Rust Prevention and Maintenance – BISF House.

Rust Prevention and Maintenance - BISF House. 1

The Importance of Rust Prevention and Maintenance For British Iron & Steel Federation – BISF House.

All houses require maintenance at one time or another no matter what the form of construction. A BISF house requires just as much maintenance as a brick property

A traditional brick-built house may require pointing during which decayed mortar is removed and replaced. The breakdown of mortar is caused by erosion and if the mortar is allowed to decay, the structural integrity of the building can be at risk. Exterior woodwork  may also require an annual coat of paint to protect it from rot caused by water penetration and as a means of extending its serviceable life.

Maintenance is key toward extending the serviceable life of your entire property. Think of it as protection for your investment and a way to make sure that your house remains dry and habitable for you and your family. When basic maintenance step are overlooked, costly problems can arise that could easily be avoided. A BISF house requires just as much maintenance as a brick property, the construction materials may differ and you may well be painting and not pointing but maintenance remains an essential part of home ownership.

The UK climate varies enormously, one minute hot and dry, the next cold and wet. This places huge stresses upon the homes we live in and this country certainly has more than its fair share of rain but when water and unprotected steel mix, corrosion and rust occurs.

Rust Prevention and Maintenance - BISF House. 2

Corrosion is by far the number one enemy to a BISF house.

If corrosion is allowed to take hold in can damage steel panels in a relatively short time, allowing water to penetration the inner building and steel frame, the latter of which should be protected at all cost.

Fortunately the steel cladding panels used to build the upper section of a BISF house are sectional and corrosion is often confined to a small limited area. Where corrosion is found, every attempt should be made to remove all traces by sanding or grinding the area back to bare metal. A suitable rust protection chemical or primer should be applied and the area filled if required.

The repair process is similar to that used in the repair of car body panels and it is essential to remove all traces of rust before over painting and all really does means all.

Do not use products that state they can be applied directly onto rust!  These products are not recommended for long-term protection and should be avoided.

Rust Prevention and Maintenance - BISF House. 4

Paint On Steel Protection

It should be noted that several Councils have reported instances of paint reaction when repainting the upper panels of BISF properties.

Not all paints seem to adhere well and new paint can sometimes react with previous layers causing it to peel and flake. It is not known if the paintwork was well keyed prior to application, which may have reduced the risk of paint reaction. A high performance exterior paint is recommended as it must be able to cope with extreme temperature changes as the steel surface can become surprisingly hot during the summer and extremely cold in winter. It may be wise to apply a test coating to a small area first before purchasing or applying paint to the entire upper storey.

Generally speaking the upper non-galvanised steel panels have performed very well. They have stood the test of time for almost 60 years, enduring everything that the UK weather has thrown at them. These panels were originally coated with with a red oxide or grey primer which can still be seen when viewing the rear of the panels from inside the loft. Regular painting by council services before the introduction of right to buy scheme has also played a significant part in prolonging this protection.

As many BISF homes are now privately owned, their ongoing maintenance falls onto the shoulders of residents. Some residents achieve this very well but others due to a variety of limiting  factors simply do not.

The Lack of maintenance may sometimes only result in the odd unsightly rust spot or flaking paintwork which may not be serious. On other occasions the investigation of a small rust spot may lead to the discovery of a larger area of underlying corrosion that must be treated.

Rust Prevention and Maintenance - BISF House. 6

The fascia, soffits and barge board plates of a BISF house are generally made of steel and require particular care due to the use of a thinner grade of steel.

Particular attention should be applied to the roof line at each corner of the property for signs of corrosion.

Rain gutters should be regularly checked to ensure they are not blocked or broken.

Failure to inspect these areas can lead to the rapid spread of corrosion and disintegration of the surface. This in turn can allow substantial amounts of water, pests and potentially dangerous vermin to enter the property.

Rain gutters and downpipes can become blocked by leaves, algae or moss which can cause water to overflow directly onto the buildings steel surface. The levels of water can be considerable and it may seep inside the structure through small surface gaps or joints where surface panels mate.

Should penetrating water come into contact with even a small amount of exposed steel, corrosion can soon follow and if left untreated it may spread at an alarming rate particularly around the roof line.

Below we can see an example of how a broken and blocked gutter can lead to considerable corrosion to the soffit and fascia plate area. Rainwater has also been allowed to fall directly onto the flat roof of the porch below, where it has splashed back up against the steel cladding over a prolonged period of time. This has lead to the build up of algae growth and further corrosion to the cladding panel lip which cannot be seen from this angle .

Rust Prevention and Maintenance - BISF House. 8

It would appear that at some point in the past remedial work had been made in an attempt to cover over the corroded area by way of a temporary repair. On closer examination to the corner profile, upvc capped screws or nails can clearly be seen. Covering over corroded areas may create the illusion that all is good on the surface but underneath the situation may be very different as this case now shows. The corrosion has been allowed to spread unchecked causing further decay. The apparent blocked guttering above the down pipe only serves to drench the affected area with more water whilst accelerating the degree of damage.

The affected material should have been cut away to bare metal and replacement steel plates bonded or welded into place before covering inside and out with a quality primer and surface coating. It is now highly likely that the spread of rust will be far more significant and widespread underneath the remaining panels than it appears to be at surface level. Fortunately the level of corrosion witnessed heres is very rare but had the property been properly maintained such costly and destructive damage could have been avoided.

Poor maintenance can affect a house in ways that are not immediately obvious.

The houses value and that of neighbouring properties can can be seriously reduced.

Any property falling into a serious state of disrepair will have a negative impact upon the local area. Prospective buyers are put off from making a purchase often fearing that if one property can suffer in this way then they all can. It may be assumed that residents have no pride in the appearance and upkeep of their street which in turn can attract anti social behaviour. Estate agents will often under value adjacent properties to offset the visual impact that such a property may have toward prospective clients.

More importantly, there is a real possibility that severe structural damage may have occurred deep inside the house placing the occupants and adjoining residents at risk. A BISF house is supported by a steel framework which links both sides of a semi detached house together, effectively supporting both properties by one structure.

Severe corrosion to the steel stanchions or’ legs’ of the structure can occur at any point above ground level. This could be partly due to water settling around the stanchions having entered through any exposed cavity. Failure of these stanchions at multiple points could very well jeopardise the integrity of the entire structure which would not be covered by insurance should total failure ever occur. It would also be almost impossible to obtain a new mortgage for either resident as surveyors often link BISF properties together, noting the overall condition of adjoining properties at the request of mortgage providers.

Rust Prevention and Maintenance - BISF House. 10

This is not to say that the house shown here does indeed have any significant structural damage other than that which is visible. The only way to determine this would be for the owner to arrange an urgent structural survey. This would need to be completed before any repair work is undertaken and to determine the full extent of structural damage which may or may not be present..

In this case the rear of the property has fared no better. The entire corner profile has disintegrated leaving a large hollow void in the roof cavity allowing easy and welcome access to all manner of wildlife, many of whom are destructive by nature and with some creatures being able to gnaw through live electrical wiring.

Prevention is definitely better than finding a cure when it comes to your home.

Your home protects you and your families from the outside world So perhaps it is time to give it the love and respect it surely deserves by providing it with a little protection and maintenance in return.


  1. Hello Sharon

    Hammerite is one possibility but I can see it working out to be very expensive due to the size tins that this paint is available in.

    As long as the paint is suitable for application onto metal and the base case is sanded to provide a good key, then you should be OK.
    Screwfix has a range of paints suitable for application onto metal and matt or non-gloss tend to suit the purpose well. I have also heard positive results have been found using international paints too but again size of pots and price is a consideration.

    Remember though, that any paint you choose could still react with the old paint underneath. There are no guarantee sadly.
    I have even seen some properties painted with masonry paint but I have no experience of using this myself.

    It’s always worth buying a small sample pot and testing it first.

    Marc :0)

    1. Hi Marc,

      I also have to paint all of the exterior upper floor of my BISF house but am having trouble finding an appropriate paint at a price I can afford. Following your advice I’ve looked at Screwfix and I can’t find a range of paints suitable for application on to metal – would you mind pointing me in the direction of the range you mean?

      However, I did find a good value solvent based bituminous paint by Cementone that looks promising (even if it is only available in black) but I wouldn’t want it to react with the existing paint as you mention is possible. I’m very much a novice when it comes to paints but ‘solvent-based’ sounds very much like ‘will react with stuff’ to me. Do you think this paint might be worth a try or should I steer clear?



  2. Hi, I am looking into painting my prefab. But need some advice. I have been told that the tin needs to be stripped and reprimed and repainted is this true. As I know there is 60 years of paint and the council have done it twice in 25 years. I have lived on the estate most of my life. Any advice appreciated. Thanks

    1. Hi Sharon, welcome to the community!
      The steel cladding to the upper portion of a BISF house does not need to be stripped and reprimed. The only precaution you need to take is to ensure that you carry out a test patch with the desired paint first as some paints can react with the coats that are already present.

      To strip and prime the entire upper surface of a BISF house would be very expensive indeed and the stripping may well damage the existing but very effective protective.

      In normal cases all bare metal should be stripped and primed before painting but BISF houses were not covered in bare metal. Some were galvanised and some were coated in a rust protection primer. A simple overpaint should be sufficient. All loose flaky paint should be removed first and the previous coats of paint lightly sanded to provide a key. A good quality exterior paint with rust protection properties should be fine. Do not use basic masonry paint as it is not up to the standard required.

      I hope this helps