probably buy a far nicer and more spacious home with the money you would spend.

    I know just what you’re going through getting excited about possibly buying your first home, I bought this BISF as mine 8 months ago so know how easy it is to get carried away with the plans.

    As Ed says, none of the walls upstairs are structural, you can have the entire upstairs open no questions asked and no limitations.

    The downstairs has to take the weight of all this, as a result as already outlined has a large RSJ spanning from one side to the other with THREE beams 1/3 and 2/3s and 3/3ds of the way in, one to the right of where the original fire place is, the other just to the right of where the original kitchen/hallway door is and the final one just in front of the party wall as you will see in my picture. You could probably remove the one at 2/3rds without causing too much impact (I would still consult a structural engineer on this) or at least move it in either direction (which is what I was going to do- and yes it does move easily enough as its just bolted in), but the rest I would say are in too critical structural location for me to every suggest doing it.

    My suggestion, sadly, curb your ambition a little, spend your time properly on this website doing research into the structure etc and replan accordingly, you can still have a beautiful home far better than any modern property despite some of the BISF structures limitations that have been outlined here.

    Good luck and keep us posted 🙂

  4. Oh and Tom, sorry to continually be the bearer of bad news, but your plan of opening the kitchen up wider into the outhouse- forget about it, that would involve taking out an entire vertical beam and also the cross brace which gives the structure support against flex.

    1. I’d forgotten about the stanchion against the party wall! I’m wondering though if the two houses in the pair are exactly mirrored and there will be another against the party wall next door or not. I notice your house is left hand side one too.

      Ed

  5. I’d forgotten about the stanchion against the party wall! I’m wondering though if the two houses in the pair are exactly mirrored and there will be another against the party wall next door or not. I notice your house is left hand side one too. Ed

    I almost had too before I hit “post”!. I would also imagine it is mirrored, but given how thin these braces are I would question whether relying on the one the other side could be short sighted potentially, although equally in theory the blockwork goes right up to the RSJ so this may provide a little support too

    Grangey

  6. Hi Grangey, that’s a great photo! I haven’t seen a picture like that of the frame revealed in the kitchen (or corners of the house in general). So far I’ve only revealed the steel frame in the living room and back bedroom, where there are no diagonal braces. What is that wooden band above the door though? I did not find anything like that in the living room.

    Also, I’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to remove and replace the steel reveals round the inside of both exterior doors as they are horrible cold bridges (they get covered in condensation) but I wasn’t sure if they are removable from the rest of the steel door surround, so I was wondering if you could tell as you’ve stripped off the wall lining around it.

    BTW I thought I’d replied thanking you for your floor beam measurements, but the post seems to have disappeared!

    Ed

    1. I was thinking that there is only one stanchion and one roof truss near the centre of the pair of houses as it wouldn’t make sense to have two right next to each other on either side of the party wall and only one seems to be visible in the photos of prototype houses under construction.

      I guess the party wall could take some weight but given it wasn’t intended to, I don’t think it would be wise to rely on it, as it wouldn’t have been built with load-bearing foundations.

      Actually, I think if your heart is set on a completely open plan house downstairs, a BISF house is probably one of the best places to start as it is much more lightweight than a traditional house and does not need as much support. It would still be a very big job and personally I wouldn’t recommend it. However, I have seen more challenging projects such as a house with a concrete first floor made open plan using a system of no fewer than four interconnected box-section steel supports.

      Ed

  7. Oh trust me from an insulation perspective those diagonal braces are a royal PAIN, my work around them has been far from ideal but as I have the secondary layer which helps remove thermal bridging Im happy enough that this should help pick up any deficiencies my appauling cutting skills have left behind! Funnily enough the bathroom is the only room I haven’t yet (but Ive done the 3rd bedroom which is of course identical just mirrored) done as Im waiting to start and finish the new downstairs shower room first so I can naturally always have a working bathroom.

    The wooden beam sits directly on top of the concrete walls (which in my case are not concrete blocks, but actually nothing more than a metal mesh skimmed both sides with concrete) and is just below the bottom of the steel cladding, so probably wouldnt even be visible looking down from upstairs as you have the steel cross brace the cladding attaches to blocking the view. Depending on the height of the concrete roof though and particularly the flashing, I wouldnt be all that surprised to find something similar in place on yours so it will be interesting to see what you discover. Good luck with it 🙂

    Grangey

  8. Hello guys. I have just brought a house at Rosemary avenue Braintree.
    I need a few tips to do with putting in insolation into the walls.
    What method is the most effective? And can someone recommend a company that would do this?
    I would also like to change the windows and do central heating. Thanks in advance.