Diagnosing and Assessing Damp – A New Approach for RICS Surveyors

Moisture is ubiquitous in all buildings due to the materials they’re made of and the surrounding environment, but this doesn’t necessarily make the damp harmful. The issue only arises when there’s an excess of moisture.

Moisture buildup in building structures can stem from a variety of sources such as occupant activities, building defects, faulty engineering, leaking utilities and drains, groundwater, and emergencies such as floods and fires. Identifying the root cause of damp can be challenging, and improper diagnosis can lead to wasting time and resources.  For years, many traditional structures, including Listed Buildings, have been damaged by irreversible damp-proofing work. This often begins during the mortgage valuation process, where a “timber and damp report” is required as part of the valuation report. Homebuyers may also be advised to get a “specialist damp inspection” as part of their building survey report. These inspections are usually low cost or free, and will include a quote for repairs that could cost thousands of pounds.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Property Care Association, and Historic England collaborated to create a set of competencies and principles for investigating and treating damp in traditional buildings. The document is called the Investigation of Moisture and its Effects in Traditional Buildings and it provides guidelines for surveyors and contractors and outlines the best practices for each stage of diagnosis and repair.  The document is aimed at those providing consultancy advice to owners and buyers of a building and assumes that a non-invasive inspection will be undertaken initially, with an invasive inspection to follow if it is deemed necessary.

The new approach focuses on understanding the old buildings and the flow of moisture within them, enabling treatment of the root cause rather than just the symptoms. This will be advantageous for the building, its owners, and the environment.  The methodology aims to guide the reader through a structured process of understanding dampness problems, considering legal implications of any invasive repairs. It adopts a holistic approach to diagnosis, analyzing factors such as building construction, materials, previous interventions, and the building’s response to moisture. The diagnosis takes into account the building’s location, physical defects, and usage patterns. The goal is to provide a scientifically accurate conclusion based on thorough analysis and proper measurements rather than just the use of a traditional damp meter.

If you have a damp or suspected damp problem we can provide a report prepared in accordance with the above guidance.  Where a property owner requires a damp survey we can also provide gravimetric testing and salt analysis of brick and mortar samples to determine for certain the route cause of the damp issue.  We are the only RICS Chartered Surveying firm based in St Albans, Hertfordshire that provides this service.  If you require any further advice please get in touch.

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