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BISF house in Sheldon, Birmingham - invasive structural survey

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Topic starter


I would like to buy a house which I am renting at the moment (Brays Road, Sheldon, B26 2RP Birmingham). The house is a BISF house. Could you please let me know who can do an invasive structural survey for me and how much it costs? What the surveyor is checking for? What could be wrong with the BISF house? How much could the repairs cost? Is the invasive survey the best form of checking these kind of houses? The house was build in 1950's and is BISF, is it good to buy it? I need a mortgage for it and would like to know what's better option - BISF or bricks house?


Thank you in advance,

  • Danuta
4 Answers

Hello Danuta and welcome to the forum,

I'm familiar with the houses that you refer to in Brays road and I have also noticed the steady increase in sales prices  over the last few years.

An intrusive survey should check the condition of the steel frame, particularly at the base where corrosion can sometimes occur.

This may be completed using a borescope, which is a small camera that is passed through into the cavity via a drill hole, or more likely, part of the outside render would be cut away to reveal the steel legs (Stanchions) of the frame so that the condition can be assessed.

After examination the area of removed render would need to be repaired and you could only undertake this type of survey with permission from the home owner, or in your case the landlord,

There is an alternative method to cutting away the render on the outside of the property though. This would require removal of the plasterboard wall covering from the lower  corner of the internal wall inside the house. One area would be the lower corner of the hallway, near the bottom of the stairs, or in the back room (Kitchen), as shown in the layout below. (the houses in sheldon have a type B floor plan, slightly different to the standard layout).

brays road sheldon floor plan

The method above is likely to be the cheaper option, as it costs much less to replace a piece of plasterboard from the wall inside the house and re-plaster it if required, than to replace a section of outside render, but this decision will rest with the surveyor.

The survey will look at many other areas such as the outside condition of all steel parts of the house, as well as the condition of the lower render. If your house has been externally insulated recently, then I would recommend removal of the inner plasterboard method.

You may find that a full building survey carried out by a RICS surveyor to be adequate enough. A rough cost for this would be around £700 but if you required a full structural engineers report, the cost could be significantly higher, depending on the level of inspection and the cost of removing and replacing the render surrounding the corner stanchion etc.

A full building survey should give you peace of mind and added protection should any future faults arise. The surveyor will inform you if they think a full structural survey is needed depending on their findings.

As for which is best, Brick or steel framed. The housing industry in this country favours brick over steel framed. That is why steel framed properties are usually slightly cheaper than neighbouring brick houses.

Mortgages can also be a little harder to obtain as not all lenders offer mortgages on steel framed properties. In my experience, I found Santander to be one of the best mortgage providers.

Also worth mentioning, some mortgage providers who do lend on non-traditional properties will not lend on a property with an asbestos roof. Not all refuse but some will.

As for the cost of stanchion repair. You should expect to pay anything from £1200 -£1500 per leg repair but this price can vary both ways.

I have found Santander to be a reliable lender for BISF houses.

You can find more survey information here:

Which? surveys guide.


Admin Admin 5 November 2017 12:29 PM

Remember, stanchion corrosion is rare if the outside walls of the property have been well maintained, but it does occur.

Here is a link to an image gallery of how the stanchions are repaired if they are found to be corroded.

Stanchion repair gallery link


Also, take a look at these posts

Construction faults


Topic starter

Hi Admin,

Thank you very much for the answer.

Does a surveyor have to check only the 2 Stanchions as shown in your layout? What about the steel frames which are near my neighbour house?

Do you know any surveyor who can do the survey for me? I don't know where to find one.

Is there any other check that can be done in the house and it's not invasive and for which I don't need my landlord's permission? Which will assure me that the house is in a good condition? 

What do you think about the BISF houses in Brays Road? Do people have problems with them over the years? What kind of problems?

The house roof was changed about 15 years ago and there is no asbestos now. Where in the house can I find asbestos apart from the roof? Does a BISF house have more asbestos than a brick house? Is the asbestos in BISF houses dangerous for health?

I got a mortgage offer from HSBC and a surveyor was here last week to see the house - just basic checks. I'm waiting for an answer from my bank now.

Thank you,



Admin Admin 6 November 2017 12:23 AM

Hi Danatu.

You have asked many questions that have already been answered many times before through various articles on our website but I will do my best to give you some answers here.


Firstly, HSBC do lend on steel framed properties but they will usually only offer you a 80% LTV (Loan to value) amount subject to a satisfactory structural engineer's report. This means that you may have to pay a higher cash deposit of 20% of the value of your property.


The surveyor would probably want to check the corner stanchions first and if this are found to be in good order there would be no need to check the stanchions at the party wall. The majority of corrosion is always found on the gable end corners (far end wall). Severe corrosion is actually quite rare but it can occur.


The only non destructive way to view the stanchions is by using a borescope to peer inside the cavity. This only requires a small hole to be drilled into the inside wall but it can still be tricky to reach the stanchions. This would probably not need your landlord's permission as the hole can be very easily filled.


Below is a video showing a borescope being used. 

I do not know of any specific non-traditional property surveyors in Birmingham but I will try to find one for you on Monday.


Homeowners can have problems with any house, be they brick built, steel framed or timber framed etc.  A worst case scenario would be stanchion corrosion but even then, the repair work  would be relatively cheap, (compared to the cost of  structural problems in a brick house), simple and pretty straight forward. That is worst case scenario and don't forget, severe corrosion is rare, providing the outer walls have been well maintained.


Can you take some photographs for me of the render surrounding the bottom half of the house and post them here?


I want to see if there is any substantial cracking present. Also if you could take a picture of the bottom outside corners of the house, so I can check for signs of cracking to your foundation pad.


As far as I am aware, I'm not aware of any specific problems suffered by the Brays road houses. 


In relation to asbestos, many post war built houses contain asbestos materials. Again the BISF house contains no more or less than most typical houses apart from the asbestos roofing material, which in your case has been removed. The type of asbestos used in BISF houses is considered to be of low level risk and generally safe unless damaged or decayed.


Locations where asbestos may be found in in the side wall where the cooker originally say. This is usually a visible panel that looks like concrete but it has been removed in many houses. The original bath panel may also have been made from asbestos and sometimes, the outside toilet walls were clad in asbestos too but again, this has since been removed from many properties.


There is usually a small amount in the waste pipe stack that protrudes through the roof of the house but you are unlikely to ever come into contact with that. In fact, you will probably find that a 1960's house contains more asbestos than a BISF house.


Asbestos can always be removed using specialist contractors and in the case of a BISF house, it certainly would not be me of buying one.


I hope that answers some of your questions. Remember that the borescope option will be far cheaper than an invasive survey providing that they can reach the stanchions to obtain a good view.


If HSBC do want a very large deposit, you can always try Santander as a second option.


Best regards



Adil 15 September 2021 1:48 PM

@danuta Hi, I am also in the process of purchasing a house on Brays Road. However, I am finding it difficult to find a contractor/surveyor to conduct the intrusive survey. Do you know anyone that might be able to help? 


my boyfriend is in Sheldon and we been told we had Asbestos in our water tank in the loft. We was told this by the plumber who refitted the water tank that decided to leek all over the house.