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  • Buying a house with damp. Bad idea ? .?
  • bikebob
    Full Member

    Thinking of buying a house with damp, is it a bad idea ?
    Some low level black mould on walls behind furniture and a tiny bit of bubbling plaster. Survey meter went red at all locations tested. Problem is mrs loves the house, and so do I but thought of buying a damp house leaves me cold. As does the EPC which is also as bad as it can possibly be. No insulation in roof or walls. It has solid walls with no cavity or dpc.

    I’m sure I can rely on stw to denounce my stupid question and query my sanity, but it would be good to have input from people with real life experience. I’d have it professionally treated, but I’m sceptical as to how effective it will be and if it will make a noticeable difference.

    Thanks in advance.

    Full Member

    Brother in law did this early in the year but he got a large chunk taken off the price equivalent to what they were quoted to get it fixed. the house was in bits for months with floors up and plaster down.

    Free Member

    If its the house you want in the location you want then just get some professional advice to remedy the situation and get it knocked of the price. Lots of properties have damp. Some worse than others but almost always fixable if you identify the root cause.

    Good luck!!

    Free Member

    Damp is there for a reason, poor ventilation, lack of heating, insulation, leaky pipe, tumble dryer whatever.

    All those can be fixed.

    Main concern would be health and Cost of getting rid before moving in.

    Free Member

    ^ what @tinribz said but I’m sure the STW self-appointed builder guru will be along in a mo to tell you otherwise 😉

    Free Member

    I sold a house with damp… not because of the damp!

    I had a survey done by a local ‘renovation’ specialist and gave it to interested buyers, then accepted that they would knock it off the price. I did this to stop the buyers getting ridiculous quotes from the National companies. I was genuinely surprised how reasonable it would be been to have some simple treatments, wish I had done it earlier… I’m trying to say find a recommended local company, get a quote and negotiate. The seller will be expecting it (I was proactive as in Scotland and home report flagged it)

    Living in a house with damp is about heating and ventilation (as above). The only visible spots inside were behind the heavy door curtains and a kitchen unit, although other walls showed up on the meter. Research which paints to use etc. My house never felt cold or damp, but as with all old houses with solid walls, it took a while to heat up. I didn’t have mains gas, so heating was expensive and I relied on wood burners much of the time. It was an expensive home to run / maintain, but never felt cold / damp / miserable – in fact the opposite as it had so much character. I was sad to move.

    Free Member

    It is an issue but it’s common and solvable. I’d have a look for obvious causes (missing tiles, non functional gutter, etc) Maybe a revisit on a rainy day. If it’s been empty and unheated for a while that won’t help. Wouldn’t put me off too much if the house is right but the price should reflect the issues.

    Free Member

    According to stw damp doesn’t exist so carry on!

    now whom are you referring to ???? 😂

    Free Member

    We did. Old house with poor insulation.

    In an ideal world there would have been an identical alternative with loads of insulation, but that doesn’t happen when you’re lookin at old/unusual properties.

    As long as you know the cause, and the price reflects the cost to remedy, I would have no problem buying it.

    Full Member

    Bought a house with no heating on the top floor, no insulation,mound…..

    Everything can be fixed for a price. Financially I could not have bought the house fixed up.

    If your Survey has come back with all that and you like it enough, offer a lower price and get it fixed. Make sure you know the price of the work first😀

    Free Member

    With old properties that have solid walls you manage damp rather than eliminate it.

    The moisture is managed by absorption and evaporation. Water hitting the outside of the property will soak into the porous structure and will then be dried when the sun comes out and wind blows.

    Similarly on the inside, condensation soaks into the walls and either migrates to the outer surface or is evaporated from the inner surface.

    What happens is that instead of having porous coatings on the inner and outer walls such as lime mortar, people put non porous coatings such as cement and gypsum plaster. On the outside this initially seals the surface to prevent moisture being absorbed but it prevents condensation migrating out and worse still when it gets little cracks in moisture enters the structure but can’t be evaporated out leaving a wet wall. (Think of wet sports kit left in your bag for a week).

    On the inside moisture in the walls can’t escape inside and be evaporated. This sits behind the plaster and blows it eventually. Also condensation will sit on the wall rather than be absorbed for later evaporation. A wet wall behind the plaster makes it worse as the wall is inevitably colder when wet than when dry.

    Your inner walls are probably gypsum plastered or have had a non porous lining of wallpaper put on them. These need to be removed and a lime plaster finish used which will pass moisture through (“breathe” is a word used but it’s not actual breathing).

    On the outside optimally use a lime render if it’s covered or lime mortar between the bricks if not.

    Keep the levels around the house as low as possible. Get rid of solid paths that butt right up to the house to allow evaporation around the base of the walls. Sort out leaking gutters and this will also assist with evaporation.

    Old houses are also not really compatible with modern heating methods and insulation requirements. You need ventilation and fires burning to get an airflow through the house that will aid the evaporation process.

    A bit generic but old houses need old techniques which are often at odds with those that would be used on new houses. Nothing wrong with gypsum plaster and cement renders, just not on old places.

    Free Member

    Rockhopper knows, bang on.

    Pay attention to the bit about soil up against the outside, as this is sometimes the only bit you can’t fix fully. Our old house had a single skin brick extension that was about 1m under the ground level at rear, after a few years of living there noticed the carpet was wet, totally soaking. Pulled it up and found a steady supply of water coming under the plasterboard…

    Removed the bottom half of plasterboard and uncovered the ‘fix’ by a major UK damp expert, that was to lay a plastic sheet up against the bricks and cement it in at the bottom. Behind that was a tangled web of damp mould and a soaking wall. Dug it back on the outside and found they had built the extension on bed rock (it’s on a quarry hill, so pretty solid!) With no foundations. A constant stream of water was draining off the hill and pooling against the back wall, and fast. If you dried it off it would be a pool again in 10 mins.

    Had a few independents round to look at it but none could give a decent solution. Everyone ran a mile or just gave terrible ideas about blocking the inside again.

    So… We built a small brick retaining wall underground and chucked a perforated drain pipe in front of it, back filled with pea gravel and took the water off ‘elsewhere’, left it open for six months or so and it was a lot drier behind the wall. Had the back end lime rendered to evaporate anything left and re did the inside. All in all I think it took about three years start to finish!.

    TLDR, don’t buy houses dug into the ground.
    Current house is 200yr old solid brick cottage, old owners hated the damp and the cold, got it for a steal. Whole place covered in cement render, largely blown. Lime render, stuck the fire back in, bosh. Lovely house. Nice and toasty with 55% average humidity. Good ventilation under the house helps.

    Really odd thing, when we went to view it agent said we were the only people that had been up in the loft to check the roof, insane

    Free Member

    How much is it these days to get a mound fixed tall_martin?

    Full Member

    Good to hear that Rockhopper as it backs up what I’d been thinking and reading on the web (there’s a guy out there railing against the damp-proof industry for sealing up old historic houses with modern chemicals and plasters).

    OP – how old is the house?

    I have an Edwardian semi and we have some (minor) issues in the joinig wall and it’s chimney breasts (one of which is sealed up). Next door have gone down the chemical DPC and plaster route but I don’t think that will work long term as alluded to above.

    Do people agree that opening up the chimneys and lime plaster is the better option ?

    Full Member

    Our Victorian house had ‘rising damp’ according to the survey. Turned out to be a leaking shower tray on the other side of the wall…

    Free Member

    For me it would (and did) depend on the house.

    If it is a newish build with no obvious fault that can be fixed to make the problem go away (like guttering/tiles) then no – just wait until another one comes up.

    If it’s an old house it gets a little trickier. We bought ours despite significant damp. The cause was in some cases obvious and was part of a package of work that needed to be done.

    We spent about 20k on building work after moving in. But it was built in 1895, in the perfect location for us and fit all of our criteria. Interestingly a plot of land has just come up a street away for the same price as our house so new builds are going to be mega bucks.

    We got a survey and we got a builder in (for a few hundred to talk us through the work). The biggest cause was faulty guttering. Fixed that, replaced a lintel and re plastered. Sorted. We found some more in the back of the house which was an exterior wall butted up against the house. Builder fixed and re plastered. The only regret /warning I would have is that the type of owner who lets damp problems develop isn’t likely to take good care of the house. We found a few other interesting problems created by a DIY enthusiast and bodge repairs.

    We’ve been in for 10 years now and the recent wet weather has highlighted a few more minor problems. A bit of rotten wood on the back door. Something in the downstairs toilet and some bubbling plaster. It’ll cost a bit to get fixed and I guess we’ll always find issues. It’s just part of owning an old property.

    I wouldn’t worry about dpc on an old house. Someone will be along in a minute with the link that says they are pointless and potentially harmful. I’d get a professional opinion on what it would cost to fix and the likely causes and work from there.

    Free Member

    Really depends on the house. If you can post a link to the rightmove add, or just a photo, you’ll likely get a lot more value out of this thread.

    Most damp is curable. Rarely damp is not curable. Some cures are cheap and easy. Some cures are very expensive, invasive, disruptive, speculative etc.

    More info on the house could well get comments that give a real indication as to the cause, and therefore cures, of the damp.

    FWIW, I did buy a damp house. Been there a year, and so far identified some of the many sources. Some sill elude me. There was no way I wasn’t going to buy it, it’s bloody lovely, and I was battle hardened to house problems having owned problem places in the past. Had I been of a different mindset, I wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole. Turns out most people didn’t want it, so I got a good price on it. Cost of damp solutions so far £410!

    Free Member

    Old houses had a fireplace in each room and a skivvy to run around with buckets of coal, which was cheap as chips and plentiful, so they were well ventilated.

    Not sure about rising damp but insulation is easily improved by dry-lining.

    Free Member

    If it’s really the house you want, it’s priced realistically and you can afford to do any remedial work required (it may simply be opening some windows, moving the air around and getting heat into the place) then there is massive satisfaction from breathing new life into an old/uncared for house.

    Not many people buy in the winter either so now is a good time price-wise.

    Free Member
    Free Member

    No insulation in roof or walls. It has solid walls with no cavity or dpc.

    Snap. We didn’t bother taking any notice of the survey, it was doom and gloom all round, but knowing it was single brick we went in eyes open.

    The solid walls just plain get cold, especially near the floor level. If it is really humid, then condensation follows, and then the dreaded black mold.

    So we run a stove in the lounge over winter months, as the lounge is our coldest room due to having 2x exterior single brick walls, being downstairs, and open to the staircase. The fire keeps condensation and damp away.

    The floor in the corners by the exterior walls, they are tricky, we keep them wiped but realistically resigned to a repaint every couple of years.

    The bedroom above the lounge has a couple of cold corners (eves) which suffer similarly after a while. Just cold surfaces attracting moisture. If I could easily re-open the fireplace I’d contemplate fitting a tiny coal stove in there. But, when the downstairs has the fire going, its ok there.

    The second bedroom with the airing cupboard – no problems. The bathroom with the heat leak radiator, toasty and mold free. Kitchen has the main boiler – always warm. Bedroom over the kitchen, again, always warm.

    We’ve just removed concrete slabs from the front garden, punched holes in the plastic sheet underneath them, and recovered with gravel. I’m hoping that will aid drainage around the front of the house near our problem corners (yet another “DIY don’t” from the previous occupant).

    My next move when time allows (next summer) is to extend the main boiler’s heat leak circuit into the colder of the two bathrooms. The utility room could use a small rad, too.

    Basically, even with sound structure, we just have to expect to chuck more cash at heating than a new build, and suck it up. C’est la vie.

    Free Member

    Exterior insulation can help solve some cold and damp problems.

    External Wall Insulation

    Full Member

    Survey meter went red at all locations tested.

    Those meters are for wood, not brick.

    Free Member

    depends on the meter Cougar, Mine’s got a masonry setting.
    Damp’s damp.

    Woudnt put me off. Some causes can cost more to fix than others, but i cant think of a cause that cant be sorted one way or another

    Free Member

    It’s determining the cause and the right course of action that’s the hard bit, the’doing’ is often easier.

    Free Member

    We’re in exactly the same situation, but a bit further on! We moved into the damp house at the end of November.

    It’s a big old end of terrace built in 1911. Four-storey gable end wall that is west facing and gets a lot of weather. It’s brick and either has no cavity or a tiny one. Dreadful condensation on the inside of that wall.

    The previous owners have had a lovely (…) impermeable cement render job done on the gable end wall – annoyingly – only a few years ago. We’re going to get the ****er removed and probably either get external wall insulation done and/or re-render in lime. Any wisdom on this plan – and what if any kinds of EWI wouldn’t make it worse – would be much appreciated please 🙂

    Full Member

    Be sat down when you get quotes for lime plastering, its more time consuming than gypsum plaster and very few plasterers have the skills to use it. Prices can be 10 times higher per room than for a normal plasterer.

    we ended up going diy with it. Depending on wall construction you need to find yourself a good stonemason (we’re on first name terms with ours now)

    Free Member

    Brick or stone?

    If stone it’s probably easier to fix as it’s more likely to be internal condensation trying to get out than damp coming in. As above look for obvious causes.

    Damp meters work on conductivity and can give false reads for older houses

    Free Member

    Lime needs time.

    Free Member

    Push the dew point back, reduce the cold bridging.

    Full Member

    if its coming in from outside, stop it coming in.

    if its humidity condensing on cold walls, drop the humidity, or raise the temperature of the walls. dropping the humidity will be easier…

    nuair drimaster has made the biggest difference in my 1870’s terrace. better windows/doors, insulation have all helped but the nuaire made the single biggest difference within days of installing it. i think there at least 4-5 others installed now on my road as a result.

    you can tell the houses that don’t by looking at the condensation on the windows on a cold morning.

    Free Member

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    Free Member

    In my case the condensation is I think internal – we’re sensible and open windows, do what we can etc., but the dewpoint must be right on the internal wall. Need to get the chimney stacks looked at too but I think/hope EWI will be a big part of the answer.

    Thanks Jam Bo, we’ll definitely be looking at mechanical ventilation too. I’d like – though can’t afford! – one with heat recovery (and house will probably never be airtight enough to benefit from it anyway).

    And thanks for the links paton, I’ll give those a watch.

    Free Member

    as stated above just be carefull who you take advice from. I had 2 local companies come and give quotes for what they said was rising damp in 2 bedrooms at the same end of my house. they said oh its definatly rising damp. put a meter on the wall and said they would do chemical injection and line and re plaster. none of them even asked to check under the floor. i was suspicious so asked the house surveyor around. really experianced guy and he had a look and said it was condensation on a north facing cold wall. he got another guy up and first thing he done was to check under the floor for dpm. showed me why it wasnt rising damp and that the best course of action was to diy insulate the outside wall and provide more ventilation. new windows with trickle vents and insulating the wall has sorted it. all done diy. so find yourself someone who gives genuine advice and not just interested in making a quick buck

    Full Member

    Thanks all for your input. It’s a bit more optimistic than I thought and some good pragmatic advice – much appreciated.

    The vendors not moving on price, even though there is a whole list of things highlighted in the survey. I know surveys are generally pessimistic reading, ours too, but some serious points raised.

    Now time to consider if we can accept what’s been suggested / highlighted in this thread. Really appreciate the extended input some of you have included. For those that asked, it’s 140 year old stone house.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    Full Member

    We’ve recently moved into an old house with single skin walls and a bit of damp here and there. How can we tell if the existing plaster is lime plaster…? Also, it’s pebble dashed and painted on the outside. Could well be original (Edwardian house) but I’ve no idea how I can tell if the pebble dashing and paint are sealing it up or were specced properly so that it can still breathe a bit on the outside!

    Free Member

    Not much to add, we went through this at our last house, a 1890 solid walled cottage. Our issues were where previous damp proofing had been done and finished with cement render inside and out. Also external ground level was 20cm higher than the floor level.

    Some points to watch could be the the company doing the work/ survey, a lot of shysters and no clue companies who will take £10k’s of unsuspecting people. Also what’s your mortgage Co’s view on the damp? Our loan was on the condition of an approved contractor re mediating, which we had to evidence inside of 12 months. No DIY.

    Oh and did the 25 year work guarantee get honoured by the original damp Co? Of course not, hardly anything in it to sure up the quality of their work and not transferable.

    Free Member

    I bought a house with damp in two different rooms. One had damp because the seal around the window frame had failed, so rain water was penetrating through. In the other, the previous owners had butted the patio right up to the outside wall, bridging the damp proof course. So, a tube of mastic and removing a row of paving slabs solved the problem.

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