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What is Rising Damp?
The official definition, according to 'The Cambridge Dictionary' rising damp is:
"Water that moves into the walls of buildings from the ground and damages them"
Not overly scientific, but this is exactly what it is. Water can encroach on your building from the ground for various reasons, and it will attack your brickwork, climbing the walls via the porous nature of the components. It will impact the multiple surfaces it comes into contact with, including woodwork, as well as bricks and mortar.
Typically, the water rising through your wall will stop at around one metre as gravity does its thing and stops it from travelling any further. The impact is devastating as it will stain the walls and compromise any porous building materials around the house, such as skirting boards, any wallpaper and, of course, brickwork.
How to spot rising damp
The signs of rising damp are pretty obvious; however, it is always better to get a second opinion from a professional. On your exterior walls, you will see the ominous dark tidemark where the water has crept up the brickwork.
On your interior walls, the aesthetic impact is more severe. There will be yellow or even brown tidemarks where the water has risen (as aforementioned, likely to be no more than 1m to 1.2m). The water will also have left an unsightly, salty residue, which it has pulled from the brickwork signifying how high it climbed.
The dampness will start to affect your wallpaper as it bubbles, flakes and peels. Left unchecked, the water will rot your skirting boards and eventually, black mould spots will appear and multiply.
If you spot any of these symptoms, speak to a damp specialist to investigate what's causing the problem and whether you need to take action. A professional survey can save you needless worry and expense.
Dispelling the myths about rising damp
Rising damp is very much an issue for households up and down the country. The problem is misdiagnosis, resulting in the wrong treatment and some less-than-happy customers.
Common misdiagnosis of Rising Damp
The most common misdiagnosis of rising damp is mistaking it for the effects of condensation. Surface condensation can have a similar look, but there are a few clear indicators that define the problem.
According to the PCA, a reliable approach to defining rising damp is to take masonry samples, preferably mortar. Investigating the conditions from within the depths of the wall will provide conclusive proof of whether your property is suffering from rising damp or not.
If the samples show signs of water penetration, you have rising damp. This will not be the case if you have a problem with condensation.
Any misdiagnosis will result in the wrong treatment. A Damp Proof Course (DPC) is an appropriate course of treatment for rising damp, not for condensation. Wrongly applied in either case, and you will not solve the problem.
The best course of action remains to contact a well-qualified professional with a strong market reputation.
What Causes rising damp?
Most properties, historic and modern, across the country will have a Damp Proof Course (DPC)installed. A DPC is a protective waterproof layer installed on the ground floor to protect against the capillary action of rising damp.
There are several approaches to this, including using slate and a chemical substance. However, over time these will eventually break down and leave your building susceptible to rising damp. Damage to your brickwork can open up your property to potential attack from water damage.
A Damp Proof Course can also be bridged, either from the outside or internally too.
Over time, inevitably, additions will be made to your building. Perhaps you add a raised flower bed, install steps up to a new door, or build a patio. These and a range of other factors can create a bridge beyond your DPC, enabling the water to start attacking your external brickwork.
Rising damp can take hold internally, too, if the conditions are right. Alterations to your property, resulting in an absorbent material establishing a bridge beyond the DPC, and linking to the ground, will create the perfect conditions for rising damp.
Internal walls are also susceptible when there is a build-up of debris within a cavity wall, which, if above the DPC, will create a bridge for water to cross.
The materials used in walls make it easy for water to transcend buildings by capillary action. As mentioned, the likelihood is that it will only reach 1.2m. If you have water damage higher than that, you should investigate to see if you have any other issues, including:
- Damaged water goods, gutters, drains etc
- Poor ventilation causing condensation
- Leaks in your roof
- Are there cracks in your existing brickwork?
- Is you pointing starting to fail?
If you are experiencing these types of issues, then you perhaps have other damp problems, such as penetrating damp or condensation. Take a look at different types of damp if you think you may have an issue.
Don't panic if you suspect you have a damp problem; get in touch with us so we can help you.
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