On March 20th 2019 The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act came into force in England and Wales, giving tenants the legal right to sue landlords for damp or mould problems in rented properties. While most responsible landlords would not wish to endanger the health of their tenants, this adds a legal imperative to ensure any signs of damp in a house are combated immediately. Damp and mould in a home are not only unsightly but can produce unpleasant smells or release spores that can cause respiratory health problems. Left unchecked, dampness can cause structural material to rot or corrode, weakening the overall structure and potentially leading to collapse of walls or roofs which is dangerous and extremely costly to repair.As dampness in a property can often be hidden within the structural materials used in construction, it will not always present obvious signsand a damp survey is the only way to be sure.
If tenants notice any signs of damp they should inform their landlord immediately so remedial action can be taken and landlords should regularly inspect their property and check with tenants whether any signs of damp have been noticed. This works both ways, the landlord can be sure that the property is safeguarded from damage due to damp and the tenant can be sure their home is as safe as possible. There are four main types of damp issues that typically affect homes but all display obvious warning signs if regular checks are maintained.
Types Of Damp
Whilst not strictly speaking a type of damp, any leaks inside the home can lead to a build up of water that can create damp problems if not remedied. Poorly installed plumbing or badly maintained or damaged seals around bathroom fixturesare a common source of leaks. Any unexplained puddles of water or growing water stains on walls or ceilings can be an indication of a leak and should not be ignored.
This is most likely to occur during the ‘condensation season’ from October to April.This is one of the most common types of damp and is usually caused by poor insulation or ventilation in bathrooms or kitchens. Look for steamed up windowsand build up of water on windowsills or damp patches on interior walls and peeling wallpaper.
This is caused when ground water rises up through the masonry and evaporates out, leaving salts behind that will absorb water from humid air and cause dampness. This can sometimes be detected by a damp smell or patches of moisture above skirting boards and can lead to having to insert damp proofing and stripping plaster up to a metre and a half from affected walls.
Gaps in the structure of a building or overflowing gutters, damaged pipes and the like can allow water to penetrate the structure of the building and cause dampness. This can cause water marks or blotchiness on external walls and can lead to crumbling of the walls and plaster, mouldiness and potentially allow dry or wet rot to take hold.
If any of these warning signs are observed, or if surrounding buildings display evidence of damp problems, a damp survey must be undertaken at once. If you are purchasing anew property it is essential that a damp survey be undertaken to avoid costly problems in the future, or if you are renovating an existing property it is worth including a dampsurvey as by the time signs of damp are noticed, significant damage could already be done. It is always recommended that a reputable company with up to date, modern methods of diagnosing damp problems should be employed.During the survey, several methods of inspection will be used the findings will be assessed by the surveyor and recommendations on how to resolve any issues given.
Stages Of A Damp Survey
Firstly, a full physical inspection of the property will be carried out. This allows the surveyor to spot any physical damage or tell tale signs of damage to the property from damp.An external inspection is a good chance to find any damage to the property that could allow water in. For example, blocked guttering can allow rainwater to overflow and penetrate walls or missing or broken roof tiles will allow rain to enter the loft and potentially damage roof timbers or penetrate further into the structure. Broken or eroded masonry or poor pointing or fitting of doors or windows can also allow water in or already water damaged or water retaining walls will be obvious to the trained eye from their physical condition. At this stage an interior inspection will highlight any of the warning signs discussed above, whether from obvious visual clues or even smells inside the building
There are several types of damp testing available to the surveyor at this point. Traditionally, this would involve drilling into walls to test moisture levels or removal of structural materials to test for elevated dampness off site. Thankfully, there are now non destructive testing options such as ultrasound testing or thermal imaging that can be used without the need for invasive techniques that cause damage to the property. Ultrasonic testing relies on the ability of sound to travel faster through water than through solids or air. An ultrasonic transmitter is placed on one side of a wall suspected of harbouring damp and ultrasonic wave emitted. A receiver on the other side of the wall then receives these waves and the results are analysed for evidence of damp. Thermal imaging exploits the high thermal capacity of water. The surface of the wall is viewed through a thermal imaging camera and any changes in the temperature from one area to another from the presence of damp can be observed. The results of these tests can highlight problems that need to be dealt with or the possible need for further, more invasive testing.
Once testing is complete, the surveyor will compile a thorough report based on the data obtained. This will inform the client of any damp problems present along with any damage they may have caused and the best course of action to pursue. Often the company used will have staff who can then be employed in any corrective work or necessary repairs. This is always the best solution as the recommendations of the surveyor can be clearly communicated to the workers implementing them.
At Property Damage UK Ltd, we have a full team of building surveyors and pathologists to deal with every step from survey to completion and have a network of trade contacts in all aspects of construction. If you need the services of a damp surveyor in London or the surrounding areas, please contact us and we will be happy to answer any queries and provide the staff you need as soon as possible.
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