Can't figure out cause of damp on living room wall

Discussion in 'Builders' Talk' started by t1redmonkey, Jan 12, 2021.

  1. t1redmonkey

    t1redmonkey Member

    Just a disclaimer - I'm not knowledgeable at this type of thing whatsoever, so apologies if I am asking a stupid question or not giving enough information.

    I noticed some of the wallpaper peeling on my living room wall a few months back, in October I think, and peeled off a bunch of it just with my bare hands with little to no effort, mainly because it was so damp. I would say this was going up about 1.2 meters, and was mainly either side of the living room wall (the other side is an exterior wall).

    I was quite worried obviously so I then called a few different tradesmen to get opinions, but I had a variety of different things said to me, I got so confused and felt none of them were being truthful, so I ended up not taking on any of them (probably the worst solution I know!).

    Earlier today I went in there and was able to peel off much more wallpaper, a bit further up and to the sides of where I had peeled off before, so it seems like it is getting worse.

    Here is some of the things I was told before:

    Person A: Damp proof course has possibly failed, so need to do chemical injections/hack off plaster/replaster
    Person B: Exterior window reveals are in bad condition so need to be redone
    Person C: Need to re-render whole of front of house because rendering may have blown

    With person A, I was a bit sceptical because he was a damp proofer so I guess he is obviously going to tell me that (although maybe what he suggested is actually necessary, not sure). Persons B and C were 2 different builders.

    With person B's suggestion, can a 'failed' window reveal really cause dampness across the whole wall to that extent?

    And with person C's suggestion, I wasn't convinced either because the upstairs front facing rooms are not damp to the touch at all.

    Thanks in advance for any help.

    Attached Files:

  2. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    Im afraid its impossible for anybody to provide an accurate assessment without loads more information such as:
    Age of the house?
    History of any work carried out on recent years?
    Heating system used?
    What provision is there for ventilation?,
    Type of floor?
    Clear pictures of outside showing external ground levels, external wall surface, details of finishing around window and provision for external ground drainage.
    The vast majority of such problems can be attributed to poor maintenance to external rainwater dispersal such as guttering or ground drainage, sometimes the ground level has been allowed to become too high next to the house, and sometimes the problem lies with lack of ventilation thereby allowing condensation to build up internally, but without loads more information its not possible to go any further with a solution.
  3. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Screwfix Select

    Just to confirm, 'Person A' is a Grade One listed cowboy. Ignore them completely.

    As Okoak says, some photos of the outside would help, but if it's rendered, the dampness is almost certainly rain water getting in somewhere behind the render and, as it can't get back out again, it's coming through the wall to the inside.

    If it's an old house and wasn't originally rendered, the solution is to remove the render and re-point the brickwork as necessary, with lime mortar if that's what it was built with.

    If it's always been rendered, find the cracks and repair them.

    But more photos first, please.
  4. t1redmonkey

    t1redmonkey Member

    Attached a few photos of exterior of the house, in case there's anything here which gives any clues. One thing I am thinking may be contributing to the problem (or indeed may be the cause) is the coal grate I have in front of my house (under the window). It is basically open to the elements so rainwater can easily get through here into the basement (which is maybe evaporating up into the living room?).

    The only work I've had done that is related to that room since I bought it 7 years ago, is had the chimney stack removed since it was in really bad shape. The flooring is suspended timber. There are no 'air bricks' or anything for the room, which maybe needs to be added? Though when I look at other houses in my street, they don't seem to have any.

    Attached Files:

  5. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    I can see straight away that there is some areas at both ends of the window cill that are damaged and potentially allowing water ingress, and there is a section of render missing just above the black brickwork that again will allow wet in. The problem is compounded I would suggest, by the fact that the bottom brickwork has been painted and is therefore preventing trapped moisture from escaping, which is then building up and escaping via the internal walls.
    Disregard any nonsense about "rising damp" and "injection damp courses", it's all a big con.
    1) ensure your guttering is functioning correctly with no leaks.
    2) carry out repairs around window and missing render.
    3) Allow the internal damp to dry (could take weeks)
    4) Remove the black paint from brickwork and re point using lime mortar which will allow the walls to breath and dry out naturally.
    5) Pick up that rubbish it looks a right mess!;)
    Joe the Plumber and t1redmonkey like this.
  6. t1redmonkey

    t1redmonkey Member

    Thank you, really helpful reply. All seems to make sense.

    With regards to point 1, I know there is a slight leak in the center of the guttering (not a big one, but there is water dripping from the middle of it when it rains).

    With point 2, I guess if I just contacted a builder and asked them to do repairs around the window they would probably know exactly what to do?

    With point 4, do you think only that bottom section needs repointing? I was a bit worried that the whole of the front of the house would have to be repointed and then re-rendered.

    And sorry about point 5, literally just walked out my house to take the pics on my lunch break so just wanted to get them done quickly!
  7. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    The render would appear to be in good condition generally (from the pictures anyway) apart from the minor repairs mentioned that need to be addressed.
    As regards re pointing the brickwork, it would depend on what its been pointed with, the problem arises when modern cement is used which prevents moisture escaping, as opposed to traditional lime mortar which allows the wall to dry out.
    It's counter intuitive to remove a water proof material and replace it with a permeable one, but that's how it using modern waterproof materials on old houses we just trap moisture in rather than keep it out.
    Joe the Plumber likes this.
  8. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    Have a look at some of this chaps videos on the subject, it will give you some better understanding of the issues. His name is Peter Ward and has a YouTube channel devoted to the subject of damp in old property.
    Joe the Plumber likes this.
  9. t1redmonkey

    t1redmonkey Member

    The thing that confuses me a bit when they talk about using lime plaster/render etc. on 'old' buildings, is I don't know what category my house fits into. I mean it's old, but it's not 'medieval' like the one in that video apparently is. I think mine is from the end of the 19th century, so it's around 125/130 years old at this point, so I don't know if that is in the same sort of category as these super old grade 2 buildings where they say you can't use cement based products.
  10. Okoak

    Okoak Active Member

    Your house falls into the "old" category. Portland cement (ordinary grey powered cement that we use today) did not come into full use until the 1920's.
    t1redmonkey likes this.
  11. Joe the Plumber

    Joe the Plumber Screwfix Select

  12. t1redmonkey

    t1redmonkey Member

    Thought I'd post an update in here (if anyone cares). I think I got to the root cause of the problem today. A builder came round and noticed quite quickly that the guttering along the houses in my street is -mostly- continuous with no breaks. But my neighbour on the right (as you stand in front of the house) replaced his guttering about 2 years ago, and in doing so, caused a 'break' in the guttering. You can kind of see this in the third photo I posted of the exterior of the house. There is no stop or cap on the end of my black guttering, so essentially the water is flowing down in between that gap between my house, and the neighbours house. The builder confirmed this by checking for blown render, and it was almost all focussed in a vertical line down from where that gap is, however it was also blown around the section which @Okoak pointed out by the ground floor window sill where it looked like a patch job had been done previously.
    Alan Wright likes this.

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