Rising Damp?

11 Apr 2012
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United Kingdom
I think I've got rising damp along the exterior wall of my Victoria end terrace house but wanted confirmation before spending a load of money getting it remedied.

The house was build in 1895 and, as far as I can see, had a tar/bitumen damp proof course - there are a few places on the outside (away from chimneys) where I can see tar that appears to have oozed out at the right sort of level. Does that sound likely? There is no evidence of a slate course or similar.

When we bought the house 6 years ago it wasn't centrally heated and had the original sash windows which were in a terrible state. We now have heating and have double glazing everywhere apart from the dining room which has a bay and is the worst effected with damp. I don't think we have a condensation problem though, we get a little on the panes but nothing much, it's certainly not running down the walls. New windows went in as and when we could afford it, I am thinking it would be a good idea to get the last ones done at the same time as any damp work we might need.

Inside the symptoms are visible damp patches on painted walls and damp patches along with bubbling/lifting where there is lining paper, it's up to about 2-3 foot off the ground. The only parts of the long exterior wall where we don't see this are the face of the chimney breast in the front room, which isn't the exterior wall of course, and in the kitchen where the wall is entirely hidden with units. No idea what's going on behind there! The effected walls are noticeably cold to the touch.

Apologies for the long post. Does this sound like rising damp?
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probably not.

post some photos. Include something to show scale. Show what's on the other side of the damp wall. When an external wall, include the roof or gutter above, and the paving or earth below, and indicate where the drains are.

Also show the airbricks that will be just below floor level, and all the places where airbricks used to be but have been covered up.

Have you got a water meter?
Just to clarify. The wall(s) which appear to be damp are all on the gable end?
If the walls that run behind your cupboards are in the same plane as where the damp is showing, (the gable end wall?), then it would seem to me you do have a damp problem on that wall but it may be either rising or penetrating. Is the exterior rendered? If so, does it stop above where you can see the tar substance? Is the outside ground level or does it rise up in places above the course where you can see the tar. If it does then it is probably bridging whatever damp course may have been there in the past.
Either way, to cure the damp will probably involve hacking off the plaster to at least the highest point, which is usually around 3', rectifying the problem and allowing the brickwork to dry out before re-plastering and replacing any rotted wood such as skirting boards.
Sorry if this sounds like doom and gloom but when you own a house it is reality. To pretend it will go away or is ok during the summer is not the best way to look at it.
Chances are, if you get a professional company in they will say it's rising and you need a new dpc, usually an injection method which works if done correctly. They have to drill the bricks, not the mortar in between, which some cheapskates do because it's easier and doesn't use as much fluid. Use a company that is registered with a guarantee scheme in case of any problems.

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