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Advice on flat roof leak and damp internal walls

Discussion in 'Roofing and Guttering' started by LoriT71, 8 Jul 2015.

  1. LoriT71

    LoriT71

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    I am in the process of buying a flat-roof bungalow. It has been lying empty for 8 months so smelled quite "musty" when I viewed it last week. As per the rules in Scotland, the Home Report survey had to be refreshed to make sure there were no changes since the report was last prepared (which was a year ago). And the survey has flagged up a leak in the roof and high readings on a damp meter to the internal walls.

    The seller has had a roofer out and he has given a quote to replace the roof. I have provisionally said that I am happy to still go ahead with the sale if this gets done. However, I am wondering if I should be doing more to check that simply replacing the flat felt roof will be enough to fix the problem? I was at the house again today, taking some measurements, and the smell of damp - particularly in the kitchen - was really horrible. I think it possibly seems more offensive to me now that I know it's caused by water ingress rather than just having not been lived in, heated or aired for so long.

    The ceilings in 3 of the rooms (including the kitchen) are white PVC tongue & groove paneling (which makes me worry about what is hiding above it). And the kitchen is also fully tiled anywhere above worktop level. So there is no way to check with a damp meter in the kitchen.

    Can anyone please let me know what would normally happen in this kind of scenario? What I mean is, would it be sufficient to simply repair the leak (by whatever means), and wait for the walls to "dry out" and the smell of damp to disappear? Or would the damp smell still remain unless plaster walls and/or ceilings were replaced?

    I really like the house, so I don't want to walk away from the purchase unless I really have to. But I definitely couldn't live with the smell of damp - it would make me ill (I totally hate the smell).

    Apologies for the long post! Thank you hugely for any advice you have to offer me.

    Lori
    x
     
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  3. noseall

    noseall

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    Many prolonged empty houses smell musty. Houses can be damp from within, i.e. inadequate insulation/ventilation can lead to condensation issues. It is fairly common. I would be looking at a full spec' flat roof replacement with up to date insulation etc, including a sign off from BC.
     
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  4. Burnerman

    Burnerman

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    As above, and if you could get hold of a dehumidifier you would be amazed at how much water is extracted at this time of year!
    John :)
     
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  5. ree

    ree

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    As above.

    Pics of the exterior including the roof, and pics of the interior would help?
    Posting a scan of the relevant bits of the Survey report would also help?

    8 months is not long for a property to be void. However, its disgraceful for a surveyor not to diagnose the cause of any reported difficulties. There's no knowing the source of the pongs until the various defects have been remedied.

    Do not rely on the seller's roofer's estimates, and under no circumstances allow them to do the work - any work. Get your own roofer's reports, and take all estimated future costs off the asking price.

    After gaining possession, you having any work done is you having some control over quality and any revealed variations eg. dry rot or damp penetrations etc. The seller's builder's might be instructed to cover up any extra work.

    Look behind kitchen base units and inside them for signs of mould and damp. Damp can also come thro walls and floors.
    The PVC T&G will all have to be removed - you will probably find damaged surfaces behind.
    When the roof is off is the time, if required, to re-arrange the wiring and lighting.

    Why not read the "Similar Threads" below, and search for other similar posts in this & the Building forum?
     
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  6. Burnerman

    Burnerman

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    I hate flat roofs with a vengance, but the latest idea seems to be to use a one piece fibreglass roof, applied over the existing construction.
    This appears to be as good as it gets, but how it deals with heat expansion over a large area is unknown to me.
    For sure, the old roof will be concealing many nasties on the timbers and sheeting below, and its likely that these will need to come out.....don't let anyone just stick a new covering on.
    John :)
     
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  7. LoriT71

    LoriT71

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    Thank you so so much for all of your replies so far! I took dozens of photos yesterday when I was at the house - but there are not any good ones of the roof. But I will upload a selection below to let you see if anything helps. For info - the living room is to the left of the kitchen in the photos; and the bungalow itself is an L-shaped building. By the way, when I looked closely at the photos, I spotted what I'm worried might be rising damp in the cellar (it's an outside cupboard on the same level as the rest of the bungalow). The surveyor did not check the cellar at all - in fact, he states in the report that there is no cellar. D'uh! Can any of you possibly confirm or deny for me whether this might be damp (just where the floor meets the wall on the rear wall of the cellar/cupboard)?

    Ceiling-stain.jpg Fireplace-stain.jpg Kitchen.jpg Drainage-pipe.jpg Rear.jpg Cellar1.jpg Cellar2.jpg Survey1.jpg Survey2.jpg
     
    Last edited: 8 Jul 2015
  8. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    I read the first few posts and thought, "get a survey done". Then scrolled down to the post above and though "Oh she has".
    But then thought "WTF, that's not a survey, it's a statement of the bleedin' obvious".

    I'd get my money back.

    A surveyor is not there to tell you that he has seen damp stains or roof ponding, or that he has recorded high damp readings and that further investigation is required. The surveyor should be telling you what is actually wrong. Duh!

    Smells of damp don't tend to come from a small or one-off leaks, They come from persistent damp, and the smell is actually mould spores.

    The issue might be the roof, or other water ingress, or it could just be condensation, or a bit of each. You really need it identifying by a proper surveyor.
     
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  9. catlad

    catlad

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    The roof will be out of date by modern standards and if you want to live there you would be better of negotiating some money of the sale price to bring it up to current standards.
     
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  11. ree

    ree

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    Its not a "cellar" (unless thats a local usage term) its a storage room.
    There is a "tide mark" of rising damp visible in the store room.
    There is also much evidence of condensation, & possible penetrating damp.

    The heavy (stained) ceiling paper is possibly covering a damaged surface.

    There is a stain outline grinning thro above the fire appliance - perhaps its staining coming down from the roof or thro the wall, or possibly the site of an old chimney flue?

    There are indications of previous repair patches to the external render.

    Could the pattern of circular spots in the render be where "Knapen Tubes" have been removed? Knapen tubes were a "Dutch" scam claiming to eliminate rising damp - it was simply a scam. The Dutch company selling Schrijver inserts is also a similar scam in my opinion.

    The property was a cheaply built slab, flat roof, and block and plastic panel effort from 50 - 60 yrs ago. Does it have a membrane below the concrete slab, or a DPC in the walls (if you have a DPC then is the render bridging it?) - things a surveyor should have determined.

    If it suits you and you can get it cheap then go for it - repair work would be straightforward.
    Note that its been on the market for 12 months at least given the earlier Home Buyers Report.
     
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  12. LoriT71

    LoriT71

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    Thank you again for all the hugely helpful replies! Yes, the survey report is ridiculously lacking in useful information, I totally agree. I'm not sure about the property market throughout the rest of the UK - but in Scotland, what happens is the seller arranges and pays for a "Home Report" when they put their property on the market. This is carried out by a qualified surveyor and includes an Energy Report and a Survey (extracts of which you've seen above) and Mortgage valuation report. This Home Report is intended to be totally unbiased and impartial. And it is made freely available to anyone expressing an interest in the property. This means that purchasers no longer need to arrange their own surveys. The cost to the seller of getting the Report done varies - but is several hundred pounds (the one I arranged for selling my own flat cost £540). So you would think that the surveyor would put some effort into making sure he provided reliable and useful information to purchasers. It's pretty damn frustrating to realise this is not the case.

    Ree, you're totally right on saying the "cellar" is just an external storage cupboard. It is just a regional Scottish thing that they are sometimes referred to as cellars (something I've only just come across myself whilst reading through dozens of other Home Reports).

    Apparently there was a recent potential sale which fell through at the last minute - that was just last month according to the estate agent. Apparently they were unable to get their mortgage. But perhaps they pulled out because they suspected there were underlying damp/mold problems?

    Anyway, based on all your replies on here, I phoned my solicitor yesterday and let him know the situation. He said he would have "grave concerns" about buying the property without further investigation into the source of the damp/mold smell. He has recommended that I instruct a timber specialist to inspect the property. He reckons that the inspection will either be free (because the company will be hoping to get some work out of it), or at the very least in the region of £100-£150. And he agreed to contact the seller to ask them to hold off on doing the replacement roof until I've had a chance to get some competing quotes. So we'll see what they say to that.

    Once again, thank you to all of you. I really appreciate you taking the time to help.

    Lori
    x
     
  13. ree

    ree

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    Dont believe a word of anything Estate Agents tell you - they lie for a living. Solicitors are not much better - be cautious if your solicitor recommends a particular Damp company.

    If you do go for a Damp & Timber Report then contact an independent D&T Surveyor ie. someone who only reports but does not do any work or recommend any particular company to do any work. Most all Independent D&T Surveyors are one person bands - they do not represent a company.

    FWIW: many D&T companies and certainly the larger well advertised ones do not use timber or damp specialists to inspect and make a report. They use high pressure sales people, many of whom are only on commission. So be sure that when they do a D&T "Survey" they will find plenty of work.

    Graham Coleman of Dorset, might recommend someone in Scotland. Coleman is the leading expert on D&T in the UK. Tel 01747 840 715 and 07885 765 142
     
    Last edited: 9 Jul 2015
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  14. alan333

    alan333

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    Which town is the house? Some flat roofed houses in Cumbernauld have converted them to pitched roofs and have subsequently increased their value.

    I have alarm bells ringing loudly about your house. Is the kitchen ceiling also hiding something etc etc? I think you could end up paying out huge wads of cash to sort the damp and roof problems. I'd walk way and wait on the next house without lots of issues unless this one was cheap enough to do a pitched roof conversion and properly sort out the potential rising damp.

    edit... I wonder whether the last buyer's mortgage company was going to withhold a huge sum until the house was habitable, hence the last-minute fall through?
     
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  15. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    I would be wary of any free survey from a "timber damp specialist". These tend to be more salesman than surveyor, and have a vested interest in recommending remedial work which their company carry's out.

    You need to be sure that the surveyor will actually investigate and state the likely cause, but above all that they are not biased.
     
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  16. LoriT71

    LoriT71

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    Just a wee follow-up. I went back to look at the house again the day after I last posted here (it was not an official viewing, so the house was unoccupied). And I realised that roofers had been there laying down a new layer of felt on top of the old yucky roof. So bang went any chance of getting a specialist out to look at the problem. I also did a closer inspection of the exterior of the house - and noticed several cracks in the bricks and the render. - especially in the vicinity of the kitchen (which is where I had noticed the worst of the damp/mouldy smell).

    So I made the decision there and then to back out of the sale. It seems like the owner was overly keen to do a quick patch repair and get rid of the place - with no particular care whether there was a more troublesome damp problem throughout the building.

    The good news is I've managed to find a new place. So all's well that end well.

    Thank you again so much for all the help you all offered.

    By the way, here are some photos I took of the cracks etc (none of which were even mentioned in the Home Report survey!):

    Crack-above-kitchen-window.jpg Crack-above-kitchen-window2.jpg Crack-at-kitchen-corner1.jpg Crack-at-kitchen-corner2.jpg Crack-at-kitchen-corner3.jpg Crack-at-kitchen-corner4.jpg Crack-at-kitchen-corner5.jpg Crack-at-kitchen-window-ingo.jpg Crack-below-kitchen-window.jpg Crack-near-aerial.jpg
     
  17. ree

    ree

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    Thank you so much for coming back and telling us what happened next and for the extra pics.

    Just saying but if the new property appears doubtful you could always go back and present the previous seller with the info from here, and then go in with a ridiculously low offer, and wait and see what happens?

    Good luck anyway.
     
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