Wall tie corrosion…does it matter?

Corrosion of metal wall ties in our housing stock has been a recognised issue for about 25 years or so.

It came to real prominence though, in the late eighties ands early nineties.

During the housing boom of the late nineties and early 21st century, it was all but forgotten.

I’ve been active in wall tie replacement since the beginning and my technicians replace thousands of rusting ties every month.

However, despite the problem becoming worse by the year, the issue is no longer treated as a serious one by some surveyors. This is odd, bearing in mind that we are a quarter of a century on from when the problem was first publicised; the ties installed in the 30’s are 35% older that they were when we started and the ties installed in the 60’s (some of the thinnest galvanised wire ties ever manufactured), are twice as old as they were in 1985.

Collapses are increasing, bulging walls and unsightly horizontal cracking is common, and blights many an otherwise smartly pointed or rendered house. Those poor quality wire ties used in the 60’s don’t cause cracking though, the problem is only picked up by a proper survey, or discovered when the outer leaf inexplicably bulges or falls down.

As home owners know nothing about wall tie corrosion, it is incumbent on us, in the professions, to warn them, particularly when they buy a house at risk, or raise money on it.

Some surveyors do this now of course, but in many cases the tone used in homebuyer’s reports we see; where wall tie corrosion is raised, leads buyers to underestimate the potential consequences of wall tie corrosion; in terms of cost and urgency.

As a result, some buyers don’t bother having the ties checked or sometimes having had them checked, they do not then go on to have them replaced, even though the corrosion is severe. No retentions are held by lenders and without any follow up, buyers can be forgiven for thinking all is well. We’ve even come across instances where Estate Agents and Mortgage advisors have told buyers “Oh they always mention that, but don’t worry; it’s not a condition so it’s no problem”.

The evidence for the above is clear in our survey records; we now find ourselves surveying houses for the second or third time and finding that the wall ties are considerably worse than when we initially condemned them, five or even ten years ago. It is only a matter of time before one of the collapses results in injury or worse.

The days when there were lots of cowboy wall tie companies, such as in the mid nineties are gone, and with the advent of BRE 401 “Installing Wall Ties” there is clear and standard advice on how to treat the problem.

I doubt it is sufficient for a surveyor to raise the issue of wall tie corrosion with a purchaser; for professional indemnity purposes, if his/her duty of care is not affirmed by stressing the importance of the problem and where possible being pro-active in ensuring that for the buyer and lenders sake, any proven problem is dealt with within a reasonable time frame.

With housing equity shrinking and lenders becoming more cautious, I feel that now is the right time to put the important issue of wall tie failure back where it belongs; at the top of surveyor’s agenda.

If you are buying a house over 25 years old, you should ask your surveyor whether it has cavity walls and if in doubt get a survey done, by a reputable wall tie specialist, preferably a member of The Wall Tie Installers Federation.


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