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Rising Damp…?

Too often, ‘tide marks’ such as this (pictured) are misdiagnosed as ‘rising damp’, by surveyors and ‘damp specialists’.

Due to the limitations of a mortgage valuation inspection, many surveyors recommend further investigation by a damp specialist, if their unreliable electrical moisture meter indicates misleading high readings. In fact, the traditional ‘damp’ meter used by most surveyors, are designed to give a good indication of the moisture content of timber – NOT brick or mortar. Quite simply, accurate measurements of the moisture content of brick or mortar cannot be obtained using electrical moisture meters, because the presence of salts (in building materials) increases the electrical conductance of the water, giving falsely high readings (British Standard 5250: 2011).

In most cases, your lender will insist on a damp report following a surveyors’ recommendation, and will hold back a sum of money (retention), until the report, and any recommended remedial works, are completed. Unfortunately, this is recommended best practice. Not only does this result in unnecessary delays, it could also cost thousands in unnecessary remedial work, that can actually compound the problem, trapping even more moisture within the fabric of the building. Ultimately, this could affect the sale of your property.

Another problem with this process, is that the some (not all) ‘damp specialists’, who the lenders insist on preparing these damp reports, have a vested interest in selling their services and damp proofing chemicals. So in reality, purchasers have no choice but to act on this advice, and depending on negotiations, the cost of such works may be met by the vendor or the purchaser.

Unfortunately, this industry process is unlikely to change anytime soon. At least not until surveyors are properly trained in moisture diagnosis (eliminating the need for additional damp reports), or until lenders review the organisations they rely on to prepare these damp reports.

If you have been recommended to install a chemically injected damp proof course, we strongly advise you to seek a second opinion by a suitably qualified Chartered Surveyor, who is fully independent, and has no vested interest in selling you damp proofing products. Nuven Surveyors undertake detailed site inspections using a range of specialist equipment such as hygrometers and thermal imaging cameras, the readings of which can be used as evidence in a dispute. If necessary, samples can also be taken from the fabric which will give the most reliable results.

We get a number of ‘damp’ enquiries this time of year, and our recommendations are usually easily implemented and of very little cost. It is usually as simple as fixing leaking gutters or downpipes, lowering external ground levels, improving sub-floor ventilation or making other changes to minimise the risk of condensation. If moisture is a problem in your home, we would be happy to provide you with independent professional advice.

For more information contact us on 01403 333732 or email