It’s been revealed that hundreds of new-build homes in Britain are at risk of crumbling because builders have used substandard mortar.
Now firms are being accused of refusing to fix the problems unless affected homeowners sign ‘gagging orders’.
The reports of properties suffering from weak mortar have been found on at least 13 estates around the country, the BBC reports, and homeowners are being forced to sign nondisclosure agreements in a bid to claim compensation to resolve the problem.
Now some construction experts are blaming the switch to a new type of factory-mixed mortar that is not suitable.
The result is that there could be thousands of homes in danger of corrosion because they’ve been built with mortar that is too weak.
Mortar Does Not Meet Standards
Investigators found that the mortar does not meet standards recommended in the industry so homes are disintegrating as a result.
The extent of the problem is clouded in mystery, with many homeowners unaware of the potential dangers facing their newbuild property.
Essentially, a gagging clause will prevent those who are affected from talking about their problems with the media and others – including with neighbours on the same street who may also, unwittingly, be facing a similar problem.
In just one estate, believed to be built by leading housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, in the Scottish Borders, the firm has agreed to replace the mortar in around 90 properties.
The BBC interviewed 70-year-old Vincent Fascoine who said he heard ‘loud cracking noises’ coming from the external walls of his home one afternoon while watching TV in 2016.
The following day, he found that his front path and driveway were covered in a ‘sand-like substance’.
Growing Cracks In The Mortar
He took video and photographs at the time which appear to show cracks growing in the mortar that holds his bricks together.
He had bought his semi-detached home for £112,500 in 2012 in Coatbridge, near Glasgow.
He complained to Taylor Wimpey, the homebuilder, and also to the industry body, the NHBC that provides warranties for newbuild homes.
The industry says that the performance of mortar can be affected by several factors, including an inadequate ratio of sand to cement.
Under current NHBC guidelines, mortar for most parts of the country should consist of one part cement to 5.5 parts sand.
Needs To Be More Cement In The Mix
However, in areas with severe weather, including Coatbridge, there needs to be more cement added so it’s more durable and stronger.
Lab tests carried out on samples from Mr Fascoine’s home showed that the amount of sand used in the mortar was nearly three times more than is recommended.
Mr Fascoine told the BBC: “I will never buy a newbuild home again – it has been disastrous.”
The BBC says its investigation covers various building companies on at least 13 estates around the country who are all suffering from a similar problem.
A spokeswoman for NHBC said: “We work with builders to help improve the construction quality of homes being built. However, it’s the builder who is responsible ultimately for the quality of new homes they build.”
Taylor Wimpey has apologised to Mr Fascoine and a spokesman said: “Quality assurance tests are carried out on all of our sites on the mortar used and there are few instances where it fails to meet required standards.”
If you’re considering buying a home that’s never been lived in, we’ve published an article on the pros and cons of buying new build properties.