I have to write this report as I have seen an alarming rate of problems lately with reference  to pre purchase damp and timber surveys.

If you have recently had a home buyers survey or a building survey and damp, woodworm, fungal decay problems have been noted, what do you do?

This is what I have found that is happening, the building surveyor informs the vendor that they have found some damp and timber problems during the survey, the vendor gets in a panic, they then go off to get their own damp and timber survey. They go through the quotes and get the cheapest one!

I have recently come back from a survey where my client was buying a house and the original vendor was informed that there was a rising damp problem. Advised by the Estate Agent to use “their” damp proofer they proceeded to get a free quote. They were happy with this quote and instructed the “damp specialist” to carry out the remedial works. My client moves in and the walls are still drying down and have yet to be painted. A few weeks down the line and the walls are still damp above the newly re-plastered walls and all around the chimneys on the ground floor. My client contacted the company that carried out the remedial works and  they charged to re-inspect the suspected rising dampness problem. They said that there work was fine, (which it was) and they then tell them that the work isn’t guaranteed as the guarantee isn’t in their name and the guarantee isn’t transferable!

This is when Complete Preservation got a called in, my initial survey showed obvious visible hygroscopic salt damp problems and plenty of external defects that were the cause of the original problems that haven’t been addressed. It was discussed on the initial enquiry that a profile of the wall would be drilled all in accordance to BRE Digest 245, quantitative findings were needed along with salt analysis.

What the surveyor missed was the rising damp had been a long term problem along with the high external ground levels had caused rising damp and hygroscopic salts to go higher than you would normally expect. There were penetrating dampness problems at the rear of the house because the tiles were overhanging the gutters, which resulted in complete mis-diagnosis from the surveyor….mistakes do happen though! But this was obvious stuff,  all this stuff points to something else rather than what the surveyor had diagnosed. Even the previous damp proof course holes hadn’t been filled in as they couldn’t be bothered,

I was asked to carry out a survey to BRE DIGEST 245, my profile was to be drilled above the new plaster so we didn’t damage it, and single samples on the chimney and on the party wall where there was a visible hygroscopic salt band.

This profile is of the front wall above the recently re-plastered walls

Height (mm)Off floor Material TotalMoisture Content % HygroscopicMoisture Content % CapillaryMoisture Content % Chloride Nitrate
2300 Plaster                4.3                4.2                0.1 High Low
2000 Plaster                4.6                4.4                0.2 High Medium
1700 Plaster                3.6                3.4                0.2 High Low
1400 Plaster                3.5                3.2                0.3 High Low

Right hand side party wall

Height (mm)Off floor Material TotalMoisture Content % HygroscopicMoisture Content % CapillaryMoisture Content % Chloride Nitrate
Above new plaster Plaster              4.0             4.0                  0 High Medium

Left hand side of chimney breast, in kitchen-dining room

Height (mm)Off floor Material TotalMoisture Content % HygroscopicMoisture Content % CapillaryMoisture Content % Chloride Nitrate
Above new plaster Plaster                2.4                2.2              0.2 Low Trace

As you can see from the above plaster samples there are still hygroscopic salts present, there is also a very small amount of free moisture present in the front wall, which isn’t of any major concern.  In my opinion the previous surveyor that specified the works has confused the high readings at high level with penetrating dampness, which is actually hygroscopic salts, that is why he specified an external waterproof coating, this was also not necessary.

An external waterproofer would also only work on a clean substrate and this wall clearly isn’t.

The re-plastering was also not taken high enough on the internal walls and hygroscopic salts are still present in the original lime plaster and will continue to show as a damp patches.

The bottom line of this story is, if you’re buying a property make sure you pick the damp and timber specialist that surveys your property, which is probably one of the biggest investments you make. If you think about it logically why would the vendor pick a slightly more expensive quotation, when they will be moving out from this property. Do they care if the guarantee isn’t backed by the GPI….. probably not! If an Estate Agent is offering you a free survey from their so called damp and timber specialist with no qualifications and the company isn’t a member of the Property Care Association BEWARE!

These so called specialists are putting in ridiculously cheap quotes to get the work, the quotes are not reports, they consist of 2 pages with no explanation of any problems, no pictures explaining the defects and there are never any external recommendations. The guarantee will also not be backed by an Insurance company ( Tip, there is no VAT on insurance backed guarantees).

One of the biggest things in any report is the instruction, what have you asked to be survey? Is it the ground floor for rising dampness, the front room only, the kitchen only, active woodworm to the main roof, or an inspection of the sub floor void?

What can Complete Preservation offer you on a pre purchase survey?

First of all our surveyor has over 12 years experience as a technician and as a surveyor, this gives him the advantage of knowing where to look for defects and also how to fix them. We also understand the advantages of using traditional lime based materials and also when modern intervention is necessary.

We also offer thermal imaging, this gives us the edge on a non destructive survey, this means we can see problems that are not visible.

We have cameras that can go through air bricks to check sub floors, and also cameras for roof and chimney inspections.

Timber frame buildings or just suspended timber floors that have a carpet covering could be at risk of dry rot, dry rot can be expensive to fix. We can offer our dry rot search dogs to carry out a non destructive survey, this can be arranged from £200, which when buying probably the most expensive investment of your life is very cheap considering!

We offer services that can give you complete peace of mind when buying your property.

Do you need a full building survey-structural survey in Wiltshire or Somerset?

We work with the best RICS surveyors in the Wiltshire and Somerset area.

Geoff Hunt, who is based in Frome Somerset. www.geoffrey-hunt.com

Lyndon Smith, who is based in Chippenham Wiltshire.  www.lyndonsmithbsc.com 

Andrew Simpson, who is based in Devizes Wiltshire www.canningsestates.co.uk

Posted by Complete Preservation


  1. I having difficulty with a guarantee on my property.
    I’m also having difficulty with the damp proofing specialist.
    I instructed a local damp proofing company in Trowbridge Wiltshire to carry out damp injection and tanking works to my house. There are a few damp patches and high readings – this is what the building surveyor has told me. I have since found out the guarantee isn’t a insurance guarantee, the people that carried out the works will not help out with the repair.
    Would you carry out a survey and repair for me?
    I also need this work carried out ASAP


    1. Hi Jason, ideally you should go back to the contractor. If this is proving difficult please drop me an email with your details to enquiries@completepreservation.co.uk and I can carry out a survey for you.


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