A blog post

Premier Heritage ‘foil’ damp survey incompetence !

Posted on the 28 September, 2009 at 5:25 pm Written by in Blog, Case Studies, Damp

A recent inspection of a 1930’s mid terraced house in Wiltshire exposed a farcical series of events due to the incompetence of the Chartered Surveyor undertaking the Home Buyers Survey and also the damp proofing specialist who (on the recommendation of the Surveyor) followed him.

This traditional cavity brick built, mid-terraced house was subjected to a Home Buyers Survey, which identified dampness within the front living room and rear dining room walls, as a consequence of which recommendations where made to instruct a Specialist Damp Proofing Co to undertake a full survey (standard recommendation) and carry out any remedial works.

After an investigation by a local damp proofing company, rising damp was identified and recommendations put forward for a chemical injection damp proof course and re-plastering to the value of £1800 + Vat.

No visual evidence of dampness to the front bay window

No visual evidence of dampness to the front bay window

Apparently happy with this quote, the prospective purchaser’s builder expressed his concerns with the diagnosis, as the property had (what appeared to be) a perfectly good slate damp proof course (as was installed at the time of construction) visible to both the front bay and rear dining room external facing walls.

A second opinion was sought and Premier Heritage were invited to undertake a survey of the property for Structural Dampness which found the following;-

  •  No obvious external defects or sources of moisture
  • No apparent internal decorative spoiling (other than badly applied wall paper)
  • No obvious plaster deterioration
  • No surface mould growth
  • No significant levels of moisture within the skirtings or adjacent timbers
  • However, high and consistent damp readings to ceiling height on both walls.

Question………What type of dampness would cause this?

Answer……….  The Metal foil backed paper type of dampness. 

Lifting the wall paper expose’s the metal foil paper responsible for the damp readings!

Lifting the wall paper expose’s the metal foil paper responsible for the damp readings!

Wrong Diagnosis

The damp problem had been incorrectly diagnosed, as it was metal foil paper (under the wallpaper) that was interfering with the damp meter, causing it to give the readings. The user should however (if he had known what he was doing) been ‘put on notice’ to the fact that the readings were consistent throughout the walls height (unusual) and that there was no obvious spoiling of decorations / plasterwork etc.

This should have at the very least, made him suspicious and he should have looked beyond the damp meter readings. More importantly is the fact that the property had a fully effective physical damp proof course.

The Outcome

The survey and investigation of dampness in an occupied house can sometimes be restricted as destructive investigation cannot always be carried out or approved. The misdiagnosis of dampness in buildings generally results from the misuse of the ‘moisture meter’ as in this case, but one should not rely on the moisture meter alone and should depend on the surveyors experience, eyes and common sense, all of which will tell him far more than the moisture meter alone. But such instruments are there to support and aid in the diagnosis of dampness (if used correctly) and as such their importance should not be overlooked.

We were somewhat surprised that the Chartered Surveyor had failed to identify the problem and far too quickly ‘passed the buck’ to the damp proofing company. We were however not too surprised with the damp-proofing surveyors findings as he was not only inexperienced, but also held no formal qualifications in damp surveying.

The foil backed paper had been applied to the walls due to the colonisation of mould during the winter months, the mould clearly a symptom of a seasonal condensation.

The foil paper, marketed as an aid to ‘damp control’, was naively applied by the Vendor in an innocent attempt to eradicate the mould, which clearly was never going to happen.

Premier Heritage identified that no structural dampness existed within this property and therefore no works were needed. Following the removal of the foil backed paper and redecoration they all lived happily ever after, apart from the surveyor and the damp-company who were asked to  contribute towards Premier Heritages costs, which could have been avoided had they looked beyond the end of their noses!

some comments

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  1. Tony 12 January 2011 at 4:52 pm permalink

    I have come across this more than once, after other damp proof companies had recommended new dpc and replastering work amounting to several thousands of pounds!
    Mis-diagnosis of this is unforgiveable!