Sole Plates – What You Should Know

Anyone buying a historic or even a new timber framed building should be aware of what and where the sole plate is as well as why it is important. This critical part of the the house structure can suffer over time and lead to some very expensive issues with historic buildings.

Sole Plate

The sole plate is essentially the first part of any timber framed building to be installed. All of the other structural timbers and stud work are then build on top of the sole plate. As such it is obvious right away that this is a very important part of the building. It forms the basis for the whole structure and if it is compromised in any way so is the building itself.

Sole Plate Rot and Moisture

The most common issue with a sole plate is rot. As it is timber it is susceptible to moisture and rot just like any other part of the building. The main causes of rot are often where the building has been altered and modernised without proper care given to this old and important part of the structure. In many cases concrete and other materials are used around the base of a building either to sure up the structure or as part of an extension. This has the effect of sealing in the sole plate and allowing moisture to build up. In many cases the moisture that would normally evaporate is kept in contact with the wood or forced down into the plate and the rot begins.

Other Causes

Some of the other causes of sole plate rot include:

  • Incorrect insulation installed that stop the areas breathing
  • Bitumen based felt being added over the frame
  • Lack of damp course under the sole plate
  • Badly maintain external surfaces

Resulting Issues

The serious problems begin when the sole plate has in fact rotted so badly that it can no longer take a load bearing role. What is left is a house relying on wall material like lime or other rendering materials to actually take the load bearing role. This is a very dangerous situation and one that is all to common. Of course, this is an extreme example. More often the situation involves only a partly rotted sole plate or certain areas where it is suffering. But the result is essentially the same just on a more localised level; parts of the structure are taking loads they were not designed to.

Repairing The Sole Plate

There are a number of companies that are able to repair and replace sole plates but it is not something to be taken on lightly and there is obviously a cost involved. This cost is something any potential buyer should know about before purchasing a historic building.

Buying a Timber Framed Building

It is absolutely critical that anyone buying or looking to buy a listed timber frames historic building should get a full building survey by a specialist. There are a huge number of factors an expert surveyor would look at and the condition of the sole plate is certainly up there with the most important. We are experts in listed buildings and specifically timber framed buildings and as such offer a highly detailed surveying service to make sure any purchase of properties with sole plates are informed ones.

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