We carry out many Surveys on Victorian terraced houses each month. Generally a Building Survey is the better option for this type of house as it can go into more detail about actual defects, possible defects, repair options and future maintenance.
Here are ten of the more common problems which you can look for when viewing your potential new home:
- Distortion, dishing or sagging to old roof timbers which are often not robustly constructed. Purlin bearnings can be affected by rot or may simply be shallow of resting on crumbing brick party walls.
- Neglected chimney stacks with weathered bricks, loose pots and poor flashings. Check for staining to chimney breasts in the bedrooms and in the loft space. Old chimneys were built with no damp-proof course so some dampness is almost inevitable.
- Leaking parapet walls. These are the walls which stand proud of the roof tiles around the party walls. Like chimneys they are vulnerable to leakage, copings can be loose and rendered sides often cracked.
- Defective gutters and down-pipes. Plastic and old metal fittings often leak and many down-pipes drain to the soil or paved areas potentially causing dampness and even structural problems. It is best to have one down-pipe for the front roof and two for the rear roofs.
- Defective masonry to the walls is a common problem in houses of this age. Stone and brick-work can be eroded by general weathering or cracked as a result of structural movement. Lintel construction is often poor and walls are often re-pointed using cement mortar or covered with a cement-based render. Using a lime finish will help avoid dampness inside.
- Poor sub-floor ventilation. Sub-floor vents are important to help avoid dampness and timber decay. There should be three good vents in the front wall of a terraced house and a similar number in the rear walls.
- Raised ground levels are a common cause of dampness and should be 150mm below the position of floor levels.
- Rot to floor timbers. This is common to timber floors at ground floor level, often due to raised ground levels and poor ventilation.
- Dampness to the walls inside. Dampness is best avoided by careful and sympathetic maintenance and modern damp-proofing techniques are not always the best option even if there is no damp-proof course in the walls.
- Dated service installations. Electrical systems should be checked every five or ten years in the same way that gas boilers are serviced annually. Many electrical systems will not offer good modern safety protection and even today relatively few houses have good mains-wired inter-linked heat and smoke detectors. Lead water supply pipes are still very common.
The above are ten points which would be investigated in some detail as part of a Building Survey. There are probably hundreds of points to check and investigate when carrying out a Building Survey of even a small terraced house.