Share your thoughts, memories and experiences of living in Non-Standard, System built or BISF house.

Share your thoughts, memories and experiences of living in Non-Standard, System built or BISF house. 1

We always enjoy hearing your views, experiences and memories of life and living inside a BISF Home.
Please take a few minutes to share your experiences good or bad in in the comments below.
You can even upload your own Photographs too to help us to preserve historic memories for the future!  


  1. It’s been a while since we have had any new replies to this post because it was automatically archived and moved off the front page.

    As it contains so much excellent information for new and existing users, I’ve added it to our featured post section and I look forward to hearing more comments and thoughts from our readers.

  2. I have lived in my BISF house since 1972 . which I purchased from the local council, for £ 7000.
    The good thing about them is the size of the rooms.and like previuos comments are easy to change the inside wife loved this house God Bless her .I’m on my own now.but have lovely memories of my wife and two girls .

  3. just found this site-fab. living in my second BISF house. had one since 1996, first was on same road as Ed in Bath.
    Re roof had a new one put on old house in Freeview rd.: decra roof tiles. don’t know if company that did for me eleven yrs. ago still in business but were called North roofing(Warren)01278 794547

  4. pauline376,

    Hi Pauline, thanks for posting your pictures. My first thought was surprise as your render looks to be intact and of good condition but it does look as though it has been re-rendered over in the not so distant past, possibly due to a local authority upgrade. This could have concealed any previous poor render which could have allowed water ingress.
    This is the most common reason for stanchion corrosion but I have just also read your later response to Susie and I see that it was brought to your attention by a section of loose render.
    I think in this case you will need to obtain several quotes for the repair work as although the stanchion repair in itself is not complicated or very costly by way of materials and labour you probably will find that because it is a structural repair many businesses tend to hike the prices considerably under the guise that it is a specialist job. However finding the right people familiar with BISF repairs can be more of a challenge as I’m sure you have already found.
    As for checking the other stanchions of the property you could always ask the structural engineers if they can check them using a boroscope which is less intrusive. This is basically a miniature camera on a flexible tube that can be inserted through a small drill hole but much depends on how much room is inside the cavity.

    Just another thought, when you purchased your house what type of survey did you have? If it was a standard non-intrusive home-buyers survey then you probably wont have any recourse but if you had a full structural survey carried out you may have a case against the surveyor as this should have been highlighted in the survey.
    It would also depend on how long ago it was since you purchased the property as it could be argued that the corrosion occurred recently which I highly doubt.

    I think as time goes by more and more properties may suffer from similar stanchion corrosion at the base but the good point is that it can be repaired and in effect prolong the life of the building.

    Much of the post war steel used in the construction of BISF houses was of a lower quality than that used today. Repaired and properly treated, the replacement steel will probably outlive the entire house. :0)

    Keep us informed though Pauline as sharing such situations is what the site is all about. It’s just a pity that you are the first to experience this particular problem on here otherwise you could have had more references available to you.


  5. Hi Susie, The problem first came about by finding a small crack which my husband tapped with his hammer like they do, thus exposing the problem I have posted some photos on line for you to see, Were actually located in Plymouth right down in the west country, There are about 1,000 of these houses around this vicinity, By the way i have looked at your extension really looks great, hate to think how much that cost but well worth it. Regards Pauline.

  6. Hi Marc, Sorry for delay, Ifound your pictures very helpful indeed, We have had a structural engineer to look at it but dont think he knew what he was looking at, Now he can see pictures it might point him in the right direction, also have posted some of the pictures on line for you to see,Thank you for all the time and help you have given us we are very grateful. Regards Pauline.

  7. Hi Pauline Smile
    The image shows a section of the stanchion being replaced and although in the case shown it is needed to replace a crumbling base, the principle of the replacing a coroded section is the same.

    As for surrounding stanchions I have little specific imagery on this but I do have a selection of graphics that should give you some idea where the other stanchions are located.

    I will post several images in the hope they they will help you in identifying the location of them from different angles.

  8. pauline,

    Hi again
    sorry to hear about you plight, would like to see some photo’s when you have time….where do you live roughly, do you think your location may be part of the problem?
    I know before I bought my house our local authority upgraded a lot of things on the house. (Not the steel though)
    One other question how did you know about this problem?
    When we had our house survery done the man looked at the steel in the roof. He didnt look any where else. When we bult the extesion a lot of steel was exposed and fortunatley it is all in good order. I do hope you are able to get this problem sorted.. regards susie

  9. Hi Marc,Me again sorry i kept you up so late, although the images were very helpful as Ed states this appears to show the concrete foundation below stanchion. Our stanchion is corroded above the concrete actually in the steel itself,you mention about neighbouring stanchions, it would be more then helpful if we knew there exact position, dont suppose there are any more images showing position of them. Cheers Pauline.

    1. Hi Pauline Smile
      The image shows a section of the stanchion being replaced and although in the case shown it is needed to replace a crumbling base, the principle of the replacing a coroded section is the same.

      As for surrounding stanchions I have little specific imagery on this but I do have a selection of graphics that should give you some idea where the other stanchions are located.

      I will post several images in the hope they they will help you in identifying the location of them from different angles.

  10. Hi Marc,Me again sorry i kept you up so late, although the images were very helpful as Ed states this appears to show the concrete foundation below stanchion. Our stanchion is corroded above the concrete actually in the steel itself,you mention about neighbouring stanchions, it would be more then helpful if we knew there exact position, dont suppose there are any more images showing position of them. Cheers Pauline.

  11. Ed,

    Hi Ed, good to see you.

    Sorry, I perhaps should have explained a little more at the time of posting but due to the very late hour and after debugging the image post script my brain had started to fail lol.

    In the images shown we can see that the concrete foundation base has started to erode badly leaving the stanchion unsupported. The replacement steel section was used here to re-support the upper stanchion after it had been laid onto a solid base.

    In effect this is very similar to the repair of a corroded leg except that the corroded part is cut away and a new section of top plated steel is put in place and sometimes welded.

    The load of the property would generally be spread evenly enough throughout the structure to support the stanchion as the section is cut away. However all neighbouring stanchion legs must also be inspected prior to this to ensure that they have not corroded in a similar manner leaving the whole corner of the building effectively unsupported. If corrosion is found then structural support methods would have to be put into place before the rusted section or sections could be removed.

    The case shown here tends to be more prevalent in raised concrete foundation bases and is less common on sunken ground foundations.

    I do have a large collection of similar images showing various states of repair which I think would be very useful for the community. I shall add them in sections to a new post.

    I hope this explains the images a little better.


  12. Hi Pauline and Marc. It does sound very worrying Pauline so I hope you can get it fixed reasonably easily. I would say that rust can look worse than it is because a small amount of steel can make quite a bit of rust so fingers crossed it’s more a matter of solving the damp problem and making good the render than replacing the steel frame.

    The pics are very interesting Marc, but I don’t really understand what is going on. Is the ‘foot’ plate at the bottom of the original stanchion original too? It’s hard to tell where the render ends and the concrete foundation begins. From inside my living room, it seemed that the stanchions sat on top of the concrete foundation, but in those pictures the new steel seems to go below the concrete foundation slab, or am I interpreting it wrongly?

    It does make me a little concerned about what I might find in the kitchen and bathroom as if anywhere has corroded, I expect it will be there.

  13. HI Pauline, it’s now 02.47hrs and my eyes are drooping lol.

    I think I have managed to sort out the upload problem and I have had to disable the normal text editor on here for comments, which is why the comment area now looks a little different.
    I will upload the images now for you. They show a corroded stanchion and the replacement method. The images don’t go into any great detail but I hope you get the idea of the repair process.




    Just click on any thumbnail for a much larger picture.
    I will try to do a full post showing many different aspects of frame corrosion in the very near future.

    I hope this helps a little.
    Marc :0)

  14. Hi Pauline, So sorry, I uploaded the images for you on the same day as my reply but it looks as though I failed to press submit or it could have been a bug due to so many changed going on at the moment with the site. I will upload them again now and re check before I leave this page.

    (Post Edit) I have just tried a second batch upload but the images are not appearing in the post. I will try to post them one at a time and if this does not work I will have to investigate further.


  15. Marc, Ed and Susie, Sorry about the delay,Thank you all for being so helpful with comments and infoe. Marc i would realy like to see those images you mentioned. Our rust is definitely not superficial as you can place your hand through the centre of the uprightin the exteria corner of the kitchen. I am unable to provide images at this moment.

  16. Hi Pauline

    I’m sorry to hear about your problem and I hope we can point you in the right direction for some help.

    I have made an initial response to you in the new forums but at the time I didn’t know that the render had fallen away exposing the steel stanchions.

    Ed is spot on in that you will need to get a structural engineer involved in order to remedy this situation. I know that A J Balfour Associates (structural engineers, click on name for link to website) based in Glasgow have undertaken replacement stanchion work and the process is relatively simple but I have no idea of the costs involved.

    I would contact them and ask for some advice on the situation. Tell them that BISF asked you to get in touch as we have always found them very helpful.

    I may be wrong but on the few stanchion repairs that I have seen in photographs the on removal the upper part of the stanchion was not supported during repair but don’t quote me on that as you really do need to seek professional advice. Don’t forget that your buildings insurance may also cover this but as Ed rightly says the corrosion may only be superficial and if it is, it may need treating with a rust inhibitor.

    I will post a few images of a similar situation to what you describe and a few of the repair process (images courtesy of Balfour Associates). It would be helpful if you could confirm if this is what you are seeing yourself.

    Hope this helps.


  17. Definitely have a structural engineer who specialises in steelwork look at it because I don’t think anyone else will know if it really needs replacing or not. Hopefully it’s just cosmetic and you will just need to fix the leak/damp problem that was causing it to rust.

  18. *Hi Can any one help, Concrete has fallen away from the corner of our house outside where the kitchen is situated, A closer inspection revealed a very rusted and coroded steel upright which needs replacing urgently. How do we support the main structure while we attempt replaceing the deteriorated steel corner upright

  19. Hi Roger, sorry to hear about your problems. It sounds like a difficult one and I don’t know much about subsidence.

    A BISF house should be less vulnerable to subsidence because it is much lighter than a traditional house and the steel frame should have some flexibility unlike a brick/stone house. The problem I think you may face is that the pair of houses share a common foundation so I can’t see a reason why one would be fine and the other sinking, unless the patch of sinking ground happens to just be under one.

    If your house is OK but next door has to be rebuilt, they may be able to cut the steel frame off at the party wall. I doubt it would be rebuilt with a steel frame as a one-off rebuild of such a specialist structure would probably be very expensive (they were designed to be built in the tens of thousands, with at least about 50 in any one location).

    Is there any obvious reason why next door should be subsiding but not you? For example if it has been built on built-up land? That was something I looked at closely before I bought my house as it is built into a hillside with the back cut into the hill and the front built up on a terrace, so I did check very carefully at the front that the concrete foundation had not settled and cracked.

  20. Does anyone know how to fix a subsiding BISF property.??

    I live and own  a semi detached BISF property and unfortunately, the neighboring property adjacent to mine (where we share a party wall)  is subsiding.

    Although I am experiencing some minor cracks on my walls, and  my surveyors through my Insurers are currently monitoring the level of movement on my property,  it is understood that the adjacent property is the main cause, which is now beginning to pull my property down with it.! 

    The subsidence is so great that the foundation raft has cracked all the way from the front of the property to the back, with clear signs of cracks on the front and rear rendered walls (a gap of about 4 inches)

    My insurers are suggesting that the adjacent property will need to be underpinned however they have not ruled out demolishing it and rebuilding a new property, brick I assuming ,as rebuilding a new BISF is unheard of, or is it?

    So, worst case, if they knock my neighbours BISF property down, how will this affect my private property and party wall situation.?

    By the way, due to the level of subsidence next door, the property is inhabitable and is currently owned by the council. 

    Had a meeting with the director of property housing last week and he suggested 4 options to resolve the matter next door:

    1)Underpin – which could  take years as they will need to monitor ‘heaving’ (opposite to subsidence apparently)

    2) Sell the property, as is (unlikely due to the social housing shortage)

    3 Demolish and Rebuild

    4) This is the interesting one. the owners (council) suggested they might buy my property so that it would make the demolition and rebuilding much easier, in essence, demolishing both mine and the adjacent property and building 2 new semi’s, subject to how much they offer me,  but I was quite taken back my his remarks.

    So would this suggest that you cannot demolish one BISF property without demolishing or severely affecting the other (mine that is?)

    Very keen to hear from you all !  Happy to send pics at a later stage if needed.

    Thanks and Regards 


  21. thanks for all your comments and i feel better armed to face the window company tomorrow morning .
    or i tell him TO BOGOF with their offer and get someone else in to do the work i want
    ps checked my e-mails and junk box still no password

  22. Hi Christine
    Ref French doors
    There is no structure issue with removing the window to replace with French doors as the wall which will be removed is not supporting, there is a steel I beam at celling level and 2 down supports each side of the window, The steel window case frame is attached to the vertical supports then the window is fitted inside the steel case the only problem is as the existing window sits in this steel case frame you will need to cut the bottom part of this frame out. The wall is rendered onto a mesh and about 5 inch thick a quick cut down each side of the vertical steels with a disc cutter and it will just drop out. Most general builders and some window fitters should have no problem with this task. I think I might have a couple of pictures ill look them out and post in the next few days.
    Hope this helps

  23. hi we have lived in our house for the past 30 years and never had a problem till now that is .
    i have asked a well known window company to re fit windows and doors in the house also install french doors in the dinning room.
    sales person said every thing was fine
    had survey done no problems then received a phone call from them saying another survey was needed as there was an issue about removing the central pillars from the windows.

    they are saying they are structural and can not be removed .Bang goes the french doors and the windows we want . what im asking is this right !!!!!

    If so at lest 20 houses in our street are in danger of falling down lol .
    i have seen lots of photos on the web site showing really nice homes with french doors and windows and doors would love some help and advice on this issue as i feel they don’t want to do a bit of hard work to make our dream home
    thanks Ian
    ps i have reg but no password sent as yet

    1. Hi, cannot believe you are having problems I had patio doors fitted over 20 years ago never had a problem 2 years ago had all new windows replaced by Zenith no problems, my neighbour last year had french doors fitted. I have just sold my house after living here over 60 years survey by the future buyers no problem. So cannot believe this has arisen, my other neighbours have had patio doors, conservatory, extensions no problem all down my road people have done improvements, even the ones that are still council, the council have also done many improvements. So hope you get it sorted. Chris.

    2. Hello Ian and the warmest of welcomes to BISF House.
      I can see that you have had a couple of responses to your concern and what Doug says is spot on.
      None of the (Crittal Hope) window frames are structural as each frame sits between vertical stanchions on each side of the window. If your central pillars problem relates to the French Windows then again there is no central support other than the I beam that runs across the ceiling height. Patio or French doors can easily be fitted (I did mine myself) as long as they stay within each vertical column.

      I have just measured my pation doors which lead into my conservatory and they are aprox 80″ wide x 85″ tall.

      It appears that your window company is being very cautious as they are not familiar with BISF designs.

      May I suggest asking a few of your neighbours who they have used to fit their windows etc and try them.

      Below you will find a very old photograph showing the window frames and stanchions of a BISF house. This may illustrate in a little more detail what we mean.


      BTW have you found your welcome e-mail and password? I can resend the e-mail but if I do you will need to select a new password.

      I hope this helps Smile


  24. Hi Marc, I’m very pleased with the find! The hallway does indeed have quarry tiles under the carpet, but they’re not very nice and quite uneven (more like outdoor type tiles) so I think those will stay covered.

    At the moment we’re decorating the dining room with two walls in a deep red and two in pale yellow and it does give a very nice 1950s look with the parquet floor!

  25. Hi I have lived in my BISF house nearly all my life I am 63 I was born here bought the house back in 1988, but now cause of age, aching knees I want to sell it and move to a bungalow everyone that comes falls in love with it they are so big and roomy but the thing that keeps coming up is some form of repair certificate I do not have this and the fact the type of build it is. I feel sad as apart from spending a lot of money on this property it is a great family home. Cannot find any form of certificate these proposed purchasers lenders want has anyone got any ideas,

    1. Hello ChrissyMary

      Firstly may I welcome you to BISF House and I am so sorry to hear that you are experiencing health problems with your knees as I know how painful that can be.

      From what describe regarding the certificate, it sounds very much to me that whoever you are trying to deal with in order to sell your property has wrongly classified your home as a PRC house which is indeed defective under the housing act and does require a certificate to prove that it has been repaired to the required standard.

      Your house if it is indeed a BISF house is not defective under the housing act and requires no certification whatsoever. If your home is a BISF house I would suggest that you try another estate agency that has experience with BISF properties as they will be able to give you far better advice.

      That leads me to ask you the following questions.

      Is your home a BISF house or a PRC house such as a Airey, Unity or Woolaway house?
      Can you tell me what general area you live in or the first the digits of your postcode so that I can check for you if you are unsure?

      If you would rather speak with me directly you can always e-mail me at @bi*.com" data-original-string="L43v3JfR5uFDawGze5/2DNn8IDDPXH/6q3hqqT48sYw=" title="This contact has been encoded by Anti-Spam by CleanTalk. Click to decode. To finish the decoding make sure that JavaScript is enabled in your browser." rel="ugc">ad@bi*******.com and I will do my very best to assist you.

      I look forward to your reply.

      Marc Smile

      1. Hi Chrissymary, I’m sorry to hear you feel you have to sell your house due to ill-health. The previous owner of my house lived here from when it was built in 1949 till his death last year. I agree with what you say about it, I immediately liked the size and layout and it has a very homely and comforting feel – new enough to be convenient but old enough to have some character. I find it a lot more appealing than newer houses that are often boxy and older ones that are not so homely with inconvenient layouts.

        I think Marc is right about the certificate – a lot of people seem to confuse BISF houses with pre-cast reinforced concrete panel (PRC) houses that were found to be defective and in need of repair. It’s a bit puzzling because they look very different – around here there are actually BISF and PRC houses next door to each other like these three pairs of Cornish houses sandwiched between BISFs:

        If it’s the buyer who wants to see the certificate you should explain to them that a BISF house does not need a repair certificate. My estate agent never said anything about BISF when I bought the house, just that it had a steel frame – I had to identify the type by looking on the internet.

  26. Hi All,
    Just bought an Airey terraced property at auction this week and am looking to do a full repair and extension on the back, plus fully ut the inside as its pretty derelict inside. Going to be a huge project and not too sure where to start with who can do the repair to the licensed scheme. I am in Lancashire and the property will become our family home and so any help will be greatly appreciated from you all!

    1. Hi, I’m not sure there are many similarities between an Airey house and a BISF house other than they’re both of non-traditional construction. A BISF house has a steel frame, I’m not too familiar with an Airey house but gather that it’s made from pre-cast concrete sections. Without ever having seen an Airey house I’m not sure what BISF-related information is going to be useful for it.

      I believe that an Airey house is more problem-prone than a BISF house, so you might need to be more careful with the work you do.

      Around here and amongst the BISF houses there are quite a lot of Cornish houses, which are another type of pre-cast concrete house. About half have been demolished and the rest mostly have been rebuilt with reconstituted Bath stone. They used massive jacks to hold the house up while they removed the PRC panels one at a time before rebuilding the walls with traditional masonry.

    2. Hi Callko

      Warmest of welcomes to BISF House.

      We are geared toward BISF houses here which involve different construction methods to Airey houses.

      We will always try to help out if you come across any problems.

      I would suggest giving Paul a ring at Regent Maintenance as his company undertake repairs to a variety of non-traditional houses which may include the PRC Airey type. He has a lot of experience in renovations and he may be able to assist you.

      There are a number of inherent defects that will probably need to be tackled. They usually relate to the steel inside the pre-cast concrete as Ed has already outlined as well as a number of other issues. As you may well already know they are classed as defective under the housing act 1985 but in the past large government grants have been available in order to bring them up to standard and certified.

      Paul Leer is the director of Regent. The company web page is here

      I hope this helps Smile

      I do have some research material stored deep on my hard drive that I will try to dig out for you.


      I hope this helps

  27. Great website, I wish this site was around when I purchased my house!!!!

    It's a goldmine of info for every bisf owner, I really enjoyed reading all the updates and articles.

    Well done everyone and really like Dentons bedroom too, it looks real funky and modern!!!!

  28. Wow Liz

    I think your house is lush, it looks amazing already and you haven't even finished yet Smile

    How on earth do you keep it so clean, i can only guess what the dust must have been like with all the workers in there.

    I am amazed at how big it all looks and i really like the way you have split up the kitchen and made it open plan. It was such a good idea to take away some of the hallway too. i hardly ever use mine.

    Those kitchen units look new lol are you having white ones again?

    I love white everything but i am a bit of a bleach queen lol

    Thank you for sharing your photos they are brilliant and I'd love to see some of the old ones.

    I think mark is right, this should be on your own page.

    Well done I luurve it Smile

    1. Hi Sindy

      When we had the work done the dust was horrendous. It didn't help that I was around during the day when it was all going on. My dog was also a puppy at the time so it wasn't a great time.

      At one point we had a long trench dug out in the hall where they were putting gas pipes in, no proper ceilings, just bare dark horrible wood (see previous photos), tools all over the place, exposed walls and a constant supply of dust! It was awful – I can't lie! I had had enough of the mess, the upheaval and the workmen if I'm honest. 6 weeks is a long time to have them in your house. But it was worth it in the end. The space is incredible and the pictures do not depict the actually size and space we have achieved just by knocking a few walls down!

      Before we had this work done we had a dark dining room which we only ate it in the evening so it wasn't really being used. The long lean-to extension at the back of the house was just used as a dumping ground and didn't really serve a purpose.

      These houses have so much potential and so much can be done to them.

      Quite a few years ago we took some of the back bedroom and extended the bathroom. It really makes a difference to the bathroom because the original bathroom is so small, now it is a good size, but still leaves a double bedroom at the back. I think this is something worth considering if you haven't already done so.


  29. This picture is with me standing from the dining area and looking at what used to be the wall dividing the lounge and dining room.

    And this picture has been taken from the dining area looking back towards the entrance of the kitchen.

    Lastly, these are the pictures of the utility room. You enter this from the dining area.

    So that's the new refurbishment.
    We didn't do this work ourselves because the job was huge. We employed workmen who I got from the FMB (Federation of Master Builders) website. It took them about 6 weeks to complete and the upheaval was horrible. They hadn’t worked on a BISF house before but they were good workmen and managed to get round any of the problems they were faced with.

  30. The next picture has been taken with me standing by the hob. The kitchen is actually larger than the camera shows, it was very difficult to get a good picture at this angle.

    The next picture is of the dining area. We originally had a window but replaced it with the french doors, with steps leading up to the patio. This is great in the Summer when the doors are open and you can see straight into the garden. Looking at the french doors in the photo it looks like they are short, but it is the dining table obstructing the picture, these are full size french doors.

  31. Hi Marc

    Thanks for the info re. firefox. As a rule if I do a large post, I tend to copy it and save it in word “just in case". I have been caught out far too often where I have lost a large amount of text.


  32. Liz

    I have just checked the server and there are around 14 images on it that you have uploaded.

    I have restored them for your post to save you the time of uploading them again but sadly I cannot recover any lost text which is a real shame.

    I have to pop out of the office for a couple of hours now but I will catch up with you on my return.

    It may be worth me migrating all of your excellent images into a separate post like I have already done with Ed and Denton. I will see what I can do for you on my return.

    Marc Smile

  33. The next picture has been taken from the hall so you can see how much hallway we used for the kitchen. It has made the hallway somewhat smaller but we do have a porch which had already been built within a front extension so we get plenty of light from there.

  34. Hi everyone

    I have taken some photos (as best I could because I haven’t got a wide angled camera) to try and explain my kitchen. Since we had the renovation done to our kitchen it is large, and it’s a great family space. Do bear in mind that my kitchen has not been decorated as yet… and also we are in the process of getting a new kitchen so these are all my very old kitchen units!

    Knocking through the walls to make a big kitchen is the best thing we have done to the house so far. I will try and put captions to each photo to explain.

    This is the entrance of the kitchen. We no longer have the big understairs cupboard (there is a small one there now instead). We knocked down the original kitchen entrance and extended it into the hall which allowed us have a much larger kitchen at this end.

  35. In saying that last comment Liz I just posted and got an internal server error myself. It posted fine the second time.
    I will look into it further just in case.

    BTW I use Firefox with an add on called Lazarus form recovery for this exact reason as i hate it when i input a large amount of text, press submit and it fails to load.

    If you use Firefox you can download Lazarus here
    Once installed you just right click on the webpage and it gives you the option of re pasting all of your text which it saves in its memory.

    I hope this helps


  36. Sorry Liz,
    I know only too well how frustrating it is when that happens, I could throw the laptop out of the window!

    There is no limit to logged in users and a 30 image level for non logged in users.

    I have tweaked a few settings just in case it helps. It may be easier for you to use the create a post page feature here but you may need to login to do so.
    Or you could try adding your comments as before but perhaps in smaller blocks. The text input lines had a standard 80 line setting but I have now changed this to 200 lines.

    I always look forward to seeing your images and I hope you can manage to upload them. I’m so sorry for the frustration it must have caused and I hope they go through OK this time for you.

    My regards and apologies

    Marc Smile

  37. Got the door frame, skirting board and television fitted today. Hoping to have the woodwork, walls and floor completed by the end of Sunday. The suspended ceiling is on hold until I have all the parts.

  38. Hi all, a few more pics from my little room. I’m planning to take a day of leave tomorrow so I can make some real progress.

    I remembered to take a proper camera to the house, so snapped a couple of close ups of the wall material:

    I have added a few support pieces to strengthen the frame and fascia. The uprights in the middle are there to support the little radiator.

    Here’s the little TV/DVD player I came across. It looks perfect for the job.

    The fascia is now up. I plan to use skirting board from the main bedroom to build a frame around the sliding door.

    I bought this to switch the lights within the wardrobe. It should mean I don’t have to worry about fitting a light switch or leaving the lights on.

    More tomorrow, hopefully :D

  39. Once the RSJ was fitted, it was blocked in and the window which you can see was replaced with french doors with steps leading to the patio. To the right of the french doors is a doorway which leads to the new utility room. We had new central heating installed downstairs with two radiators put in the kitchen – one being in the dining area.

    1. Liz…

      I love your extension – its around the size i will be looking to add on in the near future. How do you enter the kitchen from the hall/living room, where is the doorway now? Would u mind me asking a complete rough guide on how much the extension cost you


      1. Hi Marc,

        Thanks for the warm words about this project and I’m delighted to have a page, thank you!

        I’ll post a few new pics of the project tomorrow – progress has slowed a little, waiting for wood paint to cure. At this point it may be more efficient to start on another room – more on that tomorrow.

        Thanks once again,


    2. Fantastic set of images Liz, your house must appear huge to a standard property.
      It looks all so easy when you see photographs but I can only imagine how much work and how many hours went into your refit. I still think there may be a another stanchion present behind the wall facing out toward the dining area extension but on your images it is still covered over by plasterboard and skirting.

      The underside of your staircase also intrigues me, I can’t decide if it’s the angle of the photograph or a covering that has been placed on the underside and It looks very clean and streamlined. How long did your renovation take to get to the point shown in the images?
      Did you do much of the work yourselves or did you call in builders and if so, how did they find working on this type of house?


  40. Here is a couple of photos of what used to be the original wall (facing the back garden) – at some point an long lean-to type extension was built. We decided to knock it through to create a bigger kitchen and a utility room. The photo shows the original steels which were replaced by a very big RSJ.

    1. Great set of images Liz, the kitchen looks identical to mine when I removed the ceiling boards, It was full of junction boxes just like yours.
      I'm glad you have found a stanchion as I was a little concerned at one point. It could well be that another is located inside the wall or the previous builders may have provided some other form of support. It could also be a case of your property only being fitted with one although I have never heard of this.
      At least you can put your mind to rest that there is a support.
      I will have a closer look at the images later when I return home.


  41. Hi, I have sorted out my building works photos (which there are many lol!) but I have found one of what is behind the wall regarding the stanchons. Looking at the photo there is only one! This is the one on the kitchen entrance. There are no more on the wall dividing the lounge and the dining room.

    I will post some more pictures of our refurbishment works in the next post.

  42. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for finding the location of the support column, this means we have to rethink our plans for knocking the wall between the dining and living rooms down. I don’t really see the point of it if there has to be a column in the middle, I’m sure I’d keep bumping into it. This idea actually came from wanting to remove the fireplace along with its housing to gain space. We’d have more efficient heating with a smaller boiler AND more space.

    It appears from the plans that the cast iron flue is at least 50cm wide and removing the housing and the fireplace wouldn’t meand that we could have a flat wall in it’s place. The house is the type that’s on your old scanned plan with the fireplace against the dining room wall. Do you know what others do if they don’t manage to remove the flue, only the rest of the fireplace? Or do you know if the existing boiler (it is a Baxi Bermuda C…) can be replaced with something smaller and more efficient in its current place? That might be a good option as then we wouldn’t have to find another place for it in the kitchen.

    It’s a very good point that Ed wrote, to live there first and see what we really want to change before starting to knock walls down. I’m just thinking that it’s easier to do these kinds of things while we’re still not living there. We’ll have to think about this one. Luckily we still have time for that.

    Thanks for all your advise, this is very helpful.

    1. Hi Sara,

      I’ve looked into this and Baxi make a modern, high efficiency boiler in the Bermuda range called the Bermuda BBU HE which is 90% efficient as opposed to about 65% for the older types. It is as far as I’m aware the only high efficiency back boiler, but being a back boiler it can be fitted in the same position, unlike a combi boiler.

      It also has the advantage of being room-sealed so you don’t need a ventilator that lets a draught in the room. However, it cannot be used with a gas fire-front so it comes with an electric fire with a high-tech flame effect.

      You can see the cast iron flue exposed in the loft and I would say from memory it’s more like 25cm in diameter than 50cm. I don’t know how it’s supported though, so whether if you removed the downstairs part the upstairs bit would be left hanging and risk falling down I don’t know.

      I had no idea about there being any stanchions in that centre wall – I’d assumed that the structural elements were all in the external walls.

      1. Hi Ed,

        I got the 50cm from the plan Marc showed the support columns on. The flue may be only 25cm, but it is drawn as further away from the wall so it seems to be sticking out about 50cm.

        I've just found some images of the cast iron flue, I'll try to upload them here. Can anyone identify the supporting column in the picture? I think it should be visible with the wall opened up.

        I looked at the efficient Baxi boiler. It's very nice but seems quite expensive. It is pretty, but since we don't particularly like fireplaces in general, the electric fire would be completely wasted on us. I'd much rather have more room and an extra wardrobe upstairs instead of keeping the hot water tank there.

        The questions is not only if we can remove the whole fireplace with the flue and how difficult that would be. If it's too complicated then leaving some parts of it in could be the answer. It'd be great to know what we are up against before we start tearing things up.

        The existing fireplace is a real beast with a housing that's quite ugly, so I'm sure we won't suddently fall in love with it after living there for a while. The dividing wall may prove useful though, we will see.

        1. Hi Sara
          No worries with the name lol it happens a lot.
          I’ve just caught your post before bed time so I will give a quick reply for now and more tomorrow if that’s ok.
          I removed my entire fireplace and flue and installed a flueless gas fire. It requires no flue whatsover and can be mounted on any wall. the fire is 100% efficient as none of the heat goes up a chimney. Mine gets my front room roasting hot even on low! The cost around £300-£400 and there are mixed reactions about them from gas fitters. I’ve had mine in for two years and not had a single proble. I made sure I had carbon monoxide detectors fitted and since then my gas bill has been a lot lower. The fire works by using a catalytic converter which breaks down the fumes allowing clean air to enter the room.

          It’s just a thought in case you wanted to remove the old fire and have a flat wall.

          I will add more for you tomorrow afternoon as I’m out at 5am and won’t be back untill after 3pm.



        2. The whole boxed-in flue is more like 50x50cm as the cast iron pipe doesn't take up the whole thing. What is the fireplace like? Mine has a big marble effect concrete slab for a mantlepiece, but that's all that's left and underneath has been tiled over and a gas fire put in front. I think it's so big because originally it housed some type of stove rather than an open fireplace.

          I think you can see the stanchion to the left of the flue in your photo, it's on the archway side.

          I thought the Baxi BBU HE looked quite reasonable in price compared with other boilers when I did an online search, but as we're not using that much gas anyway we decided it wasn't a priority to replace the old one, plus maybe it will be covered by the Green Deal later in the year.

  43. Well, I have estimated the location of your stanchion on this plan.

    If there is no stanchion the hope would be that the builders in the past would have provided some alternative support. I can't see how anyone would just remove a support stanchion and not replace it with some other form of support.

    If the internal support has been removed and no alternative suitable support provided for the building then the structure could be weakened but I doubt this very much.

    If you still have a dividing wall between the living room and the kitchen as shown in the plan then I would think that there is every reason to suspect your stanchions are still present and that the building is perfectly safe.

    Had the entire ground floor been open plan i.e no internal walls whatsoever and no visible columns then there would be cause for concern.

    I don't think you have any reason to worry and the stud finder should be able to put your mind at rest.

    You could go down the route of hiring a structural engineer but it can be costly. If the stud finder confirms the stanchion, then there shouldn't be any need to check further.

    A structural engineer will only remove a piece of the plasterboard to visibly inspect the presence of the stanchion. If you wanted to be extra sure yourself you could create a small inspection hole at the point shown. The hole could be cut at around 6inches above floor level and doesn't have to be very big, perhaps just a few inches square and can easily be patched over.

    I wouldn't worry too much yet though Liz, just do the stud check first which I think will confirm all is ok. You can also buy them from any DIY store like Wickes or B&Q if you want one sooner than mail order.

    If you want me to discuss it with you just drop me an email at @bi*.com" data-original-string="zUSrdpPH3X/oWAZXpWAQayW1d2Z0+nWGiIljSFHFHiE=" title="This contact has been encoded by Anti-Spam by CleanTalk. Click to decode. To finish the decoding make sure that JavaScript is enabled in your browser." rel="ugc">Ad@bi*******.com with your contact number.


  44. Hi Marc

    Thanks for the information and the plan.

    Looking at your plan my guess is that there is going to be a stanchion where the Hall/Kitchen is.

    Where you have marked the other stanchion to be, i.e. between the lounge and dining room – I am not so sure. I plan to buy a detector this weekend…. we've been meaning to buy one anyway, so good excuse now!

    My worry is, if there isn't a stanchion, what does this actually mean?? Is the house going to collapse??

  45. Hi again Liz
    Right the stud detector works and picks up a stud on the dividing wall at 7ft from the party wall.
    I have checked over my original plans which confirms this and I have attached a photograph of the plan below and highlighted the two central stanchions.

    If you purchase a stud finder and scan the dividing wall at the 7ft point you should get a reading showing your stanchion is still present inside the wall.

    I hope this helps.


  46. Hi Marc

    Thanks for sending those pictures, much appreciated.

    I have attached an updated plan picture. You are absolutely right where you have put the red line, that is the "old" house wall.

    I have added a green line which is where we had a RSJ put when we knocked through to this extension to extend the kitchen. The blue line is where an existing original steel beam was when the hall wall was taken down. I do not know if there is a stanchion going down where you have put your red circle – I wouldn't have a clue. There has only ever been a wall there since we moved here 15 years ago. Is there anyway I could find out without having to open up walls which we have had all newly plastered.

    When we had our own building work done, it was done by builders from the Federation of Master Builders so hopefully somebody reputable? They didn't remove any steel beams apart from where they inserted the big RSJ (and it was a lot thicker than the original steel beams) where I have indicated in green.


    With regard to the proposed new window, I think that is a no-go. Very disappointing really because the kitchen is quite dark anyway, and once we block up the kitchen door it will be even darker!

  47. Hi,

    We moved in this house 15 years ago and the room had already been knocked through and there is no support whatsoever. Not like in your photos above.

    We have since put partitioned the room off again.

    I wasn't even aware there should be a support there. How on earth have they got round that if it goes all the way up through the centre of the house???

  48. Hi Sara, Glad to hear that you have managed to get the price down. It always ends up being a bit of a waiting game so fingers crossed all round.

    In relation to your plans to knock the wall down between the living room and the dining room. I have only seen this done twice so far. It's pretty straight forward to do.

    If your fireplace is mounted against the living room / kitchen wall the most tricky part is removing the cast iron flue.

    I have a couple on images that show the open plan effect and how each renovation have dealt with the support stanchion that is in the middle of the house.

    I hope they offer some inspiration.

  49. Hi

    With regard to the query about whether or not I can have a window, I have attached a plan (a bit amateur done by myself) of how the house looks at the moment – apart from the side extension – which hasn’t been done yet.

    Where the Utility room and the dining table is, that is where the extension had been done. We just knocked it through.

    I hope this gives you an idea where we want the new window. The original back door will be blocked up (it hasn’t been yet) but is on the side of the house.

  50. Great photos :-)

    When we moved into our house they had already knocked the wall down between the lounge and dining room so oit was open plan. What worries me there was support stanchion… I wasn’t even aware there should be one until I saw your posted photos.

    Should I be worried?

  51. Hi,

    Thank you for the welcome :-)

    It is so great to find a site like this and see what other people have done to their BISF house.

    We have been in ours for around 15 years but it has only been the last year or so that we have done any "real" work.

    We have knocked the kitchen into the dining room and taken some of the hall. We already had a pre-existing extension (more like a lean-to really) and we knocked into that so our kitchen is pretty big.

    I have attached the CAD drawing for a new kitchen we are planning to have done. We need to block up the back door (which is where the new range cooker will be) and you can see from the drawing where we plan to have the "new" window (to the right of the sink), but I am doubtful we can have this done due to the steels. The backdoor is currently to the side of the house.

    Let me know what you think.


  52. Hi, we have done quite a lot of refurbishment in our BISF house and wondered if you would like to see photos?

    Also, we would like to create a new window in our kitchen near the back door, does anybody know if there is steel running through the ground level walls?

  53. Hi, thank you for your replies and yes it was for curtains.

    I have just purchased a BISF house in Sheldon, Birmingham but won’t get the keys until some time next week so I’m going to buy a few things in advance. Will get lots of photos & measurements for the site in due course.

    I’ve noticed that Sheldon BISF houses are laid out differently inside to any others I have seen – they don’t have the opening into the dining area from the lounge, have brick built chimneys on the party wall and have prefab concrete outbuildings at the back of the house. I’ll have a proper look and do a sketch some time.

    1. Hi Denton,
      I have
      93.5cm Width
      114cm Depth.
      That’s measuring from the inside of the room.

      They do vary slightly remember depending on if plasterboard or ply-wood on the inside walls.

      I don’t know if Ed could do you a quick measure as well.

      Was it for curtains or window replacement that you need the size for Denton?

      1. Hi Denton,
        I’ve gone quiet here, because we’ve still not exchanged on it. We managed to knock the price down considerably because of the low lender’s valuation so we have more funds available for refurbishment. We are now waiting for the solicitors to finally get the paperwork together, but they don’t seem to be doing much at all. As we won’t be able to complete the purchase until the end of May anyway, I’m not going to rush them yet.

        For us it’s really the location that made us choose this BIFS house. It’s on an estate built in 1946 where we are currently renting and intend to stay due to it’s convenience for daily commute. There are non-BIFS houses around, but those for about the same price are considerably worse and further out from where we want to be.

        We are basically using this time to really think through what we want to change in the house, and for this all your experiences are very useful. We’re planning to have the wall between the living and dining rooms removed along with the mounstrous fireplace and replace it with a condensing boiler in the kitchen. This will make it much more spacious we’ll get light in from both sides. I haven’t seen this done here, only the wall between the kitchen and dining room is removed usually. We are planning to keep the kitchen as a separate room for now and maybe open it up later.

        I hope our purchase goes through smoothly and then I’ll be able to post some before and after pictures too.

        1. I’d like to see!

          I believe there are diagonal steel braces in the walls at the corners of the house to strengthen it and prevent it from deforming. They appear to occupy the area roughly between the corner and the front door/bottom of the stairs, corner and back door/kitchen window, corner and small bedroom window and corner and bathroom window.

          This probably explains why there is no window or glazing in the hall when you might expect a window to let some light in – because the places where it would go are obstructed by diagonal braces.

        2. Hi Liz, the warmest of welcomes!

          It would be great to see your photographs as we always like to see what other owners have created and to hear how it all went.
          As for your window,if you can take a photograph showing where you intend to put the window we can check on the building plans to see if it is possible. Normally the presence of vertical steel supports can prevent this and there are also a number of steel braces running diaganol in the corners of the house.
          Where is your back door located at the moment, is it on the side of the house or on the rear wall facing the garden?

          1. I’ve found some at and around Brays Road which have the chimney you describe, which is like the Scottish type. I’m not totally convinced that the window sizes and positions are the same as mine either.

            1. Hi Sara,

              before we moved in we were thinking of removing that wall and fireplace too to combine the living and dining rooms. My idea was to put in some built-in cupboards as a room-divider with a counter on top where the wall was.

              After living here a few months, we seem to have changed our minds and think having two rooms is more flexible and convenient than one big one. Plus I think removing the cast iron chimney flue would be a big job (I’m not sure if you can just remove the downstairs section or if you have to take out the upstairs and loft part too)… plus we found having a gas fire in the living room is cosy (though it would be nice to get a smaller and more attractive one, and keeping the flue gives the option of a wood burner etc).

              It’s probably a good idea to live in the house for a while before deciding on any major changes. That’s the advice I got and think it was wise. In the end, we found the original layout suits us very well as it’s well thought-out and convenient for us.

          2. I used to work over your way a few years back Denton, your not a million miles away from me.

            Your build structure sounds very interesting and it will be great to see the photographs.

            Ed raised some good points earlier regarding the different build types, I will start a new post relating to these differences so that we can add our replies there.

            The concrete outbuildings issue has also been raised by Ed, so that will be another post page I can add.

            Remember also that we now have the new your posts section on the homepage where you can create your own posts. It’s still being tested at the moment but well worth a try out.


            1. Hi Liz

              The only way I can try to find out where the central stanchion is located is to used a stud metal detector on the central wall of one of my own houses and see if it picks up the steel.

              If it does at least then we can take measurements as to its actual location.

              My guess is that yours is probably still there inside the living room / kitchen dividing wall.

              My detector is buried deep in the shed somewhere so I will have to dig it out.

              The detectors are very cheap to buy and start at around £10. You can search for 'Stud detector' on ebay and you will see plenty there. At least then you won't have to dismantle the wall. You just need to check they detect metal. Most do, but I will try mine first to see if they have enough power to penetrate deep enough. I suspect it will as the walls are not very deep.

    2. Hi Denton, I have 98×121 cm which incidentally is the same for the small bedroom window, the landing, bathroom and kitchen.

      That’s the dimension of the actual opening measured from the inside of the timber frame that lines it on the inside. It protrudes about 3cm into the room beyond the wall and looks original but may not be, but I know that type of window surround was popular in the 1940s-50s.

      The actual window is a little smaller, presumably because that was the closest size available for the opening. The rest is filled with a UPVC surround that obviously went in with the window.

  54. Thank you very much for both of your advice, this is really helpful. We still haven’t heard from the lender if they accept this house, but we have started drafting a letter to the sellers already. The house is empty, it was rented out before, so I think we do have a strong case. This is a popular area as there is a large park there, but the remaining social housing tenants do make it less desirable for some people. It’s hard to tell how quickly these houses sell as there are so few of them coming up for sale. They usually don’t stay unsold for very long as far as I can tell.

    Ed is right, the roof has been replaced already, so this should bring it closer to the conventional house prices.

    It is difficult to find comparable houses in the area that are not steel frame. On this estate that was built in 1946 there are different houses as well that look like brick built, but I’m certain that they are “pre-fabricated" as well. Those seem to sell at slightly higher prices, but I’m not sure how much better or more “conventional" they are.
    If I look beyond this estate, the houses are definitely more expensive. We went to view one, and the main selling point there seems to be the lack of social housing tenants in that street. Well, not enough of a good reason for me to give up a large garden, 20 square meters of floor area and overlooking a park for a more expensive house and “better" neighbours.

    I looked at zoopla before and found huge variations in sales prices. There were only 8 BISF houses sold on the same estate since 2008 and they ranged from £128 – 267 000. Often the prices don’t seem to reflect the level of refurbishment the houses went through. It must be just the case of whether the sellers were lucky enough to have someone ready to buy one of these house at the time when they put it on the market.

    Thanks again for your input. I’ll definitely use Marc’s suggestion about replacement of the metal sheeting.

    We do like the house and the area very much, but I am working myself up to be able to walk away if we can’t reduce the price. If these sellers won’t do it, there’s bound to be others coming up for sale eventually that we can snap up. The only problem is that we have to keep paying rent until it happens, which makes it expensive to wait it out.

    1. Hi Sara,

      Please let me know how your purchase went.

      I'm from Solihull and it sounds similar to what you described. House prices in B92, Solihull are bloated compared to B26, Birmingham.

      BISF houses are admirable, and they can be found all over the UK (apart from NI?). I didn't really buy my BISF because of it's price – it was its quirk, charm and land plot that tipped my affection.

      I did a fair amount of research on these houses, before (around 6 months ago) – now this website is the only information source you need.

      Your input can make a difference here, what's it like to live in your new BISF house?


  55. Hi Sara, I bought a BISF house in Bath in December, so maybe I can offer some advice too, though I think Marc’s has been good.

    The “low demand" thing, are you sure this isn’t just a generic phrase they put on valuation reports for properties of non-traditional construction? I say that because I had one from Nationwide and one from Halifax and they both said almost exactly the same thing. However, talking to the estate agent, prospective neighbours etc the houses were pretty popular. The previous owner lived in the house from when it was built in 1949 till his death last year and I think a lot people around here live for a long time in these houses rather than buying and selling them all the time.

    I don’t know about Cambridge, but I expect it might be fairly similar to Bath in that there aren’t really many comparable houses ie it is difficult to find a proper house with a garden etc for that sort of price. Properties in that price range are usually either flats or have some other serious disadvantage like being right up against a main road, very small or in the worst part of town (say with neighbouring houses all derelict, junk in the gardens etc). If I hadn’t bought the BISF I would have had to have settled for something a lot worse, so maybe that’s something to think about… what’s the house worth to you? What would the alternatives be?

    As a guide, the house was empty after the death of the previous owner, is structurally sound and in fairly good repair but in serious need of refurbishment, with asbestos roof (yours looks as though the roof has been replaced), they asked £138 000 for it and accepted £125 000. Nextdoor-but-one is very similar and sold about 6 months ago for £130 000 after about 5 months according to . My valuation reports were done after the sellers accepted my offer, so they seem to have just picked the accepted offer price but said similar houses in the area sell for £120 -160 000.

  56. You’re very welcome Sara

    Try going to the Mouseprice website here, type in your postcode and it should bring up a list of sales that have taken place in your street over the last few years.
    It will list the selling prices giving you an idea of values and also show you how many have been sold in your street which will also give you a true idea of demand.

    Don’t forget that prices peaked in around 2007 crashing in 2008 so you may find inflated high prices listed in these years that would be unrealistic now.

    Arming yourself with the survey you could expect to get a considerable discount from the seller but much will depend on if the property is currently vacant or occupied.
    Owners usually want to sell vacant properties as quickly as possible.

    Using the survey you could easily suggest that the steel sheeting may need to be replaced in the near future due to corrosion. As sheets of the same profile shape are no longer available, the property would require an external render system that could cost around £9k – £10k which is a true fact.

    You may then be able to negotiate a further discount with the seller or even threaten to pull out.

    Remember, that it really is a buyers market out there at the moment and the selling price is only an estimated value set by the estate agent. A little like pulling a ‘reasonable’ – ‘Like to get’ figure out of the air and setting it as the asking price. You should always consider hard negotiation and don’t be afraid to offer considerably less than the asking price based on the valuation you have from the mortgage company. Use that valuation as another bargaining tool in your weaponry as it may well bring the seller back down to earth and make them realise that the true market value today is a lot lower than their expectations.

    Also consider that if we do enter a double dip recession house prices may drop further. If you buy too high now it could leave you in a negative equity situation in the future. This is something you need to avoid and the only way to reduce this risk is by hammering down the asking price.

    Don’t be afraid to walk away though and never allow your desire for the property to rule your head. If the owners are serious about selling they should grab you back and be open to negotiation.

    As for “low demand"…….
    Demand is a strange term in the housing market.
    Low demand could mean few properties offered for sale which = happy home owners who don’t want to move.

    I would consider real low demand to mean several BISF properties that have been on the market for a long time with no offers but saying that pick almost any street in the country at the moment and you will probably find unsold houses due to the economic climate.

    I hope my thoughts help in some way and of course they are only suggestions but if the mortgage valuation is a lot lower than the asking price, it is very unlikely the mortgage company will go ahead unless you put in more cash to reduce the LTV (Loan to value) or negotiate hard to get it reduced. in my mind I’d rather negotiate than put in any more of my hard earned cash.

    Remember too, this is business ;0)

    Fingers crossed

  57. Hi Sara

    It seems that the survey went well apart from this corrosion matter. I think the surveyor is playing safe and advising that the panel be visually inspected to identify the spread of any further corrosion.

    The panels don’t form part of the supporting structure but they are obviously part of the outer covering.

    Mild corrosion at the very base of the steel panels where you see a lipped edge can be common at any point along the lip but in most cases it is limited to this area only and rarely spreads upward causing any major problem.

    To actually look behind the steel sheeting from the inside is a simple process that should not cost too much to repair. If the corroded area is at the lipped edge then it will require an inspection hole to be cut into the plasterboard or hardboard depending on which is fitted. This may only need to be several inches or less square. The insulation can easily be removed and you will then see the back of the steel sheeting and any corrosion that may be present. If it is behind the lip the inspection hole will need to be cut on the wall just below the ground floor ceiling or at the level directly behind the lipped edge.

    You surveyor may be happy to inspect this area himself once a hole is cut rather than call a structural engineer but do check first.

    A local plasterer would easily be able to repair the plasterboard for little cost, even less if you have a plasterer friend.

    If no visible signs of damp are present behind the corroded area then it is unlikely that any significant corrosion has occurred.

    The other option would be to sand away the outer paint covering the rust. If during sanding bare shiny metal is seen after removing the rusted surface then this will show that the rust has been confined to a small area and in no way will affect the building.

    Your surveyor is covering his back due to it being only a visual inspection. He is unable to view inside the wall as the survey is likely a non invasive one. You could of course seek a surveyor who can use a boroscope as this will enter the cavity through a hole no bigger than a thumb and can even video record what it sees behind the steel. They will also want to check that the supporting rails for the steel sheets hasn't corroded significantly. Slight surface corrosion may be present but this is normal due to moisture in the air.

    The major factor here though is if the mortgage company accept the survey based on the fact that most of the building is sound.

    They may say : We will provide funds subject to further inspection or repair.

    We are happy with the survey and will provide funds

    We will not lend on this property.

    The latter is very unlikely unless of course the underwriters have a poor understanding of what the survey actually means.

    However with the current economic climate lenders are jittery so it could be anyone’s guess.

    If it were myself buying the property and the only corrosion found was on the outer sheeting, then I wouldn't be worried but that is only my personal view.

    Don't be afraid to contact the surveyor back and ask him if this will be one of his recommendations for the mortgage acceptance or is this an advisory matter only.

    I have also posted an image showing a common place where minor corrosion can occur. It may well be on an overlapping edge of one of the panels which is unlikely to affect the interlocking panel edge beneath.

    It is hard to say without seeing the report and visually inspecting the area concerned.

    I hope this helps Sara

    Keep us informed


    1. Hi Marc,
      Thank you so much for the detailed explanation, it helps a lot.
      The building survey was not done through the lender, we commissioned it ourselves. The bank’s valuation arrived to us on Friday, but we still don’t know what they will decide based on it. The valuation doesn’t mention the corrosion, only that there’s no demand for BISF houses in the area (???) It goes on to say that a few were in fact sold in the recent past, which I don’t think is too bad as there are only about 60 of these houses in this area all together and about half of them are still owned by the local authority.

      I’m hoping to find out very soon if we can get our mortgage on it. There were a few minor faults revealed by the building survey such as wet rot in the external doors (we wanted to have them replaced anyway) and a crack in the brick wall of the side extension. We’ll try to re-negotiate the price in light of these and see where we get with it. The main reason for us to want to lower the price is that the mortgage valuation is for a much lower amount that the agreed price and the loan we could end up getting is therefore much less than we planned for. This of course also makes me think if that house is really only worth that much less and if we are paying too much.

      Thanks again,

  58. Hi Everyone,

    We are in the process of buying a BISF house in Cambridgeshire. We received the results of a building survey recently and are not sure any more what would be the right decision. There are some minor problems, but the biggest one is this.
    The house still has the original steel cladding that apparently had some corrosion that was painted over. No corrosion is showing now, but the surveyor advised us to have a structural engineer examine the area behind the corroded part by exposing it.
    This sounds frightening, especially that the wall has to be opened up. I haven’t found anyone to do it yet, as I’m somewhat clueless about where to even start looking.

    Can any of you give me some insight on this?

    This picture shows the house and the corroded part is at the lower end of the metal cladding.

  59. Regards,

    I am responding to a request from Marc who was interested to communicate with me having seen the video produced by Your Homes Newcastle
    Mark; I am happy for you to either email or telephone me.

    Eric Heatherington IEng AMIStructE MICE
    Structural Engineer

    Eric Heatherington
    24a Vindomora Road Ebchester CONSETT Co Durham DH8 0PR
    Tel: +44 (0) 1207 560 539 Mobile: +44 (0) 7929 383 811
    e-mail: ma**@jo******.uk

  60. Here's a photo of the back of the house showing the original asbestos cement sheet roof. The structural engineer who looked at it said it will need replacing at some point, but is in OK condition for now. Most of the privately owned BISF houses in Bath still have them, but the housing association has replaced all of their roofs, for example the house next door that you can see.

  61. Hi Marc, hope you’ve had a nice holiday!

    It is only wallpaper with a stone pattern, but removing the copper canopy has already given much more room. We have moved in and been here two weeks and finding it very nice. It’s surprisingly warm considering that BISF houses are generally regarded as poorly insulated, but certainly it’s a lot warmer than the top floor flat in a Victorian house with solid (non cavity) walls that we’ve moved from. I guess with the mania for everything Victorian, that’s forgiven but the poor unfashionable BISF gets a rap for it!

    You’re right about it being a Baxi boiler, it’s a Baxi Bermuda SL3. The house was bought by the previous owner in 1981. Medium term I’ll probably replace it with a modern condensing boiler, either wall mounted combi or the latest Baxi Bermuda HE which can go in the same place as the old one, but as it’s room sealed, the ventilator could be removed. Maybe the Green Deal will cover that next year?

    Not sure what you mean about the heating controls, as they seem to be where you describe on the living room wall that backs onto the kitchen. Unless you mean the back room is the living room?

    1. Sorry Ed,
      It was a typo, I meant to say the controls were mounted onto the wall in the dining room lol
      It's been a few heavy weeks of research and late nights that cause it lol.

      Other than that Christmas was good and it was nice to have a break, I hope yours went went too.

      To me the fire looks to be in very good condition and if I remember rightly they really do give out some heat.

      I'm glad to hear that you're settling down ok in the house and it's warmer than you expected :0) I think many people expect them to be fridge like. The only time it get very cold for me is when there is no central heating on upstairs and it's freezing outside, It can get a bit chilly then but I'm sure every house does to some extent.
      I'm still looking into internal wall insulation at present and hope to have some more information soon.

      Did you see my reply on Moneysavingexpert in relation to your render?



      1. Had a very nice Christmas thanks, had my parents round here for Christmas dinner, my mum is jealous of the space and especially the hallway as they have a Victorian terraced house ;-)

        The fire is in good condition and it certainly does give out some heat when set to high. I read that you cannot get a new replacement now, as they're not permitted to be installed any more.

        As for the roof, I'm thinking the same as you – no need to replace it for the foreseeable future as it wouldn't be of any immediate benefit. I had a look at the underside of the asbestos sheets in the loft during the recent rain and winds and they're all bone dry.

        I did see your reply on moneysavingexperts and I guessed it was you. There is a textured render on the downstairs of the house and it is still visible inside the single storey annex, also the neighbours house has it. The stuff I was talking about trying to remove is different, it's a much thinner layer like paint with grit stuck to its surface. It's been sprayed onto the whole exterior of the house – the downstairs render, the upstairs steel cladding and even the steel window surrounds. You can also see where it has splashed onto the end of the telephone wire where it attaches to the house upstairs and to the other fixtures like the drainpipe supports, eaves etc. Where it is flaking away on the steel cladding you can see yellow paint underneath.

        An update on the internal wall insulation would be great. Our plan is to first do the back bedroom as it's not too big and only has one exterior wall.

  62. Hi Ed, sorry for the delay in replying but I have been away for the holidays with no internet availability, shock horror!

    I hope you and your family had a nice time.

    The only indication of the door glass being safety glass is by the thickness. They were originally fitted with a thin patterned glass and many original doors that I have seen have cracked over time. There would have been two similar doors leading from the living room into the dining room.

    With glass prices rising the cheaper option would be to use a sucurity glass film that can be placed on the non patterned side of the door. It is self adhesive and can be purchased from places like B&Q.

    I never expected to see those bricks under the canopy, that was a shock. Are they brick slips or is it a type of textured paper?

    It looks like the fire is a Baxi type, that has a rear back boiler which extends into the fireplace.These were commonly installed by local authorities in the 80's.

    The fires themselves were very reliable as were the back boilers but by todays standards they are considered a little inneficient. In fact if I am not mistaken it looks like they have fitted the old Honeywell slider/timer on the wall next to the fire. This in itself is unusual as in most cases I have seen the wires leading to the control unit were usually passed through the cavity wall and the unit was mounted in the living room by the Kitchen wall and out of site.

    Underneath the chimney breast is a thick heavy cast iron flue surrounded by insulation. It was installed in two parts. One from the roof to just below the living room ceiling. The second part running down behind the fire.

    The fireplace itself has a thick concrete type top slab with similar sides. Behind the fire is a pretty large cavity that used to house the original coal fired back boiler box.

    In simple terms the coal fire when lit, used to heat up the water inside the back box which then fed all the original radiatores in the house. If you look at the sides of the fireplace housing you may still see the original holes where the pipes used to run.

    Keeping the fireplace will indeed save funds and can always be looked at later if you ever considered removing it.

    The only reason I have removed several of these fireplaces is to allow for more floorspace. This can only be done if you have a wall mounted boiler of course.

    The job itself is pretty easy but just takes a fair amount of brute force as all of the fireplace components are solid and heavy.

    I'm glad to hear youre moving in soon and look forward to seeing your progression.


  63. Thanks for the advice about the glass and aerial point. Is there any way of telling whether the glass is safety glass or not? As for the aerial point, it connects to a satellite dish on the wall outside. I'll probably remove it as I'm getting cable TV, or at least move it as I won't want a TV in the back room.

    I can see it would be a lot more convenient to refurbish the whole house while it is empty, but unfortunately we cannot afford to do it all at once, or to carry on renting somewhere else to live while redoing it. So we will have to do one room at a time. Fortunately everything is still habitable, if a little worn or in questionable taste (the strange thing over the fireplace and boiler covered in copper foil paper you noticed, peach mirror tiles etc).

    I guessed that the picture rail might have been used to hide the joints between the boards. My grandparents' 1940s house in South Africa had a ceiling made in the same way of individual boards with the joints covered with a grid of wooden strips in order to avoid having to skim it.

  64. Great images Ed, makes it so much easier to see the detail.

    I see that as you say most of the original features are still present. Looking back now I remember those outer wall vents on several of my past renovations.

    We closed off the lower floor ones leaving only one vent in the upper right wall in the same place that it is in your image as this was required for gas fire ventilation. As stated previously we saw no reason whatsoever for a vent on the hall wall and it was removed.

    The original picture rails are actually covering the hard board wall panel joints. Hardboard was often used instead of plasterboard and used in panels that were much shorter than to days 1200mm lengths. If this is the case in your property, you will find that they are fixed in place using nothing more than panel pins.

    I say this because if or when you remove any of the vents, it can be a bit tricky filling the hole in the hardboard to a satisfactory level, unlike in the case of plaster wall voids which can be mesh membraned before over plastering or patching.

    That certainly is the largest copper canopy I think I have ever seen :0)

    I can see the Retro Atomic appeal and how the house immediately lends itself to that style of design. During our latest internal bisf renovation project, the house quickly swallowed up well over 25k & that was only on replacing walls, ceilings, floors, windows, central heating, fireplace removal and kitchen replacement.

    It is easy to get carried away but much better to complete the work whilst the house is empty.

    Oh btw, just a reminder that the glass door leading into the living room, if original does not contain safety glass. I have seen a few of these smash and they are very dangerous. I would strongly recommend replacing this with safety glass if you plan on keeping the original frame.

    Also in the back room I see what looks like an improvised aerial point. It is worth checking outside to see if the entry point drilled into the render is suitably small and the surrounding gap filled, as this can be a very easy access point for field mice who find the inner cavities of these houses very appealing.

    We are looking forward to seeing how your renovation develops. If we can help with any questions we will always do our best.

    Finally we have just added a very new forum to the site.

    (See link on top of homepage)There are a few posts already and it would be great to see you there.


  65. Here are some more 'before' photos. Actually they are 'now' photos as I haven't done anything yet. You can see the ventilators I was talking about earlier in the third photo. The original picture rails, doors, doorframes, staircase are all/mostly intact despite the later mirror tiles etc.

    I'm thinking of refurbishing with a retro American 1950s 'atomic' flavour, which I think should go well with the house rather than fighting against it.

  66. We have lived in our bisf house for the last 7 years. When we first got the property it had all the old original 1940s fittings including the open fireplace that someone mentions above. We have since gutted and renovated the whole house at it has been much easier for us than if it were a standard brick house.

    We have removed several walls, boarded and replastered every room and opened up the living room into where the hall used to be.

    It has been a labour of love but we think the results are fantastic.

    I was worried at first about buying a bisf house but now looking back it's the best investment we ever made. I hope to post some photographs soon.

    Great site btw,


  67. I have lived in a BSIF house for thirty-nine years and would now find it hard to move. I miss the flickering, colourful flames from the original coal fire which got replaced for the convenience of gas. But, I don't miss clearing out the ash pan and bringing in coal from the outside shed in Winter. I had a friend who moved to brick built accommodation and forked out thousands to get rid of dry rot in that house, he definitely regretted moving from his BSIF house, which shows that you can never guarantee if a house is going to be problem free whatever it is built from. I am content to live in my "Steel House" and hope to do so for many years to come.

  68. I've lived in my BISF house for ten years, and it's been great. I bought it cos it was cheaper than a traditonal house. It has been easy to repair and update. Just changing the plasterboards to the three elevations ie front, rear, and gable using plasterboards with insulation on the back will make it much warmer in the winter. Overboarding the the other internal walls with standard plasterboards will make it possible to fit architrave to all internal doorways, and get rid of the fanlights above them. The last owner had a nice front porch built but it had a flat roof on it. I had a joiner's shop make me some apex roof trusses so that I could put a proper roof on it with tiles. It looks good. The gardens are very big and the drive will hold at least 5 cars. I built a large detached garage at the end of the drive in the back garden and the garden is still big. These houses are not hard to work on like a lot of people say. I would have paid more in rent over the last 10 years had I not bought this house.