I'm hoping that someone here can help?
I'm thinking of buying a house that I've been told is constructed with a
steel frame (I think they said it was a Hawksley type!). Various people have
tried to put me off, including my current mortgage lender, because they say
there are problems with the design.
I'd appreciate any other points of view on it.
I believe it was built sometime in the Seventies!
Steel expands a lot when heated and can deform the structure badly.
Hence a small kitchen fire can seriously damage the whole house,
unlike a "standard construction" house, where local damage and some
smoke damage will occur.
The institutional dislike is historic, and may not be factual today.
You will not overcome it in this case, and will inherit it in the
future if you take the property on.
Fire damage is the main worry, but it's more about load bearing than
expansion, certainly in a house, larger structures (such as the Twin Towers)
are a different kettle of fish entirely. Steel softens from about 425
degrees Celsius and by the time it reaches 650 degrees it's lost half it's
strength. Steel frames will buckle and collapse quite quickly in fires.
Wooden joists will char, and remain load bearing for longer given that the
steel and wooden joists are designed to take the same load. i.e. capacity
for capacity unprotected steel joists will collapse sooner in a fire.
This is a worry for any escape plans you may have, though in reality if it's
hot enough downstairs to affect steel strength if you're still upstairs
you're probably already dead.
The insurance companies worry is just as Eric stated, a relatively small but
hot fire in the kitchen could well cause severe structural damage to the
building. Whereas a classic timber joist construction would be far easier
to repair providing the joists hadn't been burnt for so long they'd lost
their load bearing capacity.
Another worry might be corrosion, but then if wooden joists get continually
wet this can cause even worse problems than rust IMHO.
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