Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Time Surveyors Got to Grips with Damp

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Time Surveyors Got to Grips with Damp

Article excerpt

If there is one thing the house-buying public are neurotic about it is dampness. Rising, penetrating, falling, any old damp. If the surveyor's report just mentions the word the buyer rushes for the exit quicker than you can say "Jack Robinson".

Not that it was always like this. Back in the 60s and 70s most homes suffered from all sorts of damp problems. Indeed, 30 years before then almost every house suffered from dampness. It was then that we linked our health with the damp in our homes. The perpetually damp conditions were seen as the cause of a large number of our respiratory problems.

Quite rightly, we changed the building regulations, or by-laws as they were then known, so at least the new buildings were rising-damp free. In the 60s and 70s grants were readily available to fit damp proof courses and other measures to older properties to eliminate dampness and bring homes up to scratch.

So why do we keep finding dampness?

One thing is for certain ( many a diagnosis of a rising damp problem is mis-identified. For this I blame the "surveyor's little helper" ( the electric damp meter, sometimes referred to as a Protimeter as they are the market leaders in their production.

This is not a sophisticated meter. It works by passing a low electric charge between two steel probes. The meter simply measures how much electricity flows between the probes when they are pushed into the surface of the wall. The idea is that if the plaster is damp it will conduct the charge better than if it is dry. The difficulty is that not only dampness can conduct electricity: so can chemical salts and foil-backed wallpaper. On the other hand, waterproof plaster will stop dampness penetrating to the surface of the wall but it can force the water to migrate to the edge of the water proof plaster and show dampness well detached from the source.

Having correctly identified that a wall is damp and, in all honesty you can see it without needing a meter, the surveyor then must diagnose the cause and whether it needs to be eradicated. …

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