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Damp advice – how to get good diagnosis and treatment

Picture of Bryan Hindle CSRT CSSW GradIOSH

Bryan Hindle CSRT CSSW GradIOSH

Bryan is Technical Director of Brick-Tie Limited

How to get good damp advice in Yorkshire – a guide.

“I wonder if you can help me, I’m selling my house and the buyer’s surveyor says it’s damp?”

“Are you the people who cure damp, because I think we’ve got that?”

“There’s a smell and I’m sure it’s damp, can you help?”

Where damp is the subject, the above are three typical sentences heard over? the telephone or via emails we receive here at Brick Tie Preservation.

DAMP; when I talk to customers they all use this four letter word and yet, in many cases the damp they think they have is either not the problem they thought it was ,or even due to ‘damp’ at all. Good damp advice is needed.

So what do they mean by ‘damp’? In my experience they mean a wide range of problems, from musty smells to black mould, peeling wallpaper, the readings they’ve been told about, on a surveyors ‘damp tester’ or just a hunch brought on after seeing an avert for ‘green damp-proofing’ in the Telegraph.

So of course, as a consumer, they are immediately in a vulnerable situation; they are asking for help and expect that any advice given will be honest and well informed. Well the three above got just that of course, but unfortunately ringing the wrong people to give advice on damp problems can cost a fortune and get consumers nowhere.

This is because damp proofers are just like any other unregulated industry. The same as builders, roofers, window cleaners, car mechanics and gardeners – there are good ones, bad ones and complete cowboys in all these trades. So how do consumers avoid bad damp advice from damp-proofing specialists? How can a person get their ‘damp’ properly diagnosed and if necessary, treated correctly?

These are some basic pointers to finding good damp advice in Yorkshire and a successful job (if there is a need for one):

  1. The most basic is nothing to do with damp advice at all – it applies to any service. How do they feel? Are they interested in you, courteous, helpful and efficient on the phone or via emails and such? This says so much about any firm. If they can’t be bothered at this stage then write those off now. It will get no better once they have your name on a contract
  2. Diagnosis is the first step to curing a problem so make sure the person you ring is qualified. In the case of damp either a professionally qualified chartered surveyor, who is prepared to state that he is specifically trained and competent to do this for you or, a damp specialist with the letters CSRT (Certificated Surveyor in Remedial Treatment) after his name. Don’t be afraid to ask this.
  3. Unless he is a one man band (nothing wrong with that, we all start somewhere), he may need the backup of technicians to do the work and a business to meet any guarantee obligations so: Has the company been independently accredited as a suitable specialist? This is easy to do by just looking for the PCA logo or asking ‘Are you members of the Property Care Association?’ PCA members have to have proper insurance, training, qualifications and sign-up to a code of ethics too. PCA members are automatically Trustmark registered, which is the government sponsored consumer protection body, making sure those who display the Trustmark logo are offering you good consumer protection to a minimum national standard.
  4. If any work is being done, who will do it? I mean exactly who will do it? Names please! Not many people realise but there are vocational qualifications for damp proofing and timber treatment technicians. Ask for this ? NVQ level 2 in damp treatments and wood treatments is the one to look for. Beware the generic term in adverts and on the web -‘qualified technicians’? It could mean they are roofers or general labourers, great trades but not really anything to do with installing a damp-proof course or treating your dry rot, never mind giving damp advice to anyone.
  5. Try to be in attendance when the survey/inspection is done. You can glean an awful lot from this meeting. Are they on time, enthusiastic and thorough? Any surveyor will ask you questions and look at the house inside and out. If a moisture meter is produced he will take lots of readings and not just above the skirting board. If a guy just sticks a pin in the wall and says you have damp, be very suspicious.
  6. Always ask for a written report. Another chance to see what they are really like; Is it well written and presented? Does it include a full diagnosis of why you have a problem; what the cause is and what the surveyor recommends to cure or control it? A simple quote on the lines of “as requested here’s a quote and the system is suitable for the house” is a no no – run away immediately as this is a clear way some use to avoid negligence claims; avoiding any commitments or liabilities. If any damp proofing is recommended the specialist should not be worried about saying why it is needed.
  7. Guarantees are all well and good and if they are offered you need GPI (Guarantee Protection Insurance), which any PCA member can offer. But remember that the best guarantee is a job well done – a job that is appropriate and meets your needs. Don’t let the promise of a guarantee blind you. Think – has the company stated what is wrong and offered to put that right with the work they are guaranteeing? No point installing a damp-proof course in a wall suffering from condensation. The condensation will remain and when you claim on the ‘lifetime’ guarantee, the installer will be able to show that there is no rising damp and his ‘system’ worked, well of course it did ? There was no rising damp in the first place and you are left with a mouldy, damp house, which is why you rang the clown originally.

I hope the above assists –  good hunting and remember that good damp advice is available from us (of course) and from other PCA members in your area.


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