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How long should a house last?

by on June 22, 2018

A house is likely to be a person’s biggest asset, and people need to know that their house structures will be sound for several lifetimes.  The lifespan of any building very much depends upon the materials from which it is built – so it’s a really important decision for builders to make.

How long do bricks last for?

Traditional clay bricks last for hundreds of years – which is just as well, as around half of all privately owned houses in England were built before the Second World War and the majority of these were built with solid brick walls.

However, house design has changed.  Although many new houses are finished with brick, this is usually only a facing material and the actual load-bearing structure of the house is most likely to be made from masonry blocks, timber or steel frame materials.

How long does concrete last?

Concrete is also a material with a huge lifespan – some concrete survives from the Roman era.  It’s an inert masonry material; concrete blocks do not burn, rot, warp or decay, and concrete blocks in various forms have been the first choice for housebuilding for decades.

How long does aircrete last?

Aircrete is a modern form of concrete block.  It has all the durability of traditional dense concrete, but with some great additional advantages.  It is lightweight and easy to handle on site and provides better thermal performance.

Most importantly, as a masonry material, aircrete has great durability.  The first houses to be built with aircrete were constructed in the early 1950s and the material has an anticipated lifespan of well over 100 years.

How long should a house last?

Strangely, there is no official answer to this question.  The generally accepted expectation is that a new building will last for at least 60 years.

The Green Building Guide to Specification, published by the Building Research Establishment, is a widely recognised rating system that evaluates the environmental performance of materials used in building.  As it looks at this performance over a whole life cycle – including manufacture, use and disposal – the Green Guide has to assume a lifespan for the materials in situ and the figure used is 60 years.  Celcon Blocks, which receive the best possible rating in the Green Guide (A++), will last many decades longer in a structure.

The question of lifespan becomes critical when you want to sell your house or raise capital using it as security.  At that point the lender will make an assessment of the structure before deciding whether to make a loan. They will only do so if they are very confident that the building will last a great deal longer than the term of the loan.

If a mortgage company will not lend money on a house, then it immediately becomes very difficult to sell.  One of the first questions asked by mortgage companies or insurers relates to the material the house is built from.

Can a house be adapted in the future?

The other important benefit of a masonry home is that it can be adapted to suit changing needs. Extensions, loft conversions and internal re-designs are all common alterations that successive buyers make to homes.

If a house is built using a frame system – whether that is timber or steel – then the structure simply does not have the same flexibility.  The load-bearing capacity of the frame may not be sufficient to support the weight of a loft conversion and removing part of the structure to build an extension may also be impossible.

Read further advice on the durability of aircrete.

This article is bought to you courtesy of our content partner H+H.


  1. Jasper Solomon permalink

    The Government want to significantly improve the efficiency of house-building by increased industrialisation. Planners evident prejudice for brick and concrete block construction against timber frame is unlikely to result in noticejaspersolomonable improvements.

  2. Alan Harris permalink

    Houses should last for a sufficient time to reflect the price paid. Brick houses built on Council estates are of durable material but as time goes by they are less desirable than when first built. En suite bathrooms an wet rooms have overtaken the old WC and bathroom provisions. Thermal insulation is not up to it and soft wood windows rot. Tanalised wood resists rot but the tanin only penetrates the surface leaving underlying vulnerability The modern materials will have similar drawbacks unless we build for “several generations” and use time tested masonry and non corrosive metals. Who knows what future needs will be?

  3. It seems ironic that the foundations of modern houses (built from concrete) will last hundreds and even thousands of years, while the uppers may only last 60 years. Meanwhile older houses built of brick / stone are still standing hundreds of years later but often have no or little foundations. In terms of legacy and full-life carbon footprint of modern houses, have we got things the wrong way up (or down)?

    • Alan Harris permalink

      We overdesign modern foundations

      The imposed load on strip footings of a typical 2 storey house is 100kN/m2 (1ton/ft2).

      The human foot imposes about 25kN/m2.

      100kn/m2 is about 1/10th N/mm2

      The typical crushing strength of concrete is 20 to 30N/mm2 that is more than 200 times greater than the building loads.

      It isn’t as simple as that but provided that the founding level is below the effects of seasonal changes (1m in shrinkable clay) many foundations could be laid on compacted graded granular material (DoT type 1) and nervous engineers could add a dusting of cement on each compacted layer. The saving in carbon footprint would be huge because cement has a large heat signature in the production process.

      This is not a new technique as I have used it many times.

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