Who to diagnose damp problems?

Ongoing saga of Big Sister's new house...
She moved in some 6 months ago with a retention on the mortgage over damp in the walls of the house (a rather old property). The house at the time had been vacant for a number of years
Since moving in the feeling of dampness in the house has diminished, particularly over winter as the heating kicked in, and I presume as there was an amount of air flow in the now inhabited house.
There's one area outside the front of the house, north facing, where the soil border has been raised higher than the DP layer, against the brickwork. Obvious solution here is to dig that away to remove any cause of dampness from the soil, but until she gets the dampness diagnosed she wants to leave that in place so that whoever inspects the property can / could say "aha, that's the problem, remove that and in 6 months the damp will disappear".
She wants to establish whether there is truely a problem with damp in the property. Funnily enough, she's somewhat concerned that, e.g. a damp-proofing company, would have it in their mind to shove a damp meter into the wall next to the DP layer breach and demand to solve the whole problem by DP injection into the whole house, whether it is needed or not.
So to the question: What body of people would be the most appropriate to diagnose dampness problems, other than those with a product to sell. Are we talking surveyors, any form of professional engineer (not civil engineer, as I understand those to be involved in public works, but something similar?) or any other professional body?
Thanks, in advance
Mike
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Not surveyors - who's only tactic seems to be to prod about with a meter and pronounce the need for proprietry damp treatment.
Not the damp treatment companies who believe the right approach with old buildings is to remove the bottom metre of lime plaster & inject silicone whilst claiming a perfectly good slate dampcourse has somehow "failed"
I would dig that earth away, get the house as dry as possible in a hot summer spell and then let MrProd the dampmeter in.
The SPAB (www.spab.org.uk) do some very good information/lectures on sypathetic damp treatment in older buildings.
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Direct link here http://www.spab.org.uk/bookshop/TP8.html
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"Mike Dodd" wrote;

A chartered building surveyor is one possibility.
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Get in any number of damp proofers for free estimates/reports and choose the report you prefer.
cheers Jacob
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normanwisdom wrote:

They'll all say work needs doing, and all quote for inappropriate work. The only difference is each one will claim different areas are damp. Odds are against the OP hitting on an honest one, quite simply honesty means very little business.
I'd fix the damp myself by lowering the soil, and any other little bits that need doing, let it dry then get someone genuinely skilled to pronounce it damp free after the owner's actions in late summer. Best place to ask for such people is http://www.periodproperty.co.uk/cgi-bin/discussing/forum2.pl
NT
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http://www.ukdamp.co.uk /
They charge for the survey, but should diagnose accurately. I've not used them, but they seem OK from the details.
Andrew
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It worries me slightly that they use injection to provide a damp proof course. This is basically a con - it just doesn't work.
--
*Sorry, I don't date outside my species.

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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snipped-for-privacy@care2.com wrote:

Totally agree with the sentiments; however here's an unusual approach I've come across recently, if you can believe the idea that there are the odd occasionally honest DPC companies about...
Ask an estate agent for a recommendation (now there's another body of people I trust about as far as DPC companies!). Obviously, building society surveyors regularly come up with 'damp' as an issue when assessing properties, and the estate agents groan because they know perfectly that once the vendor gets a DPC company round, they know that a spanner will be inserted firmly into the works. But sometimes, naive purchasers may request the vendor to organise a damp inspection, and in such cases, it's in obviously in the agent's interest to recommend a company who is less likely to falsely diagnose DPC failure etc, ie, a genuinely ethical company who does a good job.
I once found a damp treatment company via an estate agent I know (not in the above circumstances), and was favourably impressed with the guy who turned up, and gave the property the all-clear
I'm not saying this is a foolproof technique, far from it; but it's a better way of obtaining a shortlist of damp treatment companies than Yellow Pages and a pin.
David
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Lobster wrote:

Interesting approach, maybe useful for mortgage getting purposes. I would not suggest it for repair advice tho.
NT
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Can't see the point in that. Remove all possible sources of damp like earth bridging the damp course (if fitted), leaking gutters, poor pointing etc first.
--
*(on a baby-size shirt) "Party -- my crib -- two a.m

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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<snipped>
=========================It would make more sense to remove an obvious source of damp (i.e. the raised soil level) now and ask a professional in six months time if there is still evidence of damp remaining then. She will find that a wheelbarrow and spade will cost less than a report from a 'damp expert' which may not be needed when nature has had a chance to work its miracle.
A simple household fan directed against the offending wall will often improve matters quite quickly once the source of damp has been removed / cured.
Cic.
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There is a terrible tendency to overreact to damp in an older house and you are right to be wary. Doing the simple things like moving the soil is worthwhile, as is investigating the causes like gutters etc. Then see of the problem is sufficient to need rectifying.
You may find some good advice at http://www.periodproperty.co.uk
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Hzatph wrote:

I think its often not appreciated that theres a difference between damp and damp problem. Typicaly old house walls have higher water content than new build, but in most cases the water content is low enough for no symptoms of any kind to occur, and thus there to be no damp problem.
NT
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snipped-for-privacy@care2.com wrote:

Thanks for the replies (all of you!), there's other factors involved here that I didn't originally explain - that she's trying to organise the jobs of work (one of which could include the replacement of the ground level flooring ("spongy floor"), also - plumbing and new electrics) - so the idea of waiting 6 months for the house to dry out isn't really appropriate if she's trying to gauge the work.
In any event, I think the general advice in here seem sensible - that she (which will probably mean me) will have to dig out the earth that's breaching the DP layer in the first instance; I believe she's already found a friend that's a civil engineer who's agreed to have a look for her, so we'll take it from there.
Thanks to all who replied - it's been useful. I'll try to find out what the engineer guy has to say about it and post back if useful.
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Mike Dodd wrote:

Don't waste money on advice. Damp is easy to identify, and often easy to fix. Sort the soil out on the north side, and make sure you have a flow of air under the floor through the airbricks. Re ("spongy floor"). If the floor's that bad, check you don't have a plumbing leak. Sort the basics out, live in it for the summer, and review in the autumn would be my advice.
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Mike Dodd wrote:

right, bad damp then if the wood floor's rotten. Need more subfloor ventilation, and to sort out any standing water down there.
Fixing this will much lower the interior RH too, as the floor will currently be a substantial source of interior dampness.
Replacing the floor structure give a good opportunity to insulate it.
If the ground its built on is saturated, a layer of tar on the earth can keep the wood floor much drier. Underfloor ventilation is then every bit as important, you cant tar but not ventilate.

Thats how long it takes brickwork to dry, you dont have an option.

to be honest the dpc, if there is one, is unlikely to be relevant. Soil should be well below floor level. Whether you have a dpc or not makes no difference in 99% of cases.
NT
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Hey Mike, sorry for the late response. I totally understand your sis's need to capture a tame professional to support your action plan ie. the need to remove the retention. Your plan sounds fine and the advice from others about solving the problems is sound, you just need someone to write report that says, 'If Ms X does this then the house is fixed' and 'works are complete'.
Good luck.
--
fred
Plusnet - I hope you like vanilla
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But they won't, they'll say "We can fix your damp by injecting goop and replacing plaster and render, and it will only cost a few thousand (but you'll have to do the redecorating yourself)."
Instead, why not fix all the usual stuff like bridged DPC, blocked/broken gutters/drains, blocked air bricks, bad pointing, rubbish in the floor voids, poor internal ventilation, and run a dehumidifier for a few months. Then when it's obvious that there is no longer a damp problem, write up an invoice for the work done and present it to the mortgage company.
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Rob Morley wrote:

and later:
"No sir, I'm afraid you've used the wrong colour paint so that's invalidated your warranty"
David
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