The History of Cornish Units and Renovation Possibilities

non-traditional home with metrotile roofing

The History of Cornish Units and Renovation Possibilities

Cornish Units have become an iconic addition to British neighbourhoods, symbolic of the regeneration effort after the Second World War. 50 years on they have far surpassed their original brief and now people are looking for new ways to extend the lifespan of these much loved homes.


The History of Prefabricated Homes in UK

During the devastation of the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of homes were brought to the ground leaving many families with nowhere to live. In a bid to combat the crisis, the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944 was passed to provide a quick solution. They planned to build a total of 300,000 houses to combat the shortfall, but in the end the figure was more like 150,000. The houses were initially only expected to last for 10 years but many of the homes still stand today, often owned by local authorities and housing associations.

The Cornish Unit

One of the most instantly recognisable prefabs is the Cornish unit with its distinctive mansard hipped roof. They were made by the Central Cornwall Concrete & Artificial Stone Co. and were available as bungalows, two-storey semi-detached and terraced houses. They proved to be very popular and 30,000 houses were built as part of the post-war effort.

They were made using PRC cladding (precast reinforced concrete) over a concrete frame for the first floor, with the second story utilising a mansard roof with near vertically clad tiles over timber trusses leading to a less steep upper pitch. The windows protrude through the tiles to create an instantly recognisable style.


Updating a Cornish Unit

Despite their humble beginnings as a temporary solution to the housing crisis, Cornish units can still be seen across the UK today. Many people have chosen to renovate the buildings rather than demolish them, building a second skin of brick around the outside to create an insulated cavity wall. The roofs have also been updated to more modern solutions, to improve the energy efficiency and durability of the homes.

Metrotile Lightweight Steel Roofing

Metrotile lightweight roof tiles are an ideal roofing material for Cornish Units, combatting many of their previous structural issues. They have been used in numerous renovation projects by Local Authorities and Housing Associations, such as Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, Wakefield and District Housing Association, Tai Calon Community Housing and Tarka Housing. John Lewis, the Senior Technical Officer for Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said:

“I would be more than happy to talk to any other Local Authority or Housing Association to highly recommend this system.”

Metrotile roofing is up to seven times lighter than traditional roofing materials so it dramatically reduces the strain on the supporting structure of Cornish Units, yet still providing increased security. The Alozinc coated steel tiles are installed using Metrotile Secure one-way screw fittings, which makes them nearly impossible to remove by hand. This vandal resistance has been a huge benefit to the local authorities we have worked with, giving their residents extra peace of mind.

Insulation and Weather Resistance

Residents noticed an immediate reduction to their energy bills following the installation of their Metrotile roof due to the increased insulation. The Metrotile roofing system is also highly weather resistant and has been rigorously tested against the most extreme weather conditions. We have obtained certificates that prove its resistance to rain and even cyclones, which is why we can confidently provide a 40-year weatherproof guarantee. It is also virtually maintenance free, which makes it an ideal choice for housing associations as well as individual homeowners.


Traditional Aesthetic

Another advantage of Metrotile is its traditional aesthetic, designed to emulate roman tilesshingle, slate, and traditional pantile, so the iconic look of Cornish Units can be preserved. Metrotile roofing can be installed from vertical to as low as 10 degrees, which makes it an excellent solution for vertical cladding and the mansard roofs of Cornish Units. The superior weather resistance is still maintained even when vertical due to the unique design providing a ‘hidden fix’. This means that no nail or screw is exposed which prevents corrosion from rainwater, a frequent problem seen with more traditional materials.

You can take a look at our website for more information on Metrotile steel roofing, or simply give us a call on +44 (0)1249 658514 to discuss your requirements.