What does a proper damp survey involve and how long does it take?

Most instances of dampness in the walls of a building have travelled from somewhere else before appearing at the surface. The exact route travelled is often unknown and unpredictable, making it impossible to know the source and severity without a detailed investigation. A proper damp survey therefore involves mapping the moisture patterns within the walls and their impact on timber components.

To achieve this, variations in the moisture within or immediately behind the plaster, as well as within the thickness of the walls, need to be measured and recorded at regular intervals for the length and height of the walls. This can require over 300 measurements for even a modest size room. As there is no single piece of equipment capable of taking the different measurements required, these measurements must be taken with multiple pieces of equipment (this does not damage the walls). Not surprisingly, even at a rate of 1 measurement every 12 seconds (which is often not possible when furniture etc. impedes access) it can easily take an hour just for one average size room.

Providing sufficient measurements are taken, the results can be used to create a 'map' of your walls. This map can reveal how moisture is currently flowing through the walls, where salts have been deposited, and where the real problems are occurring.

On its own, this detailed mapping of the walls will still not provide all of the information needed to come up with a solution to any problems found. To complete the picture, the measuring of the moisture needs to go hand in hand with a more general survey of the building to record the details of its construction, together with any defects present.

Without the full picture, any surveyor is really just guessing as to the problem.

Currently, I still undertake a small number of damp surveys on listed and period houses – I no longer carry out surveys on any property built since 1940 and no longer carry out mould/condensation surveys. You have a choice of 3 fixed price survey packages based on the time needed to survey varying amounts of dampness in houses of different sizes:

  Damp plus Standard damp Basic damp
Time allowed for survey inspection: Up to 5 days Up to 1 day Up to ½ day
Suitable for:
  • Widespread and severe dampness affecting a moderate or large home
  • or
  • Comprehensive damp checks required on a large home
  • or
  • Advice is required prior to extensive restoration or renovation of a sizeable or rambling period home
  • Severe dampness affecting the whole of a modest size home or up to half the rooms in a moderate size (3-5 bed) home
  • or
  • Widespread damp concerns on a moderate size (3-5 bed) home
  • Damp patches affecting a small number of rooms
  • or
  • Severe dampness affecting only 1 or 2 rooms
  • or
  • Widespread damp concerns on a modest size (1-3 bed) home
Interior checks carried out on: Entire house All indicated areas, plus those potentially vulnerable to damp All areas affected by damp patches, plus potentially vulnerable walls
Accessible roof spaces included Yes Only if there is evidence of possible leaks or damp
Checks for floor problems All floors Timber ground floors and floors in areas affected by severe damp Ground floors only
Checks for damp in walls Yes
Checks for timber decay Yes Interior timber only
Checks for salt contaminated plaster Yes
Checks for roof problems (subject to visibility/access) Yes
Checks for decaying brick and stone Yes
Checks for incorrect ground levels Yes
Checks for maintenance issues that could lead to future damp problems Yes Major issues only
Checks for previous building work that is incompatible with the house Yes Sizeable areas or areas where problems are starting to occur
Comprehensive report with prioritised advice Yes – printed and electronic (pdf) versions are both issued as standard Yes – electronic (pdf) version is standard but if preferred, a printed version can be issued instead
Standard Package price £2500 + travel £800 + travel £500 + travel

My travel for all damp surveys is based on the shortest RAC recommended route from my office at Aylsham in North Norfolk to the survey location. To give you an idea of what this is likely to amount to, here are some approximate travel charges for various locations: Norwich £15, Lowestoft and King's Lynn £45, Colchester and Peterborough £90, Lincoln £110.

Your next step is to telephone me on 01263 734815 for an impartial discussion about your damp concerns. Often a discussion is all that is needed to provide the pointers needed to resolve your concerns.

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