UK residents should be well-accustomed to a rainy start to Spring. The so-called ‘April showers’ refer to much more than the name suggests – it’s not uncommon for our weather to change from spring sunshine to winter sleet and snow all within a single day. For property owners, sudden heavy downpours and unpredictable weather can quickly become a hazard for properties.
Heavy rain and snow are leading causes of water ingress (water entering a property), making it especially important to ensure properties are adequately waterproofed prior to the wetter months. However, with April weather being so unpredictable, it is not uncommon to be caught out by water-related property damage – including wood rot and rising or penetrating damp.
Penetrating damp is most often caused by exposure to prevailing winds, which can drive rain into the masonry, and is most pronounced on buildings with solid rather than cavity walls. Property defects such as gaps around windows, leaking roofs, gutters and down pipes can all lead to moisture entering the building. The most effective way to protect a property from penetrating damp is to rectify such defects immediately and apply a weather protection coating to the exterior of the property.
Rising damp is caused by ground water and moisture that is drawn upwards, via capillary action, through porous building materials such as bricks, mortar or stone. The speed at which the moisture rises up the walls will depend on several factors – the type of wall material, the amount of water in the ground at the base of the wall and the environment inside and outside of the building. Buildings in the UK should have a damp-proof course as standard from around 1920, however these can break down and fail over time, which eventually leads to rising damp.
When it comes to wood rot, structural damage can be prevented by first removing the source of moisture (i.e. through ‘damp proofing’ the building), repairing damaged and defective timbers, and treating them with specially-designed fungicidal chemicals. Once the moisture problem has been resolved, damaged beams can be repaired through splicing or bolting-on new sections of treated timber. Any timber that is deemed safe enough to be retained should be treated with a fungicidal treatment to ensure no further wood rotting fungal growth.
There is no time like the present to check a property’s waterproofing systems. Waterproofing is a very general term, however, when most people use the term to describe the waterproofing of a room in a home or commercial premise it highly likely that they are referring to a form of ‘tanking’ to a basement or cellar.
Most waterproofing systems in an existing building are known as ‘type-C’ waterproofing – a reference to the British Standard for Waterproofing.
These waterproofing systems are a modern combination of a structural waterproof membranes, drainage, and water sump pumps that capture water behind the membrane sheet, and then channel and pump away any water ingress. These combined parts can work completely “behind the scenes” so they are perfect for a project such as a cellar conversion or waterproofing a basement flat for example.
Given the vastly changeable April weather, most waterproofing issues do not become apparent until it is too late, and the signs of water damage begin to show. If left untreated, water ingress can lead to significant structural problems, including wood rot and cracked masonry in freezing conditions.
Also of concern are the threat of condensation moulds and in particular ‘Stachybotrys chartarum’, a mould which it is known to be toxic to certain people.
A professional, holistic service
As the market leaders in preventing and treating water damage, Peter Cox offers a holistic service where a fully trained and qualified building surveyor will comprehensively investigate problems with water ingress or water damage and identify the best solution for each individual case. With over 75 CSRT or CSSW qualified Surveyors and 100 specially trained technicians, we offer unrivalled experience in the repair and preservation of all types of property, from private to commercial property preservation, to public buildings, churches and numerous historic buildings and landmarks.