Five unusual building materials from throughout history

Contact our expert team banner

Here in the UK, we’re rightly proud of the long and traditional history that is still visible today in the buildings of our villages, towns and cities. As chartered building surveyors, we conduct countless surveys and visits to the nation’s old and listed buildings, many of which still retain the traditional building materials used in their construction many hundreds of years ago. Take a look at just some of the unusual traditional building materials that can still be found in your commercial properties today!


Wattle and Daub

Although now associated by many with Tudor England, wattle and daub is a construction method far older than even this distant time period. The technique was first developed some 6,000 years ago, and involves creating timber frames designed to hold a sticky mixture of mud, clay, straw and animal dung. Many of Britain’s older listed buildings have been constructed using wattle and daub, and tenants living in these will be expected to keep them in excellent condition under the terms of their dilapidations agreements.



Not all unusual building materials are as ancient as wattle and daub, however. Asbestos became popular for use as insulation in the middle part of the 20th century, but people soon found that the fibrous material could cause potentially fatal respiratory diseases.


Sheep’s wool

Before asbestos became popular, sheep’s wool was commonly used as an insulator in the homes of people across the UK. Although not as effective as asbestos or fibreglass insulation, sheep’s wool was remarkably adept at trapping heat during the cold winter months. Sheep’s wool insulation is once more increasing in popularity as a green, renewable alternative to fibreglass, however – it could be that you decide to use it to keep your commercial property warm this winter!


Oak roofing battens

Roofing battens are used to hold the materials of the roof in place – be they tiles, or more traditionally, straw thatch. The battens sit across the beams of the roof to provide support for the structure, and while today we usually use strong, lightweight, fast-growing pine to make battens, traditional properties still utilise dense, native oak wood in their roofs. Many listed buildings here in the UK still employ oak roofing battens, and these will need to be carefully replaced or maintained during any renovations or dilapidations.


Lime and natural paints

The majority of modern paints are created using petrochemicals, but not so very long ago all of our house paints were created using natural materials instead. Lime wash and other natural paints are not only more environmentally friendly than their modern counterparts, but they’re also breathable – an attribute that is crucial in the renovation of many old or listed properties.

Knowledge of all these traditional building materials – and more besides – gives us the expertise to provide you with the chartered building surveying services you need. We can save you money, time and effort on anything from project management to dilapidations, so why not contact us today and see how we could help?

Contact our expert team banner
Call Now Button