With the exception of ‘subsidence’, the term ‘rising damp’ in a survey report is one of the main triggers likely to set alarm bells ringing with potential purchasers and mortgage lenders.
However, a case of true rising dampness is a relatively uncommon issue. It is caused by the upward passage of moisture through the wall by capillary action and is dependent on type of masonry, the ability of the wall to ‘breathe’ and the height of the water table.
When conducting an inspection, Chartered Surveyors have a duty to ‘follow the trail’ in order to establish the likely cause of any damp that is found within a property.
With pressures by mortgage lenders to use standard paragraphs and with a threat of potential litigation from misdiagnosing an actual case of rising dampness for something less sinister, many surveyors err on the side caution and recommend that the dampness be further inspected by a ‘timber and damp-proof contractor’.
In my opinion, this is a dereliction of a surveyor’s duty to impart their professional expertise and impartiality to their appointing client. More importantly, it passes the responsibility to a firm that, however well-meaning, will have a sales orientated approach and vested interest in specifying potentially expensive and disruptive works that, in many cases, is unnecessary and can be damaging, particularly to historical properties.
It is understandable for a mortgage lender or potential purchaser to want a ‘quick-fix’ to any damp problems and a guarantee by a ‘specialist damp proofing company’ appears to tick the box. However, many damp problems are caused by other issues rather than rising dampness. In most cases these problems can be relatively simple to remedy, and it is important to remember that a guarantee is not worth the paper it is written on if the damp problem was misdiagnosed from the outset.
If you have any questions regarding the above article or would like further advice on defect diagnosis including rising dampness then please do call us on 01327 361664.