Surveyors love a loft! They are so revealing.
Most properties undergo continuous updating, and Victorian or earlier houses may have substantially altered interiors but the loft tells much. In here, the surveyor can find features that allow him to date the construction, work out successive phases of building, see where former stacks have been removed, assess the original quality, diagnose various infestations… practically endless. In recent houses, the norm is the factory-pressed trussed rafter and vast quantities of insulation, often with nowhere to stand; but then recent houses generally offer fewer problems.
Before factory trusses, roof timbers were individually cut and fitted on site by skilled tradesmen. In the post-WW2 period, a few anomalies were thrown up by prefabricated construction. Such houses may have been partly rebuilt by now, but lifting the loft hatch may reveal lightweight steelwork, or even concrete, and force a rapid re-think.
It is in the oldest properties that the most complex stories are to be found. The Georgian frontage may turn out to mask a much earlier building, now mostly underbuilt in brick but retaining the original heavy oak timbers. Even in 1930s properties, the original tiles may bear date stamps, and be visibly in poor condition due to years of frost. Best of all, the chimney stack render may offer such useful legends as “Harry and Fred 1934”.
The more active buyer can see much on their own account. Even a head-and-shoulders examination from a borrowed stepladder will reveal the amount of insulation, any obvious sagging, the presence of underlay, water storage vessels. And critically, maybe a set of flues that have been cut away and not properly supported. But enter cautiously; it is easy to slip and put a foot through the ceiling. And make sure your ladder is set up safely. Now, for that priceless Van Gogh…
Gareth Evans – Senior Surveyor at Desbruslais Chartered Surveyors