Timber & Damp Surveys

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Timber and Damp surveys are the most misunderstood, and misused term in the real estate industry. We are constantly horrified at the number of people trying to buy a property, only to be told by a building society or bank valuation surveyor - you must have a 'Specialist Timber and Damp Survey'. Usually they try to get you to use someone who is PCA registered - PCA is the Property Care Association. The Board of the PCA is composed of chemical industry millionaires. One of the Board owns a number of timber and damp companies, one of which has been taken to court for illegal dumping of asbestos.  These are not nice people. DO NOT under any circumstances allow any of these clowns into or near a house you are thinking of buying.  

Here's a link to a bit more info about the Property CARE Association (My bold italics - sorry - I'm too cynical):  All about the PCA

Research this term in detail.  Look at the methods, the claims made, and investigate the legality of their guarantees.  The Guarantee Protection Insurance they flog, is another giant CON.  Even the GPI have now cut the insurance term from 20 to 10 years because of the problems they are having with the damp industry.  The people involved just happen to be VERY involved in selling chemicals.  It is an industry association that has managed to establish itself as an 'industry standard' with little or no opposition.  They are only recommended because there is no other obvious association that can perform a similar task.  Have a look at the syllabus for training their so called surveyors.  It's a 3 day course.  It is peppered with words like 'rising damp', injection methods, siliconates, polyoxo aluminium stearate, polysiloxane / silane micro emulsions (horrible chemicals), timber treatment chemicals (which are even more toxic) - and bear in mind that one day of the three day course is devoted to learning all about the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health <COSHH> legislation, and how to safely use the toxic warfare they are about to unleash on your unsuspecting house.

The entire training course takes 3 days.  At the end of it you have some pretty letters after your name.  It takes 3 YEARS of study to get a Bachelors Degree, and about the same to become a Member of RICS.  This is NOT a qualification - it is a joke.  There is NO academic training - any monkey can get it and call themselves a 'Timber and Damp Surveyor'... Don't use anyone who has done a 3 day course and calls themselves a qualified surveyor - they are a fraud.

Do not let anyone with CSRT or CSSW after their names into your house - they are a fraud. They are NOT a qualified surveyor.  It's not even equivalent to an NVQ Level 1 - most of the people I've come across with these so called 'qualifications' are just former builder's labourers.  

Many of these surveys are done in minutes... This is a real email from one of my clients:

"Thanks for getting back, he (the PCA member) came just as we were having our lunch, he said not to worry, you just have your food and I’ll help myself around, I’ll only be 10 minutes. (10 Minutes?) He missed our master bedroom out after we made him aware that out one year son was in there having a sleep, when he came to the kitchen, I watched as he used the oh so familiar black and yellow Resistive Moisture Meter on our back wall, he slammed the back of it against the wall – nothing happened, then the prongs - which prompted a broken sound similar to those detectors that can route out live cables carrying current through them.  (or was the battery running low due to over bloody use)

Not once did I see a carbide meter or a thermo hygrometer!

Anyway, after checking the outside rear, he said that’s it – I’m done!"

I cannot understand why the so called mortagage surveyor - who has to be qualified, and is usually a member of RICS - cannot properly diagnose the real causes of timber and damp problems in a house. Usually, there aren't any.  He will wander around with his silly little moisture meter, which records conductivity and does NOT record damp, and when he gets a high reading, tells you to get a timber and damp survey.  At this point, the chemical brigade jump into action, and you will be faced with a report that will recommend a variety of things - but almost always includes some of the following:

The terms below are taken from the wealth of survey reports we have here in the office - all of which are totally fraudulent, none of which have any basis in reality, and all of which have recommended treatments that were not needed and would never have worked, despite costing many thousands of pounds...

Some really good quotes from Damp and Timber Survey Reports:

'The remedial damp proof course prevents water rising by capillary action.  It is not designed to prevent free water entering the building due to high ground levels or a leaking water pipe etc' Note the etc.. Thats the get out of jail clause here... Note also that water rising by capillary action has never been proven as a cause.

'Where walls are externally rendered, the render at the base of the wall must be removed.  A band of approximately 300mm is required at damp proof course level to allow accurate and effective insertion of our remedial damp proofing system.'  Well! Now we are removing the cause of the damp anyway - the cement render, and allowing the base of the wall to breathe - the damp course does nothing - but hey! They made some money out of you for nothing..

"Following the damp proof coursing and replastering works, the wall must be allowed to dry out.  Research has shown that walls (under normal conditions) dry at the rate of 25mm per month.  Therefore a wall 300mm will take one year.  External render and coatings can significantly increase these drying times"  Amazing, isnt it - they slip this one in under your nose - its the only true thing they can come up with - they dont mention that the new plaster has the same effect as the external render, and stops the wall drying at all!

"Visual evidence indicates a problem of rising and penetrating damp in the wall marked for treatment.  It was not possible to confirm this by instrumental readings because permission could not be obtained to carry out the tests.  It is evident that the wall plaster has deteriorated"  Note that we have two problems in the same place - Rising and Penetrating - and I'm really surprised they didnt lump Condensation in just for good measure.  Of course, it couldnt be confirmed with instrumental tests, but we still prepared a detailed map of the building with little red lines all over it telling us where we were going to get injection damp proofing.. We noted 'deteriorated' plaster, but we never actually attempted to properly diagnose why it was a bit grotty.

"The application of a tanking system will result in the tanked area being impervious to moisture.  This can result in an increase in the level of moisture in the building.  Should such condensation occur, you should consider improving ventilation of the building or installing a dehumidifier to reduce the condensation to an acceptable level"  So we have just sealed all the water into the walls, we've stopped the building from breathing, and now we are getting more condensation than before.  Amazing - we are even predicting what's going to happen, and giving you the 'out' clause that any further problems are condensation related anyway!

"The method of moisture measurement involved the use of a Protimeter this evaluates moisture by measuring the electrical resistance of the walls or timber.  Unfortunately this can be affected with contamination of surfaces eg hygrscopic salts; metallic based papers and condensation.  To carry out an accurate assessment of a wall does demand some destructive works following standard test methods outlined in BRE digest 245.  If requested we will carry out a BRE 245 examination but such a test is beyond the scope of our normal inspection.  High moisture readings were obtained from the areas indicated for treatment on the sketch plan. The pattern of the readings obtained indicated the presence of capillary rising dampness in the structural walls"  Whew!!  So we now agree that the protimeter doesnt work.  We even managed to mention condensation as affecting the damp results... but failed to mention its probably the main reason dampness is present in the first place! But we diagnosed rising damp anyway.  If you want the proper tests doing, well... they're a pain in the butt, cost us money, take time, mean that we dont sell you a damp course, so dont bother.  Oh, and by the way, you've got rising damp anyway - OK, so just sign here!

My nearly most favourite one is "the pattern of readings indicate that the damp course has broken down" Do you know - I've never yet, nor have any of my colleagues, seen a 'broken down damp course'  The funniest situation I have encountered to date, funny if it weren't so very sad, is the case of Peter Cox, who went into a couple of damp houses and diagnosed rising damp.  They stripped the houses, and tanked and injected them. 3 years on, they were still wet.  I found the reason - broken drains and a broken water main.  When Peter Cox attended the property, I had the inestimable pleasure of tearing the surveyor apart - when I asked where the famous 'broken down dampcourse' was, and physically made him point to it, he nearly broke down.  The grubby little man just did not know what to do - I have the whole thing on video, recorded by the homeowner.  It's wonderful to watch.   

My favourite one is this:

We (the damp company appointed by the insurance company) undertook nitrate tests which indicated high levels of nitrates which are strong indicators of rising damp. As the results of these tests indicate high levels of nitrates, we would assume that the property for whatever reason is allowing external damp to enter the home...

The cause was so obvious it was blinding you in the face... A soil pipe from the apartment above was leaking copiously into the basement - and the floor was soaked. Soil pipe - gives a clue.... Urine - Urea - Nitrates... The Chinese collect it and make fertiliser from it!  The insurance company, after two years fighting me, finally admitted complete responsibility, totally stripped and rebuilt the apartment, and paid my costs to the client.

Some of the things the Damp Companies say on their websites:

They get you in with statements that make them sound Oh SO convincing - we have access to laboratories, impressive backup facilities.... oh, and we aren't tied to any particular supplier of chemicals - so we can buy the cheapest damp proofing garbage chemicals possible!

"As well as offering you our own expertise, we have impressive technical backing from our suppliers and the Property Care Association. Because we are not tied to any one chemical supplier we have available a range of scientific advice and also the use of remedial building research laboratories when necessary"

A worrying trend these days with damp companies is this - they try to draw you in with statements that they are 'surveyors'.  Check - the only qualifications these bozos will have is CSRT and CSSW - tick box hand outs from the Property Care Association which have no academic credibility:

"The fee paid ensures that you have a qualified surveyor reporting where there are problems, but, also most important, where there are not.
A surveyor - not a salesman"

They all tell you how long they have been in the damp proofing business - how they can put and end to your damp problems.  They all claim long guarantee periods, even when the insurers have given up giving them insurance for more than 10 years at the most, and they never honour the guarantee anyway:

"XXX Preservation have over 25 years' experience in dealing with damp problems. With our knowledge and expertise we can put an end to damp problems in your walls, roofs, and basement. All of our work comes with a 30 year guarantee and we are sure you will be happy with the quality of all our work and our extremely competitive prices"

"Act Now!
Thorough Survey!
Hefty repairs if you don't act quickly!
Health Problems!
High quality treatment
Competitive rate..."

Cripes - if I write any more of this damp proofing rubbish I'll start to sound like a member of the Property Care Association - buy now!  Guaranteed Damp Proofing! Damp House instantly dry! No more health problems! Use me!  I'm highly qualified - I've got some non academic letters after my name that make me look REALLY important!

Some things to avoid:

GPI - Guarantee Protection Insurance - remember the PPI scandal - well this is the next one.  We are working hard with banks, the real estate industry, and the RICS to make sure that everyone understands these guarantees are worthless.  If you do claim, a chemical company will charge you to inspect (claiming you get the money back if there is work to be done) and then promptly 'discover' that the problem now isn't rising damp (which they cured of course) but the same damp symptoms are now 'condensation - which we don't cover'.

Property Care Association - owned and run by chemical industry owners who have one aim in life - To Sell You Toxic Chemicals.

Trustmark - A Board member of Trustmark is none other than a chemical industry thug.  The Chief executive of Trustmark  totally ignored the fact that she appointed a gormless character to the Board, with no other reason than promoting and selling toxic chemicals and giving the damp industry credibility. 

Sovereign - another chemical company

Triton - another chemical company

Wykamol - another chemical company

Book A Survey

To book a Timber and Damp survey, please visit our survey website, and contact us from there.  Alternatively you can call Sarah in the office on 01746 862 640

Timber and Damp Surveys

Timber and damp surveys in London and the South East:

We do a lot of timber and damp surveys in London - for which we have a separate fee schedule - these start at around £1200 plus vat and travel costs for smaller properties.  Our team are based near London, so can keep costs down.

Timber and damp surveys in the rest of the country can be a little more expensive due to the travel involved - often working with larger houses can take all day anyway - so costs are a little higher.  Pete frequently does damp surveys of Listed Buildings - and travels all over Scotland, and the north of England on a regular basis.

Our Timber and Damp Surveys

Our timber and damp surveys diagnose the real reasons for any dampness that may be present.  We thoroughly investigate how the house is built, and what has been done to it over the years.  We then show you how these factors come together to produce a pattern of possible problems - together with diagnosis and solutions.  We don't do free surveys - we make nothing at the end of it from selling useless chemicals - but we DO educate you about your house, and give you the confidence that it is NOT slowly sinking into a swamp or sucking up lakes of water via capillary action.  

Our surveys can take several hours, and may take all day.

We do NOT use those silly ping prong 'damp meters'.

We use a variety of equipment - Thermal imaging shows cold areas which are prone to condensation. Thermo hygrometers show moisture content of the air, and sub-floor areas.  Carbide testing is used to sample the actual walls to see if moisture is present.  Carbide tests are still the only acceptable measurement of actual moisture that Courts will accept in legal cases.  We check drainage to find if there are leaks.  

We are professionals - between us we have various degrees, and Chartered status.  

Building Societies and Banks are perfectly happy with our reports, which are far more detailed and technical than any produced by Property Care Association members will be.  We continue to help you if you buy the house, or if its already yours.  In the report we suggest strategies for sorting any problems, and will go through these with you in detail.  We produce, if needed, a schedule of work, and specifications, so that you can instruct local trades and ensure that they do the job that is required - NOT what they think they should do.  We help cost these works - and can give a ballpark figure for what it should cost - helping take out the uncertainty of employing builders.  

Many people have commented afterwards that they have experienced a very intensive day - but have learned more about their property in that one day than they would ever have learned on their own.  Our attitude is that if you don't fully  understand your home, how can you look after it.

Example damp survey

Here are a couple of examples of the sort of survey that we do - you'll see straight away that its a very detailed investigation of the building indeed, and looks at all the possible sources of dampness that could affect it...

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