Without a doubt, damp is one of the most damaging things that causes progressive damage and destruction to many things, including our homes and possessions.
Even the smallest area of damp, if ignored, can eventually lead to considerable, hidden timber decay problems, especially in poorly ventilated floor spaces, which are ideal conditions for the very destructive dry-rot fungus to germinate and grow. No matter if you house is an timber frame self build or a stone cottage, all home can be effected.
What most people fail to realise is, this is nature’s way of ‘tidying up’. When wood gets wet, whether it be a dead tree in the forest or flooring timbers in your house, fungal spores and wood-boring insects will find and attack it, breaking it down and digesting it. In fact, if this didn’t happen, we wouldn’t be on this planet, however, what we need to do is to ensure we protect our property by keeping it dry and let nature concentrate on its job to the forest.
The initial appearance of a property is deceiving because many old, unmodernised buildings we have surveyed, may not look good but are in very good condition, simply because they have always been externally maintained and kept dry internally. Because a property has been modernised and looks very nice inside, it doesn’t mean it is free from damp or decay, which becomes evident as it gets progressively worse.
You can’t build a property without proper foundations, and you shouldn’t modernise one without first dealing with any damp and timber decay issues.
Once these have been professionally dealt with by a damp and timber expert, it will remain safe and dry for many years to come, providing it is kept dry.
For many people, the benefits of having a dry home are obvious, but for most, the consequences of having a damp home are not. The extent of a damp problem can vary from a small patch on a ceiling or wall, caused by a missing roof tile, to a saturated basement, cellar or ground floor walls, caused by penetrating and rising damp from the ground. All damp creates ideal conditions for timber decay and damage, so it needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
When organising a damp or timber survey, it is very important to choose the right company, who will diagnose the exact cause of any problems and recommend the correct remedial measures required to eradicate them. Spend some time checking reviews, see how long they have been established, make sure their surveyors are qualified and ensure they are members of the Property Care Association (PCA).
Without an accurate diagnosis of the cause of damp, the correct methods to eradicate it can’t be applied. Far too many unqualified ‘specialist’ companies recommend injecting a damp proof course when it isn’t needed because the problem is not rising-damp, it’s from another cause. If you have received two or three conflicting reports, all recommending something different, it may be worth considering, instructing a Property Care Association ‘independent damp and timber surveyor’ to inspect your property. They do not carry out any remedial work or recommend specific companies; they are truly independent.
Causes of damp that can affect your property are:
Condensation as a result of high humidity, often introduced by the life style of the occupants. Rain penetration often caused by leaking rain-water goods, leaking roofs, defective external rendering or joinery.
Leaking plumbing and appliances such as concealed pipes, radiators, showers, washing machines and dishwashers.
Rising-damp as a result of damp transmitting up the connecting pores of the wall and masonry by capillary action. This occurs when the existing damp proof course has broken down or is being bridged by higher external ground levels or adjoining solid (concrete) floors
Lateral damp penetration to walls of basements, cellars or vaults that are constructed below ground level. Damp is forced through the walls under hydrostatic pressure and often also rises above the ground level.
What you can do to prevent damp?
Condensation is the most common cause of damp properties in the UK. It is often caused by the lifestyle of the occupants who create moisture and don’t extract it. In most cases, it can be controlled by keeping the internal temperature constantly warm and the rooms adequately ventilated, especially after taking a shower or bath or cooking.
Rain penetration can be prevented by making regular checks and keeping the property well maintained. Pay special attention following high winds and storms and don’t ignore the warning signs that tell you there’s a problem.
Leaking plumbing can occur to any property of any age. As soon as you notice a sudden stain or puddle of water on your floor, immediately investigate the cause and get it repaired.
Rising Damp is quite common but not as much as most people think. Often if there is rising damp, it is being caused by the existing damp proof course being bridged, which can often be rectified by lowering the high ground level or flower bed that is causing the problem. Also, the damp proof course in cavity walls can be bridged by rubble in the cavity that occurred during construction. This can often be removed, immediately solving the problem.
There is an ongoing myth with some people about whether rising damp exists or not, but we know it does. Building practices in Victorian times and before often lacked thorough damp proofing methods, especially on interior partition walls, party walls and concrete floors, where often there is nothing. Also, the slate was often used as a damp-proof course on the external walls, which over the year’s cracks and degrades. With modern methods, it is not difficult to prevent further damp rising as long as is carried out professionally, but often this isn’t enough because when damp rises from the ground, it carries with it hygroscopic salts. These deposit in the walls and internal wall plaster and attract moisture from the atmosphere, preventing the walls from drying out. It is, therefore, necessary to remove the contaminated plaster and replace it with a damp-proof plastering system.
Lateral damp penetration occurs to rooms or storage areas that a built below the ground. If they are not to be used for habitation they should be kept ventilated and inspected on a regular basis. If they are to be used, thorough and considerable damp-proofing will be required either by tanking with slurry coats of a cementitious structural waterproofing system or installing a high-density Polyethylene studded membrane system. Either of these should only ever be carried out by a specialist damp proofing company.