Don’t be a drip! Watch out for dodgy damp advice

by , Acting Deputy Home Editor Energy & Home 13 December 2011
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Damp companies that offer ‘free surveys’ may seem appealing, but our latest undercover investigation found several companies recommending unnecessary treatment that could cost hundreds of pounds.

Damp wall

Everyone loves a freebie, but if you’re tempted by the ‘free surveys’ on offer from damp-proofing companies, you may end up spending more than you need.

In our snapshot damp investigation, we invited damp-proofing companies to carry out an assessment of our properties’ damp problems. In two thirds of cases they recommended unnecessary or inappropriate treatment, or missed the problem completely. But does that mean you have to pay to get good advice?

All we needed was a plumber

In one case, our property had a leaky toilet – and any damp specialist should have instructed us to get this fixed before the room could even be assessed for other potential damp problems.

There was no evidence here of rising damp, and yet four of the eleven companies told us that we needed to install a chemical damp-proofing course in the walls and re-plaster the room – at a cost of up to £1,440!

That’s not to say all the companies were bad. We did see some good practice, with just over half of the companies that visited this property giving us helpful advice.

How to get good damp advice

Deciding whether to take your chances with a free survey, or shell out hard cash for independent advice is a toughie. Even though I’ve seen these results first-hand I know I’d be tempted to try my luck with the free option first – although I’d make sure to get at least three companies to come round and quote for the work.

Then, if there were inconsistencies in the work recommended or I had any inkling that the work might be unnecessary, I’d definitely consider getting an independent damp specialist round.

If you think you might need to call on a damp company, check our damp advice guide first for info on the different types of damp that can affect your home (if it’s just suffering from condensation you won’t need a specialist).

[This Conversation has been closed and is not open for commenting.]

1333 comments

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timbertechservices

When I did my ‘surveyor’ training in the early 1980′s I worked for a BWPDA company who were the biggest shower of bandits on the planet. The modus operandi was to inject anything that didn’t move, stud walls flint walls, you name it, and to spray anything that didn’t fight back. Everyone was on commission and anyone that failed to achieve their monthly sales targets were heavily disciplined and threatened with the sack. (Not much has changed has it?) One thing that was interesting was the fact that we we not allowed to call ourselves ‘surveyors’, we had to call ourselves ‘Timber and Damp Inspectors’ and sign our reports with this after our names. We were told that the BWPDA insisted that we must under no circumstances refer to ourselves as ‘surveyors’. We were told then that a surveyor was somebody that had studied for years and had obtained professional qualifications. I suppose they were right about something. I’d be interested to know if this really was a BWPDA directive at that time. Perhaps David Prince remembers and could shed some light on this. Perhaps it might now be a good idea if this directive was reinstated.

 
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Pete Ward

Richard (London Conservation)
Why dont you post more details of this case – I am sure that David Prince would be very happy to take the case to his organisation and have the ‘surveyor’ brought to task. It would be interesting to see what action his ruling / governing body – the PCA – would take, when the details were presented.

 

Pete,

Richard didn’t state that the company involved was a member of the PCA so I don’t know if this is the case or not. Perhaps you know something that I don’t. In any event, the PCA do take any customer complaints very seriously but this is really a matter for the parties involved rather than you or I.

David

 
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Pete Ward

David – fair comment – I’ll see if I can find out – or maybe Richard can comment – not my call to do so.. However – it does highlight yet again that there is dreadful misdiagnosis going on all the time -this industry needs cleaning up ….

 
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amac

Hi there,

I posted above about my situation with a damp patch on an outside (cavity) wall that has been diagnosed as rising damp by a surveyor (am I supposed to put ‘surveyor?!) from a damp company who have quoted me for the work. The survey was free and they posted me a detailed quote with diagram etc. Anyway, all the details are in my previous posts but after the responses I have had I don’t know what to do now.

I’m 99% sure it’s not condensation, for above reasons.
The symptoms tie in very much with those of ‘rising damp’
I agree that there could be a problem in the cavity caused by the cavity wall insulation which has been added at some point (house was built in approx early 1930s) but I don’t know how invasive the diagnosis would be and I don’t know how to find someone to trust to have a look.
I also have a limited budget so I can’t afford hundreds of pounds for a survey and hundreds of pounds for the treatment. I do, however, need a guarantee on the work as we are trying to sell the house. (I would much rather it was rising damp then it would hopefully cost around £200-£300 for the dpc and around £100-£200 for the plastering.)

I really do appreciate any thoughts on how I should proceed.

 

Hi Amac,

It really is vital that the damp problem is diagnosed correctly otherwise the treatment will be incorrect and guarantee or not you will still have a damp problem. It is unlikely that the dampness is attributable to rising damp but not impossible. It would be worth removing the skirting board to check the plaster hasn’t been taken down to the floor thereby bridging the damp proof course. How far up the wall is the damp visible?

David

 
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London Conservation

David , Amac,

In response to the last two posts;

There are many schools of thought out there who question whether Rising damp actually occurs at all. If rising damp does not exist are all products sold to “cure” it going to work ? I have listed a number of sources from people far more intelligent than me explaining why it is not as prevalent as it may seem (If rising damp exists at all) .

In reference to basement waterproofing – in my opinion providing waterproofing which tries to resist the constant back pressure of moisture will ALWAYS fail, and at best will offer a temporary solution to damp. The only real way to remove damp is remove moisture source, or channel moisture away from walls using cavity drain systems or drainage – google them.

a few WELL respected sources of rising damp research below;

Mike Parrett – tested hundreds of houses diagnosed with rising damp in the 80′s and did not find a single example – there was a video about it, its probably on youtube called something like “rising damp – no such thing”. Mike is a horrendously over qualified building scientist ……EDIT found the vuideo is called ” Renovation Rising Damp ? No such thing”

BRE (Building research establishment) – Publish updated guidance notes on “rising damp” in their BRE digest. They make continued reference to PROPERLY determining rising damp by taking moisture tests from carbide tests / lab tests etc etc.

Jeff Howell – Southbank university – left bricks in water for 3 years and couldnt replicate rising damp under lab conditions

English Heritage – ” Surveying your Property ” makes mention of rising damp and condems injected and non water permable renders etc.

Tim Hutton – Building conservation – Rising damp – a very good overview of what rising damp is and how it is so commonly misdiagnosed.

All of the above available on the web ! Read up.

Richard

 

Hi Richard,

I agree that rising damp is often misdiagnosed but it is a reflection on those companies involved not the industry as a whole.

There are many respected people and organisations that question the extent and very existence of rising damp. Equally, there are many respected people and organisations who disagree. For example, The Building Regulations require damp proof course to be installed in new houses and extensions (the only purpose of a damp proof course is to control rising damp), British Standards Institution (they have a code of practice for installing chemical damp proof courses BS6576:2005), Building Research Establishment (they have published a number of digests on rising damp) and Portsmouth University who researched the subject trying to answer the question once and for all.

I personally agree with your comments regarding cavity drain waterproofing systems. I have been installing these systems for over 15 years.

David

 
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amac

David,

Thanks very much for your advice. From my inexperienced position, it seems like whether or not rising damp exists, it is unlikely in a cavity wall..? The small area of damp that is visible (a couple of very small patches of bubbling paint and one raised, sort of swollen patch about the size of the palm of your hand) is around a foot above the skirting and there is no staining or mould. I can try and get the skirting off but it is the original skirting with a sloping edge on top so the years of painting over mean that will be difficult and messy! The outside wall has been repainted at some point and the paint has been flaking off in places. We have had cracked areas re-rendered in patches by a local builder who tapped the wall and fixed the hollow bits. I think the original repainting wasn’t done very well and water may be getting in some cracks and this also makes me think that the insulation was probably done on the cheap as well so who knows what’s in the cavity.

What kind of company/organisation should I be looking for to help diagnose this?

 
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Pete Ward

It’s interesting that other countries, including Holland – who build houses with their feet in water, do NOT use damp courses. The Dutch have now concluded that damp courses actually introduce a weak point in houses that allows them to rotate, and will not use them. They focus instead on the golden rule – BREATHABILITY.

 
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Heritageanddesign

And another thing….. I had lunch with two friend the other day, one who moved from her basement flat 2 years ago and one who is trying to sell a ground floor flat. Both had ‘damp proofing’ works done by a ‘specialist’ (they couldn’t tell me if they were PCA members), both of which failed, however they were BOTH told that in 20 years of treatments, their company had had NO failures! Can you guess what’s coming next? It turned out to be the SAME company and the SAME salesman – maybe he just has a problem with is short-term memory.

Patrick, could I ask why some of my previous posts have yet to appear? They are all factual and polite like you asked.

John

 

Hello Heritageanddesign, unfortunately we have had to temporarily take down some comments. We hope to get them back up soon. Please be patient with us :) Just to note, I am very happy with the way you have made latter comments.

 
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timbertechservices

Hello Patrick,
In response to your remarks to Heritage and Design I’m intrigued to know what you mean when you say you’ve had to take down some comments and hope to get that back soon? They all seem to be running out of order now. I notice some of my comments and observations now have ‘waiting for approval’ across them. Why is this? I certainly hope that it is considered in some way that they don’t adhere to the terms and conditions of the Which? site. Which?, and particularly this very valuable forum is designed to provide helpful information to the consumer. As everyone knows the damp proofing industry is a minefield populated by all sorts of good and bad operators. I spend most of my time attempting to provide good honest advice to people and where I can protect them from the unscrupulous sharks in the industry. I meet people every week that are trying to buy a house and borrow even more money at the last minute to have unnecessary and inappropriate treatments carried out which is I am sure you will agree is utterly despicable. These ‘sharks’ come from every direction, not just from one organisation. Much needs to be done to clean up this industry and David Prince has agreed with me on this. People like myself and others who have pride in our experience, expertise,and reputations, will, and should, continue to provide valuable insights into the industry that will hopefully limit the degree of cruel and callous exploitation the consumer is exposed to. As a consumer organisation I’m sure you would endorse this.

 

The matter has escalated slightly. Only some of the comments that have been temporarily been taken down will require attention, however we have to take down all replies to those comments also as that’s the way the system works. I’ve even had to take down some of my own comments! I can understand the frustration – we hope to get them up again ASAP. Thank you for your patience.

 
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tomg

For what its worth, I think it is correct that some of the comments are being “moderated”. Recently some of the valid comments have started to become more heartfelt, have started to shed more heat than light, and have verged towards being ad-hominem attacks.

That’s a shame, since the core points behind the comments have validity and deserve to be made – not to be obscured by the way they are expressed.

My own views?
– David Prince has done a respectable job on this forum.

– If the PCA don’t make it clear that their member’s surveyors don’t have surveying qualifications (as would reasonably be understood by the man on the Clapham omnibus), that should be deprecated and censured. To my jaundiced eyes, most trade organisations do little more than weed out traders that can’t be bothered to join and pay the fees. It is always useful to ask any trade organisation to provide examples where they disciplined or expelled members.

– Does anyone really believe that a company representative would not be inclined to sell that company’s products? “If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail”.

 
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Pete Ward

Its a pity we can’t upload files here – you could see some thermal imaging of so called rising damp – in fact quite a few examples – which are very obviously due to condensation.

It s not up to PCA or anyone else to dictate qualifications to be fair – legislation should sort that – but it IS hard to sort out people who CLAIM qualifications when they are not. The main gripe on this forum is the definition of qualification. What constitutes qualification, what defines qualification? In my opinion 2 day training courses are not. Surveyors do degrees – they study for years… You can’t call yourself a surveyor unless you are..

A degree is the level of qualification needed to take apart an old house and work out what remedial action, if any, is needed to put it right again.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

 
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wavechange

Pete – Which? Conversation provides an opportunity to present their own views. Provided that they are genuine opinions, that’s fine and no expertise is necessary. In many Conversations, people are often given advice and it’s up to them whether they choose to use it.

I have been keeping an eye on this topic partly because I’m interested in use of the Internet to support self-help. I am no expert but I think that advice given on how to deal with condensation problems is helpful. What also interests me is that this Conversation has been used as a forum to provide timely answers to questions. I cannot think of any other Conversation where we have had a group of experts, which is great but I fear that we could head for more conflict and confuse people who deserve help.

If you upload your video to YouTube or a similar service you could simply post the link.

 
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Pete Ward

Hi Wavechange – I’ve avoided doing that, mainly because the mods seem to delete any links – I dont want to appear to be going against the terms of the forum, so havent – its kindof why I only mentioned it, as opposed to putting them up. You’re absolutely right though – there’s plenty of vids on u tube already – my last comment has already been suspended and edited for apparently breaking the forum guidelines – I think basically all we are allowed to say is hello and goodbye – anything else would upset the chimical industry…

 
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Pete Ward

Sorry – I meant to say the Property Care Association as opposed to the Chemical Industry , both of which are the same anyway… Patrick – before you delete this – would you care to respond to my very reasonable private messages regarding corruption in the damp industry please. Many thanks!

 

Hello Pete, I have responded to your email. Please can I make it clear that we are happy for you to post measured criticisms, but any sweeping statements about companies are not allowed.

 
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timbertechservices

In reply to tomg.
I for one will never cower to any trade organisation that misleads the public and fails to regulate it’s members activities. As many people recognize there a big difference between a trade organisation which is basically in the business for profit and an academic institute which has very strict disciplines and codes of conduct that it actually enforces with heavy fines and ultimately expulsion. If I continually misdiagnosed problems, I would receive serious warnings, heavy fines and would expect to be struck off. I hope my contributions to this forum will have given people a idea of what to be wary of when seeking help for a damp problem. I don’t make money from my posts, I am certainly not trying to advertise for further work I always have more than I can cope with. My feelings of outrage and moral indignation stem from seeing so many people being systematically conned and ripped off. I will continue, as will others with a moral conscience to do what I can to curtail the activities of anyone or any organisation that purports to safeguard the consumers interests but is in effect completely hypocritical. Which? is a consumer organisation established to protect the public. I would expect them to wholly support me in my efforts to protect consumers. I also agree that offensive and abusive personal comments on this site are totally unacceptable. In any expose of rogue salesmen one should stick rigidly to the facts.

 
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Kevin B

David,

I have just purchased a terraced property built between 1890 and 1910. It has previously had DPC work done as evidenced by the ground floor having been replastered to about 1m from floor level. That replastering is very poor with the join not being feathered to the existing plaster and having a step ridge of about 1 – 2mm that was concealed by the now removed woodchip wallpaper – I was quite shocked by the apparent poor workmanship here.
The problem I have seems to be in two areas:-
1) The hallway seems to have been replastered several times as, having removed the radiator mounted on the hallway party wall, there are several layers of repair. However this area still looks and feels damp and where some of the area immediately behind the radiator has not been replastered one of the visible bricks is friable, damp to the touch and constantly sheeding its crumbly face. I also note that the skirting board is a short taper skirting. My thoughts here are either poor DPC treatment or that the replastering has bridges the injected DPC.
2) There is an area where I suspect the floor joists are rotted away in the lounge as the floor moves 2 – 3 inches if you jump up and down on it. This is an area where the floor joins the internal dividing wall between the lounge and dining room and is a considerable distance from the above problem. From looking in another area of the ground floor the airspace between the joinst and earth below is only about 9 – 12 inches. I suspect damp in the walls has rotted the timber ends. The air bricks look to be unblocked. I gues the timbers could have been degrading before the DPC work was done and the DPC injection could have been above these timbers.

From all the reading I have done I think it may be difficult for you to offer advise remotely but would appreciate your comments even it is to recommend that I commit to a paid for, rather than free, survey though to keep the costs reasonable I can remove floorboards for better inspection before the surveyor attends. My particular concern is the apparent poor quality of previous work and the fact that there seems to be ongoing issues at several points in the house.

Thank you,

Kevin

 
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Kevin B

NOTE: There is a definitive “tide mark” in the replastered hallway about 20 inches up the wall.

 
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Kevin B

Anyone help with my problem?

Not wishing to be rude but I came here for advice but like so many forums the greater interest ends up slagging the Associations or those offering advice.

As a novice to damp I have done lots or reading and read this whole discussion and it seems most (all?) of the debate points have already been stated – most in the initial investigation by Which?

 

Hi Kevin,

Sorry I couldn’t answer your question sooner.

The bounce in the floor is likely to be caused by wet rot so this suggests the timbers are in contact with damp material, possibly damp brickwork. The sleeper walls and wall plates may also require attention. Further investigation is necessary and this will require lifting floorboards. If you do go down the route of paying for a survey (you have read the comments so you know the arguments for and against) then lifting the floorboards yourself should reduce the survey cost but you need to discuss this with your chosen surveyor. The surveyor will also be able to advise you regarding the dampness in the walls. It sounds like the re-plastering work carried out is not to the correct specification so that is one likely problem. Once a survey has been completed could you let us know the outcome?

David

 
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Kevin B

David,

With all learnt from this page and others on the web I purchased a cheap damp (resistance) meter. With regards damp in the hallway I note that the readings increase around the radiator. the readings profile is:-
6″ from the floor 4ft either side of the radiator about 20% rising to 38% at the radiator.
As I take readings higer up the wall the 20% reduce to about 15% at 2ft and remain there.
The 38% reduces to about 23-24%
I don’t know if it is strange or a normal factor due to material resistance but when reading above the priviously replastered (pink plaster) area and taking readings on the old lime plaster the reading is a step change and zero. I also note that readings in other rooms about 6″ above the floor on the pink plaster show 18 – 20% without signs of damp or fluctuation so is this a “normal” reading for pink plaster?
While I am inclined to think leaking radiator pipes it is a combination boiler so the heating system is pressurised and I haven’t seen any drop in pressure. Ah well floor lifted and further investigation I suppose – and that is an expensive laminate floor laid by the previous owner!
NOTE: the previous replaster and damp proof work is at least 5 years old.

With regards the lounge I have learnt that the adjoining neighbour had his wood suspended floor replaced with solid concrete about 4 years ago and also suffers damp in a few places. He also had DPC injected and requested remedial works after the damop reappeared but due to central heating pipes having been cut into the wall the installers have refused any free remidial work. This could get interesting and I also know that my joists are only about 6 – 9 inches above ground level.
Yes, floor boards up and investigation here. My first experience or renovating an old house and it is a step but interesting learning curve.

Finally, I also note that the whole house has been concrete rendered (within the last 5 years I would guess) – possibly not helping the overall damp readings. Original construction is brick with lime lime mortar.

Finally and hopefully without opening the “PCA / chemical industry debate” are there any recommended surveyors in Swindon area?

 
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Pete Ward

Your ‘damp meter’ doesnt record damp. It records conductivity. Materials which conduct include salts, plasters with ash content, mortars with ash in them, paints with metallic oxides (most victorian paints and washes) . You are wasting your time with a damp meter. The solution to most of your problems will be to record humidity – see how much moisture is in the air, and finding its way into the fabric of your house. Throw the damp meter away, and buy a little hygrometer – most garden stores have them.. Anything over 50% should warn you its too damp. Encourage ventilation – use humidity controlled extractors – I can give you a link to a company that makes them – no doubt the moderators will remove it.. but THINK moisture – what you are producing – cooking, sleeping, showering. All that has to go somewhere – and it heads for the coldest part of your house and condenses – bottom of walls, behind radiators, window reveals, doors etc… We now use thermal imaging to show people where damp occurs – it’s all about surface temps, and rarely if ever about anything else.

 
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Pete Ward

Kevin
Most of your problem, or all of it – will be VERY simple.. MAKE SURE there is adequate ventilation under the floor – if the vents in outside walls are blocked, it’ll get damp. Suspended floors need ventilation. Its nothing to do with rising damp, or any of the other oft repeated excuses – ventilation and breathability are the key. If you can’t get a really good flow of air under the floor – you WILL have problems. The solution doesnt cost much, and you dont need a ‘surveyor’..!

 

Hi Kevin,

It is possible the replacement of the timber floor in the neighbouring property has contributed to the damp/floor problem. The damp proof course may have been bridged and your floor timbers may be in contact with brickwork below the neighbour’s concrete floor.

David

 
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Heritageanddesign

Kevin,

If there was a structural dampness problem, the ‘damp’ meter wouldn’t stop recording ‘damp’ as it changed from ‘pink’ plaster (non-breathable gypsum) and ‘white’ plaster (breathable lime). This shows that, as Pete says, these meters are hopeless for use on plaster. The breathablity of your walls has been reduced by the use of gypsum plaster, please don’t make it worse by injecting chemicals. Open windows, ventilate under-floors, use extraction, reduce external ground levels or introduce an ‘air trench’ to take ground water away from the structure.

John

 
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tomg

I agree the “damp meter” records conductivity, and that conductivity depends on many parameters including those you have listed.

*If* the material being tested is *uniform* and the readings *vary* from 15% to 38% as described, it would seem to me that damp is a strong possibility for the *extra* electrical conduction. Note that it is the variation that is significant, not the absolute reading. Alternatively, what might be invisibly varying in the plaster/wall?

The cause of any damp is, of course, a completely separate issue.

Could you point me to any decent reference indicating that “anything over 50% … too damp”? Thanks.

 
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Kevin B

First let me say thank you to those that are now assisting. It is helpfull and I need to add more facts now.

The house is empty and has been for about 6 – 8 months now. We bought it in january so no internal moisture is being produced by washing, showering etc. and I have the windows open when it’s not raining to get air through the house.

The damp in the hall near the radiator is VERY localised so I still think an underfloor leak is most likely though I have not yet had the skirting boards off to see if the DPC has been bridged nor lifted the floorboards to see underground conditions. Just in case my previous post confused anyone this wall is the party wall but not the one with the neighbour who now has a concrete floor.

The air bricks are not blocked but it does seem that the earth ground level under the floorboards is only about 6 – 9″ below the joists.

The last thing I intend is to inject a DPC – that has clearly been tried before and possibly more than once. Also all the reading I have done is definitely steering me away from that as a fix.

I am not sure what an “air trench” is and being a terrace property not sure if one could be produced.

I have just had another thought. Close to the problem in the lounge where I have the bouncing floor there is an old gas heater that had a back boiler though that had been disconnected for at least 5 years but all the old pipes and pump were close to this area – I guess it could have been an old leak not treated that has finally led to the timbers rotting.

Thank you for all your ideas but I guess it is time to get those floorboards up.

Finally as an electronics engineer I understand how this type of neter works. I was not taking the absolute readings as an induication of actual levels of damp fbut how the readings change as an indication of the limit of a potential problem.

 
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Heritageanddesign

Kevin,

It’s a difficult thing to diagnose not being on site but perhaps, as I suggested to an earlier poster, you really should ask a PCA ‘damp specialist’ to quote for the work, sorry, I mean give you a free survey, and see what advice you get. Being localised, it does sound like an internal leak and maybe an historic leak at your ‘spongy’ floor. Also remember that these floors may have been lifted many times and damaged each time, so it may only need levelled off. You won’t know until you see it.

 
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Kevin B

My current line of thought is.

Remove skirting, lift that laminate floor and floor boards in the hall. See what I can see.

Remove floorboards in the lounge (I am confident that it is the joists moving not just floorboards) and see what I can see. Maybe it is just the mechanical securing system of the joists to wall. Could I be that lucky?

At that point if I can’t understand the problem or you guys can’t help (I realise remote diadnostics are hard) PAY for a survey. Can anyone recomend a good surveyor who covers the Swindon area?

 
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Pete Ward

look up timbertech services, or londonconservation.com – both these people are very experienced – one is an RICS chartered surveyor, the other very highly qualified in conservation work.

 
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Dr CJD George

I suspect that you will find your damp meter records resistance not conductivity.

 
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wavechange

I often attend functions and give talks in village halls that smell horrible and I guess this is related to dampness, even though there is usually no visible sign. Is this because the buildings are not in regular use and unheated? In contrast, I have known houses that have been unoccupied for a year or more with little or no heating or ventilation and they have not had an unpleasant smell.

Others don’t comment on the smell so I suspect I am hypersensitive.

 
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Pete Ward

No you’re not – I get the same smell – it doesnt take much for an unheated hall to develop condensation which encourages mildew etc… I can walk into a house with the slightest bit of mould and start sneezing etc.. Some people are just more tuned to it. Churches are now encouraged to maintain humidity levels at about 50% RH., and 15 degrees. I can recommend humidity controlled extraction fans which heat and dry the incoming air if its below 14 degrees – cost about £60 a year to run – constant trickle extract, turbo extract when RH goes up – and slightly warmed dry air pushed back in when not in turbo mode. Kills the problem stone dead – all the so called rising damp symptoms disappear, condensation goes… Have a look at http://www.heritage-house.org/pages/controlling-humidity.html to see the latest technology – these have been specially designed to remove humid air. The top models also have data logging in them which allows users to keep a year long log of temperature and humidity conditions to relate back to building pathology.

 
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wavechange

Thanks Pete. You are right – I have noticed the same smell in churches. I am allergic to the mould in grasses and garden sheds, so gardening or a walk in the country can bring on my asthma. Fortunately my house and loft are not a problem, and in a way it is encouraging to know that I’m likely to be able to detect non-visible damp problems when house hunting.

Thanks for the link. It is good to know that affordable solutions are available and you don’t need to be a scientist to understand how this works.

 
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Kevin B

OK I am now off to open the Yellow Pages at a randon Surveyor page and close my eyes before stabing a point in the page.

I think the damp on my walls may be made by the p*****g contest you guys are having and as it stops at less than 3 ft you aren’t even good at that.

It has all be said. As professionals you should know when it is time to stop.

 
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Kevin B

wow. lots of posts suddenlt disappeared!

 

Hello Kevin, quite the opposite. We’ve just put up lots of comments that were temporarily taken down. This has moved some of the new comments made to another page, which makes it look like some have disappeared. Just use the page numbers below :)

 
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Kevin B

Patrick,

Shame non of those posts suggest a way forward with my problem. I guess they are still queuing to see if they can beat the existing tide mark.

God luck moderating this lot!

 

Hello everyone, thank you for your patience. We have republished most of the comments that were temporarily taken down. However, some regrettably required edits and others could not come back up – this is because they broke our T&Cs and commenting guidelines.

We’re happy to have all views shared on this topic, and we don’t mind if the discussion gets heated. However, if comments are offensive or make sweeping criticisms, they are in breach of our T&Cs. If you’d like to make criticisms then make sure they are helpful, measured and from your personal point of view.

We are doing everything we can to act fairly and impartially to all parties involved, and to ensure that Which? Convo continues to be a place for informative and intelligent debate.

Regretfully, we will have to close this particular thread to comments over the weekend due to the fact that we cannot give it the attention it requires. We will once again open it to comments on Monday 8 April. Thanks.

 
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Heritageanddesign

Patrick,

I think others will agree that you are NOT being ‘fair’ or ‘impartial’ by allowing this ‘Conversation’ to continue as it is. It will merely be to the detriment of Which?. If the advice you received over the weekend was to just continue with this forum, perhaps your legal team should also obtain legal advice.

Regards

John

 
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wavechange

I am also unhappy with this Conversation, but for a very different reason.

While it is great that contributors are receiving so much advice from experts, I do not understand why these experts are posting under the name of their company or under their own name (which can easily be traced to the company they own or work for). The Terms & Conditions suggest that contributors use a pseudonym and I suggest that this should be a requirement for anyone with a commercial interest.

David Prince has been invited to answer questions posted by readers, which is a little different. In the circumstances, I think it might have been better if his name and company had not been mentioned. Nevertheless, I do like the idea of having a Conversation that specifically invites people to ask questions and where experts can offer their advice.

I agree with those calling for a follow-up of the concerns reported by Hazel, in her introduction.

I feel particularly sorry for Kevin, who obviously would like some advice but does not want to get into the more fundamental issues.

Patrick – Do not hesitate to delete this message if you feel it is unhelpful or provocative.

 
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timbertechservices

In reply to Kevin, I write posts in my company name solely because I have nothing to hide. I have explained many times that I do not do so for commercial reasons. I have, and always have had, more work than I can possibly cope with.

[This comment has been slightly edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

 
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tomg

Timbertechservices writes “I write posts in my company name solely because I have nothing to hide”.

That doesn’t make sense: you could make your points equally well without using your company name. Beneficially it would completely avoid you having to state you aren’t using this forum for commercial reasons!

It is perfectly reasonable and helpful to use this forum to raise well-formed questions about trade organisations and companies. It is not helpful to bang on and on and on and on at the same point to such a degree that it overwhelms the ability of people to find answers to their questions.

 
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timbertechservices

In response to tomg;

As far as your first point is concerned one should perhaps not be too hasty in making inaccurate assumptions. Replying to the second point,much of the advice being offered by Which? and David Prince is sound;some of it is not. I spend most of my time trying to save people from being ripped off because they have been advised incorrectly. Unbiased free professional advice can be quite hard to find. Most people that give it have a vested interest in doing so.I apologize if you find my comments overwhelming. Thankfully most people that read these comments don’t share your opinion.

 
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tomg

timbertechservices writes “I apologize if you find my comments overwhelming.”

My apologies: I should have made it clearer that my second comment wasn’t aimed at you specifically. Rather it was a general frustration about the recent comments on this forum.

Nonetheless, I still think my first comment is valid; I’m sure others will make their own judgement.

 
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timbertechservices

Response to tomg;

No problem. I think a lot of comment space and hot air could have been saved if important questions concerning rogue companies that should have been answered a long time ago were not simply ignored. In a similar vein people are naturally going to keep reacting when advice given is supposed to be impartial when everyone one can clearly see that the same organisation is repeatedly being recommended despite the glaring fact of my first point.

 
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tomg

timbertechservices raises points that have some validity but are difficult to resolve on a forum such as this.

If 1% of an organisations’ members are “rogue” and 50% of non-members are rogue, then it is probably reasonable to recommend the organisation as a starting point for finding contractors. OTOH, if 50% of members and non-members are “rogue” then it would probably be inappropriate. I have no idea how I could determine the percentages in this case :(

There are “ways of reacting” and “WAYS OF REACTING”! I’m reminded of dealing with teenagers :) Some of the postings have made me think of the Churchill quote “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”. And, even if the points are valid, that is not only unhelpful but it also distracts from the points.

IMHO this forum is a reasonable place to calmly note problems with organisations, but it is unreasonable to expect that the problems will be resolved here.

 
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wavechange

I agree with your points, Tomg. I also feeling guilty for having taken off-topic, further discouraging people with problems from posting.

If someone posts a query, there is nothing wrong with having two or more responses. That might help the original poster.

I think there is considerable scope for helping people better understand how to understand and deal with condensation problems. There is considerable scope to provide help and hopefully less risk of conflict than with some of the more serious and challenging damp problems.

 
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timbertechservices

Unanswered Questions.

What started this particular forum over sixteen months ago was the investigation by Which? into the good or bad advice offered to consumers by damp proofing companies. This ‘snapshot’ or expose revealed that of the companies invited in to diagnose and quote for damp problems, half were members of the PCA. Some of these PCA companies, some of them large national concerns offered very poor advice, misdiagnosed problems, and quoted for unnecessary and inappropriate treatments. Sixteen months later people are still asking what action has been taken by the PCA to address this problem. This seems to be a question that nobody is prepared to answer. It is hardly a complicated matter that requires nearly a year and a half to research to investigate. Throughout this time David Prince is still avidly recommending people should use PCA surveyors in respect of their damp problems despite the fact that no information has been disclosed about what action the PCA has taken against these ‘surveyors’. We were told by David Prince back in December 2011 that we must not jump to conclusions or pre-judge the findings of the PCA as these would be revealed in due course. In any situation where the consumer is misled, people need to know once those responsible are exposed that some form of appropriate action has been taken against them. People are quite naturally concerned that if the matter is simply swept under the carpet these people for whatever reason will continue to misdiagnose problems and suggest inappropriate and unnecessary treatments. Consumers now need some honest answers to some very simple questions. We need to know exactly what disciplinary action was taken against them and also;

(a) Were these ‘surveyors’ newly ‘qualified’ with very limited experience, if not, how long had they been employed as ‘surveyors’ in the damp proofing industry?

(b) Is this the first time they have been discovered misdiagnosing problems?

(c) Are they still employed by the companies they were working for sixteen months ago?

(d) If they are still employed by these companies, if so have they undertaken any kind of retraining?

It hardly needs to be said, and it is certainly not a sweeping statement to suggest that if the confidence of the consumer is to be restored and for all of us who are involved and care passionately about the industry we work in these disclosures now have to be made.

 
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Pete Ward

Patrick

I have just put up two completely fair, informative, and unbiased comments – one answering someone who wants a surveyor in swindon – I have indicated a fully qualified RICS chartered surveyor, and another post which is focussed on solutions to humidity.

You have pulled both of them.

Can you please explain, very clearly and concisely to all of the followers on the thread, why you have pulled these answers. They both conform with commenting guidelines.

I am being rather restrained in my reaction to this at the moment. I have written twice to you privately and not received a satisfactory answer to either emails. I think you have a duty to consumers to explain – this thread is now well known. A lot of people are asking questions about Which? and are quite obviously concerned that you have failed the consumer.

Facts are important. Facts are king. Why do you not allow facts to be published Patrick?

 
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EltonN

If Facts are King then why don’t you read up on some facts about building physics rather than taking a load of circumstantial evidence and presenting it as science. There is an interesting chapter on Cargo Cult Science in Surely You’re Joking Mr Feynman which pretty much sums up the type of “facts” that are presented on your website. Hall and Hoff’s paper on “Rising Damp – Capillary Rise Dynamics in Walls” (Proceedings of of the Royal Society) would be a good place to start as it demonstrates that rising damp in porous masonry materials is fully predicted by the laws of physics contrary to the bunkum presented on your website. It’s healthy for people to have opinions, but it is important that you don’t fall into the trap of presenting conjecture as fact.

 

Hello Pete, any comment with a link automatically goes into our moderation queue for manual approval. This is so that we can make sure they don’t go to illegal websites. Please be patient with us.

 
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Pete Ward

Thank you.. I can guarantee that none of these links are illegal!

 
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mrs s.mohan

Can you please help me. I am a 76 year old pensioner who has had damp-proofing work done in Dec-Jan 2012 to a ground floor flat that I purchased in December 2012. During this work another patch was discovered to an adjoining wall which cost me another £570+ to put right.( The surveyor came out again and confirmed it was damp and had to be done.)
I thought that was the end of the story re damp but when I was having some wall lights fitted in another room the electrician showed me the wall which he had cut into and it was wet. The surveyor came out again and confirmed another two walls are damp. I have the guarantee and insurance from the damp proof company. After calling them today they tried to come up with the excuse that they could not survey either of those walls as a welsh dresser was blocking the wall. I have five witnesses and a photo which shows there was no dresser on the wall. What should I do next?

 
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Pete Ward

Mrs Mohan

There are a number of contributors to this forum who would gladly help sort your problem. Yours is sadly a common problem. Our problem as contributors is that the moderators don’t like to publish peoples contact details on the website, so it is a little hard to offer help directly. However – if the mods would allow – can I suggest that you look up either of the following people – you should be able to follow my suggestion (or otherwise, ask the mods to privately forward information to them). I’ve recommended both these before, so hopefully they won’t mind – I have no interest in either:

look up timbertech services, or londonconservation.com – both these people are very experienced – one is an RICS chartered surveyor, the other very highly qualified in conservation work

Obviously there is a cost involved if you use a RICS chartered surveyor – BUT… I have a feeling that if you speak nicely, you may well gain a sympathetic ear to at least review the information and give you some advice on where to go next. Which? is also interested in any such cases.

 
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Kevin B

As a non professional I would seriously consider Peter Ward’s advice and pay for an independent survey. With that information I would ask for appropriate remedial work to be done.

If that is not dealt with fairly and the report supports your veiw that you have been miss sold or not dealt with professionally I would seriously consider a small claims court.

Most companies will not want to get to small claims court because it will cost them too much for representation that they are likely to feel that they need. Hopefully the witnesses, photos and report will be enough for you to represent yourself and win your case and even if you loose the costs are relatively small.

Don’t get me wrong the court is last step and a judge would want to see evidence that you have been reasonable and given the company the opportunity to make things right and that they have not been reasonable in their response. So make a note of every phone call and what it was about or better still make sure everything is in writing or by email. Some people still believe that emails are not permissible as evidence in court but that changed many years ago.

As stated I am not a damp professional but small claims court is amazing for the small man in the street for cases up to £10,000. I have used it once and it is a fair, cheap and relatively straight forward process. Do some reading about it on the internet there are lost of advice and guidance information.

 
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timbertechservices

I would also add that crucial to the viability of any possible court action are ‘the terms of engagement’ of ‘the company’. Many companies when their backs are against the wall attempt to rely on the defence that they were only instructed to look at one specific area. If this cannot be disproved, which is often impossible when there have been no formal instructions, then they cannot be held responsible for other areas. The importance of clearly stating what is required when initially instructing these companies, whether its a free survey or not cannot be over emphasized. Where a recommendation is made in valuation report, homebuyers report or structural survey, the wording is, or should be quite clear. In most cases in order to cover their backs chartered surveyors when finding dampness in one area of a property will suggest that all areas of the property are checked. If a copy of this is then passed to the damp proofing company and they miss something then they are in a sticky situation. People that buy properties without any form of survey are obviously most at risk at that is why its vitally important for them to state in writing exactly what type of inspection they require. Furniture and other obstructions can, and often do severely restrict the scope of the inspection, and where this occurs it should be made absolutely clear.The onus is on the client to either accept the limitations of the survey, or, before any work is agreed or carried out, invite the company to return to the property when access is available.

 
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Anna M.

One of the external walls in the building I part-own is clearly affected by damp, however, only about 1/3 of this wall is easily accessible (the rest is on the neighbour’s side, or is part of a flat) – how possible is it to eliminate the issue once and for all. (The wall was treated in 2006 and merely 7 years later the problem returned with vengeance)

 

Hi Anna,

The first step is to obtain a firm diagnosis of the cause of the damp problem. It may be the case the problem has previously been misdiagnosed which would account for the damp returning or that it is a different problem. It could be that the previous treatment was limited by the inaccessible part of the wall. Once the problem has been identified it will be easier to determine a way forward.

David

 
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Anna M.

Hi David,

Thanks for getting back to me. Theoretically speaking, it this was a case of rising damp (this was the assessment of the surveyor), is it possible to eradicate it if you are only able small portion of the wall for treatment?
It is a difficult situation, but basically out of 3 flat owners in the building, one of them is pushing for the treatment to be done just because their in the process of selling their flat and their buyer’s surveyor pick up on the issue. Myself and remaining owner feel like this is (quite a lot of) money down the drain as we have had an architect look at the wall and he is telling us that this issue isnt possible to eradicate once and for all so the best we can do is to keep redecorating the wall in question every 5 years or so. Does that sound plausible? I’m not sure whom to believe. Potential contractors see it as a revenue stream and are therefore not completely objective. The surveyors are known to give the most pessimistic assessments to cover their backs. Not sure whom to turn to to get an objective advice. Please can you help me.

 

Hi Anna,

If we are accepting the surveyor’s diagnosis of rising damp then it will be possible to treat a small section of wall with success but the dampness would still exist in the untreated areas so the work has limited value. The best approach would be to create the appropriate access for whatever treatment is required. It is not a great idea to ignore a damp problem of any type as it can lead to serious issues such as timber decay.

David

 
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Irene

Hello David,
I would be grateful if you could advise me. I live in a mid terrace house built approximately 1904. My home was flooded in December 12 by a neighbour on one side. My insurance company put in dehumidifiers in and ripped out and refitted all the downstairs floors and replastered the adjoining walls where the water came in. Prior to the flood I had no signs of damp at all in the house. Since returning to my home in March 2013 after the repairs were completed, damp patches have started sprouting in two seperate downstairs rooms. The insurance company have said it’s a pre existing problem as they’re not on the adjoining wall where the water flooded my house (there was no damp). Can you please advise me how to proceed as I find it too much of a coincidence to suddenly get damp after a flood. I feel the builders appointed by my insurance company should be addressing it but am hitting a brick wall with them.
Regards
Irene

 

Hi Irene,

You really need a surveyor to check this out for you. They will provide a report which you could use in further correspondence/negotiation with your insurance company. I suggest the survey includes calcium carbide tests to determine if the dampness is in the wall structure as well as the plaster. If the dampness is only in the plaster then it is more likely to be linked to the flooding incident given the time-frame.

David

 
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Pete Ward

I am working on several very similar cases at the moment where insurance companies appoint ‘timber and damp’ companies to remedy flood damage. I think the total value of the cases I’m handling approaches the £500,000 mark. They never allow the house to dry out, and always ‘tank’ the walls – trapping moisture into the structure. Your case is typical – they want to go in, do a quick fix, and get out. You really need to get a professional surveyor with no interest in selling chemicals or treatments, who can undertake legal work. It is a bit of a nightmare with insurance companies – they have been indocrinated by the damp industry to use unqualified people to ‘survey’ and diagnose wrongly. The fixes they provide rarely do work. David is right in that you need to get a very thorough technical assessment of what is still wrong.

I’ve stated this stuff before on the forum – so hopefully the mods will allow me to repeat verbatim:
Our problem as contributors is that the moderators don’t like to publish peoples contact details on the website, so it is a little hard to offer help directly. However – if the mods would allow – can I suggest that you look up either of the following people – you should be able to follow my suggestion (or otherwise, ask the mods to privately forward information to them). I’ve recommended both these before, so hopefully they won’t mind – I have no interest in either:

look up timbertech services, or londonconservation.com – both these people are very experienced – one is an RICS chartered surveyor, the other very highly qualified in conservation work

It IS important to use a fully qualified surveyor – you will often see reference to damp companies having surveyors – cssw and csrt being their ‘qualifications’ – I must stress these are NOT academic qualifications, and you need to use someone with either RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) or IHBC (Institute of Historic Building Conservation) who will have the ability to properly help and resolve your issues.

 
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Amanda H

Hi David,

I am in the process of purchasing a terraced maisonette built approx 1890. The Homebuyer Report has noted dampness internally, probably due to penetrating damp from a damaged chimney stack in need of localised re-rendering, cracks in the external walls in need of localised re-rendering and seals needed around the doors. It has said further investigation is required. What does this mean? Do I need to get a damp specialist in before I get quotes for the re-rendering? Sorry if this is a really obvious question but I’m just not entirely sure what the next step is as ‘further investigation’ is a bit vague. I’m a FTB!
Kind regards
Amanda

 

Hi Amanda,

It really depends on how much you want to spend and how confident you are that the homebuyer’s report has correctly identified the cause of the damp problems.

The building defects you refer to could be fixed by a general builder so you do not need a damp specialist. I suggest you obtain a free quotation for these repairs as they are necessary anyway. You could also ask the builder’s opinion on whether internal dampness is consistent with the defects identified. If there is any doubt then you should obtain a specialist damp survey. If you go for a free survey then try and get three so you can compare the advice given. Alternatively, you could pay for a more in depth investigation.

David

 
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Amanda H

Thank you so much for your quick response David. It’s very helpful. I wasn’t sure where to start but you’ve given me some great advice and it’s a lot clearer now.
Kind regards
Amanda

 
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timbertechservices

Patrick,

Shortly after this Which? expose on damp proofing companies was published, I submitted a post asking what sort of action would be taken by the PCA against the companies and their surveyors who were responsible for giving bad advice and misleading the public. The companies concerned are as you know some of the biggest names in the industry with branches up and down the country. Contributors to this site were told that in due course Which? would be notified by the Property Care Association of exactly what sort of disciplinary action it had taken against these companies and their sales staff. I have asked several times; the last request was on 8th of April this year (my request can be seen on this forum) but unfortunately there has still been no response from yourselves.

Needless to say this is a very serious and important issue. Simply ignoring it and hoping that in time people will forget is simply not going to console the consumer. Confidence in the damp proofing industry is at an all time low. It is absolutely essential that the questions raised and detailed in my post of the 8th of April are addressed. People with damp problems are extremely apprehensive of obtaining estimates and advice fearing they may well fall victim to one of these sales surveyors who are offering bad advice, misdiagnosing problems and quoting for unnecessary work.

 
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Kim Rowden

Hi, I would appreciate some advice please on my damp issue.
I am the owner of one flat in a block of nine flats in a Grade 11 listed building. Flat 1 is on the ground floor and the basement of the flat was converted for residential use many years ago (the basement was originally the boiler room and coal chute for the building). The owner of the flat is refurbishing and has been advised by builders that there is a damp problem. There was already an awareness of the damp plus there is currently a sump and pump which is collecting and moving excess water to the drains. The flat is also unoccupied for a lot of the time. Three builders quotes have been received for completely tanking out the basement and cutting a trench around the edge to collect more water which will then go into the sump and be pumped away, and then making good etc. When looking in the basement another resident has advised the damp doesn’t seem to be as bad as expected and is more localised. The quotes are coming in at between £22,000 and £28,000. I feel this is excessive and want to obtain a report (from someone independent) detailing the cause of the problem and options available to rectify any issues and to manage the damp. Can you advise who I should I go to to obtain independent advice?
Any advice would be appreciated.

 
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Heritage House

This is a common situation, and the solutions builders come up with are usually inappropriate. Its Grade 2, and any internal works need to be authorised. Look up look up timbertech services, or londonconservation.com – both these people are very experienced – one is an RICS chartered surveyor, the other very highly qualified in conservation work – you need people who know and understand historic fabric, and can liaise with Building Conservation. Don’t allow anyone near the place who is not a properly qualified historic buildings specialist. I’m a member of IHBC – the Institute of Historic Building Conservation – which represents most conservation officers. We constantly battle against incompetent and unauthorised works which are ‘specified’ by builders and unqualified ‘damp proofing surveyors’. Basements CAN be dry – tanking them is the last thing to do – it traps water into the structure of the walls and causes permanent and irreversible damage to historical bricks. These need to breathe and stay dry. Ventilation is the key, as is ensuring that unwanted sources of water are tracked down and eliminated – many basements in London for eg., are wet because drains surrounding them leak. A thorough drainage CCTV survey will often highlight problem drains. Injection damp proofing holes allow water into the structure – high ground levels and inadequate surface water drainage allowed to pond around the bottom of the building …. a dry basement is all about a holistic approach to the environment around it – it has very little, if anything, to do with ‘damp proofing’ or tanking – these methods just shift a problem somewhere else and usually cause irreversible damage to building fabric.

 
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Kim Rowden

Hi,
Many thanks for the quick response. This is becoming a complete headache and quite stressful as I’m battling to do the right thing and not just go along with choosing one of the quotes. The building is in Sidmouth so I’m wondering if I should just look up a chartered surveyor (?) who is based in the area? I am awaiting a call from the conservation officer as well just to ask if they also need to authorise any works regarding the damp issue (the building works for refurbishment have already gained permission).
Kind Regards,
Kim

 
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Heritage House

Kim
Most chartered surveyors are not experienced in this sort of work. Standard RICS training does not cover damp issues, and certainly doesnt cover listed buildings (or more to the point, solid walled buildings which need to breathe) Conservation officers will generally not understand either. I am IHBC – to which most CO’s belong, and it constantly amazes me that although at meetings they have a broad understanding – they will never commit themselves in any way, and always defer to the ‘experts’. You will no doubt have learned from this thread that damp is a huge problem, and is not understood fully by many people – hence the vast number of charlatans out there who manage to make money out of providing snake oil remedies.. There are really only a handful of people in the country who are experts at it – the people I suggested previously will help, you can learn a lot from my website – you’ll have to search for the name because we arent allowed to push ourselves on this forum. You could also look up Jeff Howell, who writes for the Guardian. Try the links I suggested, or do a bit of googling!

 
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Kim Rowden

Thank you again. As I’m one of a group of nine we are now probably going for a report from a structural engineering firm who will look at the whole building in relation to the damp plus they have been made aware it’s a listed building. I cant string it out any longer before getting the ‘right’ person as there is pressure to resolve the issue so will have to go along with it and hope it will be good advice. I will also look at your website as could pass any additional info to the structural engineer before he goes to the site. Do I look for Heritage House?

 
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Heritage House

You’ve a good chance of finding me if you do!

 
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Heritage House

Id suggest structural engineer is probably the last person you want – he will know and understand nothing about the construction of the place – its why these places get wrecked, tanked, and are permanently damp…

 
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timbertechservices

Not even a slap on the wrist?

Judging from the total lack of response by Patrick Steen of Which? to my previous comments, it would now seem logical to assume that the PCA, The Property Care Association, has taken no action whatsoever to rein in and control the activities of the companies and their salesmen that were responsible for misleading the public in this Which? exposure on damp proofing companies. If, as it certainly appears, these ‘surveyors ’have not been cautioned, reprimanded or disciplined in some way, and are still employed by the same companies, misdiagnosing problems and misleading the consumer, then what on earth is the point of having a trade association? What is a ‘code of ethics’ supposed to mean? How many more people have become victims of this blatant mis-selling and deception before some action is taken. All people can do is avoid the companies featured at the heart of this investigation, but if the PCA is nonchalant about what is clearly a devastating indictment of malpractice, why should anyone have faith in any other member of this organisation?

What this whole unsavoury scenario does confirm even more now is that anyone buying a house where ‘specialist’ reports are requested, or anyone with a damp problem should protect themselves by firstly obtaining a totally independent report on their damp issues from a properly qualified building surveyor.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

 

Hello Timbertech, I have reached out to the PCA to ask about their actions. I have today asked them again and hope to hear back soon. Thanks.

 
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Sophie D

Hi David,

I own a semi-detached property which is built on a hill – whilst the front drive is at ground level, the rear garden is half a level down, and to the left of my property is a large drop down to the gardens of the adjoining road (my house is the first house on my road).

Because of this, the sub-floor area is intriguingly 2.7m deep – effectively a basement area in the exact same footprint of my ground floor, albeit with no access at the moment. I will be doing a full conversion with stairs, access to the garden at the rear, and using the space as a bedroom, bathroom and lounge. The neighbouring semi has the same space (unconverted as yet) and therefore the party wall has open space on the other side.

I understand that a cavity membrance system is the most reliable system to use, and therefore would like to use this on the front wall of the basement. However I have been told by a contractor that the only way to fit this is to use it on every wall in the basement – i.e. all four ‘external’ walls as well as the internal walls. This is a lot of tanking when it is only really the front wall and part of the side wall which is below ground!

Is it possible to use the cavity system on two walls only, and combine this with a cementitious system on the remaining walls?

Many thanks,

Sophie

 

Hi Sophie,

It is the case that the waterproofing work should include all the walls otherwise dampness could be displaced to the unprotected areas. It would make most sense to stick with the cavity drain system rather than combining with a cementitious system although this is possible. Although cementitious systems often carry lower price tags this is sometimes because the required preparation work is not being undertaken. Cementitious systems are also harsher on the fabrick of the building as they can induce hydrostatic pressure into the walls as water tries to push through. Cavity drain systems allow water to pass through the structure without inducing pressure.

More information regarding waterproofing systems can be found in the British Standard BS 8102:2009 ‘Code of practice for protection of below ground structures against water from the ground’.

David

 
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Antoinette

Hi,

We moved into our Victorian house in September 2012. We bought our house from a builder developer.
The property had a makeover, and seemed to have no faults.
However, in the last 3 months, the skirting board in our dining room has come away from the wall revealing what seems to be mould. However, the mould does not seem to be connected to the wall as the wall seems fine. The skirting board is rotton.
Our insurers have informed us that we are not covered for damp and have asked us to contact a builder/damp proofer to check the status as it could be a leaking pipe.
This wall is not connected to the exterior walls.

 
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Heritageanddesign

Antoinette,

There could be many reasons for the dampness. If it isn’t on an external wall, that discounts a couple of reasons. Do you know if it is on a fireplace wall, most likely on a gable? Is the rotten skirting on the centre of the wall? Is there a vent at the base of the wall? The reason I ask is that a lot of builders/ developers, ‘damp specialist companies’ and even chartered surveyors fail to understand how an old house is meant to function. It ‘may’ be that the dampness is associated with a blocked flue (chimney) and that damp dross (debris) has fallen and gathered at the bottom. Have a look outside to see if there is a chimney above this wall. If so you need to open the fireplace up and clear it out, have the chimney swept to get rid of the rest of the debris and, if you must, reinstate the wall but please make sure that it is vented or it will just recur. Also make sure that the chimney at the top is also open as it’s very important that the flue is well vented. This dampness is 99 times out of a hundred mis-diagnosed as various forms of dampness when it is just poor understanding of the building. If it isn’t in line with a chimney, please let me know. You need to understand what the problem is before you can confidently ask for Joe Blogs to fix it.

John

 
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Heritageanddesign

Antoinette,

There could be many reasons for the dampness. If it isn’t on an external wall, that discounts a couple of reasons. Do you know if it is on a fireplace wall, most likely on a gable? Is the rotten skirting on the centre of the wall? Is there a vent at the base of the wall? The reason I ask is that a lot of builders/ developers, ‘damp specialist companies’ and even chartered surveyors fail to understand how an old house is meant to function. It ‘may’ be that the dampness is associated with a blocked flue (chimney) and that damp dross (debris) has fallen and gathered at the bottom. Have a look outside to see if there is a chimney above this wall. If so you need to open the fireplace up and clear it out, have the chimney swept to get rid of the rest of the debris and, if you must, reinstate the wall but please make sure that it is vented or it will just recur. Also make sure that the chimney at the top is also open as it’s very important that the flue is well vented. This dampness is 99 times out of a hundred mis-diagnosed as various forms of dampness when it is just poor understanding of the building. If it isn’t in line with a chimney, please let me know. You need to understand what the problem is before you can confidently ask for Joe Blogs to fix it.

John

 
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Rebecca

Desperately in need of some help!

I have recently bought a victorian terraced property I am in the process rewiring and installing central heating. The downstairs rooms appear to have a damp problem with patches of damp rising up to about 30-40cm above the floor. The house is a pretty standard victorian terrace. The living room is wood floor with I think ply wood and the dining room and kitchen floor is concrete. I believe the concrete floor has some sort of membrane underneath as I can see a plastic coating around part of the edge, in the dining room the chimney breast is completely blocked up. There are damp patches on pretty much all the walls in this room, including the internal wall which houses the understairs cupboard. In the living room where the floor is wooden and the chimney breast has been open there is less evidence of damp, with a small area near in the alcove next to the chimney nearest to the dining room, and then a small patch on the internal wall between the living room and the hallway (which also has a concrete floor).

The house originally had a DPC in 1985 and then it was redone in 1997 by the same company, it is still under it’s guarantee with two years left. I have had the company out and paid the £90 for re inspection but surprise surprise they are claiming that some of the plastering work is not something they have done and therefore the guarentee is null and void. I have spoken to the previous vendor who says no other workman has done any additional plastering since however I am unable to prove this. However the company involved have not provided me of any evidence of the plastering they did. This companys “surveyor” also claims that there has been evidence of leaking guttering (there is a black mark down the building to the front of the house and the guttering is intact no leaks at present, and no evidence of water damage upstairs) and that the water ingress, alternations and over-skimming also make it void. I am obviously dissapointed about this as they claim that to redo the DPC, a fireplace clearance and re-walling, along with floor sealing would cost £3500. I am unable to afford this at the moment. I am a woman on my own and feel that I have been for want of a word ‘fobbed off’. I question the company’s integrity and professionalism as the surveyor (whilst other workmen were in my property) entered the house without my knowledge or permission, which I felt was under hand!…the company is a member of the PCA and has been running for 40 years.

I have two questions really and I would be really so grateful for any advice you could give me.

1.Do you think I have a case to argue with this company or will end up being a long drawn out and expensive process? I cannot prove that anybody has not done any replastering, however I don’t think the company can prove what they have done previously either. Is is worth persuing this?

2. Also having already had two DPC. Is it actually worth doing it again as this obviously hasn’t been successful twice already. Would I be better off spending my money on an independent surveyor?

Thank you in anticipation of your replies

Rebecca

 
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Heritage House

Rebecca

I see and hear the same comments several times a day. I’d love to help – but Which? dont like any of the professional folks on this thread handing out their credentials – so we have to point you rather obtusely in the right direction.. ! You can always have a look for me on the internet – I’m easy enough to find – you could also look for londonconservation dot com – which is a very capable chartered surveyor who is an expert in damp issues – another very capable bloke is down in brighton – youd need to look up timbertech services… All of the links and names are on this forum somewhere – just scroll up. Also heritageanddesign – he’s in scotland – sometimes posts as John Durie – is very involved with Scottish Heritage..

You need to properly diagnose what is causing the dampness – it will be gypsum plaster trapping water in the walls, salts from the chimney, and high humidity causing condensation – it’s almost certain. Your house needs to breathe – better ventilation, and no modern materials – it’ll be dry as a bone. The heritage house website explains all of this – theres page after page of case histories and photos, and a lot of info about humidity control..

Hope this helps…

[This comment has been edited for breaking our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

 
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Stephen Hodgson

Hello Rebecca

Please feel free to contact me. I will be happy to look at the facts and offer advice and help if I possibly can.

Steve Hodgson.

CEO – Property Care Association

 
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Rebecca

Thank you Steve. I really would be most grateful for any advice you could give me. How is it best for me to contact you and give you the facts on my current situation? Kind Regards Rebecca

 
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Heritageanddesign

Rebecca,

If it is to offer a refund on your £90, that’s fine. If it is to recommend further treatment – RUN A MILE! These treatments do not work on traditional ie. solid masonry structures. That’s why it has failed, been re-treated, and that’s why it has failed again and will continue to fail. Sealing a structure that’s meant to breathe will mean it will always fail. The ‘renovating’ plaster needs to be stripped off, chimneys opened up and cleaned out, underfloor ventilation inspected to ensure it is clear and regular ventilation by opening windows. Be careful when instructing an ‘independent’ surveyor as PCA members purport to be just that when, in fact, they are neither independent nor surveyors.

Search Google for someone who knows a bit about old buildings, heritage-house, Londonconservation, Timbertechservices, English Heritage, Historic Scotland, SPAB and stay clear of PCA affiliated companies.

It would be a nice gesture for you to receive a refund. Even better to get some real unbiased advice about your Victorian home.

John

 
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Rebecca

Thank you John. I really do appreciate your advice. I was thinking the same about the damp proofing as it has failed twice now, and I really don’t want to do the building anymore harm when it DPC clearly hasn’t worked in the long term!

I shall take your advice and search for a surveyor who is totally independent of a damp proofing company.

I would appreciate one last bit of advice if you would be kind enough to give me yours thoughts. I have read about taking samples out of the walls. Should I expect that an independent properly qualified surveyor do this or is it reasonable that they would just be able to look at the building and give me suggestions of what needs to be done?

This is the first time I have ever posted on a forum before and I have really appreciated the advice you have given me.

Thank you
Kind Regards

Rebecca

 
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Heritageanddesign

Rebecca,

Taking samples for analysis would be done where it could not be readily determined where moisture was coming from. By examining the chemical make-up of the moisture different faults could be ruled out. This is a specialist survey and would be beyond the scope of most chartered surveyors. Have a search through the sites I mentioned earlier and interrogate them, perhaps even call for advice. One thing you should be doing is making sure the house operates the way it was designed. You mentioned blocked fireplaces – you now know that these should be open and vented top and bottom. Get better informed so you are in control of the work that is done and you are able to identify the cowboys.

Best of luck.

John

 
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Annie

Hello David
I wonder if you can help we have had problems with the drain being blocked so we got some one into clear it a good drain man , He found the problem is from next door but as we have no manhole cover on our drive we share it with next door their drains are blocked big time , they only moved in last Sep there are two manholes one in there garage and the other on there drive the one on the drive will not come out , the drive was concreted with a pattern many years ago and when it was done they where rubbish the ones that did it , the old lady next door is been quite awkward about it she wants him to rod the one in the garage but he has said that will not solve the problem the water will just come back , what do we do and who can we get to help solve the problem , thank you Annie

 
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tomg

Depending on where the blockage is, it may be the water utilities responsibility.

For examples, see http://www.unitedutilities.com/sewers-and-drains-explained.aspx

 
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Annie

Thank You we managed to shift the blockage all there drains where overflowing and the old lady did calm down when she knew we where trying to help her thank God they have not been in long and have had so many problems , thank you once again Annie.

 

Hello everyone, we have had to remove further comments as they breach our T&Cs and commenting guidelines.

Please remember to be careful when making comments – comments that make sweeping criticisms are in breach of our T&Cs. If you’d like to make criticisms then make sure they are helpful and measured.

I have warned many of you about this before – this means that some of you are on your final warning. I may regrettably need to remove your access from the website, or close this thread altogether, if there are continuing infringements.

I know there’s been a long wait, but we do have a response from the PCA. I will be posting this on Tuesday as I’m afraid I will be closing this thread over the bank holiday weekend. This is because I will not be able to give the discussion the attention that is required to keep it from breaching our T&Cs. When this thread is reopened, please think carefully about how you are going to make your point before making a comment.

Please don’t use the comment box below as your comment will be lost.

 

Hello all, as promised, this is the response the PCA has sent to us regarding the actions they have taken following our investigation. The PCA told us:

“The article that appeared in Which? in late December 2011 looked critically at the performance of surveyors employed by a number of building preservation companies. It was the view of Which? that a number of these companies had failed to meet the standards of professional performance that should be expected by clients. In many respects, the conclusion drawn by the article seemed, at first reading, to be indisputable.

“It was clear that as a number of the companies featured in the article were members of the Property Care Association (PCA), it was necessary that we should conduct our own investigation, learn from the process and implement corrective and/or disciplinary measures as found to be necessary.

“Unfortunately in spite of our requests, Which? would not name all the companies that were subject to the exposé and would not provide further detail about the performance of the small number of firms that were named. Furthermore, the methodology of the study and the details of the reports submitted by the companies featured were not provided to us. We understood that this was done to protect homeowners and the experts used by Which? but this seriously restricted our ability to investigate the detail of each individual inspection and the performance of the surveyors who undertook the investigations.

“In conclusion of our incomplete investigation we had reason to consider that affirmative action by the PCA would be beneficial to consumers, the Property Care Association and its members.

“As a direct result of the Which? article the PCA, with the cooperation of the companies featured, worked to identify areas where service could be improved. This included additional areas of training, supervision and consumer care; action plans were agreed and implemented.

“The Association also re-examined its own audit and inspection procedures to ensure that they remained fit for purpose. We concluded that they were but implemented a number of improvements with our audit team, to ensure that the lessons delivered by the Which? article were taken on board and communicated to all member firms.

“Though we continue to hold reservations about the methodology and professionalism of the “set up” that lead to the Which? findings, as well as the lack of information released following publication of the article, we recognised the issues raised and acted quickly and concisely to ensure improvement.

“The strength of the PCA meant that we were able to engage with Which? and the members that were featured, understand the issues, implement improvements and proliferate the lessons learnt across the whole of our membership.”

Before responding, please remember our T&Cs – you are free to make fair and reasoned criticisms, but steer clear of offensive or defamatory accusations. Thanks in advance.

 
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timbertechservices

I wonder if many other people are as confused and bewildered as I am regarding the recent statement posted by the PCA to Which? Unless I have read it wrongly they seem to be casting doubt upon the whole initial investigation by Which?; questioning the authenticity, viability and methodology of the examples used in this investigation. They then go on to say that they recognized deficiencies within their own administration and have acted quickly and concisely to remedy these defects. It does really seem strange that it should have taken eighteen months for them to report back to Which? with these findings. I am in contact with a number of PCA surveyors and none of these has received any form of retraining as suggested since the Which? report was published. Perhaps this is something they are proposing to address in the future.

N.B. Patrick, I have read through this post several times before posting it and am certainly not aware of any sweeping statements or defamatory comments contained therein which might justify my excommunication!

 
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Stephen Hodgson

Dear Sir

I would like to be able to address you by your name but have not been able to find it on the string or on your website.

For the record- PCA were in contact with Which? before publication and subsequently. Information detailing our approach and actions in respect to the article were communicated to Which? then and for a period following publication. Only recently have we been asked to formulate a comment for public consumption. This we produced with minimal delay.

We have, with just cause, questioned the methodology of the Which? investigation and have struggled with the lack of information they were willing or able to supply. This has not prevented us acting to improve service.

PCA has, as previously sated, worked closely with the member companies named in the article. Our intervention has resulted in those companies implementing changes and improvements as described above. We also work to provide information updates and monitoring on a weekly basis for the benefit of consumers and all our members. This makes them- as a group – best trained, qualified, informed and supported in the building preservation industry.

Please try and understand that The Property Care Association is a Trade Body and not an employer! We work with industry to improve service and technical knowledge. We do not employ surveyors or undertake work. When things go wrong we support clients, when we hear new ideas we evaluate and inform members. The PCA is an organisation that works to broaden horizons and improve service. We are not interested in stifling innovation or restricting debate. PCA is not tethered to an outdated and restrictive way of dealing with damp in fact our position is quite the opposite. It seems that ill-informed individuals like yourself berate the Association without provocation, technical or ethical justification but because to do so results in useful publicity for the attacker. I would suggest that it our success and that or our members that makes us your target!

I suggest that you spend a little time understanding what the PCA is in 2013, what we do and how we operate – before renewing your single minded and somewhat blinked attack on us and our members.

 
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timbertechservices

Many surveys and investigations are carried out into companies supplying goods and services. Human nature is quite predictable. The commercial organisations that come off badly by failing to meet minimum acceptable moral and ethical standards will invariably attempt to discredit the people responsible for organizing any such investigation. Those that do well will say how fair the investigation was!

This particular Which? site is very accessible. Anyone wishing to post a comment has been free to do so during the last eighteen months.

The general public are generally ill informed when it come to damp proofing matters. That is why they should be able to trust those who profess to be qualified surveyors and experts.

I think most people realize that trade organisations are commercial enterprises. They are certainly not seats of learning or academic institutes. Some survive on membership fees alone; others demand a percentage of the turnover of their contractor members.

It would be fallacious to assume that companies employing salesmen to sell damp proofing treatments on commission have the customer’s best interests at heart. I don’t think that people are naïve enough to believe this. This also applies to many things from kitchens to double glazing.

People generally do not become targets because of their success. They can become targets from the methodology they incorporate in achieving that success. The success gained in this way is unlikely to be envied. A dishonest man can be very successful at being dishonest, but he is unlikely to be envied.

Because of the lack of any proper regulation or code of conduct within the remedial treatment industry I spend much of my time dealing with cases where damp proofing salesmen have misdiagnosed problems and quoted for unnecessary treatments. The demand is such that I do not advertise. Most of the cases I deal with come from recommendation from professionally qualified people. I am currently turning work away because of the increasing demand. I certainly do not seek any further work from my participation in this Which? conversation.

Simon Hare
Timbertech Services

 
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Tracy

I’m thinking of purchasing a 1930s end terrace that I’ve viewed. There’s no evidence of an injected damp course on any of the external walls and the current owner who inherited the property 7 years ago says she doesn’t know what kind of damp course the property has or how long ago it was done. There is no evidence of damp at the moment but I’ve experienced rising damp in my current house (a victorian mid terrace) and don’t want to go through that again. Do you know what type of damp proofing a 1930s terrace would have?

 
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Londonconservation.com

As its 1930′s its probably a cavity wall with slate or bitumin DPC. BUT it is impossible to speculate without looking at the building and there are hundreds of variations in construction type in the 1930′s depending on geographic location , builders choice etc etc

You should get a good building survey prior to purchase. This will detail construction type and any damp issues

 
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Tracy

Thanks for your advice. We also noticed when viewing the property that every room downstairs has the original concrete skirting. Isn’t this a damp issue in itself as surely without a sufficient gap between the plaster and the skirting then bridging of any damp course can occur? I know a survey will answer my questions but I’m not sure if I want to put an offer in and pay for a survey that brings up lots of issues that prevent me from pulling out of purchasing anyway. I’d rather gain as much information as possible before putting an offer in.

 
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JRH

Looking to buy a 1930′s bungalow, builder came to look with me and he suggested that the wooden floors skirting etc were wet through and therefore rotten. Not had a survey done yet but would like to know how much a total removal of the whole floors of the bungalow would cost. I was told that a damp proof membrane below the floor level would be laid first then a layer of insulation material then concrete pored on top. It has no damp proof membrane at present so the outside walls would also need to be treated.
I would appreciate answer ASAP please as I need to know whether to offer or not. Besides this problem it is exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you

 

Hi JRH,

Your builder would be the best person to advise on the likely cost of replacing a timber floor with concrete. The depth of the sub-floor void will be one of the factors affecting cost. Any hardcore used should be clean and consolidated. Do not be tempted to use old building materials that may be contaminated. With regard to damp proofing work, replacing the floor may bridge the existing damp proof course so you need to consider this and any likely affect on the neighbouring property (if the bungalow isn’t detached). You will also need to consider any implications regarding cross-ventilation of any remaining timber floors as a concrete floor may obstruct this.

David Prince

 
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timbertechservices

I have just noticed your question on this site and hope you will excuse my intervention. The specification for laying new concrete floors will be known and understood by any competent builder. If the floors and walls are as wet as you describe there could be a serious underlying problem with this property. This is certainly not usual in a property of this description. I would strongly recommend that you obtain the advice of a properly qualified building surveyor before proceeding. It is not always necessary to commission a fully building survey, this particular problem can be investigated as a ‘one off’ issue.

 
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KevinB

Ops, Floorboards are 7/8″ not 3/8″.

 
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Malcolm R

Kevin B, you highlight a great technique for dealing with a problem – if you are capable do some hands-on investigating yourself and you may not need an “expert”. If you do you will have some knowledge on which to judge their recommendations.
I worried about your floorboards; you may have upset some in another conversation who will think you should have used 20mm (or are they actually 22)?

 
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KevinB

Old boards are 7/8″ the new will sadly be 20mm. I prefer Brunel engineering – if it’s big enough it’s strong enough – rather than designed to meet a minimum specification. Though due to the shape of the room the joist will go in at 400mm centres with 1.3m span so there shouldn’t be too much spring.

I know I am lucky being quite practical. This came about because my father is a rare person being an indentured builder (now retired) and my holidays were spent working with him. I have a brother who is full time builder, another brother is an electritian and one a plumber. I did an aprrenticeship with BR and was taught the basics of almost every skill before selecting my final discipline as a mechanic. I will try anything twice unless the first time really hurts.

Again though, real thanks are due to those on this thread who have shown either here or by clues to other websites on what to look for and what to avoid. I think it may have saved me several £1,000 on unnecessary and incorrect solutions.

 
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mick

i have a garden wall with earth behind it so when its wet the water penetrates it,is there any sealer out there that i can apply to the wall so i can paint it

 

Hi Mick,

Ideally a waterproofing membrane should be installed between the earth and the garden wall. If this is not possible then you could consider a membrane on the face of the wall but you would then need to apply rendering over the membrane. I am not aware of a product that would seal the wall against water penetration without substantially changing its appearance.

David

 
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Gemma

I’ve had a well known company come to my house prior to purchasing it, they identified a lot of damp in the living room (party wall and externall walls), they installed DPC etc. They didn’t identify any damp in the other party wall (mid terrace).

They came back to do a second inspection as we took the plaster off ourselves up to 1.5m high, mean while they inspected other areas of the house as well, because we’d emptied it.

Now I’ve had the wall skimmed on the party wall (the one where no damp was identified) I’ve got a tide mark of damp, it’s well over a meter above the ground, but it looks like an isolated patch, about 1m wide and 60 cm high. Could this be rising damp which wasn’t identified? Also do I have a leg to stand on with the survey carried out?

Also does anyone know what a high meter reading is on the meters which the experts use?

 
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jdn

What were the indications of damp before you had the treatment ? Was it just the meter readings ? Was the organisation a member of the Property Care Association ? Did they inject a chemical “damp course” ?

I understand that the readings from normal “damp meters” do not mean anything – or at best require a lot of interpretation.

Depending upon your reply, it would be interesting to see the comments of the PCA chairman.

 
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Gemma

Thanks for your response. They didn’t indicate any problem of damp on this party wall which runs the whole length of the house. This wall was covered in artex; so Im not sure whether that would habe hidden the problem and now it’s been skimmed over and painted there is a visible tide mark.

The upsetting thing is this wall has had my new kitchen fitted against it! Some possible condensation was ientified in an isolated area in the kitchen but nothing further said! A builder has now said it couldd be a lack of horizontal damp course where the extension was built. The annoying thing is I paid for this pre purchase survey before buying the house. Had they said this wall was damp we would have hacked it off before skimming and fitting a new kitchen.

Yes it was a member of PCA

 
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timbertechservices

FURTHER ADVICE FOR GEMMA.

Legally if you invite a company into your property that professes to employ qualified surveyors to investigate a damp problem in that property and that surveyor either fails to detect dampness that exists or conversely he quotes to treat dampness that does not exist or misdiagnoses the problem, then that company is almost certainly liable for negligence. The onus will be upon you to provide proof of this. Often the only way to achieve this is to employ a totally independent properly qualified building surveyor who is able to carry out on site testing of brick and plaster samples. You will need to contact a member of The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors who specializes in building problems or a member of The Chartered Institute of Building. Moisture meters are notoriously unreliable for detecting and confirming the presence of rising dampness and should never be used exclusively for this purpose.Unfortunately because the damp proofing industry is unregulated many damp salesmen who call themselves surveyors use these devices as their one and only diagnostic aid. You do not state whether this company is a member of the PCA.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

 
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Gemma

Thanks for replying. The company is a member if the PCA and actually came out twice to survey. once when i was due to buy it and once after id bought it and taken the kitchen out and hacked off thr majority of walls. Ive had new flooring fitted,skimming and a new kitchen and tiling on the wall in question and since reading about damp think they totally misdiagnosed possible condensatoon as its on the entrance to the extension and had a crumbling plaster wall.
W did a total refurnishment on this house and Im disappointed at how the work is complete and now we have found damp.

Would you advise I call them back out first?
In the survey there was no suggestion of taking samples where they could not confirm whether it was condensation, damp or what!

 
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timbertechservices

Gemma,

You would be strongly advised to obtain a totally independent assessment of the problems that still exist before calling the company back. Damp proofing salesmen generally rely on moisture meters, it would be extremely rare to find one of them bothering to carry out any on site analysis of brick and plaster samples even if they had the equipment or knew how to use it. This is something a genuine expert would undertake if he was in any doubt as to the cause of dampness. It may well be that this should be the next procedure in order to establish correctly what is going on. This is why you really need to contact a properly qualified building surveyor. The tests I have referred to are calcium carbide tests often known in the trade as ‘Speedy Tests’. Once you have had an accurate diagnosis from a competent surveyor you should then invite the original company back. If they fail to accept the findings of this independent expert and fail to offer to put the work right, then I’m afraid legal action has to be your next move.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

 
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Gemma

Hi Peter

The initial surveyor who conducted the homebuyers suggested I contact someone from the PCA and recommended this very large company! If I’d known at the time it was a specialist surveyor which I needed then I definitely would have paid for it as this looks like it’s going to be a very costly mistake, caused by them, for me to put right! The irritating thing is we renewed the majority of the walls apart from this one, which was supposedly fine!

The living room did have fairly significant damp (looked like rising damp with the tide mark going up the wall etc) and the outside patio is quite high up which I intend on lowering in the next couple of months. So that damp problem ‘seems’ to be sorted since the dpc, however it’s just this party wall running through the house which they didn’t dpc and didn’t find a problem with.

Totally devastated as I’ve spec’d the house exactly the way I wanted it, I haven’t even moved in yet, and now it seems there’s been an underlying problem which has only come about since we’ve skimmed and painted! My partner is quite positive, thinking it’s because the house is empty and has been for a few years with no heating on and is going to turn on the new heating system this weekend and leave the windows open too.

I just feel like selling the thing and starting again!

Yes I would be happy to accept your help on this as I’m at my witts end!

 
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timbertechservices

Pete Ward is undoubtedly one of the countries leading experts on building preservation and it’s great to see that he is going to help Gemma with yet another dreadful example of what transpires when innocent house buyers suffer at the hands of these totally unqualified damp salesmen. The problem remains though as Gemma has very succinctly explained. What has happened in this particular case is being repeated every day throughout the country. I, like Pete Ward, and many other independent experts are absolutely inundated with similar cases. I can only endorse the comments Pete has made that people need to be very circumspect when they are directed towards these companies. Once any work has been carried out it can be very difficult and costly to try and unravel the situation. My advice to anyone in this situation remains the same in that when house buyers are told that they should obtain specialist reports prior to being granted a mortgage, they should obtain totally independent advice from a properly qualified building surveyor before approaching the damp proofing salesmen. Once you have a very clear idea of what the problems are, and what they should cost to remedy, it would be very difficult then for any opportunist salesmen to take advantage of the situation.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

 
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tomg

What are these materials likely to be?

I have a standard 1930 semi with cavity walls, black (fly ash?) mortar and some form of rendering that appears to have been applied by throwing it on. The rendering is much “tougher” than modern rendering, as we discovered when a small amount was removed.

What is that rendering likely to be, and can it be replaced with modern rendering?

The internal plasterwork is under wallpaper and is clearly not modern plaster. It has a much more prominent sand-like texture, is more friable and it is more difficult to hammer in a picture nail.

What is that plaster likely to be, and can it be replaced with modern plaster?

If you can’t make definite statements, then pointers to possibilities would be welcomed because I could the right questions are asked and answered by myself and others.

Thanks

 
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Heritage House

The mortar is still likely to be lime – the original render would have been lime – but its right on the changeover of cement / lime after the first war.. Pebbledash renders which are cement will hold water and fall off – they get hollow. Ideally it should come off and be replaced with lime. You should check the cavity is clear and ventilated. All ventilation under floors and into walls MUST work, and airflow is paramount. Internal plaster is PROBABLY lime based too – it will get soft and fall off if you have wallpaper – it traps moisture under the paper and causes the plasters to break down over time. Best to get rid of wallpaper (no steam strippers – they pull plaster off) and paint with breathable paints = Earthborn are good – NOT dulux ‘breathable’ – they arent.

As I always say – BREATHABILITY – use materials that can breathe. MANAGE moisture in your home – have a look for warm air dehumidifying extractors – if you can find my website,, we recommend warm air extractors – and have examples on the site under humidity control pages with links to the folks who sell them – you’ll have to search for heritage house and use damp survey in the search string – that will bring us up – have a look through the other advice on the site – most of the answers to your questions are there !

Pete

 
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tomg

None of the houses have pebbles in the rendering (although the slight surface knobbliness is vaguely reminiscent of pebbles), and they are all painted. In my case, judging by an old paint pot, the paint is Dulux Weathershield, which I suspect is not a good choice.

The cavities aren’t clear: the previous owner installed white friable foam (urea formaldehyde?) insulation. I want to remove that when I have the cavity wall ties replaced. Is removing such cavity wall foam a widely-available skill? If not, how could I find a company that can do it in Bristol?

Since I still have the original windows, ventilation isn’t (yet) an issue!

Thanks for your comments

 
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Heritage House

Cavity filling is proving to be a disaster. We are seeing a huge increase in problems with wet walls, condensation etc when cavities are filled. They were meant to vent, and if filled, they cant – the material gathers condensation. Removing it is hard in some cases – if its solid foam, the only way is to dissolve it…
Keep the place ventilated – get yourself one of those inexpensive hygrometers and keep an eye on the relative humidity in the house. If its over about 55% – you’ve got a problem – which will transfer to the building fabric – opening windows isnt always the solution – if you let humid air in…… Need to keep the inside at 50% – if humid, expel, and bring in warm, DRY air….
Render – difficult one – bash it with a hamer and see if it rings or is hollow – if hollow, get rid – it will be trapping moisture. Any replacement should be lime, with breathable paint only.
Good luck!

 
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tomg

The (white) cavity wall insulation _is_ a solid foam, but it is *extremely* fragile and very easy to remove mechanically; I suspect I could remove some with a feather! Certainly no solvents would be necessary. If I was to try to do it on my own all it would need is an orifice[1] to access the foam, a long thin stick to fragment it, and a vacuum cleaner to suck the fragments out.

Are there any companies that offer that kind of service in the Bristol area? Or what would I use as a search term?

In this case cavity wall insulation is not a principal culprit and cannot be used as “ammunition” against cavity wall insulation in general. Nonetheless I don’t like it on principal.

Thanks

[1] such as there would be when replacing cavity wall ties, which need doing in any case!

 
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Maggie Holden

I know that a few people are moaning about the PCA, but surely it’s best to use a member of an association than not? It’s quite confusing to know who to use now after all these comments and I’m sure these independent surveyors on here are hugely expensive compared to others?!

 
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Heritage House

What is needed is a better understanding of what damp problems actually ARE, and WHY they are there. The average householder doesnt have a chance unless they do their research – then they rapidly realise that ‘damp proofing’ is not needed, and a holistic approach to a building will solve all their problems.

90% of the issues we see on a daily basis are directly related to condensation – humans produce a lot of moisture which gets into the building fabric and needs to be able to escape. Preventing this is a powerful solution – warm air dehumidifying extractors for example, prevent any build up of humidity in a house. Nearly every so called damp house we survey has humidity levels in excess of 50%. Removing the excess levels of humidity solves the problem. There may be symptoms left – for example peeling paint and hollow plaster, but they are easily resolved by using breathable alternatives, which are a PERMANENT solution. Everyone has kitchen and bathroom extractors – but they are useless – they don’t remove enough air, or exchange heat – you need a solution that will take out the humidity and replace the air in your home with warm, dry air.

On the subject of cost – lets say you get a damp company ‘free survey’ – they will recommend you take all the plaster off, and do all sorts of un neccessary work. Quote – say £2000. So you get the work done – then, as Gemma says, it all goes wrong again (she posted here yesterday) You still havent solved the problem – you have just removed the symptoms for a while till the new materials soak up more moisture and fall off again – usually between 5 and 10 years later.

On the contrary – you pay my ‘hugely expensive’ fee of £600 plus travel costs and I come out and spec your home, show you where the moisture is coming from, help diagnose it properly with thermo hygrometers, in-wall probes, thermal imaging to show you where the cold spots are attracting condensation etc. At that point you UNDERSTAND your home, and are then confident that you can solve the problems without resorting to any of the snake oil remedies of the damp industry.

All my happy clients will tell you it’s a no brainer… In summary – its all about breathability of the house – breathable materials, including paints and plasters. Removing moisture at source – and NOTHING to do with damp proofing.

I teach architectural students at university – did you know that the Dutch dont even use damp courses? They build their houses with their feet in water, but they dont get wet. Change your way of thinking from ‘damp proofing’ to ‘understanding where the moisture in my home comes from and goes to..’ That’s what hugely expensive surveyors like me can teach you – and THAT changes your life, and your attitude to the way you live….

Pete

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Heritage House

Gemma

Happy to help – you’ll have to search for heritage house in google – put in ‘damp survey’ as part of the search and it will come up. In your case, my feeling is that the majority of the problems would have been condensation related – in old houses, modern plasters trap condensation as they can’t breathe – over a period of time, they fall off or look dreadful. You’ve just had modern, perished plasters taken off, and new modern plasters put on. Dampness will slowly collect and work its way out again – and so the cycle carries on – in 5 or 10 years time, another damp coy comes in, ‘diagnoses’ rising damp, and does the whole thing again… All it really needed, was modern plaster off, to break the cycle – breathable plaster on, and humidity control – ie, good ventilation to prevent any dampness from collecting in areas where airflow is limited. There is a lot more to this – I’ll be able to point you in the right direction, but need to see the ‘survey’ reports and what has been done, so that we can advise best action. At the very least, legal letters to the company involved to try and get your money back – but we need to get the facts straight first. Drop me an email or call me – all the details are on the site – and we’ll try to unravel things. Bottom line is that you CAN have a lovely warm, dry house – but we need to remove all traces of the damp companies and their chemical rubbish first. We also need to work out what to do with the surveyor that recommended the pca..
Pete

 
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Malcolm R

You still have to sort out the good professionals from the bad – not all people who charge for their services are good. And do they belong to a reputable professional body that has a code of conduct that is imposed properly?
I agree that if you want unbiassed advice you need to pay for it – why should you get it for free with no strings attached? Like any other profession, though, you need to select carefully. Some research is necessary before you choose.

 
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Dry Rot

Hello all,

I have been in the damp proofing industry for 37 years. Yes, there are cowboys and I hate them, they make me excuse myself to clients when I’ve done nothing wrong.

My current business is 27 years old this summer – same company number…. beat that!

My customers come back decade after decade and I am not unusual in the PCA, there are lots of us – but we don’t get the publicity the bad firms get (or those who promote their own and their chums names by slagging off others who they don’t even know).

The PCA is the only organisation with any beneficial influance on the industry and those who rant and rave about cowboys are attacking the very thing which the industry needs – control – training – codes of practice – standards – good examples – aspirations to be better.

Just why are these guys so vehement when it comes to the 400 odd PCA member companies? Is is because of their indignation and are they really lone voices of reason, amongst a flood of dishonest crooks? No way – they are generally self-taught.

This view and their actual knowledge is never challenged and certainly not validated, other than in their own close circle. Hardly a crucible of learning eh? I’ve learned much from the PCA courses and from being taken to task by PCA members as I’ve accumulated a reasonable level of expertise, which has been validated by half a million pounds worth of damp proofing work done every years with very little in the way of problems – how did that happen?

Some of the technical advice and statements made in the above posts (not by the resident expert), – I won’t bore you with the details, display a woeful lack of knowledge and quite purile levels of understanding, especially as damp is the very thing these people seem to want readers to believe they’re expert in – shocking really

Strange world.

Dry Rot.

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