Category Archives: Construction

Wates chalet spotting

Homes with “an exterior of outstanding loveliness”*.

Last month I wrote about Wates-built houses in New Malden, mainly in the area south of the A3 Kingston Bypass. Drive around the side streets and you can’t help noticing all the chalets, most built by Wates. At a quick glance you might think them all the same but not so.

The first chalets in Malden date from c.1932 – they are semi-detached and the roof slopes rise to a common ridge. Pictures (A) and (B) show two variants: I’m fairly sure that (A) with the front facing entrance door is the earlier and (B) with the side facing entrance door and Dutch gable (the small vertical tile-hung triangle at ridge level), later.

What came next – the semi-detached SC chalets or the more common link-detached variant? Once again we really need the RBK archive to tell us. My hunch is that the link-detached came first. Why? The 1935 Wilverley Park brochure offers buyers both options, promoting the semi-detached chalet as ‘New’:

C4 detached 3-bed chalet: “This wonderful Wates Chalet retains the sweeping roof lines which are so charming a feature of Wates original Chalets. Fully Detached with all its accompanying advantages of peace and privacy – a complete absence of ‘neighbour noise’ – the grand feeling that you really ARE in a house of your own – these are considerations which affect your personal comfort as a discerning Homeseeker.
Come and see for yourself the charm of these new wonder Chalets with their wide bays extending right to the eaves, mellow faced brickwork and smooth rendered walls blending into a delightful harmony – the new Wates Detached Chalet representing a standard of unrivalled value in planning, equipment and beauty.

SC3 Semi-detached Chalet: … For many years now Wates have been famed for their Chalets …. The New Semi-detached Chalet retains all the beauty of design, the bold sweeping roof lines and pleasing elevation which characterises every Wates-Built Chalet. With its newly revised arrangement of rooms it has won the approval of all purchasers. Come and see the improved planning, generous equipment and delightful appearance of these new semi-detached Chalets.

Urban legend had it that the link-detached option gave the advantages claimed above whilst allowing the house to be rated as semi-detached since it was (if only by the brick arch) connected to another house. True? I don’t know.

3-bed link-detached (C) and semi-detached chalets are by far the most common variant but there are others too. Two-bedroom chalets (D) – recognisable by the entrance door being towards the front of the flank wall – were created by deleting the front ground floor third bedroom. 4-bedroom chalets (E) are identifiable by a two-storey section at the rear; most also have a ground floor WC. Lastly, and very rare, are the detached chalets with integral garage (F) – this variation doesn’t work for me – and the corner chalets (G) which do.

Some chalets have a round porthole window lighting the first floor box room, others don’t. Some have a flat front-facing window to the ground floor third bedroom, others have an oriel window. Were these extra cost options?

Buyers were offered the option of buying freehold (FH) or leasehold (LH), the latter making housing more affordable. Here’s a summary (all 3-bed):

Detached chalet: FH £929, LH £749, weekly outgoings £1:12:9d/£1:10:11d, TFA ~95m2, lounge 14’3”x13’0” (4.34×3.96m)
Semi-detached chalet: FH £819, LH £639, weekly outgoings £1:8:11d/£1:7:1d, TFA ~95m2, lounge 14’3”x13’0” (4.34×3.96m)

And for comparison, traditional Wates ‘Tudor’ semis:

TDL Tudor Deluxe: FH: £729, LH: £579, weekly outgoings £1:5:9d/£1:4:3d, TFA ~98m2, lounge 14’3”x12’3” (4.34×3.73m)
TDL Tudor Major: FH: £649, LH: £499, weekly outgoings £1:2:11d/£1:1:6d, TFA ~79m2, lounge 13’1”x10’9” (3.99×3.28m)

Thus it can be seen that 1930s buyers paid a premium for chalets, justified by the space and architecture.

Ground rent, included in the LH weekly outgoings, was £9 a year for chalets, £7.10 for Tudor SDs, equating to a 5% return to Wates. I wonder how many people took the leasehold option, given that the saving was less than two shillings a week. Perhaps the reduced deposit was the key attraction. There was also an option to rent: in the 1930s many working class people had an aversion to going into debt even though we now see mortgage debt as ‘good’ debt.

Dormer additions: As built, chalets have a large under-roof box room next to the front bedroom. It’s relatively simple to build this out as an extra bedroom and many owners have done this (H). During my BCO days (1976-84) two local builders, Malcolm Carter and Tony Forte, did little else. Malcolm’s reputation was such that he ran an eighteen month waiting list. You didn’t decide whether to appoint him or not; he decided whether or not he wanted you as a customer. Another common alteration was adding a ground floor WC under the stairs: the space is tight but it can be done.

Other comments: Given Malden’s shrinkable clay subsoil, subsidence problems requiring underpinning were not unknown across my patch. Wates built houses were almost immune to such problems – the filed plans showed them as being built on Twisteel reinforced concrete rafts.

The plan above (for a chalet in Streatham, so may not reflect what was done in Malden) is interesting in that it shows cavity walls on three sides and a one-brick solid wall for the wall facing the mirrored chalet. When I was in primary school we were taught that cavity walls were introduced to improve insulation. They do, but the real reason was to eliminate the problem of driving rain finding its way through the wall. The facing walls are not, obviously, subject to driving rain.

1930s Wates houses also show the durability of concrete roof tiles: they were only introduced in the late 1920s so when these houses were built they were a new and untried innovation. Most roofs are original and still in excellent condition.

Click on an image to enlarge it; click again or press [Esc] to return. Please excuse the quality of the pics: I only had one day free when last in the UK and it was a wet, grey one.

* Weekly Dispatch (London) – Sunday 21 January 1934

House building Thai style

First a disclaimer: This isn’t an in-depth treatise of Thai house building, rather what I noted seeing some detached houses under construction in Chiang Mai.  What’s interesting though, is that what I saw is quite unlike what I’ve seen in the UK, USA and here in Australia.

Most houses are detached. As is the case here in Australia on new estates, most houses are IMO too large for their plots. It appears that Thais do not particularly value gardens.

Frame

Chiang Mai house frame

Chiang Mai house frame

The house structure is carried by a concrete frame with columns supported by bearing pads. The ground and upper floors are concrete with a concrete staircase. Floors are generally tiled. Of course in UK or cooler parts of Australia this would all be a thermal disaster, but in the warm Thai climate having all this thermal mass is a positive.

Structure complete

Chiang Mai house

Chiang Mai house

This picture shows the structure nearing completion Note the bamboo scaffolding. The brick infill and brick surrounding the front piers is non structural. It will all be rendered.

Roof

Chiang Mai house roof detail

Chiang Mai house roof detail

This picture shows part of the roof. Note that steel trusses and tile battens are used. Termites are apparently a problem, thus the use of wood-free construction.

Finished house

Chiang Mai house

Chiang Mai house

And here’s a typical occupied house. A house of this size and standard in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs would probably sell for A$1.5m-2m (£800K-£1.1m). In Chiang Mai you’d be paying around THB4m, say A$170K, £90K!