News

May 15

Earlier this year Premier Heritage carried out a full damp investigation of a semi-detached Cottage in North Wiltshire following concerns by its owner relating to damp walls in the main Sitting Room. The property which was constructed around 1898 was built with walls of 228mm solid brick and from a stone foundation.

In discussion with the client she confirmed that following her purchase of the property and within a few months, mould and damp patches started to appear along the bottom of the north and east facing walls, she also mentioned that on occasions she could actually see ‘water droplets’ in the corners.

As a result of her concern she contacted a local damp proofing company who diagnosed Rising Damp and recommended a chemical injection damp proof course (DPC). She was advised that given the plasterwork was in good condition and to save her some money and mess within the sitting room, the DPC could be installed from the exterior of the building, thus eliminating the need to hack off and replaster, although he did state that if the walls didn’t dry out with 6- 9 months, then replastering may well be necessary.

Damp wall caused by seasonal Condensation, note traces of mould to corner

Damp wall caused by seasonal Condensation, note traces of mould to corner

The occupant of some 3 years was concerned that the walls within the Sitting Room were repeatedly being affected by Rising Damp, as they were incredible wet, particularly in the corners and always evidently during the winter months!

Following our extensive investigation of not only the internal walls, but also the exterior of the building, the most astonishing feature of this survey was that this Cottage had 3 damp proof courses (DPC’s), the original slate course, a (badly installed) Ceramic Syphon Tube System (circa 1970’s) and the chemical injected system installed by the owners contractor.

Silicone Injection System, with slate course clearly visible below

 

Silicone Injection System, with slate course clearly visible below.

Ceramic Syphon Tube System
Ceramic Syphon Tube System

However from our own investigation and the readings taken and other data recorded at that time, there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the Sitting Room (or indeed nay other walls) were affected by Rising Damp, but the walls were in-fact suffering from severe seasonal condensation, and in our opinion this was always the case, given that the walls had a low Thermal Rating (solid brick) and were north facing.

Given that there was no evidence to suggest that the slate damp proof course had failed, it has to be assumed that the two further systems installed, were recommended on the basis of misdiagnosis, ignorance or mis-selling, call it what you like. Unfortunately this is an all so common problem and our client told us that she “had fully intended to call back the original damp proof contractor (who incidentally was not a PCA Member) but found he was no longer trading” as such therefore his guarantee was absolutely worthless.

Interestingly, when we asked if she had a Full Building Survey undertaken prior to her purchase, she confirmed yes, although that no damp was reported; obviously not given that the survey was undertaken in May.

Having confirmed our investigation and diagnosis in writing we were able to provide our client with practical advice and guidance on dealing with the condensation issue, which didn’t on this occasion involve another damp proofing system!!

Note: Premier Heritage undertake specialist damp investigations using a variety of detection systems and instruments, including Digital Hygrometers/ Thermometers, Thermal Imaging and Carbide Masonry Testing for a quick ‘non-destructive’ evaluation of masonry in a building. But one should not rely on these instruments alone, but should be more reliant on the users experience, eyes (visual observations) and more importantly common sense, all of which will tell you far more than moisture measuring instrument’s alone. However these instruments are there to support and aid in the diagnosis of dampness (if used correctly) and as such their importance should not be overlooked.

May 15

On a cold and misty morning in January earlier this year, we arrived in the town of West Bay, Dorset to undertake a secret mission on a property that was home to the fictional character DI Alec Hardy played by David Tennant in the TV series BROADCHURCH. Our mission, to carry out a full Timber Condition Survey and report any structural timber defects to our client, the prospective purchaser.

Britbank  - made famous by Broadchurch

Britbank made famous with its appearances in the recent TV series BROADCHURCH

This waterside Timber Framed Chalet located on the River Brit in West Bay was built in the early 1900,s although has been subject to much repair and alteration over the years, given its exposure to the prevailing winds and salt laden atmosphere. We were also informed that this two bedroom, centrally heated chalet, that basically stands on piles of bricks, has also come close to flooding in the past, with the water levels rising to the underside of the timber flooring.

Brick pillar

Our client at that time was planning to purchase the property and there was a requirement for a low profile, Timber Condition Survey (given the interest in the property), which we are pleased to confirm, it passed with flying colours. No significant defects or areas of decay were identified, other than general weathering issues and the need for routine maintenance and decoration.

Britbank  - made famous by Broadchurch

Front elevation of Britbank

Much of the external timber cladding has been replaced over the years, as had a good percentage of the floor platform, with the sensible use of pre-treated timbers and wall plates and the added benefit of good air flow beneath the Chalet will no doubt minimise the risk of future decay affecting the sub floor structure.

Brick pillar

Replacement floor joists supported on blocks/ bricks with slate DPC packing.

Premier Heritage’s survey involved the use of Digital Micro Drilling of original floor timbers and general investigation using moisture measuring instruments, as well as Thermal Imaging to locate the layout of the vertical timber framed walls, which did confirm that one corner of the property was in fact clad brickwork and not timber framed.

Thermal imaging by Premier Heritage

We are pleased to confirm that our client’s purchase of Britbank has now completed and allowed us to produce this short case study.

 

Mar 11

Premier Heritage was called upon to undertake a detailed investigation into the structural condition of the exposed timbers within a High Street, chemist’s shop, when structural movement was identified beneath one of the carrier beams and the main framing timbers on the jettied section of the building projecting over the public precinct walkway.

Exterior of property

Exterior of property

The property along with the adjoining shops had jettied sections supported on a series of timber hardwood columns, one of which supporting the main carrier beam and framing timbers being affected by long standing water penetration. This had occurred as a direct result of a defective hopper and down pipe resulting in wet rot decay to the main hardwood timbers and the top section of the supporting column, eventually leading to the compression of the column and the reported structural movement.

Damaged rain water goods

Damaged rain water goods

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Damaged timbers

Damaged timbers

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Compressed column

Compressed column

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Working with and on behalf of the Insurance Assessors we were instructed to undertake a full timber condition survey to identify the type of decay, but more importantly the extent of timber replacement and this being a Listed Building necessitated the requirement to keep the replacement timbers to a bare minimum.
Our investigation involved a full visual and moisture assessment of all adjacent timbers, along with general probing using a bradawl, but also the use of the Sibert Digital Micro Probe to assess the actual condition and potential loss of fabric on the larger dimension timbers.
Some time was spent cleaning out the decayed timber and general debris from within the timber column, only to discover an active infestation by Death Watch Beetles, these clearly having infested the decaying timbers some years prior to our survey.

Damaged timbers

Damaged timbers

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Death watch beetle damage

Death watch beetle damage

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The outcome initiated an immediate repair of the down pipe and hopper and a proposal for replacing some secondary timbers, splicing and resin injection to the top section of the main supporting column and the introduction of some steel work to strengthen the main frame timbers. This was followed by targeted treatment of the timbers using an Insecticidal Fluid to aid with the control of the Death Watch Beetle, in conjunction with natural drying of the timber.

Our survey had obviously highlighted the need for property owners and such like, to ensure they routinely undertake inspections and report any obvious building defects before they get out of hand. In general discussion with the adjoining shop owner we were informed that the down- pipe had been leaking for some time and had been reported on several occasions, despite which no repairs had been implemented.

Nov 07
Premier Heritage have over the years undertaken investigation of some fairly horrendous attacks of fungal decay in all types of buildings which occurred as a consequence of unwanted moisture ingress and resulted in extensive damage to the interior fabric of the building, the loss of structural and joinery timbers and more importantly distress and expense to the property owners.
In a lot of cases these attacks could have been avoided with simple routine maintenance, cleaning of guttering drains etc which are one of the major contributors to fungal decay, particularly the dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans.
When one undertakes a survey for fungal decay the initial objective is to establish the source of moisture responsible for the attack, however our recent investigation of a 1930’3 detached bungalow, initially failed to indentify the cause of a significant outbreak of decay that affected the two (back to back) bedrooms.
Our client’s first indication of anything being wrong was the discovery of a fruiting body on the external corner of a skirting, followed by deflection of the flooring this resulting in her vacating the room and her subsequent contact with ourselves.
Photo
Dry Rot fruiting body appeared on skirting board
On arriving at the property and commencing our survey the first observation made was that the attack was well away from any obvious internal sources of water (bathroom, kitchen etc) although could have been the result of a radiator pipe leak below floor level, although this may have become obvious to the occupants.
External inspection again confirmed no obvious down pipes or drainage systems adjacent to the decay and the property had a physical damp proof course and walls tested (using a moisture meter) detected no dampness to be present or to adjacent joinery, other than the skirting board above. One observation made however was that new sub floor air bricks had been fitted on to all elevations.
Why has the property got new airs we asked? We had cavity wall insulation installed about 3 years ago …………… alarm bells started to ring.
To cut a long story short having lifted the flooring within the front bedroom we discovered an extensive outbreak of fungal decay which extended through the internal wall into the rear bedroom covering around two thirds of the floor area in each room and evidently starting close to the location of the external wall and an air vent.
3 Photos
The extent of the attack exposed following removal of the floor timbers.
Upon closer inspection however we discovered that the internal vent apertures had been blocked with cavity wall insulation and also found that the internal aperture didn’t align with the air vents located on the external wall.
Photo
Insulation materials evident in air vent aperture.
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Cavity brushes used to prevent insulation blocking air vents,
although aperture clearly does not go through the wall.
During our initial survey we broke out several of the external air vents establishing that whilst the new vents installed had apparently been sleeved across the cavity (to prevent the materials blocking them) on removal they were not sleeved, but  fitted with cavity brushes, which served no practical purpose. Therefore the insulation had blocked the cavities, preventing air flow to the sub floor timbers, thus changing the environment within the sub floor void, creating damp conditions, sub floor condensation, thus resulting in the wetting of timbers and eventual development of the fungal attack.
Having established the cause and extent of the decay a specialist timber treatment contractor was appointed, undertaking the repairs and treatment of the floors, walls were re-plastered (where removed for cavity clearance) and new joinery fitted. Once the floors had been opened internally and aired and the cavities cleared etc the entire area dried down quite rapidly.
More importantly however was that every air brick fitted to the bungalow had to be individually broken out and subsequently replaced with sleeved vents directly through the walls to the sub floor area, thus reinstating the original sub floor ventilation, if not improving it!
From the point of discovering the decay to the re-occupation of the bedrooms took around 6 weeks and we are pleased (on this particular occasion) to report that the original contractors responsible for the installation of the cavity wall insulation have accepted full liability for the fungal decay as well as all costs.
How to avoid future problems? We at Premier have inspected and reported on numerous cases where Cavity Wall Insulation (CWI) materials had caused bridging of moisture through the cavities, resulting in internal dampness and spoiling of decorations etc. Whilst our own evidence suggests that installers have tightened up on their pre-installation procedures in recent years, property owners still need to be aware of the potential issues that can cause future problems and expense (particularly if the installer is no longer trading).
Energy conservation is now government lead and more and more homes are being insulated, but it is important that prior to installing CWI  pre installation checks are undertaken by the installer which should include the most important factor, its suitability for cavity wall insulation i.e. the building’s construction (porosity of building materials) and its exposure to the prevailing weather.
Other checks should include visual inspection of the actual cavity at DPC level, checking the cavity trays for debris and also for dirty wall ties, all of which are capable of transmitting moisture through a wall. More importantly check that the system (installation and materials) are covered by guarantees, preferably insurance backed.

Premier Heritage have over the years undertaken investigation of some fairly horrendous attacks of fungal decay in all types of buildings which occurred as a consequence of unwanted moisture ingress and resulted in extensive damage to the interior fabric of the building, the loss of structural and joinery timbers and more importantly distress and expense to the property owners.

In a lot of cases these attacks could have been avoided with simple routine maintenance, cleaning of guttering drains etc which are one of the major contributors to fungal decay, particularly the dry rot fungus Serpula lacrymans.

When one undertakes a survey for fungal decay the initial objective is to establish the source of moisture responsible for the attack, however our recent investigation of a 1930’s detached bungalow, initially failed to identify the cause of a significant outbreak of decay that affected the two (back to back) bedrooms.

Our client’s first indication of anything being wrong was the discovery of a fruiting body on the external corner of a skirting, followed by deflection of the flooring this resulting in her vacating the room and her subsequent contact with ourselves.

Dry rot fruiting body on skirting board

Dry rot fruiting body on skirting board

On arriving at the property and commencing our survey the first observation made was that the attack was well away from any obvious internal sources of water (bathroom, kitchen etc) although could have been the result of a radiator pipe leak below floor level, although this may have become obvious to the occupants.

External inspection again confirmed no obvious down pipes or drainage systems adjacent to the decay and the property had a physical damp proof course and walls tested (using a moisture meter) detected no dampness to be present or to adjacent joinery, other than the skirting board above. One observation made however was that new sub floor air bricks had been fitted on to all elevations.

Why has the property got new airs we asked? We had cavity wall insulation installed about 3 years ago …………… alarm bells started to ring.

To cut a long story short having lifted the flooring within the front bedroom we discovered an extensive outbreak of fungal decay which extended through the internal wall into the rear bedroom covering around two thirds of the floor area in each room and evidently starting close to the location of the external wall and an air vent.

Dry rot in subfloor void

Dry rot in subfloor void

Dry rot mycelium growth

Dry rot mycelium growth

Dry Rot attack

Dry Rot attack

The extent of the attack exposed following removal of the floor timbers.

Upon closer inspection however we discovered that the internal vent apertures had been blocked with cavity wall insulation and also found that the internal aperture didn’t align with the air vents located on the external wall.

Insulation materials in air vent

Insulation materials evident in air vent aperture

Cavity brushes used to prevent insulation blocking air vents, although aperture clearly does not go through the wall.

Cavity brushes used to prevent insulation blocking air vents, although aperture clearly does not go through the wall.

During our initial survey we broke out several of the external air vents establishing that whilst the new vents installed had apparently been sleeved across the cavity (to prevent the materials blocking them) on removal they were not sleeved, but  fitted with cavity brushes, which served no practical purpose. Therefore the insulation had blocked the cavities, preventing air flow to the sub floor timbers, thus changing the environment within the sub floor void, creating damp conditions, sub floor condensation, thus resulting in the wetting of timbers and eventual development of the fungal attack.

Having established the cause and extent of the decay a specialist timber treatment contractor was appointed, undertaking the repairs and treatment of the floors, walls were re-plastered (where removed for cavity clearance) and new joinery fitted. Once the floors had been opened internally and aired and the cavities cleared etc the entire area dried down quite rapidly.

More importantly however was that every air brick fitted to the bungalow had to be individually broken out and subsequently replaced with sleeved vents directly through the walls to the sub floor area, thus reinstating the original sub floor ventilation, if not improving it!

From the point of discovering the decay to the re-occupation of the bedrooms took around 6 weeks and we are pleased (on this particular occasion) to report that the original contractors responsible for the installation of the cavity wall insulation have accepted full liability for the fungal decay as well as all costs.

How to avoid future problems? We at Premier have inspected and reported on numerous cases where Cavity Wall Insulation materials had caused bridging of moisture through the cavities, resulting in internal dampness and spoiling of decorations etc. Whilst our own evidence suggests that installers have tightened up on their pre-installation procedures in recent years, property owners still need to be aware of the potential issues that can cause future problems and expense (particularly if the installer is no longer trading).

Energy conservation is now government lead and more and more homes are being insulated, but it is important that prior to installing Cavity Wall Insulation  pre installation checks are undertaken by the installer which should include the most important factor, its suitability for cavity wall insulation i.e. the building’s construction (porosity of building materials) and its exposure to the prevailing weather.

Other checks should include visual inspection of the actual cavity at Damp Proof Course level, checking the cavity trays for debris and also for dirty wall ties, all of which are capable of transmitting moisture through a wall. More importantly check that the system (installation and materials) are covered by guarantees, preferably insurance backed.

Jun 07

Here at Premier Heritage we have inspected many types of structures suffering with damp and wood rot over the years, but this was a first, the inspection of a large Motor Home.

We were called in to advise the owner on the type and causes of wood rot affecting the plywood timber decking forming the accommodation area of the motor home, this recently discovered during his routine ‘spring clean’ of the vehicle in preparation for use over the summer.

Motorhome with a wood rot problem

Motorhome with a wood rot problem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The obvious cause of the wet rot decay was due to the timbers contact with moisture, in part due to the poor detailing and water proofing of the structure beneath the vehicle and the sawn ends of the decking which are exposed within the side storage boxes.

Wet Rot affected timbers

Wet Rot affected timbers

Wet Rot in a side storage box

Wet Rot in a side storage box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are pleased to confirm that with a bit of help from Premier Heritage the owner has now reached a satisfactory agreement with the suppliers / manufacturers of the vehicle and repairs / modifications are currently in hand.

What to do if you suspect Wet Rot in a motorhome / caravan

It is important to get any signs of wood rot checked out by a professional qualified surveyor  who will be able to diagnose the type of wood rot (Wet Rot, Dry Rot etc) and help advise the best cause of action to take.

Jun 07

Powder Post Beetle Advice

It has become extremely popular over the past decade or so, to rip up those carpets, drive down to your local timber yard and purchase and lay that beautiful oak floor that you’ve always craved for!

Costs a lot of money, but hey………. it looks great, feels great and more importantly will last for years.

But hang on, what’s this…………. You start to notice little holes appearing in the floorboards, what can it be? Its woodworm, the little blighters have got into my new floor.

However the culprit in this particular case is unlikely to be your ordinary woodworm the Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum) as generally found in domestic housing, as well as period and commercial buildings, but is more likely to be Lyctus Brunneus, otherwise known as the Powder Post Beetle.

Powder Post Beetle following emergence from oak floor boarding

Powder Post Beetle following emergence from oak floor boarding

Powder Post Beetles are insects that attack the sapwood of wide pored hardwoods such as Oak & Elm and over the last 10 years or so we at Premier Heritage have investigated numerous cases of this particular insect. It seems to be becoming more frequent with reported cases most commonly in flooring, but also identified in new furniture, as well as structural and decorative oak timbers introduced during new build construction.

Powder Post Beetles attack the sapwood that has a sufficient starch content (greater than 3%) and it is evident therefore that it is a very specialised insect indeed and has very specific requirements, especially in relation to starch. Indeed, it is the starch content of potentially susceptible hardwoods which make them prone to attack by the Powder Post Beetle.

It should however be noted that as wood ages the starch content declines (due to bacterial action) and therefore after around 10 years or so, the levels will have dropped so that infestation/activity is no longer possible.

Furthermore, given the special requirements of the insect it is not going to infest the existing old hardwood timbers (if any) or those softwoods found in housing.

Given the very special requirements of the insect and the wood it attacks (newly converted wide pored hardwoods with sufficient starch content), then your normal domestic house will not contain such timbers, except where they have been introduced to form a new hardwood floor.

Powder Post Beetle

Powder Post Beetle damage to a newly laid oak floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is also extremely unlikely that this insect will fly into your property where such susceptible timbers have just been laid, but almost inevitable the insect would have been introduced with wood already infected; this occurs where such wood may have been stored, i.e. timber yards, furniture manufacturers etc.
 

What to do if you find Powder Post Beetle in an oak floor

If you find woodworm in your new Oak floor what should you do?

• Well firstly the infestation needs to be correctly identified; incorrect identification could result in unnecessary chemical treatments being applied and as such the floor should therefore be inspected by a qualified Timber Infestation Surveyor (CTIS or CSRT).

• Having identified that the infestation is the Powder Post Beetle then it should be considered that the flooring materials would almost certainly have been infested prior to purchase and being laid in your property. You should therefore consider taking the following initial action.

Contact and advise the contractor who laid the floor (this is with whom your contract would normally be formed) or the suppliers of the timber, that the flooring is infected by woodworm and as such should be considered ‘defective’ and not of merchantable quality.

Powder Post Beetle frass and beetle emergence holes

Powder Post Beetle frass and beetle emergence holes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the wood is of aesthetic value then it may be argued that the damage (holes) make it not fit for its purpose. If one examines the wood and finds elongated surface scoring then this indicates that the damage was present when the wood was sawn and planed, i.e., long before you bought and laid it in your property.
 
You should then consider the following actions:

1] Ask for the wood to be replaced as it was supplied defective.
2] If the damage is very minor (on a few sapwood edges), then you could consider using an ‘injector’ to apply a wood preservative into the holes and this could be an acceptable solution. Nevertheless, inform the supplier of the problem and it may be prudent to put them ‘on notice’ that if the infestation should worsen then you will expect them to take appropriate action over it.

Note: Do not chemically spray the entire floor! Most floors retain some form of stain or varnish that would limit chemical uptake. Also treatment in most cases, to be fully effective, rely on chemical being applied to both sides, which after the floor is laid won’t be possible, and clearly to lift the floor would be very expensive, and almost certainly cause irreversible damage.
 
Finally, don’t let the supplier of the timber fob you off with the ……”It’s nothing to do with us mate – you’ve got woodworm”. Yes you have, but inevitably this insect was brought in to your home with the new hardwood, and it is therefore certainly the supplier’s problem.

Jan 13

Premier Heritage has recently completed timber and damp surveys of the Victorian canopies over the platforms at 2 of the busiest railway stations on the main line linking London with the West Country.

Platform 3 at Salisbury Station that has recently been given listed status by English Heritage.

Platform 3 at Salisbury Station that has recently been given listed status by English Heritage.

These structures which date back as far as the 1830’s provide weather protection for the main platforms and waiting passengers, and are supported on a series of cast iron stanchions and steel trusses. The structural timbers forming the canopies are of pine and underclad with tongue and grooved pine boarding.

One of the complicated Salisbury roof trusses on platforms 2 & 3.

One of the complicated Salisbury roof trusses on platforms 2 & 3.

Planned maintenance and proposed new roof coverings called for a full condition survey of the structural timbers to be undertaken.  This would determine any timbers that required repair or replacement as a consequence of timber decay, resulting from water ingress / damp penetration, but more importantly would also determine any timbers that were considered at risk, so as to allow preventative works to be undertaken, along with any targeted timber treatments.

The underside of Platform 1 at Basingstoke Station.

The underside of Platform 1 at Basingstoke Station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The surveys included conventional techniques along with full moisture assessment of structural and other timbers and also included the use of the Micro Probe used for the non destructive investigation of concealed timbers. (For more information on the Micro Probe and to see it in action click here)

Moisture assessment of one of the main supporting timbers.

Moisture assessment of one of the main supporting timbers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On completion of the surveys (which were carried out over a three month period) detailed reports were provided outlining the extent and areas of required repair and any other maintenance issues required to prolong the life of the canopies.

The underside of platforms 2 & 3 Salisbury Station.

The underside of platforms 2 & 3 Salisbury Station.

Oct 26

Premier Heritage has recently completed a timber condition and defect survey of historic Worsley Court House in Salford, Manchester close to the Bridgwater Canal.

Worsley Court House was constructed on the site of the old village stocks and completed in early 1849, soon after on the 4th August the first court hearing was held where two local men were accused of fishing on the Bridgwater Canal and on the private fishing ponds of the Earl of Ellesmere. They were apparently found in the possession of a large eel and a 6lb carp, with one of the men found guilty and allegedly fined two pounds, a lot of money in those days!

Although operating as a Court until 1908, the building has been used in many ways over the years and has served as the Town Hall, as well as being used for public functions, dances and concerts, in some way fulfilling the function of the village hall. In 1973 it was purchased by the Salford District Council and is now a distinguished venue for weddings, public meetings and other private functions.

Despite its traditional external black and white timber framing and decorative gabled walls the Court House is a purely Victorian building with lavish internally panelled walls and a huge fireplace.

The building, which is now Grade II Listed,  has been extensively extended over the years with numerous wings being added, however like many buildings of its age and construction it is vulnerable to the affects weathering and dampness and over the past decade or so; various structural timbers have had to be replaced due to fungal decay.

Premier have undertaken a detailed survey of the timber framing, which included the use of the Micro Drilling system and well as conventional survey techniques to advise on the on incidence to timber decay and future repair strategies.

Front entrance to the Worsley Court House

Front entrance to the Worsley Court House

 

Non destructive detection of timber decay

Non destructive detection of timber decay

More conventional decay detection of a corner post

More conventional decay detection of a corner post

The timber panelled wall of the Oak room

The timber panelled wall of the Oak room

Closer inspection reveals wet rot decay to decorative timbers

Closer inspection reveals wet rot decay to decorative timbers

Sep 28

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!

Sep 17
In early August Premier received instructions to undertake a timber condition survey of the signal box located at Ryde St John Station on the Isle of Wight.

The station, which opened in August 1864, was the Isle of Wight railway’s northern terminus, (one of three stations in Ryde), before being expanded in 1866 to accommodate the opening of the new Ventnor to Shanklin line.

Ryde St John Signal Box

Ryde St John Signal Box

The islands railway now boasts an annual passenger usage of around 170,000, being the only commercial public transport railway line on the island and relied on by many local residents for access to other parts of the island.

The timber framed, two storey signal box originally located at London Waterloo East, was dismantled in 1926, timbers numbered and moved piece by piece to be re-erected at its present location. This is the only operational signal box on the Isle of Wight line today and hence it has become known as the ‘Island Line Signalling Centre’!

No fancy computerised systems here! All hand operated by an experienced Signalman

No fancy computerised systems here! All hand operated by an experienced Signalman

Premier’s brief was to undertake a detailed investigation of the main structural supporting timbers and to prepare a specification of repair and preservation to allow for the continued use of the Signal Box well into the 21st century.

The main soft wood timber frame which sits on a concrete ringed foundation suffers from wet rot fungal decay and general deterioration, in part due to general weathering and the lack of routine maintenance, but also as a consequence of past flooding that affected the track and station buildings in the early and late 1990’s. Investigation of the timbers included the use of conventional survey techniques and moisture measurement, but also Micro Drilling using the Sibtec Digital Probe to determine the integral condition of the main wall plates, cill beams and large corner posts.

Significant wet rot fungal decay affecting the large corner posts  and cill beams

Significant wet rot fungal decay affecting the large corner posts and cill beams

Wet rot decay affects the internal wall plates

Wet rot decay affects the internal wall plates

Wet rot fungal decay affects the joists to the canter levered jetty on the southern elevation

Wet rot fungal decay affects the joists to the canter levered jetty on the southern elevation

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