Cement Render - the worst enemy of old houses...

Cement render first became widely used just after the war.  Since then, it has become the ultimate decorative fad, and is touted by ignorant builders as the only way to keep a building dry - "Stop the water getting in dear - give it a good coat of cement render - that'll keep it dry"

Unfortunately, that's exactly the wrong thing to do.  Old houses are built with stone, soft brick or lime mortar - all of which move around quite a bit with heat and seasonal changes.  Cement doesnt - its rigid.. So it cracks - rapidly.  Then, because its non porous, it traps water.  So within a few months, you get a damp wall - this just gets worse and worse - as the wall gets wetter, it conducts more heat, so the house cools down.

Cement render on old houses is a complete No No... Cement render on an old house needs stripping off.  NEVER render an old house...   Phew.... think I've made that fairly clear to all readers now.  If a builder even starts to say it, sack the uneducated twit and find someone that talks about breathability.

The damp wallies will always use cement render as a means of 'proving' rising damp.  The wall is wet - so it must be rising.  No its not - remove the cement and it dries out.  No ifs, no buts - FACT.  And no rising damp.  It never was.

There is a huge problem looming - Externally Applied Insulation..

Under new government legislation, energy companies are being forced to encourage people to insulate their houses.  A raft of companies are springing up who claim to insulate your house externally with all sorts of cladding.  These are Certain Death to an old house and must be avoided at all costs - they are no better than cement render and are already causing huge problems.

Cement render trapping moisture in old wall

This particular example is near London - a Grade 2 listed building of some significance.  When I first saw it, the building was damp inside, plaster falling off the walls, and the cement render was hollow and peeling on the outside. Over a period of 2 years, working with the local Conservation Officer, and English Heritage - we've stripped the ridiculously thick layers of cement render and dried the building out completely.  Under the render were at least two injection damp courses, and a Holland damp cours - those ridiculous brick things that are supposed to let damp out.  All the snake oil rubbish has now been removed, and the building is snug, warm and dry - its being lime rendered as we speak.

Damp and Condensation
Have a look for some cement rendering companies...

You never know - one day - someone might actually admit that what they do will destroy your home - but I do live in hope.. Reliable, they say - professional - they say.. 'Count on us' they say... to do what chaps - destroy every house you go near... 

Removing cement render to expose wet stonework
Wet stonework underneath cement render with injection damp holes beneath..
A Yorkshire stone house...

This is a big gritstone house up in Yorkshire - fabulous place - but damp as hell.  Cement rendered in thick gobs all over it, cracked and hollow.  With the owner, we hacked off a big section during the initial survey - the photo shows detail of what was revealed.  By the time I'd completed the survey, the wall had already started to dry out.  Of course, it had the obligatory damp course injected, above which was sopping wet wall.  Will people NEVER learn?

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