Cyprus Damp Cure

by Stuart Hillard FRICS –

With the hot sunny days and balmy nights of summer now upon us, there are still a few reminders of winter to be found around the house and the most annoying and difficult to overcome and repair are the problems associated with damp.

What are the causes of damp?

Damp problems can be broken down into two main types:

Firstly, rising damp – a natural phenomenon caused by capillary attraction where moisture is drawn in an upward direction through the property’s structure, similar to the way oil is taken up through the wick in an oil lamp – we’ve probably all had to use these in the winter power cuts!!

Secondly, penetrating damp – usually as a result of a design defect or poor building quality, allowing water to penetrate the property’s structure.

How are these problems recognised and what is the cure?

Rising damp is normally recognised by the tidemark, sometimes even mildew stain, at the foot of the wall both inside and outside the property, spoiling the decorations. Associated with this, damp staining is the residues of salts leached out of the structure. These salts are hygroscopic which means they will attract further moisture resulting in the problem getting worse.

The cure – Any new property, if built properly, should have an effective damp proof membrane in the correct location. Whilst this is simple it doesn’t always happen!! There are two principles of repair, firstly cure the problem and undertake remedial repairs. Secondly, if the problem is difficult to overcome, as it sometimes can be in older properties, then the problem needs to be hidden and isolated so remedial works allowing effective redecoration can take place. Sadly both of these require major remedial works to get to the root of the problem, namely the hacking off of the cement mortar render to remove the salt damaged surfaces and effectively identify the problem within the building structure. Once the structure is exposed then a specification of remedial works can be agreed. This could mean an injection of a specialist silicone into the structure, this then gels to create a damp proof course, or in some circumstances the introduction of a physical barrier. Wandering through Girne you may have noticed some high standard remedial works that have been undertaken to buildings using a product, which in a simplified form is a dimpled sheet of pvc, attached to the wall allowing a new surface for render to be applied to. Other more traditional methods include the use of a bitumastic based paint, or some modern waterproof synthetic rubber emulsions, applied to the structure to create a waterproof barrier. It is important when replastering that a waterproof solution is added to the mortar mix to provide an additional barrier, particularly to stop further salt staining taking place.

Penetrating damp – the causes of this problem are too numerous to list, from adjoining high ground levels and poorly built terraces to poor detailing of window and door openings. Another major problem on this island is the increasing practice of building with cavity walls, unless the builder understands their construction and where to provide damp proof courses then they often leak in stormy weather.

The cure is similar to the remedial works for rising damp problems, with the use of modern materials or some of the more traditional and well proven repairs with the use of bitumastic based materials. It is important with this type of damp to get to the root cause of the problem by exposing the structure and coming up with a specification of works.

There are additional problems caused by damp, often seen in older properties, where the damp affects timbers fixed to the walls resulting in timber decay.

Like much on the island a little education could go a long way towards eradicating the problems associated with dampness in buildings.

Tell tale signs of rising damp with tidemark stain spoiling decorations
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