Identifying Water Ingress
The role of a professional Chartered Surveyor identifying issues now and in the future.
Water infiltrates properties in many ways
Water ingress, often referred to as dampness or moisture penetration, is a common concern in the UK due to its rainy climate, and given the extent of the rainy weather recently, it could be an obvious concern for new buyers, especially older properties which are more readily prone to water ingress issues and require a more in-depth level of due diligence.
For property owners and potential buyers, identifying and addressing water ingress issues is crucial to maintain structural integrity and protect the health of occupants. In this article, we will explore the role of surveyors in detecting water ingress on UK properties and provide insights into what to look out for during property assessments.
The Role of Surveyors
Surveyors play a vital role in assessing the condition of properties, and one of their primary responsibilities is to identify potential issues related to water ingress. They use their expertise and a variety of techniques to evaluate the property’s vulnerability to moisture problems.
Common Causes of Water Ingress
Before delving into what surveyors should look for, it’s important to understand the common causes of water ingress in UK properties:
1. Rainwater: Persistent rainfall can lead to water penetrating through the roof, walls, or foundations of a building.
2. Plumbing Issues: Leaky pipes, faulty plumbing fixtures, and poor drainage can result in water infiltration.
3. Condensation: Inadequate heating, ventilation and insulation can lead to condensation, which can contribute to dampness.
4. Gutter and Downpipe Problems: Blocked or damaged gutters and downpipes can cause rainwater to overflow and seep into the building.
What to Look Out for as a Surveyor
1. Exterior Inspection:
• Roof: Check for damaged or missing roof tiles, deteriorated flashing at chimneys, or signs of moss growth especially along valleys, which can indicate a water ingress issue.
• Walls: Look for any cracks, gaps, or damaged render that could allow moisture to seep into the property. Pipes cables, and window or door frame openings are especially vulnerable.
• Gutters and Downpipes: Ensure they are clear, gutters have correct gradients, and all joints in good condition to direct rainwater away from the building.
2. Interior Inspection:
• Ceilings and Walls: Search for water stains, peeling paint or wallpaper, and signs of damp patches. Blistered and loosening plaster are further signs. These are clear indicators of past or ongoing water ingress.
• Floors: Examine wooden floors for warping or lifting, which can result from moisture damage.
• Windows and Doors: Inspect window frames and seals for gaps or rot that may allow water to enter.
3. Ventilation and Condensation:
• Assess the heating and ventilation systems to ensure they’re all adequate for the property’s size.
• Look for signs of condensation, such as mould growth or musty odours in poorly ventilated areas including tightly packed built-in wardrobes, or behind long curtains.
4. Basements, Understairs voids, Lofts and Crawlspaces:
• If applicable, thoroughly inspect basements and crawlspaces for signs of water ingress, including dampness, water stains, or efflorescence (fluffy and usually white salt deposits) on walls. Mushroom- or thread-like growths are signs of fungus such as “Dry Rot” due to damp, and may be very serious as well as expensive to eradicate.
5. Plumbing and Drainage:
• Examine the plumbing system for leaks or corrosion.
• Check that external and internal drainage systems are functioning correctly to prevent water build-up around the property. Blocked drain gullies at rainwater downpipes, or at wastepipes.
6. Other weak points:
• Ground levels too high relative to any damp-proof courses in the lower walls; sub-floor ventilation airbricks covered by earth; exposed timbers, especially the ends of roof structures that are common in older properties; as well as choked paving drainage channels close to lower walls, can all be a serious risk.
By conducting thorough inspections, both on the exterior and interior of properties, you can spot signs of water ingress yourself, early on, allowing for timely repairs and maintenance.
But you may not have the expertise to assess, or equipment to reach and to diagnose, certain features.
As a professional Chartered Surveying firm, identifying water ingress is a crucial aspect of our role in safeguarding property investments and ensuring the well-being of occupants.
Our expertise is essential in preserving the integrity of a property in the face of the UK’s often damp and rainy climate.
Les Long FRICS FISVA Principal, Eyesurvey
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