‘Dampness only occurs in older properties, right?’
Wrong. Essentially the types of dampness that we can expect in a property can be categorised as follows:-
- Structural dampness: Where the damp proofing detailing fails to fulfil its’ design function. This is more likely in an older property due to general wear and tear.
- Environmental dampness: Where the lifestyle of the occupants of a property creates moisture vapour that, if an imbalance in the way that the property is heated and ventilated occurs, can lead to the development of mould and condensation. This can arise in any property irrespective of its age.
- An escape of water: This may be from the fixed water apparatus or domestic appliance and, again, can occur in any property regardless of its age.
It should also be considered that, since the vast increase in homes with full fill, retrofit, cavity wall insulation and the very wet and windy Winter of 2013/2014, there have been many occasions where the insulation has failed to prevent wind driven rain from crossing the cavity by capillary action and/or ‘bridges’ caused by dirty wall ties or builder’s debris within the cavities.
Cavity trays, or lack of, can also be problematic and we have the required skills to identify defects relative to the same; it is important to understand that a ‘typical’ damp proofing contractor does not get involved in such issues.
A high percentage of remedial services contractors tend to be interested only when there is an opportunity to quote for remedial works. IDDIS surveys consider each of the foregoing and provide a more holistic approach than one may expect from a contractor.
The list goes on….
- Like for like reports.
For people, who don’t understand the way in which a property is constructed, dampness in buildings can seem to be a major problem and because the damp proofing industry is notorious for having more bad than good contractors it is difficult to know who to trust.
It is rarely the case that, in an effort to obtain competitive quotations for remedial treatments, you will be comparing like for like; this is often because one Company may not have all of the skills required to provide you with a fully comprehensive schedule of works; it may also be that one Surveyor is vastly more experienced than another, therefore he / she finds more problems that another Surveyor may be aware of however quotes for less work than is necessary with the intention of getting his ‘foot in the door’ then, as the initial works proceed, inform you of the need for extra works!
Of course it may also be the case that the second Surveyor didn’t do a very good job, when undertaking the Survey and, if his recommendations are followed, it is likely that the applied solution will fail.
- Electronic ‘Damp meters’
An experienced Surveyor will often use an electronic device when assessing a damp issue however it should be understood that such devices are not diagnostic tools but are often used as such; it is all about the interpretation! Such devices do not have eyes, or a nose nor do they know what they are touching therefore, put into context, it is the Surveyor who provides the diagnosis based upon much more information than a damp meter can provide. It is often easier for us to believe that a high reading on a damp meter must be due to a case of rising dampness, because we are relieved by the knowledge that we can apply a solution to the problem. However I have inspected numerous properties where a new damp proof course has been installed, (on the worst case 4 times on the same property), and guess what, the same problem re-occurs due to the fact that the initial surveys misdiagnosed the problem.
- Sub floor dampness.
In quite a large proportion of the areas in which I work I am looking at properties built on hillsides and sloping terrain; properties from the 1930’s, and earlier, are likely to have suspended timber floor structures and the sub base, (oversite), is often earthen; not only does this radiate damp, ‘earthy’, odours but also can be the main source of moisture that is absorbed by floor timbers and enables the germination of fungal decay and certain woodboring beetle species. The survey inspection would not be complete without attempting to undertake a sub floor inspection, with an exception being that I will only do so if I am confident that I can successfully lift and re-lay floorcoverings without causing damage.
- Leakage from central heating pipework encased within floor screed.
On some occasions wallplaster and floor screed may display evidence of damp staining that, progressively, worsens and one automatically considers the worst case scenario of a failed damp proof membrane / damp proof course. My service will include site attendance and thermal imaging of the subject area to establish the precise cause of the problem. This may need to include minor exposure works and, in the event of establishing leakage from the fixed water apparatus, my report should satisfy your Home Buildings Insurance provider with sufficient information to validate a claim for an escape of water and my fee will usually be reimbursed, subject to deduction of the policy excess.
6. ‘But contractors will do a ‘free’ survey’. (Cautionary tale).
Many damp and timber treatment service providers will undertake a free inspection however it is rare, these days, to find a contractor who will actually be prepared to spend between 2-3 hours on site in order to provide an accurate assessment of a property’s condition.
I have recently witnessed a case where a first time purchaser had completed the purchase and moved into a property, based upon the information provided within a ‘specialist damp report’, at the behest of the Estate Agent dealing with the sale. Within two weeks of occupancy this person witnessed the conditions to be far worse than reported and requested an independent inspection. Having conducted a further inspection I advised him that there were far greater issues than he had been led to believe and I suggested that, in a pre-purchase situation, the report provided by the contractor was legally binding. Having read the small print, attached to the report that he had been furnished with, the terms and conditions quite clearly stated that the contractor could not be held responsible for errors and omissions!
The Client was then faced with expenditure in the region of 100% more than he had budgeted for and, if he had had an independent inspection undertaken, it is likely that he would have been better informed and in a position to renegotiate the price of the property.
In my opinion the subject of dampness is non exhaustive and certainly too much to cover here however it is important that you can discern the knowledge and experience at your disposal.
I believe that my fees are fair and these are based upon your specific requirements which will be discussed prior to taking your instructions.
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