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Laing Easi-Form Housing
By: Steven Way on Jun, 20, 2011

This week we have been surveying a Laing Easi-Form house for a prospective purchaser, the Laing Easiform is one of a range of house types that are considered as “non traditional construction” and which were generally erected immediately post the first world war and up to the 1960’s or so.  As the name suggest it was a housing solution developed by John Laing, the well know contracting firm.

They were intended to be cutting edge, to be fast and cost effective to build and to meet the nations need for housing.  They were widely adopted by Local Authorities, the MOD and other providers of social housing,

Well known styles and trade names, amongst others, include Laing Easi Form, Cornish, Airey, Boot and Wimpey No-Fines.  Most often constructed of cast in situ concrete or concrete panels they seemed to be a panacea until the last part of the 20th century when it was realised that the houses were very often poorly built or poor quality concrete and in need of serious structural attention.  So bad was the situation that many mortgage companies refused to lend on the properties and many housing types were designated as defective under the Housing Act 1985.

This post concentrates only on the Laing Easi-form type and must not be considered as advising on any other non traditional housing type.

So, what of the Laing Easi- Form?  It is generally accepted as being one of the better of the type and is not [as far as we know] designated as defective under the Housing Act. It is we understand generally suitable for mortgage with several mortgage companies being prepared to lend against them [again, as far as we know, please take proper financial advice form a mortgage broker!]

The particular house that we looked at was in Eltham, London Borough of Greenwich where there is a fairly sizable estate of two storey terraced and semi detached Easi-Forms.

The type is widespread across London and the rest of the country and are generally of two construction types –  type 1, which were built up and until 1925 or so and type 2 which were built between subsequently.  More often than not you come across type 2 houses.

The construction of the earlier, less common, type is of solid concrete outer walls whilst the later type are of  cast in situ cavity walls– typically 75mm thick inner and outer leaves with 50mm cavity.  Externally the walls were originally finished externally with a render coat but may have subsequently been pebbledashed as part of refurbishment schemes by local authorities.

The concrete is reinforced in both skins by 4 horizontal steel bands above and below window openings – these can cause problems if the concrete cover is insufficient and they rust allowing the surface concrete to fall away in samll patches often exposing rusting beneath.  Some remedial schemes have included the cutting out of defective concrete and the insertion of concrete block work repairs – unfortunately without destructive and invasive investigation such repairs cannot be easily identified unless the original render finishes have been patch repaired in these locations.

The structural pattern of an Easi-form building is very similar to a traditional cavity-walled brick dwelling with floor and roof loads are taken directly to the foundations via the load bearing inner skin of the external walls which are enhanced by wall tie connections to the outer skin.  Some wall tie failure can occur as the ties were of steel.

Spotting an Easi-form can take a little time, especially as there were at least 25 different styles ranging from bungalows, through traditional looking houses to four storey apartment blocks.  The styles have multiple plan forms and differing styles of external roof treatment – some hipped some gable ended.

Most of the clues are in the roof space and to the chimney stack – in the attic the party wall is most likely exposed cast concrete with evidence of horizontal casting lines, we also find it useful to look in under stair cupboards and where electrical or gas pipes come through.

The building are not especially thermally efficient and although cavity insulation can be incorporated to some many schemes involve external insulation and cladding, in our experience enhancing the roof insulation is usually required.  Given their age and construction style finding some elements of asbestos in these houses is also common – particularly to stair linings and, soffit boards, rainwater goods and some partitioning.  Care must be taken to avoid damaging these and you should ask your surveyor to check for asbestos product specifically.  Dampness is not a great problem for these houses but some condensation is quite common, they have an asphalt based damp proof course at low level to the outer walls, typically between the brick low level dwarf wall and concrete panels cast on to the brickwork.

In our opinion, and having inspected a fair number, the Easiform provides good accommodation and is often structurally free of significant problems, research is essential though and apart from your local surveyor we recommend consulting the local authority housing and building control departments to see what repairs may have been carried out previously.

You should also be aware that any non traditionally constructed house may prove more difficult [or for some types impossible] to mortgage or require additional inspections, and that problem will roll on to the next prospective purchaser so you could find it slightly harder to sell.

We would of course be happy to survey one for you, about £500 plus VAT in London and about £450 plus VAT in Kent – give us a call or get a quote here

Steve

Links

British Postwar Temporary Houses – Wikipedia

Council of Mortgage Lenders – Non Traditional Housing in the UK [report]

Additional Notes – Easiform, also referred to as Easi Form, Easi-form, Easyform or Easy Form type houses

Other Relevant Posts That Might Help


This blog entry was posted by Collier Stevens Chartered Surveyors - 020 8295 1200, Collier Stevens are a firm of Chartered Building Surveyors located in Hythe, Kent and Chislehurst, London specialising in House and Property Surveys, Party Wall Matters, Project Management and Disabled Access Issues. © Collier Stevens 2013 Care is taken in the preparation of our articles but you should always obtain specific advice in respect of your individual circumstance.


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