Three conflicting quotes on damp problem

28 Feb 2008
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United Kingdom
We have had three surveyors from various companies (two local members of the Property Care Association, and a national company) looking at the damp problem in our house. Can anyone help with the following as they have all come up with different diagnosis and solutions?

First surveyor:

Rising damp all around the inside of the external and internal walls (but not bay window area) in the living room. Rising damp in internal breeze block walls in dining room, toilet, larder and kitchen. Solution: hack off plaster on all affected walls to 1 ft, install new damp proof course and re-plaster. Replace affected skirting board. Cost £3,000

Second surveyor:

No rising damp in living room - problem caused by condensation. No rising damp in dining room, toilet, larder and kitchen. Wet rot in skirting boards on internal walls in dining room, toilet, larder and kitchen, as plaster goes all the way down to the floor.
Solution: remove skirting boards and chip out plaster to stop the bridging of the damp course, and then replace skirting boards. Cost £650

Third surveyor:

Rising damp in living room, but only in the front bay window and walls along it. This due to the bay window outside wall being rendered over the damp-roof course. No damp in dining room, toilet, larder and kitchen walls. Wet rot in skirting boards most probably due to a leak of some sort in the downstairs toilet.
Solution: hack off 1 metre of plaster in affected dining room area and re-plaster. Replace all affected skirting boards. Cost £1,100

The three surveyors contradict each other on various points:-

Surveyor 1 and 3 agree that there is rising damp in the living room, but disagree on the scale of the problem, and also on the remedy. One says plaster to be removed to 1 ft whereas the other says 1 metre. Surveyor 2 does not agree that there is any rising damp in the living room.

Surveyor 1 says that there is rising damp in the dining room, toilet, larder and kitchen, whereas surveyors 2 and 3 say that there is no rising damp in any of the rooms.

Surveyor 1 says that the wet rot in the skirting boards on the internal walls is due to rising damp, whereas surveyor 2 says it is due to the plaster being all the way down to the floor, and surveyor 3 says that it doesn’t matter about the plaster going all the way to the floor and it is probably due to a leak somewhere in the downstairs toilet.

Do you have any advice on what the surveyors say and what we should do next?
Thanks in advance!
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I'll bet you a months salary that surveyor 2 is closest to the truth.

Rising damp is extremely rare and requires such conditions that it is practically impossible that it would occur in so many areas of any house. Condensation dampness, on the other hand, is extremely common.

I've lost count of the houses I have inspected where "surveyors" had diagnosed rising damp but I could not find any.

Bridging/penetrating damp is also quite common - not the same thing as 'rising damp'.
Hi May,

Hacking off the plaster to just 1 ft is not a standard remedial treatment, therefore I would treat any other ‘advice’ given by the first surveyor with suspicion and discard any subsequent diagnosis.

It would help if you could list the age of the property, wall construction (e.g. cavity or solid), floor type (timber or concrete). Also is the property heated sufficiently and is it occupied?
Firstly, you have not had any surveyors visit - they were all sales reps.

Whilst 3 people may give 3 different opinions, what you need is some qualification and discussion to back up the conclusions reached. Once all the possibilities have been explored and eliminated, then conculsions are reached based on all the evidence available - then the appropriate remedial work is determined.

I presume these 'surveys' were free?

Pay an independant building surveyor to provide a report. But make sure he is one that will actually comment on the dampness and not recommend various other tests by 'specialists'

No-one on here is going to be able to tell you which rep was correct, what is wrong or what is required. Someone needs to look at it
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Seek out a Surveyor who's got a Diploma in Home Inspection.
The qualification is very stringent and intense
All Chartered Surveyors have to undergo a conversion to get this Diploma.
The Survey will be more exacting than anything that has gone before.
The qualification for HIP surveyor can be done/revised online with a weeks worth of reading and no experience.

You can be stacking shelves in Tescos one week, the next, after paying a few £000, you can have your very own HIP Diploma :rolleyes:

Diagnosing the cause of dampness and the correct remedial work takes a bit longer to master.

A survey from one of this 'psuedo-surveyors' will be much worse as they will only know how to do a HIP survey 'robot fashion', and are unlikely to have the nouse to do anything else.

Might be better to trust one of the reps
I was considering making a post much along the same lines about these HIP monkeys, Woody, but you saved me the bother :D
I have to agree with woody. Of course some Home Inspectors are experienced people but the majority are not. Most have just learned to tick boxes and have little or no experience, knowledge or training in building pathology or remedial treatments.

In any case, the HI process is extremely prescriptive and HIs are strictly not allowed to offer advice on remedial works or repairs. What they are supposed to do is identify a potential problem and recommend further inspection by a qualified surveyor.
Thanks for the replies! We had done a little research online and were already a bit sceptical about the reliability of damp proof “surveyors”
To answer hotrod the property was built in the early 1950’s, has cavity walls and has concrete floors. The property is occupied and the downstairs toilet & larder get very cold in the winter as there is no heating in those areas. Apart from the areas that adjoin the toilet walls, the rest of the property is sufficiently heated. As for the “surveyor” saying he would remove the plaster to 1ft, I assumed I had misheard him until I got the written quote which confirmed 1ft.
What they are supposed to do is identify a potential problem and recommend further inspection by a qualified surveyor.
Which begs the question: just what purpose do those - other than the ones already separately qualified/experienced in building issues - actually serve? What purpose does the whole HIP process serve, come to that? Haven't seen many, make that any, SEs bother with this "qualification", needless to say...
In fact the Home Inspector qualification is pretty well redundant now anyway, since the government dropped the requirement for compulsory Home Inspection Reports. I expect there are a few voluntary reports being done but it will be a very small number.

The HIP is a different thing altogether and is really just a collection of the same documents that have always been collected together except now it is done before the sale by the seller instead of after the sale by one or more buyers. The only real difference between the old and new system is the requirement for an Energy Performance Certificate, which costs about sixty or seventy quid extra, depending....
if you are going to get a proper survey done, then an RICS qualified surveyour will give a true independent survey, rather than just sticking a damp meter in a wall. You will have to pay a bit for it though!
You've been given some good advice here apart from the recommendation to get a HIPS qualified surveyor. They do no specialist training in damp diagnosis whatsoever and most Chartered Surveyors I know wouldn't touch the HIPS training with a barge pole. Also bear in mind that even a Chartered Surveyor may know very little about damp diagnosis. You need to find one that specialises in Building Pathology.
See my previous posts for an appraisal on the whole rising damp situation.
Yes and the searches aren't accepted by most lenders, who still require their own done. All in all, a complete waste of time and money and a waste of money for all those who bothered to do the HI course. And if you don't sell for a long while, you have to go through the whole pointless exercise again.

As for the EPC, I don't think people ever buy houses in the same manner as a washing machine, it's a bit more emotive than that, methinks :rolleyes:

This wouldn't be a cynical method by the treasury to extract (yet) more dosh via VAT would it...?

Anyhoo, back on thread, as mentioned by Thermo, get a suitably experienced RICS bloke/blokess to do a survey and then get prices, based on his/her findings.
I agree, it is a bit more emotive than that but I do think that having good energy performance is a strong selling point. I actually turn out energy performance certificates but I didn't do the training because i thought it was a money spinner. It's an ethical issue.

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