Wates PRC Precast Reinforced Concrete House

wates prc house
  • Manufacturer: Wates Ltd
  • Type: PRC
  • AKA:PH6
  • Period Built: 1947-56
  • Number Built: 22,000
  • Designation: Defective England & Wales

A Wates PRC house is what is typically referred to as a prefabricated, non-standard construction house, built from pre-cast reinforced concrete (PRC).

Over 22,000 of Wates PRC houses were built in the UK between 1947 and 1956 in response to the post-WWII housing shortage. Unfortunately they were also classified as Defective under the Housing Defects Act 1985, following a review carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in the early 1980s.

Wates PRC Construction

The system comprises storey-height trough-shaped wall panels with raised thickened edges.

  • For identification purposes, it is useful to know that early Wates PRC houses built between 1947 and 1950 incorporated ring beams that were of solid reinforced concrete panels, with a timber wall plate bolted on, to receive the timber floor joists.
  • The ring beam used properties built after 1950 were trough-shaped. The bed-joints between the ring beams and the upper and lower wall panels contain continuity reinforcement.

Five principal types of Wates house categorised from A through to E were produced. All having minor variations in construction and in some cases, differing levels of durability and longevity.

All Wates PRC houses have pitched roofs.

WATS TYPE A HOUSE CONSTRUCTION

The identifying feature of the Wates Type A house is the use of a vertical joint between panels that acted as a window mullion, however it should be noted that very few Type A houses were produced.

Wates PRC Precast Reinforced Concrete House 1

WATES TYPE B HOUSE CONSTRUCTION

The Wates Type B system was the most prolific throughout the production period. It has mitered corner panels and windows fitted within the panels. The ring beams at first floor level are deeper than in later designs, at about 400mm.

Wates prc house ring beam location

Internal wall linings are generally block work, but wood-wool may also have been used. Internal beams supporting the timber floors may be concrete or steel.

Foundations.
The in-situ concrete foundations are raised to the necessary level beneath external and load-bearing walls, where a damp proof course is laid to accommodate the wall panel units. Cement mortar is then used to grout the bed of each unit.

The storey height precast load-bearing panels are designed to be of standard widths. Each panel is comprised of a dense reinforced concrete shell that is 1¼ (31.75mm) inches thick, with 6 inch (152.4mm) thick flanged edges. Additionally, there is a back filling of lightweight concrete extending 7/8 inch (22.225mm) beyond the flanges. The vertical flanges of the units feature grooves, creating continuous spaces at the joints, which are then filled with in-situ fine concrete.

Reinforced concrete string bonding units are incorporated at both first floor and eaves levels. The joints between these strings and the panel units are tongue-and-grooved and set in cement mortar. Lengths of reinforcement bar are inserted vertically and horizontally into the joints as required.

Wates PRC flanged panel - Part of the Wates System of non-traditional construction.

PARTY WALLS.
The party walls consist of paneled units similar in design to those used in the construction of the external walls, but the material used here is light­ weight concrete. The string bonding units are continued at first floor and roof levels.

PARTITIONS.
Any ordinary or proprietary method of construction may be adopted for the internal walls and partitions. Laminated plasterboard partitions have also been adopted.

CHIMNEY BREASTS.
A steel or asbestos cement sheet casing encloses the cast iron flues. A warm air duct is provided to allow air to flow into into the main bedrooms.

WINDOW & DOOR OPENINGS.
The door and window openings are formed in the wall panel units at the factory, and plugs are provided to facilitate the fitting and fixing of frames.

Wates PRC Precast Reinforced Concrete House 3

GROUND FLOOR.
The ground floor of the dwelling is constructed from solid concrete onto which a variety of finishes are laid.

FIRST FLOOR.
The first floor of the dwelling is constructed out of timber joists and boarding along with plasterboard ceilings. Support on the external and party walls is provided by a timber plate bolted to the concrete string bonding course, and intermediate support is provided by a steel joist in the required position, bearing on the concrete walls.

ROOF

Roof trusses are set at approximately 4ft centres, to support specially designed, lightweight prefabricated framed units, embodying purlins, rafters and battens, capable of receiving a solid tile covering.

Prefabricated units comprising of bearers and plasterboard are fixed to the underside of the trusses to form the ceiling.

Wates PRC Precast Reinforced Concrete House 5

EXTERNAL FINISH
The external wall units have a factory-finished surface which was produced in a variety of textures and colours to suit the client.

INTERNAL FINISH.
Walls are lined with plasterboard which was generally nailed directly onto the lightweight concrete of the wall units.

DESIGNATION: DEFECTIVE HOUSING DEFECTS ACT 1985 (Sect 99 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987( 2014))

In the EARLY 1980’s, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) carried out urgent structural surveys on a number of different non-standard housing systems following concerns that some had developed worrying faults.

The surveys identified a number of potentially dangerous structural defects in a number of Precast Reinforced Concrete (PRC) housing systems, one of which was the Wates, Precast Reinforced Concrete system. The UK Government then acted swiftly to designate all the affected properties as Defective under Part XVI of the Housing Defects Act 1985, but at the same time they effectively rendered thousands of PRC properties unmortgageable.

The Wates PRC house was just one of the named systems to be classified as defective under the legislation in England, Scotland & Wales, however in The act was repealed in Scotland.

Thirty house types were eventually designated as inherently defective, in separate legislation for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The legislation was repealed in Scotland on 30th July 2018 and is no longer relevant there.

In General, the vast majority of mortgage providers will not secure a mortgage against homes designated as “DEFECTIVE” unless they have been fully repaired under an approved PRC repair scheme, and issued with a valid and approved PRC Repair Certificate, confirming that the necessary structural repairs have been completed.
Certification does not guarantee a successful application and lenders are free to refuse any mortgage application THEY CHOOSE.

PRC Repair Certification

Mortgage providers rely on PRC Repair Certificates to confirm that the property has been repaired to a pre-defined satisfactory standard, and that the property is no longer considered DEFECTIVE under housing Act legislation.

The PRC Homes licenced repair scheme is the oldest and most widely acknowledged repair scheme in the UK. It also happens to provide the most extensive level of structural repair.

The newer BRE (Building Research Establishment) PRC Repair Scheme is generally considered to be the cheaper option, but the level of remedial work undertaken may not be as extensive.

PRC Homes Licensed Repair SchemeWates PRC House – Building Research Establishment – BRE Global Repair SchemeBrick Wrap
Long established ‘Gold Standard’ PRC homes repair scheme.
External concrete panels and posts are replaced with traditional brick and block. Internal concrete beams replaced with RSJ steel beams.
The external concrete walls are removed and replaced with a traditional brick and block cavity wall. 
The internal concrete beam is not removed and no work is required to the party wall. This scheme is cheaper than a PRC Homes Ltd scheme. High street mortgages are available at normal interest rates.
Original PRC panels are left in-situ.
A new exterior brick outer wall/ skin is built around the house.
The original structure is not repaired or interfered with.
Average 8-12 weeksAverage 7-8 weeks4-5 weeks
High level of disruption – House vacatedModerate to low level of occupant Disruption – House can be occupiedLow level of disruption. House can be occupied
Long running scheme. Widely accepted by most non-standard mortgage providers.Accepted by some non-standard mortgage providers.Not generally accepted as a suitable repair by most providers. (case by case service).

The PRC homes licenced repair scheme appears to provide the most thorough level of repair in relation to the Wates house. Whilst the BRE scheme appears cheaper on the surface, the level of repair may not be as extensive and may not meet the lending criteria of some mortgage providers.

Whichever scheme you choose, please undertake your own enquiries and due-diligence prior to signing up. *Fewer and fewer lenders are willing to offer mortgages on Wates houses with this level of repair. It is likely that you’ll need to upgrade the repair works to the PRC Homes Ltd Licensed Repair Scheme to be acceptable to most major lenders.

If you’re considering buying a Wates house, you should always obtain a certified copy of the original PRC Certificate from the seller for two reasons:

  1. It should provide you with written proof that the proper approved repairs have been carried out on the property, and
  2. It should enable you to apply for a mortgage as you can provide legal evidence to your bank or building society, showing that all the required repairs have been carried out correctly.

Make sure to check the PRC Certificate is original and authentic before proceeding any further. The certificate should have been issued by an experienced and qualified PRC Structural Engineer.

Make sure to get a second opinion before you commit to the purchase if you have any doubt whatsoever.

Council repair scheme

Council repair scheme

In the past, certain councils carried out their own PRC repair programs in an attempt to improve the safety standards of their own defective housing stock. Some of this work was carried out to approved standards but much was not. In many cases, councils failed to keep or provide proper repair records of the repairs, leaving many ‘right-to-buy’ homeowners unsure of their properties status.

Whichever scheme you choose, please undertake your own enquiries and due-diligence prior to signing up. *Fewer and fewer lenders are willing to offer mortgages on Wates houses with this level of repair. It is likely that you’ll need to upgrade the repair works to the PRC Homes Ltd Licensed Repair Scheme to be acceptable to most major lenders.

5. Can you get a mortgage on a Wates house?

Generally, you will not be able to get a mortgage on a Wates house unless it has been repaired to the required construction standard. Banks and building societies will need to see evidence of the repairs in the form of a PRC Certificate. Even then, some may refuse to lend due to the extra risks associated with non-standard construction.

Banks and building societies will have different acceptable licensed repair types according to their lending criteria. However, most mortgage providers will only consider lending on Wates properties that have had a full PRC Homes Licensed Repair.

If you’re struggling to get a mortgage on a Wates house, here are some tips to improve your chances:

  • Always check your chosen providers Residential Lending Criteria before applying for a mortgage.

    In the UK, the majority of lenders are only supply mortgages for standard brick or stone built houses. Properties built from other materials such as concrete, timber or steel framed are classified as Non-Standard or Non-Traditional properties and only a limited number of lenders are willing to secure mortgages against these property types. To date, Santander and Halifax have been among the best Non-Standard Mortgage suppliers, but there are others too.

    The application process should be straightforward, providing that the surveyor is able to identify the construction type of the property accurately, and advise the lender accordingly (Which doesn’t always happen).
    Before you even apply for a mortgage though, it’s good practice to check your providers published lending criteria. This document can usually be found online under the ‘intermediaries’ section of their website. It outlines the type(s) of property the company is willing to lend against, and more importantly, the types of properties they reject. The answers you need are normally found under the heading, Acceptable Property types / Construction type.

    If you cannot find the answer, or are unsure if your chosen property is acceptable for lending purposes, then simply ring the mortgage provider and ask them directly.

    Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of published lending criterias, and as a result, they end up shelling out hundreds of pounds for surveys, only to be told at a later date, that the provider doesn’t even provide let alone accept non-standard mortgage applications.

    I see this happen so often, so please, please, please check first, it could save you a small fortune in wasted surveyors fees!
  • Speak to a mortgage broker. Speak to a mortgage broker if you’re struggling to find a suitable lender. They’ll be able to introduce you to providers who are happy to offer mortgages on non-standard construction Wates houses.
  • Lower your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Mortgage providers generally categorise non-standard properties as being “higher risk”, (especially in relation to PRC constructions), and they can sometimes be more hesitant to lend on this type of property. If you increase your deposit amount, this may help to reduce the loan to value risk for the lender.
  • Consider your personal mortgageability status. There are other factors that will affect your ability to get a mortgage, unrelated to your chosen properties construction type. Lenders will often look into other variables such as your credit history, existing/ outstanding debt, your salary and employment record and status.

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