Should I Buy a House With Red Ash?

Home Should I Buy a House With Red Ash?
Sunny Avenue
Mortgages Sunny Avenue
31 May 2024

Are you considering buying a house with red ash in the UK? It's a decision that requires careful consideration. Red ash, also known as coal ash or cinder, is a common byproduct of coal combustion and was used extensively in construction in the past. However, it has been linked to potential health and environmental risks.

Before making a decision, it's important to understand the implications of buying a house with red ash. While it may not be a deal-breaker, there are certain factors you need to consider.

This article aims to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision, from potential health hazards to legal obligations. So, if you're wondering whether you should buy a house with red ash in the UK, keep reading to understand the topic comprehensively.

Key Takeaways

  • Red ash, a byproduct of coal combustion, was used in past construction but poses health and environmental risks.
  • Buying a house with red ash is risky due to potential structural damage from sulphate attack. Remediation can cost £10,000 - £20,000, typically not covered by insurance.
  • Many lenders will not lend against properties with Red Ash. However you can arrange conditional mortgage based on repairs being completed upon completion
  • While red ash properties can be made safe, careful consideration is essential due to potential health risks and costs.

Should I Buy a House With Red Ash?

Buying a house with red ash, a post-WWII filler material containing sulphate, is risky. It can lead to costly structural damage due to sulphate attack. A HomeBuyer's Report can help detect it, but rectifying issues may cost £10,000 - £20,000, typically not covered by insurance.

What is Red Ash?

Red ash, or coal ash, is a byproduct of burning coal for energy. In the past, it was commonly used in construction due to its low-cost and fire-resistant properties. As a result, many older houses in the UK may contain red ash in their building materials.

However, it's important to note that the use of red ash in construction has significantly declined in recent years due to growing awareness of its potential risks.

Red ash contains various heavy metals, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury, which can pose health risks if released into the environment. When red ash is disturbed or deteriorates, these toxic substances can contaminate the air and water, potentially affecting the health of residents. Therefore, evaluating the potential risks before buying a house with red ash is crucial.

While red ash may be present in some homes, it's important to understand that not all houses with red ash are necessarily hazardous. The risks depend on various factors, such as the condition of the red ash, the extent of its use in construction, and the proximity to sensitive areas like water sources or schools.

What is a Sulphate Attack?

A Sulfate attack is a chemical reaction that can harm concrete structures over time. It happens when sulfate molecules from water or the ground react with the concrete. This reaction can make the concrete crack, break, and become weaker. There are two types: one from outside sources, like the ground, and one from materials inside the concrete itself. 

Can I Get a Mortgage On a House With Red Ash?

At present, lenders do not approve mortgages for properties with Red Ash. However, it is possible to find a lender who can make it a condition of the mortgage to make the relevant repairs before completion. 

As mortgages constantly evolve, it's best to consult with an independent mortgage adviser with a whole of market access. They can view the latest up to date policy on red ash set by the lenders.

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Risks of Buying a House with Red Ash

Buying a house with Red Ash can come with potential risks, such as:

Air Pollution:

Red ash disturbance can release harmful particles and heavy metals, causing health issues like respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer when inhaled.

Water Contamination

Substances in red ash can leach into the ground, contaminating water sources (wells, reservoirs). This poses serious health risks, especially to children and pregnant women.

Quality of Life Impact

Red ash presence may stigmatise the neighbourhood, potentially affecting property values and resale opportunities.

Property Value Impact

Houses with red ash may take longer to sell and may require price reductions due to buyer hesitancy. Lenders may have stricter requirements, potentially affecting mortgage availability, and insurance may be more costly or challenging to obtain.

Evaluating the Structural Integrity of a House with Red Ash

In addition to health and environmental concerns, it's crucial to assess the structural integrity of a house with red ash. Over time, red ash can deteriorate and affect the stability of the building. It's recommended to hire a qualified structural engineer to inspect the property and evaluate any potential risks associated with the red ash.

The structural engineer will assess the condition of the red ash, identify any signs of deterioration or damage, and provide recommendations on necessary repairs or remediation. This evaluation is essential to ensure the safety and longevity of the property, as well as to avoid costly repairs in the future.

Steps to Take Before Purchasing a House with Red Ash

Before finalising the purchase of a house with red ash, there are several steps you should take to ensure you're making an informed decision:

Research the area

Understand the history of the area and any known issues related to red ash. Look for information on previous contamination incidents or remediation efforts.

Conduct thorough inspections

Hire professionals to conduct comprehensive inspections of the property, including structural assessments, air quality tests, and water quality tests. This will help identify any potential risks and provide a clear understanding of the property's condition.

Consult with experts

Seek advice from experts familiar with red ash and its potential risks. Environmental consultants, structural engineers, and housing professionals with experience in dealing with red ash can provide valuable insights and guidance.

Review legal documents

Carefully review all legal documents, including property disclosures and environmental reports. Pay close attention to any references to red ash or potential contamination issues. If necessary, consult with a solicitor to ensure you fully understand the legal implications.

Repairing Red Ash And The Costs

If you've bought or are considering a house with red ash, it's vital to explore remediation options. These methods involve safely removing, treating, or containing red ash to reduce associated risks. Options include excavation, encapsulation, or stabilisation techniques.

The expense of red ash remediation varies significantly, depending on property size, contamination extent, and chosen method. Costs can range from £5,000 to £10,000. To ensure an accurate estimate, seek quotes from reputable contractors experienced in red ash remediation.

How Do You Remove Red Ash From Floor?

Removing red ash from a floor is a complex and potentially hazardous task. To ensure safety, hire a professional experienced in hazardous material removal. They'll use proper personal protective equipment (PPE) such as goggles, gloves, and masks. Just like with Asbestos, proper disposal following local regulations for hazardous materials is crucial.

Final Thoughts on Buying a House with Red Ash

Buying a house with red ash in the UK requires careful consideration of the potential risks, legal obligations, and remediation options. While it may not be a deal-breaker for some, it's crucial to thoroughly assess the condition of the property, consult with experts, and weigh the potential health and environmental implications.

While red ash may present challenges, it's important to note that with proper precautions and remediation measures, houses with red ash can be made safe and habitable.


Stuart is an expert in Property, Money, Banking & Finance, having worked in retail and investment banking for 10+ years before founding Sunny Avenue. Stuart has spent his career studying finance. He holds qualifications in financial studies, mortgage advice & practice, banking operations, dealing & financial markets, derivatives, securities & investments.

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