Buyers of brick or masonry homes should pay particular attention to the serious building defect known as rising damp.
Through capillary action, moisture can make its way up a brick wall from the ground. A breakdown in the waterproofing barrier or garden beds being constructed above an existing damp proof course can result in rising damp. Because of their age, period homes are particularly susceptible to rising damp.
Paint bubbling and flaking around skirting boards is one of the tell-tale signs of rising damp.
Rising damp causes timber to rot to areas such as floors and skirting boards. It also causes mould and odours, which can adversely affect people with respiratory conditions.
It is one of the most costly non-structural defects to rectify in residential properties. Many sellers undertake an internal paint prior to placing their property on the market. This can make it very difficult for the inexperienced property buyer to detect rising damp.
There are different methods of rectifying rising damp. Both solid and liquid membranes are commonly used to provide a barrier. These materials are placed in mortar joints at the base of the building.
Water pooling near a masonry building structure can lead to rising damp. Prevention is better than cure, so property owners are well advised to repair any leaking roof guttering or pipes. Rainwater should always drain away from the building structure.
Methods to improve underfloor cross ventilation will also assist in preventing rising damp e.g. removing debris from the underfloor or installing effective air vents. Air vents and weep holes should always be clear of any type of blockage.
Because rising damp can be difficult to detect, property buyers should always engage the services of a building inspector before the contract becomes unconditional.
In situations where rising damp is difficult to detect e.g. a newly painted wall, a qualified building inspector will use a damp meter to ascertain the level of moisture in the wall.