August has already been a washout this year with the Met Office confirming some parts of Britain have had the wettest August in 100 years! Forecasters are warning of an Arctic blast for the UK in September with below-average temperatures and overnight frost likely. The UK autumn often brings unsettled weather with stormy conditions and strong gales due to the Atlantic depressions as they flow across the country.
So now is the time to check your property before more cold, wet and windy weather arrives. It only takes a small defect in your property to allow excess water to enter the fabric of the building. This may lead to problems such as rising damp or lateral penetrating damp, which can eventually cause structural damage to masonry and timber. It’s worth investing a little time and effort to ensure your home is ready to face the inclement weather. Here are some areas to check and make repairs if necessary to help protect your home from potential problems that could affect your properties damp proofing.
1) Check roofs – start at the top, checking if roof tiles or slates have slipped or are loose, missing or damaged. Any gaps will allow water to enter and potentially damage roof timbers. A handy tip – use binoculars to first check the roof carefully from ground level.
2) Check chimneys & flashings – Open chimneys can allow rainwater to enter into the chimney cavity and eventually permeate down through the building. Flashings can weather and if holes or cracks appear water can enter around the chimney and seep down into the roofing and eventually the ceiling. Check the integrity of flashings and chimney pots on a regular basis.
3) Clear gutters – routinely clear guttering at least twice a year (spring and autumn) to ensure leaves, moss, soil and other detritus are removed. Blocked gutters allow water to splash onto masonry, and the constant over spilling of rainwater can cause damp ingress, particularly in solid walls. When clearing guttering use soft brushes or plastic trowels, as harsh metal tools can cause damage.
4) Clear down pipes – this includes both drain pipes and waste pipes. Blocked pipes mean that trapped water will expand as it freezes, which can cause pipes to split or shatter. Damaged pipes also allow water to saturate exterior walls, leading to water ingress and interior damage. A handy tip – use a small hand mirror to help you check behind pipes for cracks or splits.
5) Check external ground levels – If a flower bed or the general ground level is above the original damp proof course (DPC) of a property or the level of the internal ground floor, this can lead to dampness in adjacent walls. Also standing water on decking or patios can cause damp issues if the damp course in the house wall is bridged. External ground levels should always be kept to a minimum of 15cm below the damp proof course of a property.
6) Check external vents – If you have suspended floors the space beneath them needs to be adequately ventilated, otherwise excess moisture can build up. This can lead to low level dampness in walls and can eventually lead to the decay of the suspended timber floor. Check the air bricks that ventilate these voids are not blocked, damaged or missing and clear or repair if needed.
7) Tidy /clear vegetation – clear away plants or tidy vegetation that grows against walls, from behind pipework, cut back bushes, prune (preferably remove) climbing vegetation such as ivy. These plants can hide faults and problems as well as weakening mortar or pushing behind and damaging pipes. Be wary of tree roots close to walls as they may damage foundations and damp courses.
Take great care when doing work at heights and when using ladders. Also wear strong gloves to protect your hands when clearing gutters. If you do discover stains on brickwork or masonry, damp patches on walls when the weather is dry, stains on interior plaster work, peeling paintwork or rusting nails in damp skirting boards then it’s time to get a professional Certificated Surveyor in Remedial Treatment (CSRT) to complete a home survey.