SPAB and Rising Damp - How the PCA got to Douglas Kent

Just recently we have had a number of people telling us that SPAB believes in rising damp, and that they say chemical injection is OK.  I therefore had to do some research, and found this on their website.  A bit more digging and it's really unfortunate that I have to report that Douglas Kent is now running around proudly telling the world he is 'Technical Advisor' to the PCA.  I'm amazed that he was daft enough to be suborned by a bunch of crooks and fraudsters in the first place, but of more concern is the fact that SPAB now have a page of technical queries about Rising Damp:

I reproduce these here - from the SPAB page, with my comments.  I cannot believe that such an organisation can actually promote uneducated rubbish about 'rising damp' - but, what the hell - this is what they say.  It places serious questions over the entire credibility of SPAB - how can anyone believe anything they say or do when they are spouting this kind of rubbish:

Technical Q&A 20 : Rising Damp

According to Douglas Kent, SPAB Technical Secretary, the inappropriate installation of damp-proof courses to combat rising damp accounts for much unnecessary work on old buildings. True rising damp is rarer than commonly perceived but is regularly misdiagnosed.

"Doug - rising damp isnt rare - it exists in your fevered imagination only.  Commonly misdiagnosed - erm - the Moon is Made with Cheese"  

Q. What is rising damp?

A. Rising damp is the upward movement of moisture through walls and sometimes floors by capillary action from below the ground. It can rise to 900mm or more in walls, depending on the masonry type, water-table level and evaporation rate. Salt deposits generally form a horizontal tide-mark, below which there is discoloration. Floors can display moist patches and staining. Rising damp is distinct from other forms of dampness, such as rain penetration and condensation, which require different solutions.
 

Doug:  Who told you this crap?  The PCA of course.  

1.  Show me a single case of rising damp

2. Show me any capillary action in a building

3. Show me anything rising to 900mm

 

Q. Is rising damp common in old buildings?

A. Rising damp is commoner in old buildings than new ones but rarer than often supposed. Modern buildings keep water out with a system of barriers: damp-proof courses (DPCs) have been required in walls since 1875 and damp-proof membranes (DPMs) in floors from the 1960’s. Most old buildings lack these and therefore damp rises to some degree. This is usually not a problem where the construction can ‘breathe’, allowing evaporation, and may actually be advantageous in humidifying overly-dry centrally-heated buildings. Excessive dampness arises where the moisture equilibrium is disturbed, as with misguided attempts to seal surfaces.
 
Doug:  Bollocks it is commoner in old buildings - it doesn't exist.
DPCs have NOT been required in walls since 1875 - show me the rule that says that. The Public Health Act of 1875 is widely quoted as requiring damp courses. It does NOT.  We have a copy of it, and have read every word.  Have you read it Douglas Kent?
Damp rises 'to some degree' - why?  What scientific evidence do you have? 
This statement shows complete lack of basic understanding of moisture sources and movement in old buildings.
 

Q. How is rising damp diagnosed?

A. Rising damp is widely misdiagnosed on the basis of high electrical moisture meter readings alone. Elevated readings occur not infrequently in old buildings that are virtually dry, due to salt deposition from evaporation, or can indicate another problem altogether, such as penetration from rainsplash. If rising damp exists, there will be visible indications too, such as an accompanying tide-mark, but not, for example, the external green staining symptomatic of rain penetration. High nitrate concentrations are likely.  Tests to determine moisture levels within the wall thickness can help rule out surface condensation.
 
Doug:  Why are you techncial advisor to the PCA - they exist solely to push the use of damp meters to sell chemicals.
 
Show me ANY scientific evidence that a tidemark is due to 'rising damp' - this is promoted by the PCA as evidence, not science.
 
Why are high nitrates indiciative of your fictitious rising damp?  Show me any scientific evidence that nitrates come from groundwater.  There is not a shred of evidence that this is the case.  There is plenty of evidence to show that pollution can cause the same thing.
 
Surface condensation?  Do you understand anything about what 'rising damp' actually is?  Interstitial condensation resulting from cooling of moisture diffusing through buildings?  Obviously not.  Surface has nothing to do with it.
  

Q. What if I believe a damp diagnosis to be wrong?

A. In the SPAB’s experience, mortgage lenders can demand unnecessary damp-proofing work during house purchases. Although chartered surveyors have a duty to follow a trail of suspicion, some simply pass all responsibility onto remedial treatment contractors with a vested commercial interest encouraging over-specification. It is worth challenging any recommendation you believe is questionable and, if necessary, seeking a second opinion in writing from an independent chartered surveyor or consultant (note, not contractor). The SPAB may be able to advise you on suitable names.
 
Who does spab recommend ?  Let's see the people.  Are they experienced and / or qualified.
 

Q. How can I control rising damp?

A. Measures that help your building ‘breathe’, such as replacing hard cement render or pointing with a more suitable lime-based mortar, may be the best solution. Conversely, applying water-proof renders and coatings can exacerbate damp problems. Where a floor has a DPM that is displacing moisture into the bottoms of walls, this might be replaced with a ‘breathable’ construction. Alternatively, a ‘breathing’ strip for evaporation may be cut through the floor around the room perimeter and infilled with a material such as lime concrete or grated over. Externally, ground works and improved drainage can assist.
 
Well finally - good advice.
 

Q. Is a retrofit damp-proof course really necessary?

A. There should be a presumption against retrospective DPC’s, which, inappropriately installed, can be damaging, ineffective and an unnecessary expense. They can have a role, though, perhaps where, say, irreversible alterations mean a building is effectively now functioning as a modern sealed structure. When selecting a DPC system and it is not feasible to insert a physical DPC, the SPAB suggests following BRE’s advice to consider only methods that have been awarded an Agrement or other third-party certificate. Chemical injection is the only method that currently satisfies this requirement. Physical and chemical DPC’s, however, should be avoided in earth buildings, where major structural damage can result, and treatment is difficult in flint and rubble-cored walls.
 
Doug:  This is a scandal - BRE and agrement certificates are completely untenable.  How can anyone issue an agrement certificate for a process to cure something that doesnt happen?  Nobody can reproduce rising damp in a laboratory, so how can you issue an agrement certificate that something cures something that cannot be reproduced in a lab?  What a lot of rubbish you are talking.  Chemical injection does NOTHING.  It damages, it stops moisture from circulating and leaving the building, it damages stone, and chemical injection constitutes criminal damage to a listed building.  You, Mr Kent, are thus encouraging criminal damage to a listed building.
 

Q. What about plaster repairs on a previously damp wall?

A. Lime plaster should normally be used for any repairs. Salt-resistant plasters are favoured instead by many DPC installers but tend to just temporarily disguise continuing damp problems and may require listed building consent. A poultice of whiting and water is an old method of removing patches of residual salts from plasterwork. Decoration with paints such as limewash and soft distemper, where possible, will maximise ‘breathability’.

 Good stuff..

Did you find this article useful?  Why not join the SPAB and learn more about historic buildings from our quarterly publication for members, The SPAB Magazine, or make a donation to support our work in protecting historic and fragile buildings.

 No - I didnt find this article useful - it has absolutely disgusted me that SPAB has lost the plot completely, and is NOT the august organisation it puts itself out to be.  The public should very rightly tell SPAB to get rid of Douglas Kent, or have him re-educated.  It is a national disgrace that such false information is being peddled by such a supposedly august, caring organisation as SPAB.  From this point on, how can anyone have any faith in their so called 'Lethaby Scholars' - if this is the kind of thinking that results?

Damp and Condensation
Recent News
RICS prove they don't understand damp

I've just seen this staggeringly incompetent blog on the RICS website.  This is the kind of mis-information that is being fed to homeowners all over the country - and...

Pete's on BBC Radio 4 now!

Pete recently did an interview on BBC Radio 4 - You and Yours - which investigated a case history of failed cavity wall insulation.

An Irish client and his magnificent restoration blog

Our client, John, wanted help with this restoration - it led to this great blog.

It's Condensation Season!

The phone is running off the hook with calls about condensation. Find out how to solve your issues.

The Haynes Manual for Period Property

Ian Rock has written another of his great books.  This one is even better - We've helped Ian with this one and there's loads of photos of our guys doing timber frame work.  A great book, with lots of practical information you need if you have an old home.  Treat yourself and buy this - you won't regret it!

Share this page

If you've found this site useful, please share it with your friends!

Website by twoclicks