Livett-Cartwright Steel Framed House

Livett-Cartwright Steel Framed House

  • Manufacturer: N B Bell & Co. Ltd
  • Architect/Designer: –
  • Engineer: –
  • AKA: Bell-Livett. Index, Leeds Corporation
  • Number Built: 2500
  • Period Built:1948-56


Between 1944 and 1947 various non-traditional house construction systems were assessed by the Interdepartmental Committee on Housing Construction (Burt Committee) to identify promising systems for development.

The Livett-Cartwright steel framed house, which was originally named the Bell-Livett or Leeds Corporation house was just one of a number of new non-standard house building systems that were approved for production in the postwar UK. More than 2,500 of these houses were constructed in and around Leeds between 1948 and 1956.
Livett-Cartwright houses were produced as two and three bedroom semi-detached dwellings and despite some small changes to building components over the production period, the actual form of the steel frame remained pretty much the same.

The steel frame of the Livett-Cartwright house is fabricated from sections of rolled steel.
Rolled steel roof members support timber rafters with a roof covering of interlocking concrete tiles or asbestos cement tiles.

The identification of Livett-Cartwright houses:

  • Constructed as 2-storey semi-detached houses.
  • Un-modernised houses are clad with storey height concrete panels of plain concrete or exposed aggregate finish.
  • Some of these houses also have a flat roofed single storey outhouse attached to the flank end wall which facilitated a fuelstore and a storehouse.
  • The houses were fitted with front door canopies, constructed from either timber framing or concrete above tubular steel supports.
  • Medium pitch hipped roof covered with profiled asbestos cement sheets or interlocking concrete tiles.
  • External walls of storey height exposed aggregate or plain PRC panels (L-shaped at corners) throughout.
  • PS window and door surrounds.
  • Flat canopy over doors.
  • Plain PRC panelled houses have projecting band course at first floor window sill level.
  • Some properties have a single storey flat roof outhouse at flank wall.
  • Metal cowl to chimney.

Foundations and substructure
The steel frame is erected on 2 ft by 2 ft concrete pad foundations.
At the perimeter, Pre-cast concrete plinths span between the foundation pads to support the ground floor concrete cladding panels. The bottom edges of the cladding panels are located in a trough which runs through the plinth pads.
A damp proof course of bitumen backed lead, which is lapped with the damp
proof membrane between the floor screed and slab, runs up the back of the plinth unit and over into the trough. An additional strip of bitumen felt is located in the cavity over the top of the bitumen backed lead damp proof course.

A architectural drawing from 1945 (shown below) depicted 3/4 inch diameter metal pipes running through the plinth units where joints met, presumably to allow drainage of the trough, but these are not present on all houses.

Steel Frame
The steel frame is designed for a pair of semi-detached houses with the steelwork
contained in the separating wall shared between the two houses. The frame
for one half of a semi-detached pair, including the shared separating wall steelwork has:
Three two storey stanchions to the flank end.
Three two storey stanchions in the separating wall.
Two two storey intermediate stanchions, one to the front elevation and one to the rear.
One single storey stanchion towards the middle of the house supporting a 7in by 4in RSJ which runs from the mid flank stanchion to the mid separating wall stanchion.
All stanchions are 5in by 3in Rolled Steel Joists with steel baseplates which are secured to the foundation pads by bolts.

The stanchions are tied together at ground floor window head level by 3in by 3in RSJ members in the separating wall, 6in by 3in RS channels to the flank end and 7in by 3in Rolled Steel channels to the front and rear elevations.
There are cladding rails of 3in by 2 1/2in RS angles at ground floor window cill and first floor window cill levels and a cladding rail of 4in by 3in Rolled Steel Tee at first floor window head level.
The roof structure consists of a shared truss in the separating wall and one truss above the intermediate stanchions; hip and mid-hip rafters are connected at the apex of the truss above the intermediate stanchions, via a plate bolted to the ends of the purlins which are located 6in below the ridge. The top of the mid-hip rafter has a gusseted angle cleat welded to the end which enables the connection to the securing plate to be made.
The trusses are of 3in by 3in RS Tee ceiling ties and rafters with 1 1/2in by 1 1/2in RS angle struts.
The hip rafters are of 5in by 3in RSJs and the mid-hip rafter is of 2 1/2,in by 2 1/2in
RS angle. The trusses and hip rafters support 4in by 2 1/2in RS angle purlins at eaves and middle of rafter levels. The trusses also support the 4in by 2 1/2in RS angle purlins located 6in below the ridge, to which the hip rafter securing plate is bolted. The steel purlins support 3in by 2in timber rafters at 24in centres.

External walls
The external wall consists of an external cladding and internal lining separated by a cavity which is approximately 6in wide (Figure 4). Suspended within the cavity is 1 inch thick glass fibre thermal insulation quilt.

External cladding
The external walls are clad with storey height, reinforced concrete panels, 16 1/2in wide by 2in thick. The corner panels are L-shaped in plan and measure 17in across the flank end side and 6in across the front or rear elevation sides. The cladding panels have a plain concrete finish and there is a projecting decorative band course below the first floor windows. The ground floor panels bear on a precast concrete plinth.
The ground floor panels to the front and rear elevation are restrained by cranked clips which are held by screws and locate over the RS angle cladding rail and the bottom flange of the RS channel.
The upper storey panels to the front and rear elevations are flush with the lower
panels and sit directly on them but the load is transferred to the RS channels at ground floor window head level by lugs cast onto the backs of the panels; the upper storey panels are also restrained to the RS channel beam and RS angle and RS Tee cladding rails by cranked clips. At the flank end the fuelstore and storehouse form a single storey extension with a roof of pre-cast concrete units. The roof units are supported at one end by the flank end RS channel member and at the other end by the top edge of the load bearing panels which form the flank end of the extension. The lugs to the upper storey flank end house cladding panels bear, via up stands on the pre-cast roof units, on to the flank end RS channel member. Window and door surrounds are of 16 gauge pressed steel.

Wall lining
The waIl lining is of prefabricated plasterboard faced timber panels except to the
storehouse and fuel store where linings are formed of storey height concrete panels.
Separating wall
The separating wall is of cavity construction comprising of two leaves of 2in thick
concrete panels separated by a 3 1/4in cavity containing the shared stanchions, ties and truss. The separating wall panels are of similar dimensions to the external cladding panels.
In the roof space the panels stop 6in below the roof line; the cavity is closed with
separate concrete units which are tight to the underside of the sarking felt.
The concrete panels are formed with notches and rebates to allow for the passage of the steel members which connect to steelwork contained within the separating waIl. Small gaps exist between the backs of the external cladding panels and the outer flanges of the separating wall stanchions at the front and rear elevations.

On the ground and first floors the separating wall is lined with prefabricated
plasterboard faced timber panels.
In the roofspace the panels are left unlined.
The partitions are non-loadbearing and are of prefabricated plasterboard faced timber panels.
FloorsGround floor
The ground floor consists of a 3 1/2in thick ground bearing concrete slab topped with a sand cement screed covered by a pitchmastic finish.

First floor
The first floor is of 7/8in tongued and grooved floorboards nailed to floor joists which are formed by strip steel webs and composite RS angle and timber chords. The joists measure 7 1/4in by 2in and are at 18in centres. The joists span from the front elevation RS channel to the central RSJ and a further set from the RSJ to the rear elevation; the joists are each secured to the central RSJ by a single bolt.
The chimney opening trimmer beams are fabricated in the same way as the floor joists.

Surveyors notes:

For full details of surveyors notes and findings following BRE site surveys and investigations, please purchase the BRE publication Livett-Cartwright Steel Framed Houses (Scanned copy) Building Research Establishment (01-Jan-1989)

  • Minor corrosion of RSJ stanchions, particularly at bases and PRC plinth level.
  • Corrosion of steel windows and PS surrounds.
  • Spalling of concrete PRC panels window sills and door canopies.
  • Deterioration of mortar joints between PRC panels. Corrosion of cast iron flue pipes.

It should be noted that a smaller number Livett-Cartwright houses were also built with a concrete frame as opposed to the standard steel framed version.
The concrete version of this house incorporated similar external cladding panels as the steel framed version however, unlike it’s steel framed counterpart, the concrete house has a noticeable flush (flat) band course around the exterior perimeter of the house just above the window head level of the ground floor.

Limited Production Concrete Framed Livett-Cartwright House. Note the omission of a proected band course below upper storey window cills.


  1. Are there any problems with replacing the back living room window to french doors? I’ve seen others have done this, I just need to know if there’s anything I need to be aware of. Thanks

  2. Typical asbestos located in this property
    Internal wall between kitchen and lounge/hall was asbestos insulating board sheeting very common . On the traditional brick built version this wall is usually solid built.
    Splash backs to kitchen around sink
    Shelf in pantry
    Panel to side of meter in kitchen
    Soffits cement
    Chimney is a precast cement soaker visible from loft (main identifier that the property is a Livett Cartwright)
    Roof slates as stated
    Soil pipe to rear of property