Damp survey – post building survey and damp survey ! In Sandwich, Kent.

Luke Blaskett; 

We had had some bad experiences with surveyors who lacked the specialist knowledge needed for period/historic buildings.

‘We required a survey to satisfy our mortgage company, but didn’t want to carry out inappropriate work to the building (which had been recommended by other less experienced surveyors). Fortunately we found Standard Heritage. The survey was carried out quickly and professionally and the report was very detailed and informative. Not only did we receive fantastic service but the surveyor, Michael took a real interest in our property and provided additional advice beyond the scope of his instruction. I would recommend Standard Heritage to anyone who needs a Building Survey, but particularly those with older properties’.

Standard Heritage was called to do a ‘ damp survey’ on a property in Sandwich, Kent.

An RICS level 3 Building Survey had already been carried out; ‘evidence of dampness’ was found, but instead of  the report explaining the cause and working out the remedy/repair, the issues were referred to ‘qualified damp specialist’.

A  ‘qualified damp specialist’ was engaged and only  spent about 20 minutes surveying the issues at the property. His proposed remedy  after using a resistance meter (erroneously called a damp meter) to find damp, was drilling some holes in the affected masonry and filling them up with silicon from a mastic gun and then re-plastering the walls with cement and gypsum to a height of 1.2 meters – this would solve nothing.

We spent four hours surveying the property, starting with a walk around the building to work out what the building was made up of, its aspect and to see how it sat in its local environment.

There were three distinct construction types: timber frame, solid wall and cavity wall. These three distinct construction types perform in different ways and need to be treated appropriately.

From there the inspection starts at the rooftops, again three different construction types and materials: thatch, Kent pegs and a fibre glassed flat roof. Material and detailing issues were found with a remote camera externally, backed up with thermal imaging internally.

All the exposed rafter ends and other exposed timbers were inspected, the masonry, the renders and plasters, the floor construction, the buildings internal fabric. After three hours of focused surveying and  getting a good ‘ feel’ for the building,helped by recording the internal humidity and viewing the buildings fabric with thermal imaging,  the reported  and suspected areas of dampness were focused on.

The vendor very kindly allowed us to drill holes in the walls so that we could take mortar samples and analyse them on site for their moisture content with a  Gas Carbide meter . Yes there was dampness in the walls but only at low level.The moisture profile from the sampling showed the dampness to be limited to just a few brick courses up from the ground; not 1.2 meters according to the ‘qualified damp specialist’.

From the survey observations and analysis we were able to make sensible recommendations such as raking out the cement pointing at low level to allow the base of the wall to breathe and dry out, then repoint with a lime mortar next spring/ summer; this would manage the issue.

There was a full list of other works needed but these were for the buildings long-term benefit.

When surveying a property like this its hard not to take an interest

There are so many clues to the buildings 500 year evolution and alterations. Its only really the last 100 years of works that are usually causing the problems.

Why only the last 100 years ?

Since 1919, cement all but replaced lime and earth  mortars, and then in the 1950’s plastic paints took over from linseed paints. Both cement and modern paints are impermeable which trap moisture and basically suffocate a building that had previously been able to breathe; this leads to a lot of damp problems in old buildings.

The SPAB have an  excellent information sheet that explains why not to use impermeable materials on an old building ; The Need for Buildings to Breathe. The information sheet  only costs £2 !


When drafting out the report, especially when it’s a timber frame,  we like  to work out its original form and date it, this can be done taking note of the buildings frame-work and surviving details. This  particular building was dated to pre – late 16th  century. Once we have got the original construction, we can start work on the following additions; this helps with the diagnosis of the buildings issues.

Apart from working out the obvious, a full report of the all buildings issues along with a blue print of what works that are need to be done now and for the long term benefit of the building and its occupants is issued, with future support if necessary. We have on going relationships with past clients and love to hear about their progress.

We call them damp surveys, but this is a humble name for what we actually do, they should be called; a moisture related building pathology report, with detailed analysis of issues, including a clear set of recommendations,  a narrative of the buildings development and a sprinkling of history too.

After reading Luke Blaskets story have a look at the video on the Measuring Damp page of our site and ask yourself has much changed ? Measuring Damp.

Please feel free to drop us a line with any enquiries in an email via our Contact page;