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Steel Frame Corrosion & Insurance  


Currently looking into buying a Howard home which is soon to be surveyed. Having spoken to the surveyor, their biggest area for concern was the steel frame and possible corrosion damage. 

I have a few questions and thought this might be the place to ask:

– Does anyone have home insurance that covers this kind of damage?

– Has anyone had any structural damage to a BISF and had it repaired? How much did it cost?

– If you have a Howard home, have you run into any issues with it?

Would love any input 🙂


Hello Amy and welcome to the forums.

I’m not overly familiar with the Howard House but I do have a small amount of research material that I will add to a blog post today that may assist you during your purchase.

I have seen several refurbished and externally insulated Howard Houses in the Portsmouth area and they look amazing when complete.

As with any steel frame property, the corner steel stanchions are the primary points where corrosion can occur and this has been pointed out by your surveyor. If the property has been well maintained externally, then the risk of corrosion is often low.  If the outside walls have not been maintained and have become cracked or warped, water can seep inside and pool near the base of the stanchions, causing corrosion.

The BISF House is similar to the Howard house in this respect but the good news is that stanchion repair is often cheaper, than say structural repair of a brick wall as with a stanchion, the affected area is cut away and replaced with a new steel section. A competent builder can undertake this type of work or you can employ a specialist company, who will be more expensive but have greater knowledge of the correct repair procedure.

On average, each stanchion could cost £2-3K to repair using a specialist company, or around £1000 if a builder/ fabricator was used. The cost of the steel repair itself isn’t usually that high, it’s the cost of repairing the outer wall section that is cut away to gain access to the steel, that raises the cost.

As for insurance, there are now many companies who will insure steel framed properties and you can even use comparison search sites to compare prices, but you should always follow any internet quotes up, with a phone call directly to your chosen company before parting with any cash, outlining the exact build type of your home. You will also need to enter the wall construction type into the search form and most steel framed properties have walls which are classed as ‘Prefabricated, non-combustible’.

Most insurers will insure you if the frame fails but, as corrosion is often linked to poor maintenance, this may or may not be covered in cases where the steels have corroded due to neglect, so it is worth checking with the insurer during a direct telephone conversation as to what their stance is.

Please keep us informed regarding the survey results and outcome of your purchase.

I’ve listed below some of the issues that the BRE (Building Research Establishment) has found with some howard houses as a guide to what may be found.



2-storey semi-detached and terraced houses.

Shallow pitch gable roof covered with profiled asbestos cement sheets.

External walls of PC panels to ground floor window sill level and flat asbestos cement sheets in horizontal bands above.

Timber cover strips mask corners.

Recess at separating wall on both front and rear elevations infilled with projecting single storey storage area on both elevations.

Steel window frames.



Superficial corrosion of RSA, RSC and RSJ stanchions, particularly at bases.

Superficial corrosion of RSA cladding rails, RSA spandrel perimeter beams and roof trusses.

Rain penetration at joints of wall panels.


Substructure: Concrete pads below stanchions [1]. PC block underbuilding. Oversite concrete. Damp Proof Course.

Frame: 2 RSA [2] and 2 RSC [3] stanchions, 2 RSA frames, 4 RSJ single storey stanchions [4], 1 RSA spandrel support stanchion [5], 2 RSJ floor support beams [6], 9 RSJ ground and first floor joists [7], braced RSA spandrel perimeter beams at first floor and eaves level [8], RSA cladding rails [9], 8 RSA roof trusses and 10 RSA purlins, see frame layout [A].

Protective coating: Red lead paint and black bituminous paint.

External walls: PC panels [10] to ground floor window sill level and timber framing clad with flat asbestos cement sheets in horizontal bands [11] above, cavity, timber frame panels overlaid with aluminium-coated bituminous paper, infilled with woodwool slabs and lined with plaster board [12]. Timber cover strips at corners.

Separating wall: Timber frame panel cavity wall infilled with woodwool slabs, backed with flat asbestos cement sheets to first floor and plasterboard above and lined with plasterboard. Mineral wool insulation quilt in cavity. Woodwool slabs on both sides of central roof truss.

Partitions: Timber stud infilled with woodwool slabs and lined with plasterboard.

Ground floor: T&G boarding on timber joists.

First floor: T&G boarding on timber joists.

Ceilings: Plasterboard at ground floor and fibreboard at first floor.

Roof: Wire reinforced Asbestos cement sheet claddings, roof cover, internal separating wall linings and fire stops at first floor level.



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