Buildings and their construction: 1900 – 1960s

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Are you familiar with modern methods of construction? Buildings from the beginning of the 20th century are very different to those after World War II, as huge changes in the style of houses and their construction took place. We thought it might be helpful to put together a very brief timeline outlining the characteristics of buildings and how their construction has changed in the last century.


Walls: Most houses were built with solid external walls, on shallow brick or no foundations and typically using lime-based mortar. Damp courses were non-existent, only gradually introduced during the 1920s.

Roofs: Pitched timber roofs, sheltered with slates or clay tiles and no underfelt were most common. No sarking felt or insulation and nail fatigue. Guttering and downpipes usually made from cast iron.

Windows: Sash windows are the norm until 1920s.

Ground Floor: Solid flooring to kitchen and storage areas, and suspended timber flooring to further rooms and upper floors. Few working class houses had separate bathrooms, relying on outside WCs instead. Coal fires throughout, no electrical installations, gas lighting.


Walls: Cavity external walls were increasingly introduced, and erected on concrete strip foundations with DPC. Rendering was popular throughout the UK.

Roofs: Some houses had sarking felt or torching but no roof insulation and no ventilation. Breathable roof membranes from 1930. Guttering and downpipes usually cast iron.

Windows: Timber hinged casement windows are common, often with leaded/stained glass in top lights.

Ground Floor: Raised timber flooring on concrete strip foundations with terracotta vents. Bathrooms still largely positioned on the ground floor, usually directly off the kitchen.


Walls: Ceilings were often asbestos composition boards or fibre board, and plasterboard from the 1960s. Non-traditional frame construction, clad with a variation of materials including asbestos, steel, aluminium, and concrete, traditional brickwork. Fibre and plasterboards were used for walls and ceilings.

Roofs: No major change although flat roofs become more common, constructed from either timber or concrete, felt or asphalt covered, with parapet walls to the edges. Trussed roofs of very shallow pitch used in non-traditional constructions. Guttering and downpipes typically cast iron or asbestos, with plastic accessible by the late 1960s.

Windows: Galvanised metal windows become very popular, as do timber casement windows and horizontal sliding sashes in aluminium towards the end of the period. Most windows were single glazed.

Services: By the 1960s, many authorities started to introduce central heating systems comprising coal, gas, storage radiators or warm air systems. Lead, then copper pipework.


Bradley-Mason LLP is a Chartered Building Surveying practice who offer the full range of Surveying, Building Consultancy and Project Management Services throughout the UK. For advice and guidance on any building related matter, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


DISCLAIMER: This article is for general information only and not intended as advice. Each project has its own set of unique circumstances, all potential issues should be investigated by a surveyor on a case by case basis before making any decision.

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