Penetrating damp from neighbour

Background

Owned and inhabited by the residents, the semi-detached dwelling shares a party wall with the property on the left, managed by a housing association. The dwelling extends approximately 60 cm beyond its neighbour’s frontage. Dampness has been identified within this protruding section of the internal wall, facing the left-hand neighbour’s front garden. Symptoms of damp—mould, white salts, and brown stains—first appeared in March 2024 on the lower part of the ground floor wall. The accumulation of bags and discarded furniture, often wet from rain and in contact with the wall in the neighbour’s garden, was noted. Upon request, these items were removed by the house manager, a process repeated in May. Despite removals, damp symptoms worsened post-summer, ascending the wall to the first-floor bedroom directly above the initial affected area. By November, exacerbation of dampness was observed following the neighbour’s use of a water pressure hose on the exterior. Although reported to the adjacent property’s maintenance, with gutter clearance suggested as a remedy, the effectiveness of this intervention remains uncertain. Currently, the damp affects both ground and first floors, extending from the bottom to the top of the ground floor wall, and halfway up the wall on the first floor.

image of the front of the Joint Position Statement RICS Historic England PCA (property care association) dated September 2022, featuring picture of drain

RICS, PCA, HISTORIC ENGLAND JPS REPORT

RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors), Historic England (a public trust protecting sites of historic interest) and the Property Care Association (an association of mainly damp proofers) set out a Joint Position Statement (JPS), in September 2022 – see below.

There has long been disagreement about the causes of damp amongst surveyors. Historic England surveyors represent one extreme. They typically do not believe rising damp is a likely cause of internal dampness and rarely recommend altering walls to alleviate damp. By contrast PCA surveyors typically recommend rising damp treatment whenever they see dampness at the base of a wall and often recommend altering a building. RICS surveyors tend to be somewhere near the centre of these extremes. However, unlike Historic England and PCA surveyors, they rarely specialise in damp and often refer issues to PCA surveyors. We and most other independent surveyors are more closely aligned with Historic England’s position except that we are perhaps more pragmatic. For example, if a hole in the wall is the optimum way of solving internal dampness, then we will recommend it, but not otherwise.

JPS questions and answers

In addition to the content typically included in a professional and impartial survey report (e.g. client, surveyor and property details; limitations and exclusions), the report should include the following information:
1 A summary of the surveyor’s observations, including an Assessment of Significance.

Green streak of mould, moss, and algae growth on the neighbour’s side, render damage

2 The importance of regular building maintenance and how a lack of even basic maintenance can lead to problems arising. This is especially important and relevant to roofs, gutters, hidden gutters, rainwater disposal and changes in external ground levels.

As is common with all buildings, gutters and other rainwater goods should be checked twice annually, ideally during or soon after a rainstorm, for evidence of overflow and rain not being dispersed properly from the property. You should also check that there is no flow of water flow during periods of absence for signs of a leak, for instance, by note the number on the mains water meter outside your house. Annual render maintenance and checks required

3 An impartial diagnosis of the damp problem, which should be clearly explained and laid out systematically to communicate the relevant risks to the reader.

Penetrating damp from water passing through the neighbour’s side of the wall

4 Where recommendations for the repair and recovery of moisture-affected structures are stated, the solutions should be clearly explained and prioritised as appropriate.

The solutions are explained in the Recommendations section. The primary recommendation is Neighbour to check and adjust gutters and downpipe during rain, fill any render damage and cracks between properties, both properties to use fans and dehumidifiers for humidity control, address bathroom and kitchen ventilation inadequacy.

5 The client should be provided with alternative options for which each recommendation should include advantages and disadvantages and the relevant cost and time implications.

This question is primarily directed at PCA damp proofers, to encourage them to consider methods that address the source of water not just the symptoms, such as by hacking off plaster and replacing it with slurry. You can sometimes take this damp proofing approach with short-term success. However, water will eventually find its way through. Furthermore, treatment is disruptive resulting in high cost and a poor finish, with no worthwhile guarantee of success. It likely to lower the value of the property. In our opinion you are better off trying to stop the water at its source, as we recommend. ”

6 Where monitoring and staged interventions are appropriate or beneficial, the client should be informed of the reasons for these options, together with the likely cost and time implications of such recovery strategies.

Properties should be monitored for humidity and temperature using data loggers, see datalogger section of this report. The cost of data loggers is currently less than £20 for two, aim to keep the dew point, as shown on the app screen of each logger (bottom centre on the SensorBlue), within 3°C of the external temperature, especially at night (use ventilation and/or dehumidification to reduce the internal dew point – measure external conditions or refer to weather forecasts for night-time temperatures, such as BBC Weather – a short explanation is; that this will make sure the relative humidity of all surfaces will be below the mould point even if poorly insulated). We also suggest noting values monthly using a multi-functional radio wave and conductance damp meter costing about £24 to monitor and map damp patches on internal walls. This way you can monitoring the dry progress, which typically takes 1 month per 25mm thickness of walls and more if coated. This helps determine if the root cause has been fixed or there is an additional or new source of water, and therefore more actions are required. Ideally this should be started before or soon after starting our recommendations and for about a year, repeating monthly to check progress.

7 Where appropriate, clearly state whether the building concerned represents a financial risk to the buyer or lender and why.

8 Any conflicts of interest should be clearly stated.

There is no conflict of interest. We never profit from our recommendations.

As a background, although we charge a fee for undertaking damp surveys, profit is not our primary motivator. We are motivated to:

  • solve damp problems in properties,
  • encourage clients to spend money wisely for the protection of the property and, where possible to lower the environmental impact,
  • stop or at least play our part to reduce the over-diagnosis of rising damp and so called “damp proofing” treatment by replacing plaster with chemicals and slurry, rather than dealing with the root cause.
Penetrating damp from neighbour
Questions and Answers
Q: The root cause of the damp in our wall on the ground floor and first floor.
A:The root cause of dampness to your living room wall is the neighbour’s overflowing gutter and or down-pipe in combination with render cracks on their side.
Q: The repairs that our neighbour has to do on their property to solve our problem.
A:They need to repair the gutter, checking that it is repaired properly and fill render cracks. A damp wall can take about 9 months to dry out, but sometimes longer with external render.
Q: The repairs that we need to do on our property to solve our problems.
A:I would improve air circulation, reduce the dew point to external temperature with targeted ventilation and dehumidification, but this is to speed up the dry process. The root cause on their side needs to be fixed before the wall will start to dry.
Q: The repairs that are shared by the neighbours and us to solve our problem.
A:Make sure that you have no render cracks on your side and no water is coming from your gutter. The green suggests otherwise. Use a camera on a pole to see what is happening close up, during a rainstorm.
Q: Can we share the report with the house association so that they can see what they need to repair?
A:Yes please do.
Q: How can we make sure they did the repairs?
A:Persuasion, especially since they are trying to sell their property. I would only use threats of court actions as a last resort.
Q: Should we use a damp meter and check our data loggers to make sure it is solved?
A:Yes, a damp wall typically dries from the top down. So you will see reading drop from the top down.
Q: If that is the case, would you share which are the normal values the damp meter and data loggers should reach to consider the situation is solved?
A:For the damp meter, find the value for a known dry section of similar wall, e.g. on the other side of the alcove, typically 30% or 300/999, depending on the damp meter. Here are alternative Pinless damp meters on Amazon, eBay etc, I haven’t tried them, but the technology is fairly established. For the data logger, aim to bring the dew point down to the eternal temperature.
Q: Can we clean the surface of our internal wall to remove the mould, white salts and brown stains?
A:Yes, mould begets mould, encourages growth elsewhere. Salts are benign, removing anything from the surface will increase evaporations, speeding up dry time.
Q: Do you think we could be causing any damp problems to their property?
A:No
Ask A.I. about your report, in the “Type your message” you could ask:

What does the damp report say are the main causes of damp and main actions to stop damp?


¿Qué dice el informe de humedad sobre las principales causas de la humedad y las principales acciones para detenerla?
潮湿报告说什么是潮湿的主要原因和防止潮湿的主要措施?
नमी की रिपोर्ट के अनुसार नमी के मुख्य कारण और नमी को रोकने के लिए मुख्य कार्य क्या हैं?
Que dit le rapport sur l’humidité concernant les principales causes de l’humidité et les principales actions pour l’arrêter?
Was sagt der Feuchtigkeitsbericht über die Hauptursachen von Feuchtigkeit und die Hauptmaßnahmen zur Bekämpfung von Feuchtigkeit?
Что говорится в отчете о влажности о основных причинах влажности и основных действиях по ее устранению?
Cosa dice il rapporto sull’umidità riguardo le principali cause dell’umidità e le principali azioni per fermarla?

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