A sandstone cottage

Rentokil can have first place in the case histories...

I was asked by my client to do a survey of the house.  Its lovely - solid sandstone walls, early Victorian, well built, and nice and dry - or at least it would have been till some idiot fiddled with it.  Around the front of the house, ground levels are too high, and there's a chance that some of the walls could have a bit of penetrating damp.  A few gutters are a bit iffy, and have been for a while I guess, but nothing major. And that's how it should still be.

Except when my client bought the place, the building society demanded she get a 'timber and damp' survey. Now the fun begins - get a reputable big company, invite their nice man to come and do a survey.  Well.. he managed to wander around for all of ten minutes with a ping prong meter, before coming up with a map with red scribbles all over it which apparently meant the damp course was breached, and it needed injecting, and re-plastering with some really expensive (£6,000 worth) water inhibiting plaster and cement render. No mention of the fact that the gutters needed doing, or the ground levels were about 18 inches too high and causing penetrating damp... OK... so they then hacked off the perfectly good Victorian lime plaster and replaced it with their modern rubbish and issued her with an insurance backed GUARANTEE! Wow!  We got a houseful of chemical rubbish, and its guaranteed..  Thank the good God of water, Poseidon.  At least we won't get a Titanic failure of the damp course now....

Um... well.... except that it was in 1998, and all the plaster they put on is now falling off again, and the walls are sopping wet, and paint peeling, and she's trying to sell the house, and the buyers are scared out of their pants by the flaking plaster, and mould, and everything else that goes with Titanic failure of Mr Rentokil's attempts at stemming the flood of rising damp that never existed, and in so doing, trapping vast amounts of water into the structure..

Now this brings me to the real reason for the dampness. I dont think there really was a lot, because the high ground levels do have french drains, and are quite dry - but, lets assume they werent drained.  The correct diagnosis would have included things like 'drop ground levels to about 6 inches below internal floor levels' and attend to leaking gutters, and ensure that downpipes discharge into stormwater drains, rather than flooding the base of the walls every time it rains.  Oh, and some moisture extraction in the kitchen probably wouldnt go amiss.. (she likes steamy cooking you see)..

OK... Now Pete to the rescue... Lets have a look at the Rentokil guarantee.. Aha.. now then... um... er .... lets see shall we.... "Before making a claim.... "  Here We Go....

Oh... Mr Rentokil says its important to make sure that no other problems both externally or internally could cause the dampness.. oh... and you DID use an electronic damp meter didnt you... Oh Silly Billy.... didnt we tell you - you can only confirm rising damp in a masonry wall by taking samples from within the wall with a Carbide Meter or sending them to a laboratory - and we didnt do anything like that did we?.... No darling, you cant use a ping prong meter to confirm rising damp - did you think we were daft or something?

And while you are at it, you best check that the dampness doesnt start below the outside ground level, because of course thats penetrating damp and not covered by the guarantee - silly billy - so obvious that one, isnt it!

So really Darling, you can bog off, cos we wont even consider the guarantee - yer on yer own. Thanks for the ride - we've screwed you of £6000., and we're off to do someone else now...

And while you're at it - read the insurance getout letter - its a nice list of all the things our surveyor SHOULD have told you about, but he didnt, cos he wouldnt have earned any commission that day!

The sorry thing about all this - its happening EVERY day - all over the country.  And Trading Standards allow it, our wonderful legislators allow it... 



How to confirm Rising Damp...

Well now - if we take Mr Rentokils argument on the insurance 'get out of jail free' sheet above, we have to take carbide meter samples or send drill samples to a laboratory. Hmmm..  So Mr Rentokil - How come you always confirm Rising Damp in every survey, and recommend drilling and toxic chemical injection - without ever using a carbide meter - so by your own documentation you CANNOT confirm it anyway - this is what they call... FRAUD!

So now we know that the wall is wet.. Great... How to confirm its 'Rising Damp'?

Well the damp in that wall could come from penetrating damp, or leaky gutters running down and soaking the ground, or it could have accumulated in the wall as a result of condensation collecting behind Mr Rentokils lovely waterproof plaster.  They will try and tell you that Rising Damp is characterised by salts - like nitrates.. What a lot of complete rubbish.

I'm a geochemist amongst other things, and I know a thing or two about the way metallic ions are moved around in things like rock and brick.  And where they come from.  As we all know, rainwater contains a bit of dissolved Carbon Dioxide and forms a weak solution of carbonic acid - a few sulphates too - from all those car engines.. So its not clean water.  It forms lots of nice limestone caves in areas where theres dissolvable rock... Limestone - Hmmm... just happens to be what Lime is made from - y'know - lime mortar and plaster and all that.  So now we have a situation where moisture build up can affect the lime mortar - and when an acid attacks a base, like lime mortar - it produces ... salts!

Wey Hey... so now we have salts building up in the wall produced from penetrating damp, or maybe acidic conditions in a chimney, and they are supposedly from Rising Water.. ?  Why?  Er...NO...  Sorry Mr Rentokil - show me the scientifically proven grounds on which you make this ridiculous statement.  The last time someone challenged me to prove it wasnt rising damp, and produced nitrate and chloride tests that showed the damp was from Rising Damp, we had a field day.  The source of the nitrates... a leaky foul water pipe from the apartment above - foul water, got it - full of pee... which is urine, urea.. pure nitrates.. He He... the insurance company parted with about £200,000 on that occasion, to completely rebuild the apartment concerned, and the so called Damp Company got a major kick up the arse - I'm surprised my client didnt sue them out of business there and then - but I'll do an expose of them shortly.. 

Damp and Condensation
Damp Companies for your amusement...
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