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Rising damp is a myth, says former RICS chief

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Stephen Boniface, former chairman of the construction arm of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), has told the institute’s 40,000 members that ‘true rising damp’ is a myth and chemically injected damp-proof courses (DPC) are ‘a complete waste of money’.

In response, the RICS has put the term ‘rising damp’ in inverted commas in its latest factsheet – according to Boniface, as a ‘non-subtle hint’ to its members.

‘The most likely causes of damp are moisture penetration and, most commonly, condensation,’ said Boniface in an interview with NBS Learning Channels (click here to view).

In response, Elaine Blackett-Ord, chair of the Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation, has also spoken out against rising damp, saying it was as rare as ‘rocking-horse shit’.

Blackett-Ord said:‘’This self-perpetuating industry is believed to be worth over £200 million per year.’

’Not only are chemically injected DPCs a waste of time, they are ineffective and grossly expensive. [Installing] damaging impermeable cement based internal renders…serve simply to conceal the problem in the wall behind.  For most historic buildings this is extremely damaging and irreversible.’

Jeff Howell, a qualified bricklayer and author of The Rising Damp Myth (2008) said trials in the laboratory confirm the falsehood.

‘If you build a brick pillar and stand it in a tray of water, the bricks in the water will get wet, but the water doesn’t rise by capillary action,’ said Howell. ‘Cement-based and most lime-based mortars will not
allow water to go through.’

However not everyone is convinced. Terry Brown, of GMW Architects, said: ‘It’s right to question the diagnostic skills of commercial damp proofing firms, but to state categorically there is no such thing as rising damp undermines a whole litany of rules of brickwork detailing I’ve adhered to all my professional life.

‘Of course there is no reason why inherited conventional wisdom shouldn’t be challenged.  [But] the challenge has to be scientific and not anecdotal.’  

  • 30 Comments

Readers' comments (30)

  • Good, it's time that the vast damp proofing industry was brought to a halt.

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  • Tell this to my bank who insisted that I procure an injected DPC before they would give me a mortgage on my first house purchase.

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  • Exactly. It's all an expensive con.

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  • In response to:

    "In response, Elaine Blackett-Ord, chair of the Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation, has also spoken out against rising damp, saying it was as rare as ‘rocking-horse shit’."

    I would personally like to challenge this lady PUBLICLY over her statement that rising damp was as "rare as rocking horse shit" (I translate this as it doesn't exist) by putting up £2000 to be paid to a charity of her choice if she can show that it doesn't exist. Of course I would expect her to put up the same amount and pay if she can't prove her case.

    Has she got the bottle to take up this challenge, or is she just publicity seeking?

    Graham Coleman (ex Building Research Establishment, Dept of the Environment, Senior Scientific Officer)

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  • Or is Coleman just seeking publicity for his damp-proofing business? He, and many others, probably make quite a lot out of 'risng damp'.



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  • He's very much inlvolved in the damproofing business. If that was proved to be a massive con, my how many would suffer financially!

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  • His challenge was with reference to rising damp (is it fact or fiction?) - NOT the damp-proofing industry (that is another story!) He is simpy asking the lady to put her money where her mouth is. Who of you would deny a charity of £2000? Quite a simple challenge - no ah but, yes but.

    Interesting to note the following from the above article:

    "Jeff Howell, a qualified bricklayer and author of The Rising Damp Myth (2008) said trials in the laboratory confirm the falsehood.

    ‘If you build a brick pillar and stand it in a tray of water, the bricks in the water will get wet, but the water doesn’t rise by capillary action,’ said Howell. ‘Cement-based and most lime-based mortars will not allow water to go through.’"

    Letter from Jeff Howell to sponser in 1994 and I quote, "In the foreground are two pillars of Ibstock Red Leicester facing bricks (14% porosity) which are nicely wet up to five courses, and starting to show a pattern of efflorescence at the evaporative surface. Behind them two pillars of LBC Flettons, not so damp but, interestingly, the mortar is visibly damp up to the sixth course."

    And the same gentleman wrote in 1995 to the same sponser, ""This wall had been standing in water for eight months, and had some hygroscopic salt contamination. It had rising damp which was visible up to a level of approximately 500 mm (six courses). It therefore represented a typical rising damp complex."

    - Not exactly what was printed in the above article - who is telling porky pies?? These letters and their contents can be fully available (and will be) to anyone.

    By the way, he has and never has had a damp-proofing business - I think this is the very last business he would want!






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  • He is, however, connected with the damp proofing industry.

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  • Can you all please forget about the Damp Proofing Industry, the debate is whether or not rising damp exists.

    As a building practioner (and also a qualified bricklayer!) I want to to see if this lady is up for Mr Colemans challenge or what about Mr Howell who first made this claim.

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  • Anyone who has bothered to read Jeff Howell's book "The Rising Damp Myth" will know that the damp test pillars referred to were built using the special mortar developed at the BRE in order to artificially create rising damp. This mortar was basically chalk and brick dust - unlike any mortar used in real brick walls. He explains in the book how the existence of these special pillars has been deliberately misinterpreted by the damp-proofing industry in a pathetic attempt to discredit his research. You should read the evidence in Jeff Howell's book, and then make up your own mind. Graham Coleman is employed by the damp-proofing industry, and therefore has a big vested interest that he has not declared.

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