Damp In All The Wrong Places

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Does anybody know any good surveyors, specialists or builders capable of properly assessing damp problems and proposing remedies?

I am not looking for the usual cowboy gangs (who are sadly in the majority) who stick a two pronged resistance meter in the wall and declare the whole universe is suffering from rising damp, I am looking more for someone who understands older buildings and how they “breathe”, the use of traditional breathable materials such as lime plaster and can give proper guidance rather than promote methods which just hide the problems and ultimately make matters worse.

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From my limited knowledge, I know that most damp problems are not generally caused by ‘rising damp’ as is usually considered to be the culprit. Instead, they are very often caused by surprisingly simple things, invariably by the previous use of modern materials for repairs and renovations which actually trap moisture. This trapped moisture often goes unnoticed until and only manifests itself when the real damage is done. Old houses generally relied on being able to ‘breath’ to keep damp out, but over the years the trend has been to seal places to keep the precious heat in or to make them easier to maintain, although this is often to the detriment of the building.

I would really appreciate any feedback or experiences both good and bad from others who have had damp problems to contend with, and as usual I have included a contact form below and I promise not publish anything told to me without express permission.

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3 Comments

  1. Best of luck with this. I know nothing about old buildings, but am now living in a 100+ year old house, and I see that there is a lot to learn (or would be, except I am just renting and I turn these matters over to the owner). I do have a quick question for you: what is it all about if you get occasional sweet or sour smells from corners of an old house? I assume that if mildew or decay was the problem, the smell would be constant, or would continually increase. For us the smells just come an go–sometimes frequently, sometimes not. (Our short term solution is ventilation/open windows.) Old buildings are definitely quirky!

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    1. Mould needs moisture and warmth to develop and so it is likely that inadequate ventilation may be the cause of your problems. Older houses tended to use lime based paints and renders which “breathe” and as such do not retain water. Problems arise when we use modern plastic based paints and hard gypsum plasters and mortars which are too watertight and hold moisture within walls, mortar joints and even in existing lime plaster. Also, nowadays we seal up our properties as much as possible to retain the heat, but that can cause serious problems with condensation which previously would have been removed by natural air flows through the building. Any moisture retained in the building will lead to problems, but often the cure is not as far reaching or expensive as the ‘experts’ tell us.

      Take a look at http://www.heritage-house.org/ – it has some very useful information on these issues and there are also some links on there to Youtube videos on the subject.

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