Investigation of moisture and its effects in traditional buildings

By: admin | Posted on: November 20, 2021

A rising damp survey is all about the damp investigation. The new RICS joint damp assessment methodology, which is to be published shortly goes through the stuff I go through in this, and my other videos about eliminating root cause. This video will show you how I go about some of my damp investigations, and some of the defects I find. At the end of the video I give a little bit of advice to any homeowners, on how you can potentially start your own damp investigation. Right at the end are the graphs of the gravimetric moisture profile following the guidance in BRE DIGEST 245. I explain about these in the video, and why this is important when moving forward with repairs. Any questions drop them in the comments below and i’ll do my best to answer when I get 5 mins. Have you seen the recent joint damp assessment surveying methodology by Historic England, RICS, PCA, SPAB? Click on the link below for more details

RICS, Historic England, PCA agreed joint damp methodology. Methodology for moisture investigations in traditional buildings. Investigation of moisture and its effects in traditional buildings.

Lime plastering Wiltshire/ damp survey wiltshire

By: admin | Posted on: November 10, 2020

I was recently asked to carry out a damp investigation to a property where damp issues had persisted for many years. My client had received conflicting advice from a number of different damp and lime experts. Some of this advice was to remove any modern materials and replace with lime render and lime plaster. Remove modern paint, and repoint with lime pointing putty. Other advice was to use a modern guaranteed system and damp proof walls. Another free damp survey specified to increase the ventilation in the property by installing a positive input ventilation (piv).

In this instance this is where it can get very worrying, as potentially a serious amount of money is about to spent, and neither of this is actually going to fix the root cause. This is a common scenario when a homeowner is a layperson and has no knowledge of how a damp survey should be carried out. Lets face it most people that come around to a property have a service to offer, and im sure most people are just trying to earn a living without the intention of trying to rip anybody off.

This job could have gone horribly wrong if our client hadn’t been advised by a family friend just about before she was going to have the lime plastering and lime pointing carried out to her Wiltshire property. Her friend advised her to contact me as we’ve recently helped out another friend with a very similar conflicting rising damp issue.

The damp survey

The art of any damp investigation is all about elimination of the root cause before coming to a conclusion. The well documented BRE digest 245 methodology is what I would say an averagely competent damp surveyor should follow, and this should aid any survey findings.  The reason I say this is because this methodology is recommended guidance in every British Standard in regards to damp. In this instance at this property the mortar sampling was very wet at the base of the wall (20% capillary moisture), along with a very low hygroscopic value (1.1%), with no high levels of nitrates or chlorides. By following this methodolgy and removing the plaster samples for analysis, I was able to confirm something that none of the previous surveyors, contractors, lime specialists had even mentioned. 

All of this points to either a mains leaks, plumbing leak, or drainage leak. This high amount of capillary moisture, along with a very low amount of hygroscopic value, is indicative of rising damp caused by excess water from a defect. True genuine long term rising damp always has hygroscopic salts like chlorides, and / or nitrates present.

I used our signal generator Ridgid SR20 to actually locate and trace the mains water coming from the road and into the property. Because the property had been extended, the original main was hidden under new concrete solid floors to the side extension. Once this was located I was then able to use My Aquaphon acoustic leak detection equipment all the way along the pipe to listen for any possible mains water leaks.

The property had some older original drainage systems in place, and some fairly modern drainage. I used my Ridgid drain CCTV inspection camera to inspect all drains around the property.

What I found during the CCTV inspection was that the drains were in need of urgent repair, as these defects were directly related to the amount of moisture that was producing rising damp symptoms within the property. What was good, was that my client was there and could view the camera inspecting the drainage for all the issues that I noted.

I used a tracking dye and a bung to flood the drains to exaggerate the issue, to track the path of the water. What I also found was that this drainage issue also caused damp issues to the cavity construction part of the extension also, as I was able to see it within the cavity wall.

By using Complete Preservation for the initial survey, we were then trusted to specify the repairs to the building to resolve the rising damp issues. 

As always budgets can be limited so quotations are really based on what needs to be done ASAP, and at what cost.

I specified drain patching, which was needed in numerous locations, along with connecting an old soak away to mains drainage, as this wasn’t draining as desired. 

Ground levels were lowered as per our typical drawing.

Modern masonry paint is to be removed at low level  (150mm from the floor) to aid evaporation at the base of the wall. Lime putty repointing was also specified for low level  areas where pointing was needed. 

Please see the below video of a 1 minute demo of how to remove modern masonry paint, and how to lower the high ground levels.

Top tip

Before you spend money on any damp proofing works, or even lime plastering, lime rendering, lime pointing in regards to damp issues, it would be worth paying for professional guidance to eliminate damp root causes. It would be prudent to have a CCTV drain survey, leak detection, and also mortar/plaster sampling following the methodology in BRE DIGEST 245 where needed. The reason I say this is because I’ve seen numerous lime plastering jobs fail because none of the above has been carried out. Lime plastering is a fantastic product, but it isn’t going to perform as desired when there are defective drains, and the walls are very wet. When walls are very wet it is also a good idea to use some drying equipment to lower the moisture content of the wall. 

If you need further advice regarding damp issues and lime plastering costs please email

Rising damp & the facts you need to know

By: admin | Posted on: August 13, 2019

This is some very basic stuff showing diagrams that visually explain damp issues that just drilling a new damp proof will not solve. It is well documented in BRE Digest 245, British Standard BS 6576, British Standard BS 5250, THAT YOU HAVE TO FIND THE CAUSE OF THE RISING DAMP, ALONG WITH CORRECT DIAGNOSIS BEFORE YOU CAN MOVE FORWARD WITH A REPAIR.

I have massive issues with Estate Agents that offer their damp expert to carry out a free pre purchase damp and timber survey, and basically give a quote to do the cheapest job. The quote is referred to as a ‘report’ and is presumed to be worth something along with the Mickey mouse guarantee. These are often a couple of pages, with no mention of any possible defects or the actual cause of the damp. These are worthless, and the works always mask the visible defects, and subsequent damp issues normally occur.

If you have a property that is cavity construction it is essential that you have to eliminate some of the possible causes of rising damp. It is unlikely that the physical damp proof course has failed, or broken down. If you have a solid wall property, these below pictures can also be relevant in some cases especially if there is a physical damp proof course, or a chemical damp proof course has been installed.

The below picture shows a basic issue, this being debris in the cavity that has bridged the damp proof course.


The below shows bridging of the damp proof course by the path.


The below shows bridging of the damp proof course by the plaster.

The below shows bridging of the damp proof course by the external render.

The below shows bridging over the damp proof course by mortar pointing.


The below shows bridging of the damp proof course by the screed.

Some facts…. lots of damp proofing experts claim to work to BS 6576:2005 (This is the British Standard). BS 6576:2005 Code of practice for diagnosis of rising damp in walls of buildings and installation of chemical damp-proof courses. MOST OF THEM DONT, please read the below and read some facts published in the British Standard.


I have highlighted NOTE 2 BELOW.… it clearly states that a damp meter gives a qualitative reading. Gravimetric tests give more detail, this will tell you exactly what is going on. Chemical tests, this is a speedy meter or a carbide meter will only show a total moisture content. Gravimetrics differentiate between hygroscopic and free moisture contents….. this is the only way we carry out our surveys.


Please see the facts in BS 5250 regarding rising damp.


BS 5250 also nearly states that the gravimetric method gives the most reliable results.

BRE Digest 245 states the below.

Again BRE Digest 245 recommends that  plaster/mortar samples are taken to determine what is exactly going on.

What do you do if you have a damp issue? A damp survey should be more an investigation, and you should expect to pay for it. If your damp surveyor doesn’t eliminate some very basic issues you will get a quote for a new damp proof course.

Damp meters are brilliant but they beep even when the wall is dry, if some hygroscopic salts are present, and they can’t tell you if the wall is damp by free moisture or hygroscopic salts.

All of the British Standards recommend that gravimetrics should be used to determine what is actually going on.

If you need advice regarding a damp survey, please give us a shout.

Top tip

You need to ask your damp surveyor for an invasive damp survey where as a minimum a carbide meter is used, or ideally gravimetric sampling. Most damp surveyors will only offer non invasive damp surveys, which is then an opinion not based on any data in regards to the moisture content of the wall. Drains, leaking pipes, bridging of the damp proof course are common defects that need eliminating as per the above screenshots in the British Standards. These will need to be inspected. Have a look at some interesting videos in the video gallery section of the website.