Damp In Freestanding Walls

Do Your Boundary Walls Look Like This?

damp in boundary and garden walls

This photo I took during a client’s comprehensive buyers inspection had rising damp, falling damp and penetrating damp in the boundary and garden walls. In addition, the white marks on the wall were caused by efflorescence.

Often the maintenance of the walls that are attached to or which do not form part of our houses is neglected. These are our boundary, garden and courtyard walls.

These walls are very important in that they protect our privacy and security and are our first line of defence against intruders. Unfortunately, we sometimes do not make enough effort to protect them!

The greatest enemy of these walls is damp which penetrates into the wall from below, above and from the sides of the walls.

Rising Damp

Rising damp occurs as a result of capillary action at and below ground level into porous building materials. These materials are mainly concrete, bricks and mortar. The moisture rises up the wall in this way. It usually occurs where there is no damp proof course (DPC). Freestanding walls such as boundary and garden walls do not normally have DPC built into the walls because it would make the wall unstable. A layer of DPC would break the bond between the wall and its foundation.

The height to which the moisture will rise is determined by the evaporation rate and the nature of the wall. However, the normal limit for rising damp is generally about one metre above ground level.

Rising damp may show as a stain on the plastered and painted wall, the blistering of paint and loss of plaster. A damp area may be evident at the base of walls and in extreme situations, may cause the structure of the wall to wear away and crumble.

Falling Damp

Falling damp is caused by downward water penetration from the top of porous masonry walls. This is as a result of the top of a boundary wall not being adequately waterproofed, if at all.

Walls should be:

  • properly sealed at vertical expansion joints;
  • repaired at copings that have cracked or deteriorating mortar joints;
  • cleaned to prevent the build-up of dirt and moss on upper surfaces of stone or brickwork.
  • Leaves, bird manure, moss and dirt on top of the walls contain weak acids and salts which can promote decay of the masonry and paint if absorbed.

Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp is a common form of damp. It occurs as a result of the horizontal ingress of water through gaps, cracks and joints in the wall’s structure. Penetrating or horizontal damp can be due to your or your neighbour’s irrigation system spraying against the boundary wall. Moreover, foliage growing against the wall (bushes and trees)can also be the cause. Other causes are deteriorating paint finishes and inadequately ruled joints which allows moisture intrusion into faced brick or stone walls.

Penetrating damp tends to produce localised patches of dampness and decay, whereas rising damp may affect the base of the wall.

Efflorescence

Efflorescence occurs where an appreciable quantity of soluble salts and moisture is present in the masonry. It routinely occurs in masonry construction, particularly in brick and concrete. It typically occurs during the initial curing of the cementitious product. Moisture carries these salts to the face of the masonry or concrete where the moisture evaporates.

As the water evaporates, it leaves the salts behind as a white fluffy deposit. Therefore, to remove it, brush the deposit off when the wall is dry. It usually disappears with time after rains or washing with water.

Efflorescence is generally an aesthetic concern and not a structural one. However, where there is excessive efflorescence, the crystallizing salts within the pores of the masonry can disrupt even the strongest material. As a result, this can lead to the breaking up and crumbling of the structure.

How to prevent damp damage in your freestanding walls

Rising Damp

Rising damp is not easy to resolve in any freestanding, boundary or garden walls because of the lack of DPC.  However, you can do the following:

  1. Make sure that there is no pooling of water against the wall. Good drainage away from the walls is essential. If you have a low point in your garden against your boundary walls you will need to create a hole in the wall at the lowest point for the stormwater to drain away. Your neighbours have to accept a certain amount of your stormwater by law.
  2. Try not to overwater your gardens against boundary and garden walls. overwatering will result in sodden earth around the walls and, as a result, rising damp in the wall.
  3. Keep leaves and other debris on the ground which may retain water away from the walls.

Falling Damp

  1. You should waterproof the tops of all freestanding walls with a layer of an acrylic waterproofing system or any other system to prevent moisture intrusion into the top of your boundary and yard walls.
  2. If there is a concrete or brick coping on top of the wall you must ensure that the joints form a water-resistant seal. You should seal all deteriorated joints or porous joints between the bricks and copings.
  3. Seal the top of expansion joints to prevent water from entering the joint with a silicone sealer.

Penetrating Damp

  1. If your freestanding walls are plastered, check the paint finish regularly. It may be time to repaint if the finish is chalky.
  2. If you have a sprinkler system make sure that you are not watering your boundary walls. Sprinklers heads are normally adjustable. If yours are not, change them.
  3. Trim bushes and shrubs so that there is a gap between the foliage, branches and the walls.
  4. If it appears that the moisture is from your neighbours’ sides, you will need to talk to them about the problem.
  5. Clean out and seal vertical expansion joints with a good silicone sealer. Any cracks should be sealed as well. Furthermore, if your plastered walls are covered in crazing cracking wash the wall down. Thereafter, when the wall is dry, seal the wall with a sealer and repaint the wall.

Efflorescence is a sign of damp

Efflorescence is caused by moisture absorbed in the wall evaporating and leaving behind salts as a white powder. Therefore, if you repair and maintain your walls as suggested above, very little efflorescence should appear on your walls.

I am not specifically promoting Prominent Paints as all the well-known paint manufacturers produce the same required paints and sealers. You can use most of them to repair and maintain your freestanding walls.

However, Prominent’s video provides very good advice on how to repair moisture damage to boundary and garden walls!

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » stormwater problems

Stormwater

Homes without Gutters 

stormwater

 

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If you are like many homeowners, you have probably wondered why some houses have no gutters to provide protection against stormwater. You may have wished your own home had none because of the cleaning and maintenance issues.

Gutters are not required by law on a sloping roof. Many modern homes have none, even in instances where they would benefit by having them. There are alternatives that architects sometimes prefer such as concrete paving around the perimeter of your house.

In order to decide for yourself whether rainwater gutters are necessary for your home, it is best to first learn what the building regulations require.

The Building Regulations do not require roof gutters and downpipes if another suitable means of drainage has been provided to remove or disperse rainwater from the roof away from your home.

However, the Building Regulations do require that any stormwater that flows from your roof or any area that is in the immediate vicinity of your home must not cause damage to the interior of the building, its structure or its structural elements. The regulations require steps to be taken to ensure that stormwater does not accumulate in a way that“unduly inconveniences” you as the occupant of your home.

Furthermore, the system used must:

    1. not undercut the foundations by erosion or flooding
    2. drain stormwater away from your home
    3. not allow stormwater to accumulate against or close to the external walls
    4. make provision for the drainage of any areas on the property where water pools
    5. be capable of being easily maintained and cleaned

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Buyer beware

homebuyer buying a house

Buying A House: 15 Common Defects

buying a house
When buying a house, check for common problems like rusting gutters and downpipes!

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Buying a house is a big investment. You should know what you’re getting into.

When buying a house it is imperative that you investigate the condition of all the components of the house. This can save you a great deal of anguish and unforeseen costs. By having the property inspected by a certified home inspector, before signing on the dotted line, defects can be identified. You can then make an informed purchasing decision.

Buying a house – the most common defects to look for.

1)   Rotted Wood

Continuous exposure to moisture causes wood to rot. Inspect wood in the kitchen and the bathroom: toilet seats, countertops, basin and sink units and flooring. Also check the exterior of the home: deck, eaves and verges.

2)   Inadequate Ventilation

Without proper ventilation, moisture cannot evaporate. Over time this will become a problem.  Furthermore, bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms can become havens for mould growth.

Proper ceiling space ventilation allows the sun’s heat to promote evaporation.

In addition, condensation on the underside of metal roofs, as well as under-tile membranes, can damage the roof structure and ceilings. A home inspection will identify stains and signs of dripping moisture in the ceiling space.

3)   Improper Maintenance of Appliances

When buying a house it is important to establish if appliances and other equipment have been regularly maintained, e.g. regular cleaning of ovens, stovetops, filters in the air–conditioning units and in extraction hoods.

4)   Amateur Repairs

Amateurish (non-professional) repairs are most commonly found in plumbing and the electrical system. These generally do not comply with building regulations and represent a real danger, and may cause further serious damage in future.

5)   Poor Drainage

Inadequate drainage around the exterior of the home leads to water intrusion in basements, garages and above damp proofing. This can compromise the foundation of a home and create mould problems.

6)   Failing Heating & Cooling Systems

A failing or ageing heating and cooling system will likely require costly maintenance. These systems can potentially also emit toxic carbon monoxide fumes. When buying a house it is important to remember that older systems are also considerably less efficient than modern ones. They cost more to run!

7)   Environmental Hazards

Because of less stringent building regulations in the past, older homes may contain lead-based paint, high levels of carbon monoxide, toxic mould and asbestos. To identify such problems professional inspection and testing is required.

8)   Faulty Geyser Installations

Geysers need to be inspected carefully, as dangerous installation are not visible. A geyser can potentially represent the biggest danger in the home, as they can explode if not correctly installed. A home inspection is imperative to identify problems in this area. More than 40% of the homes I have inspected had faulty geyser installations.

9)   Plumbing Problems

Pipes under the sink made of incompatible materials can lead to dripping taps, leaking fixtures and slow drains. The seller should address all plumbing problems before you buy.

10)  Electrical Safety Issues

Buying a house with dated and faulty electrical systems can cause breaker tripping or fire. Ungrounded plug outlets and faulty earth leakage circuit breakers are safety hazards and can result in injury, death and financial loss.

I have regularly found faulty wiring in electrical panels and other areas of the homes. In addition, I have found that that electrical Certificates of Compliance do not necessarily guarantee an absence of problems.

11)  Controlling Water

Water intrusion can be one of the most destructive and expensive problems on a property. Therefore, check for well-maintained gutters, downpipes, and proper grading around the foundation to direct water away from the home.

12)  Cracks

Most homes develop some cracks. Old and new homes can develop cracks as well depending on climatic and physical factors.

Not all cracks are structurally significant!

However, it is worth getting to the bottom of what is causing the cracking. A crack is actually the visible symptom of a possible problem and not the problem in itself.

13)  Roof Problems

Before buying a house inquire if there have been any roof leaks. Furthermore, insist that the seller guarantees that there are no roof leaks.

Roofing can contain old or damaged materials or improper flashing. Moreover, roofing problems can cause major and expensive problems for your home.

14)  Storm Damage

Damage from storms, strong wind, tornadoes or flooding has long-term effects on a home. Therefore, thoroughly inspect the roofing, exterior walls and railings for wind and water damage before buying a house. Also, check for defective (post-storm)  repairs. Inspect the internal walls and ceiling for water intrusion. This can potentially lead to mould, with its resulting health problems.

15)  Damp and Mould

Surprisingly, most homeowners on the Highveld believe that it is too dry for mould to be a problem. This is a fallacy, especially in older homes.

Mould requires moisture and warmth to grow and is often found in damp, warm areas. Furthermore, it can enter a home through windows, vents, doorways and air-conditioning systems.

Mould can have serious health effects. They produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are the chemical toxins found on the surface of the mould spore which can be inhaled, touched or ingested. Moreover, mycotoxins can cause a suppression of the immune system and even cancer.

When buying a house, the most common places you may find mould is in the bathroom and kitchen, especially around leaking taps and under sinks. In addition, mould grows behind appliances such as the dishwasher, fridge and clothes dryer. If there are or have been roof leaks you may find mould in the roof space.

Furthermore, foliage growing against the house can cause mould to grow outside and inside the home.  Mould can also be found in other areas where condensation and humidity are high.

Finally, before you buy a house, ensure you have commissioned a home inspection for possible problems. The inspection report is your guarantee against buying a cat in the sack!

Prevention is better than trying to find a cure.

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » stormwater problems