Peter Cox and the dry house

The RICS surveyor, Peter Cox, and the dry house

The house

The house in question is solid walled, with extensive renovation using modern materials.  The modern extensions are beautifully built with no problems.  The older part of the building is built well above surrounding ground levels - perfect Edwardian blue brick 'damp' courses are in superb condition.  Sub floor vents all work, all the brickwork is dry and in great condition.  Drainage is all modern plastic, no leaks, and the soil around the house is clear of vegetation and well draining.  In discussion with the owner, it became apparent that she lives a very dry lifestyle. The kitchen is well vented, the bathrooms similarly. There is no visual evidence of ANY damp problems.   The house had a lovely dry smell to it, and was bright and breezy.

The Surveys

I was shown a building survey in which the surveyor claimed a visit from a Property Care Association (PCA) registered damp person was essential. The RICS surveyor claimed the walls were damp, having used a ‘damp meter’. My client asked a Property Care Association company – Peter Cox to do a ‘survey’, who then found 'rising damp' throughout the building and wanted to tank one wall and inject the rest. They also claimed the walls were damp.

The claim by the RICS Chartered Surveyor is wrong. It is negligent and incompetent. It is common knowledge in the industry that these ‘damp meters’ do not measure damp, and are thoroughly unreliable. They cannot even be used for testing timbers, due to frequent presence of timber treatment chemicals – these meters go off the scale in treated timber even if it is dry. The surveyor should be reported to the Professional Standards Board of RICS with a formal complaint - if he tells all his clients the same thing, one can imagine the amount of uneccessary damp proofing works done as a result.

Peter Cox produced a sales document which informed the client that damp proofing works to the value of £2000 were required. This is fraud – no work was required.  

My investigation

I measured Relative Humidity (RH) in the building and it was 52% for most of the day, whilst outside it was around 60%. I used a thermo hygrometer probe to check for trapped moisture pockets around the house – the highest reading was 70% behind one skirting board in the kitchen which is probably the lowest overall moisture survey I have ever done. Thermal imaging showed no cold spots where moisture could be seen evaporating. The only area of concern was cold air getting around the back door where the hinges are set slightly high to the frame, and air is getting through the door at that point from outside. I tested the walls where Peter Cox recorded rising damp and found no moisture. I used a conductivity meter and obtained very high conductivity readings which indicate that conductive salts have collected behind wallpaper. This often happens in older houses where minor amounts of condensation at colder times of the year are able to become trapped behind the wallpaper (painted with plastic emulsion) and concentrate salts from cement and gypsum plasters. I tested the worst areas by drilling into the brickwork and sampling the resulting chippings. Using a carbide meter, drilling dust was analysed for total moisture content, expressed as weight percent of total wet weight of sample. I could not find moisture in the sample – which registered just over 1% - ie, dry.

Summary

In summary, Peter Cox have fraudulently misdiagnosed rising ‘damp’ using an instrument which does not measure dampness. They have proposed and tried to sell remedial works which are both expensive and uneccessary, based on misrepresentation of results obtained from an instrument which does not measure what it is claimed to. This is fraud.

I've done a video of the relevant bits of the house, the surveys and results - see it below:

 

 

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