What to do with our wall?

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Hello,

I would value some expert insight into an ongoing issue which has now been problematic for at least a couple of years.

Using the pictures/photos as a guide, this is the narrative:
  • Photo #1 "BedroomDamp". The back bedroom wall was showing obvious penetrating damp. This was ongoing for about 1 year (roughly since Oct 2019)
  • Photo #2 "Outside_wall". We discovered the damp was penetrating from the outside wall due to a leaking roof and primarily a leaking gutter; both were repaired in March of this year, 2021.
  • Photo #3 "Oct 2021 Damp stains". After these repairs (March 2021), we let the wall dry out for a few months. The wall was clearly drying successfully. I then applied several layers of paint (in May/June 2021), however, covering the damp stains was difficult. I applied both water and oil based Zinsser primer, however, I could not seal all the stains.
  • Photo #4 "Oct 2021 Paint cracks". Just this past week (11/10/2021) I noticed a crack in the paint.
  • Photo #5+6 "Oct 2021 Loosened plaster"/"Oct 2021 Bubbled plaster". The paint appeared to have bubbled, or more so the case that the plaster has loosened from the wall and was soft to the touch.
  • Photo #7 "Oct 2021 Plaster removed". I stripped back the loose plaster which eventually/evidentaly aligned to the original area of damp. The plaster in the top section remains loose and still needs to be removed. (It resembles a map of Italy!)
  • Photo #8 "Oct 2021 Wall cracks". The wall appears to be dry, however, there are several cracks while the wall is also cold to touch. There is also a musty damp smell.
  • Photo #9 "Oct 2021 Wall dry". Since the wall appears to be dry, I reckon there is no further damp penetration, however, several questions remain: What is causing the plaster to bubble? Does the wall require time to dry out properly? Or should I simply replace the wall as the damage has been done.

Since we are expecting a new arrival in the next couple of months this is an urgent project and so we are wondering what the best solution is. If needs be we will get a professional in - but then what needs to be done?

Thanks.
 

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macoadh, good evening.

Looks as if the main wall is oF solid construction, no cavity.

Is that an old unused chimney ?

Suggest you try to have a good look at the cap on the top of the [chimney?] and is there a vent at the vase of the [Chimney?]

There appears to be an air brick vent that [in the images] comes over as if blocked off with a white material? if so that could suggest that someone has historically had issues in the same area as now? Is that air brick sealed up?

Ken
 
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Thanks for your responses. To answers your questions:

Starting with Ken:
  • "Is that an old unused chimney ?"
    : I am not sure if this is/was a chimney. All the terraced houses have this breast at the rear of the house. It certainly is unused as a chimney - I would go as far as saying that it doesn't seem to have any use whatsoever.
  • Suggest you try to have a good look at the cap on the top of the [chimney?] and is there a vent at the vase of the [Chimney?]
    It's a strange one. The breast just ends with the utility room which extends out from the main house, which is just about visible in the photo. We had the roof and gutters fixed and I do believe the cap to this breast was checked. There is no vent at the base of the breast - as just suggested, the breast meets the roof of the utility room and ends there.
  • There appears to be an air brick vent that [in the images] comes over as if blocked off with a white material? if so that could suggest that someone has historically had issues in the same area as now? Is that air brick sealed up?
    Yes, I firmly believe there are historical issues here. Above the damaged section of the interior bedroom wall, the ceiling looks like it has been repaired. We moved into the hosue 3 years ago so the history precedes us living there. As for the air vent: I, personally, unblocked this last March 2021. I have no idea why is was sealed up (with silicone sealant) - which is alarming. I thought it best to allow the breast to breathe but to be honest, it was just a hunch as I am a complete novice.
HB:
  • That chimney needs to have a vent somewhere near to the bottom and another near the top to allow it to dry and stay dry.
    There is only one air brick/vent in the entire breast. As far as I can tell, most of the neighbouring houses have just one air brick. My immediate neighbour does have a small slate overhanging their air brick. If installing another (or even several) air bricks will fix this then that sounds like a far better option that completely replacing the wall (and cheaper!)
From both of your responses, I get the impression that you believe the wall is still trying to dry and breathe - and that there may be problems with this? I did get a damp survey completed last March - to be honest I somehow lost the paperwork and I have asked the company to forward the originals again (still waiting), however, I got the sense they didn't know what the problem was and were just chasing our money. While this company wanted to install a fresh and insulated wall, I decided to fix the roof and guttering which I thought would tackle the source of the problem. But I'm still here...
 
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  • There is only one air brick/vent in the entire breast. As far as I can tell, most of the neighbouring houses have just one air brick. My immediate neighbour does have a small slate overhanging their air brick. If installing another (or even several) air bricks will fix this then that sounds like a far better option that completely replacing the wall (and cheaper!)
From both of your responses, I get the impression that you believe the wall is still trying to dry and breathe - and that there may be problems with this? I did get a damp survey completed last March - to be honest I somehow lost the paperwork and I have asked the company to forward the originals again (still waiting), however, I got the sense they didn't know what the problem was and were just chasing our money. While this company wanted to install a fresh and insulated wall, I decided to fix the roof and guttering which I thought would tackle the source of the problem. But I'm still here...

That must have been a chimney at some stage in it's history - my guess would be that your utility was once maybe a wash-house and that the chimney served a coal heated copper boiler for washing clothes in. That would make the house pre-1900 -ish.

I have zero faith in damp surveys, they will always find some and offer an expensive solution which hides the issue rather than fixes it - better to fix it properly. I would suggest the chimney needs to be able to breath, to dry out naturally. That needs a place for air to enter, rise and get back out taking moisture out with it. Usually that means a vent where the fireplace was at the bottom and a cowl to allow air out of the top. As you already have an air brick near the top, that just needs un-sealing and a second one added near the bottom of the stack - but please wait for other comments on this, because I am not a builder.

Also keep in mind that it can take months of good weather, for such brickwork to be finally completely dry.
 
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macoadh you have a external chimney breast that use to have a stack, the stack has been dropped to below the OG gutter and some kind of cover put over the remaining chimney breast. Do the gutter and fascia run continuous over and above the chimney breast cover?Pics showing that area would help. why did you have work done up there?Whatever was done is allowing water to drip down, your moss and green rectangle.
With the semi-blocked air brick you have no through ventilation in the flue.you need one high air brick that needs replacing and one low ventwhere the redundant fireplace used to be. PIcs of the ground floor chimney breast would help.

The soot is bleeding through the chimney breast bricks - seeall those dark bricks and affecting the wall on either side. Its also bleeding chemicals into your beedroom wall. thats probably the damage you show in the above pics.see. you have a solid wall so maybe its getting soaked?.

going in the loft again and shining a strong light at the suspicious area might show something. lie down on a board to get close.

inside the house, maybe you have a redundant fireplace on a GF chimney breast? Or has the outhouse chimney breast been chopped off in the outhouse? Then whats supporting whats left?it ccould be blocked off, so to sweep the dirty flue you could remove some bricks or somehow open it up for a sweep.
 
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HB
That needs a place for air to enter, rise and get back out taking moisture out with it.
Yes, I'm starting to think the priority now is to get some air into the chimney breast/flue.

As you already have an air brick near the top, that just needs un-sealing and a second one added near the bottom of the stack - but please wait for other comments on this, because I am not a builder.
I believe tell80 has also suggested this. But we are again in agreement, the thing needs to breathe.

tell80
Do the gutter and fascia run continuous over and above the chimney breast cover?Pics showing that area would help.
Yes, I believe so. I will add this to my todo list and take photos asap. It is very difficult to get up there for a bird's eye view, as the outhouse cuts out the simple use of a ladder. The roofers we employed had to climb over the roof from the front of the house - not something I can say I am confident/brave enough to do.

why did you have work done up there?
Contrary to the damp survey, I believed there was water somehow flowing from on high and soaking the sides of the chimney (as I have suggested in the photo above). We had roofers check this for us, and yes, there was water getting through the joint in the gutters. The roofers also found several broken slates just above the cap of the breast - they were concerned that the roof wood work could be seen through these cracks. The roofers repaired all these breakages and/or replaced the broken slates. I used to be able to see daylight in the loft but this has disappeared now; so, I believe everything is well sealed now (or so, I hope).


With the semi-blocked air brick you have no through ventilation in the flue.you need one high air brick that needs replacing and one low ventwhere the redundant fireplace used to be. PIcs of the ground floor chimney breast would help
There is no ground floor chimney breast. The chimney breast terminates - so I understand - at the roof of the utility outhouse.

The soot is bleeding through the chimney breast bricks - seeall those dark bricks and affecting the wall on either side. Its also bleeding chemicals into your beedroom wall.
This is quite alarming and I really hope this is not the case - however, taking your word for it, cleaning this out is absolutely essential.

going in the loft again and shining a strong light at the suspicious area might show something. lie down on a board to get close.
Yes, I will asap - the loft is not boarded so will need to devise a plan to get over to the back of the house and to the section of concern. But this is a great idea, thank you. I will post what I discover when completed.

inside the house, maybe you have a redundant fireplace on a GF chimney breast? Or has the outhouse chimney breast been chopped off in the outhouse? Then whats supporting whats left?
Yes, the outhouse has cut off the chimney breast, as far as I can tell. What's supporting it? Perhaps, the outhouse roof? I'm scratching my head on this one.
 
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Yes, the outhouse has cut off the chimney breast, as far as I can tell. What's supporting it? Perhaps, the outhouse roof? I'm scratching my head on this one.

You suggest your neighbours homes have a similar chimney - it might be worth chatting with them, to see what was done at the base of theirs for support and asking them if they have any similar damp issues to your problems.
 
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Thanks HB. Good suggestion - I certainly will make some enquiries.
 
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can you look into the outhouse roof area for chimney supports and leaks?
raise a ladder near the outhouse, go up and use a very long selfiestick to picc the roof and chimney breast cover.
Best practice in the bedroom is knock off all plaster floor to ceiling/cove back to brick and render it with a sand and lime render.
theres dark shadows or stains showing on the ceiling in pic 1.
 
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