Damp survey London: Findings from a recent damp survey in London.
Recently we received a phone call from a concerned gentleman who was buying a Victorian Terrace in London. They had commissioned an RICS Building Survey a few weeks earlier who had identified rising damp in all external walls in the property and recommended a damp and timber survey be undertaken by a specialist damp proofing company. The damp specialist had clarified the building surveyors’ findings, rising damp as far as the eye can see. The cure for our client was a measly £15k to basically apply Sika tanking render to all internal walls and drill a chemical damp proof course into the London Stock brick. Luckily, this gentleman was friends with a previous client of ours who suggested he call us to get a second opinion.
After a long chat about some of the issues relating to damp proofing traditional buildings and how old buildings should breathe, we were asked to carry out an independent survey of the property to establish the root cause of the damp issues and provide a suitable solution.
We inspected the property in London and were greeted by the homeowner. One of the things we do is talk with the current owners about the property. What changes and works have they completed, how long have they been in the property and who lives there. These are all important questions to help us build a picture. We often find homeowners are equally as frustrated as our clients about the delays and confusion these “damp surveys” reveal. We first assess the building holistically. We are often told that our damp surveys are often more in depth than the RICS buildings or home survey they had received from the previous firm of surveyors. We use a variety of equipment to establish whether there is damp in the property.
We took hygrometer readings internally comparing humidity levels with the external. External levels were around 60%, the Internal humidity was over 80% which confirmed there may be condensation issues. From our earlier discussions with the owner, the three bed Victorian terrace had 7 people living in the property meaning there was high occupancy and overcrowding. We examined the amount and type of ventilation in the property. This too was found to be inadequate and although extractors were fitted, they were manually operated, and furthermore, the bathroom extract was expelling straight into the loft space.
From our simple assessment we could establish that the property is poorly ventilated which was leading to condensation issues.
The solution to this issue would not require 15k of damp proofing works but simply upgrading the extractors in the property to humidity-controlled units was a far cheaper and simpler way forward.
There were other common issues we noted which were highlighted in our report such as high ground levels, poorly insulated, external cement pointing which were all advised to our client and given costs, recommended suppliers, and a five-year plan maintenance plan to improve the property holistically. No chemicals. No tanking and no pointless drilling into the walls.
Our mantra is one from William Morris, do as little as is necessary. The moral of the story is to establish and address the root cause of the problem not just addressing the symptoms. Covering up will always fail and cause long term damage.
Smith Heritage Surveyors undertake damp surveys in London, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and surrounding counties. We are regulated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) as well as the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA). All our surveys are conducted in accordance with the Guidelines contained within BS 7913: 2013 – Guide to the Conservation of Historic Buildings. As a company, we use our experience and expertise, along with a range of non-intrusive inspection techniques, including thermo-hygrometers and thermal imaging cameras. These are appropriate for traditional and listed buildings.
We work with home owners and house buyers to help them understand their homes. Old buildings have stood the test of time and will continue to do so if maintained correctly.