for People with a Passion for Period Property
Ask an Agony Uncle!
Stephen Boniface - Stephen Boniface specialises in building conservation providing multi-disciplinary consulting services. He is Chairman of the Building Surveying Faculty and member of the Residential faculty. He serves on the RICS Building Conservation Forum Board and is the 'Agony Uncle' on the Period Property UK website (www.periodproperty.co.uk).

Ask our Agony Uncles ...

You can write to our panel of experts free of charge on any subject, providing it's got something to do with Period Properties.

Our experts are all specialists in matters directly involved with older properties. So, if you have a problem with an older building - or if you think you might have a problem - ask an Agony Uncle...

o A damp flank Roger Lankester (Salisbury)
o Copper mesh on a thatch Tony Pay (Bedfordshire)
o Replacing the windows whilst keeping the glass Dawn Bovey-Pilkington (Staffordshire)
o Underpinning foundations Lawrence Lee (Greater London)
o Conflicting advice on damp Christine Butterworth (Cornwall)
o Problem with a jutting out wall Lise Tole (Central Scotland)
o Woodworm infestation Mehala Singam (Greater London)
o Efflorescence coming through the walls Mal Jones (Herefordshire)
o Lifting and replacing terracotta tiles Claire Jaggard (Gloucestershire)
o Insuring an older property following statements within a surveyors report Sarah Aske (Somerset)
o Asbestos tiles David Drake (Essex)
o Badly cracked ceiling Lauren Beck (Yorkshire)
o Collapsing hall floor Bryony Thompson (Oxfordshire)
o Concerns about lead in the water Lydia Pendlebury (Greater London)
o Free water pooling under the house Carol Bowden (Yorkshire)
o You would think we were living in a paper bag Madeleine Brooks (Yorkshire)
     
 

SUBJECT: A damp flank
FROM: Roger Lankester (Salisbury)
Our very damp flank wall has been covered internally with restoration plaster, which when hacked off reveals a wonderful texture and mixture of paint and brick colours. The outside has a 1960's block built right against it. The wood floor is on joist resting on soil and must be replaced. There is no ventilation to the subfloor.

I am advised by a specialist in old buildings to put in a concrete damproofed pad and a damp proof course, then dry line the wall.

1) Do electro osmotic damp proof courses work? They seem to be less invasive than chemical treatments.

2) Rather than dry line the wall I would be happy to paint it. Whats the best breatherable finish and can you suggest a clear, breatherable sealant?

Roger Lankester

The information you provide is insufficient to make a definitive diagnosis. I can only give some general guidance. If the 1960s building has damp proof courses, membranes, etc it is possible that moisture under that part will be diverted and forced through to your older area, thus being a possible cause for the damp. The lack of sub-floor ventilation will result in a build-up of damp underneath and this could be driven up and into the walls. The presence of the paint, etc on the walls will simply trap the moisture.

The first stage is to fully diagnose the problem and establish why you have dampness. The above notes are merely a few pointers.

From there you should start from the view that the building once functioned by moisture management without damp proof courses, etc. Is it possible to get it to function in that way again? This might entail use of traditional finishes, lowering ground levels, clearing sub-floor voids, improving ventilation, etc.

In some situations, because of what has already been carried out to the subject or neighbouring property, it is not possible to get the building to function in the traditional manner. It is then that we have to look at the alternatives. It is preferable to look at a system that does not forcible prevent moisture movement, but manages it so that you have dry internal surfaces. This could include some form of drained cavity, dry lining, etc.

Electro-osmosis systems are not something I would use, as I am not convinced with regard to their effectiveness. I would regard installation of concrete floors and modern damp treatments as a last resort and then only after carefully considering what will happen to the dampness - where will it divert to?

Any system that aims to hold back or divert moisture could have unforeseen consequences in future. I would not consider painting the walls or treating them in a way that would seal them. However, if a modern damp-proofing system is adopted for whatever reason, it has to be continuous or water will find a way through. It is creating this continuity that often causes most problems when retrospectively damp-proofing a building.

As for a breathable finish I can do no better than advise the use of traditional finishes such as limewash.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Copper mesh on a thatch
FROM: Tony Pay (Bedfordshire)
I have a thatched property with combed wheat on the roof. I have quiet a lot of moss on the roof. I have heard that putting some copper mesh on the ridge helps. When the copper oxidises, copper sulphate washes down over the thatch and kills the moss. Have you heard about this, if so what are your thoughts.

Tony Pay

I have heard of this and I am assured that it can work. The problem is that a few wires at ridge or even a small mesh area may not be sufficient to keep the roof completely clear. There is some debate over what effect the copper solution has on the thatch in the long term. I suspect it could be beneficial, but there is no scientific research that I can point to.

It therefore seems that some copper on a thatched roof can be beneficial. However, one then tempers this with the aesthetic appearance (green - verdigris - ridge) and whether the mesh (being soft copper) will do what the netting of thatch is meant to do and that is keep out rodents and birds.

Perhaps the key question is what are you worried about? Moss on thatch is quite normal and most mosses do not cause degradation of the thatch itself. In fact on the NT's Honicott Estate in Devon they face the problem of how to conserve some very rare mosses on thatch that needs repair!

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Replacing the windows whilst keeping the glass
FROM: Dawn Bovey-Pilkington (Staffordshire)
I would like to replace/restore the bay windows of my 1930s semi detached whilst keeping the original stained glass. The companies I have found so far will only replace the windows with new glass in the same pattern which I don't want. Any advice?

Dawn Bovey-Pilkington

Why are you replacing them?

If the windows are really beyond the point of repair they must have been very neglected over the years. I would look at repairing the windows in the first instance. If your intention is to improve the insulation I would suggest you consider secondary glazing as being a more cost-effective and environment friendly option in the long term (pay-back periods on secondary glazing are less than for replacement windows).

If you are set on replacement windows it is possible to have the existing stained glass incorporated into the double glazing, not as one of the outer panes, but in the middle, between the panes - within the sealed unit. It will cost, but I have seen it done. Go to the glazing manufactures, not those making the windows (they often simply buy in the glazing itself).

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Underpinning foundations
FROM: Lawrence Lee (Greater London)

I need some advice whether to underpin the foundation as the side wall of my house is sinking towards the garden and the wall has a large crack from roof level to basement. The crack is approx. 30mm wide and I can see day-light from the stairs leading to first floor. The ceilings on the first floor bedrooms are now opening up approx. 20mm.

Lawrence Lee

It is impossible to advise on such a matter without seeing the site and much investigation and monitoring results. You need to monitor the crack(s) to establish the nature of the movement (is it ongoing, if so, in which direction and at what rate). If there is obviously an active problem and there is a real risk of collapse, etc it may be necessary to undertake temporary propping, etc. The cause of the movement must be established, otherwise any repair is a waste of time and money. The sub-soils should be checked (trial pits, augered holes and tests of soils, roots, etc) It may be necessary to test the drains and/or see if there are other leaks nearby. Only once this information is available can decisions be made. Underpinning part of a property is not usually advised, if indeed underpinning is necessary at all.

You should contact your insurers and submit a claim, they will appoint a loss adjustor who will bring in an engineer to investigate, etc.

If you do not have insurance you will nonetheless, need to have an engineer to advise and investigate.

If you underpin without undertaking this investigation, etc there is a risk of causing other damage to the building.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Conflicting advice on damp
FROM: Christine Butterworth (Cornwall)
We live in a listed (Gr2) 18th/17th C granite house, with damp appearing internally in corners of upstairs rooms. We have had conflicting advice about dealing with this. One builder says silicone proof the external walls with a damp-proof coating, another says don't do this, it will only drive damp in - leave the porous granite walls to just dry out by themselves (which they seem to do). NB Previous owners have renovated with cement, instead of lime mortar, which is letting damp in the external walls. We can't afford to rip out and re-point with lime. Who should I believe?

Christine Butterworth

Granite is not as porous as most other stones. Nonetheless, the use of cement pointing could indeed be the cause of your problems. I would not recommend sealing surfaces, as you will simply be storing up future problems. My advice is to deal with the obvious problems - sorry to say that this will be re-pointing with lime mortar. Having said, that, as so often with questions on damp, the first need is to ensure that the problem is properly analysed by someone who understands the nature of the building. The information you provide is insufficient to provide more than this general guidance, but from what you say I would tend to go with the builder who says do not seal the walls.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Problem with a jutting out wall
FROM: Lise Tole (Central Scotland)
I just moved into a place and our surveyor noted that the back wall of our bedroom juts out into the next neighbour's yard. They have planted a tree right on the corner of the back wall of our bedroom and have also put a lot of vegetation up the back. Our surveyor said there was no sign of damp due to the vegetation and did not seem too worried about it, but did point out that the tree would pose problems in the future. I don't know what my rights are. The back wall is not a shared wall, and we have no access to it; however, I can easily get up onto the little roof and look over. That's when I saw all the vegetation. I was thinking of pointing out to them that this pebble-dashed wall is our backbedroom, and to ask them to remove the vegetation from the back, and perhaps considering removing the tree or not letting it get too high. However, I do not know what my rights are. Because this wall juts onto their property and I own nothing around it as far as I can see, is it a communal wall? If so, can I ask the Council to help? If not, can I still ask the Council to assist me if they are not helpful?

Lise Tole

Your description is not clear enough to understand your problem. I suspect you are on a sloping site? What do you mean by 'juts' - the boundary is not a straight line, the building physically overhangs?? Is there a flying freehold? What sort of problem did the surveyor think the tree would pose? Structural movement, dampness,??

As for the status of the wall, this is a legal question and you should seek the advice of a solicitor. It may be your wall with the outer face being the boundary line. I doubt if it is a party wall, but cannot be certain. Your solicitor should also advise about your rights for access for maintenance purposes. They may be defined in a document, or there may be common law rights.

Unless you have evidence that the tree is positively causing damage I doubt if you have any grounds for asking your solicitor to remove the tree. Again, this is more of a solicitor question.

If the land is private land I doubt the Council will want to become involved.

From what you have put I am not sure that there is anything you can do and you may be worrying about nothing. Perhaps you should speak again with your surveyor to clarify his concerns (although they seem minor concerns at present). You should then perhaps speak with your solicitor.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Woodworm infestation
FROM: Mehala Singam (Greater London)
We have purchased a 1920s detached 5 bedroom house. Our builder claims that woodworm infestation is very bad in the house especially in the lounge and in need of total replacement. He has quoted GBP 3,500 for the woodworm work alone and we feel that this is a hefty sum. What does the treatment involve and is there a cheaper alternative?

Mehala Singam

Is it active?

I suggest you get advice from another builder and/or a timber treatment specialist (member of BWPDA) who will be able to advise on whether it is active. Even if it is active treatment should resolve the infestation. However, you may have to improve sub-floor ventilation and there could be other problems (dampness causing rot, etc). It is very rare that woodworm alone will result in the need for such major floor replacement work. I am concerned that your builder is 'making a mountain out of a molehill'.

There are many threads on the Discussion Forum regarding woodworm and I suggest you have a read of these before taking any further action.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Efflorescence coming through the walls
FROM: Mal Jones (Herefordshire)
We have the problem of damp and efflorescence which comes through the walls. The render on the house has been patched in the past with cement. Although the mend appears to have been done professionally, this area inside is the main problem area. Above the patch and around it the old render has deteriorated. We were going to get the whole cottage re- rendered with lime but we also need new windows and the builder says it is better to do the 2 jobs at once. Due to unforeseen circumstances we cannot now afford to have both done. We want to do our best to alleviate the problem temporarily to see us through the winter.

I have asked at various builders outlets what fillers / waterproofing /patching measures we could do ourselves on the old lime render after removing the cement but nobody seems to know what I am talking about. Are there 'lime friendly' products available that are safe for DIYers to use and where can you get them? We are hoping to get the re-rendering done with lime next spring. We wouldn't be better re-rendering with cement would we?

There must be many houses with this problem. How do they manage?

Mal Jones

Re-rendering is a major job and I often advise clients to have the work carried out gradually to keep the work manageable (both in practical and financial terms). Without seeing the building and knowing far more detail I cannot be specific. However, I suggest you consider carefully removing the render in stages - perhaps first to the lower areas of the wall and simply leaving them exposed. This will allow the wall to dry out. You could limit the exposure to the lower 1m or so. If you are concerned about the exposed wall becoming damp during heavy rain you could temporarily fix a tarpaulin just above the exposed area. This will keep rain off, but the gap between it and the wall itself will allow air to circulate and for the wall to dry. Do not fix the tarpaulin too tight to the wall and ensure there is air getting behind it.

As for the re-rendering, you could undertake this yourself. There are several suppliers of ready-mixed lime mortar (see the Suppliers section and referrals on the Discussion Forum). There are several places you could get some training. If you are in Herefordshire you are not too far from Mike Wye in Devon.

No, do not re-render with cement!

Do the windows really need replacing or repair? Replacement may be easier, but is it better in the long term? If the building is listed the work may require consent.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Lifting and replacing terracotta tiles
FROM: Claire Jaggard (Gloucestershire)
We have a hundred year old cottage with terracotta tiles laid on earth floors. Two or three rooms are complete, but other areas have suffered as walls/stoves have been moved. We'd like to have a damp-proof membrane put underneath before we start installing a kitchen etc. Is it possible to have the original tiles lifted, cleaned and put back, with salvaged extras, or would we be more sensible to start again with new tiles? Do firms exist to do this?

Claire Jaggard

It is possible, but it depends on the condition of the tiles once lifted as to whether they can be re-used. I am sure you will find someone prepared to do it, but it is labour intensive and you may find it costly. You could do it yourself. Why form a floor with a damp proof membrane?

See the recent posts on the Discussion Forum about using Leca Limecrete and also see the Old House Store website about using limecrete for floors. A breathable floor will cause a lot fewer problems in the long term. My fear is that if you put a damp proof membrane in the floor the dampness will be diverted elsewhere and you could find a problem occurring where none exists at present.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Insuring an older property following statements within a surveyors report
FROM: Sarah Aske (Somerset)
On our valuation report for a cottage built prior to 1800, a property we are currently in the process of buying, the surveyor noted 'There is evidence of some slight distortion to the building principally as a result of long-standing settlement but also as a result of some minor roof spread. The roof structure has been replaced and additional collars have been fitted and the risk of further significant roof spread is considered unlikely.'

Questions about settlement are asked by insurers and as a result of the surveyors comments we have been unable to find buildings insurance through the normal channels (with which it is currently insured!) We are very keen to buy this cottage but in order to fulfil the mortgage terms we must have adequate buildings insurance.... this is just an incredibly old cottage that has stood for well over 200 years and will stand for many more to come.

A full survey was carried out 12 months ago prior to our valuation by the current occupants (who have kindly shared it with us) and it states that ' the property is in adequate condition for its age.' Please can you advise how we can overcome this apparent hurdle.

We would very much appreciate advice as we are hoping to complete soon and obviously are desperate for a solution to be found.

Sarah Aske

Firstly, I would try to get the existing insurance continued

If necessary explain the problem to the surveyor and ask for a letter to allay the fears of insurers.

Go to a broker, explain the problem and let them do the leg-work. Speak to Le Playa (see the Home Page). I suspect it has been quickly looked at by a clerk who has rejected it without thought. It is also likely that the insurers are the normal high street ones who only like standard risks.

If necessary, get your own independent report from a building surveyor or engineer experienced in historic buildings who can provide a letter that will explain in simple terms that this is a historic defect with no sign of an ongoing problem and therefore no or little risk of a future problem.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Asbestos tiles
FROM: David Drake (Essex)
In May 1999 we bought a large Victorian house from builders who had renovated the house. It was previously part of Colchester Grammar School.

Our survey report based upon a ground inspection stated in relation to the roof is made of slates and that there were no immediate indications of any significant defects within the limitations of the inspection.

The builders were also subject to a contractual obligation to renovate and refurbish the property to a satisfactory standard using materials of satisfactory quality and reasonably for their purpose.

We have recently discovered that the roof is in fact covered with asbestos tiles many of which are deteriorating and breaking up and that the roof needs completely recovering.

My questions are as follows:-

a) Should a surveyor from a ground inspection using binoculars be able to spot whether a roof tile is made of asbestos or slate ? If so should he have stated that they were asbestos tiles or warned me to have a specialist survey undertaken?

b) When I read his report I assumed that his reference to slates as the roof covering meant that the tiles were made of slate. Is this a reasonable assumption for me to make do you think? Had he said that the tiles were or might be made of asbestos I would have requested a detailed roof survey.

c) If the tiles are no in a poor condition and are flaking and breaking up what is likely to have been the condition of the tiles 5 years ago in 1999. Would it have been obvious to a builder do you think that the tiles were asbestos and would require to be replaced?

d) Is it your opinion that a builder with a contractual obligation to satisfactorily renovate , even if the tiles appeared sound but knowing that they were made of asbestos, would regard his obligation t estend to removing the asbestos tiles and replacing with slate?

e) Are there any grants available to assist with the cost of removing the asbestos tiles and /or recovering the roof?

David Drake

a) If a competent surveyor could reasonably be expected to see and report on the roof, then yes you probably do have an argument that the surveyor did not do the job properly. You should get an independent surveyor to inspect and advise on whether you may have a case. If the slates are covered in lichen, moss, etc it may have been difficult to ascertain the precise material. Further, if one is pedantic it could be argued that 'slate' does not necessarily mean natural slate - did he say natural slate, or just slate? Was there other advice elsewhere in the report about asbestos? Whether you could take forward a case for negligence will need much more detailed examination of the report, what was visible, how he advised, etc. Further, the claim would normally be limited to 'diminution in value' rather than the cost of the work. On this particular matter I suggest you seek further independent advice. See if your insurance covers you for legal costs to help you take this further.

b) It is sometimes difficult to tell whether slates are of asbestos, but there are some tell-tale signs (surface and edge finish, uniform thickness, etc). If there was access in the roof space and the slopes are not lined he should have been able to assess from here.

c) If you are referring to a survey five years ago you need to move quickly to avoid missing out in terms of time. The condition of the roof covering will have deteriorated, but whether there would be a noticeable difference over five years is difficult to say without inspection. It depends on a number of factors, degree of exposure, orientation, weather conditions over the period, etc, etc. A builder undertaking renovation should have spotted that the roof covering was asbestos slate. However, you state that the covering needs replacing, but this is something that would have to be independently assessed if you were to pursue a claim against either the surveyor or builder. Just because they are deteriorating does not mean that they have to be replaced. It will depend on the actual condition. Being on a roof and bound in cement, the risk of a health problem from the asbestos is low. I would be more concerned about the performance of the roof covering than the fact that it is asbestos based.

d) There is no way I can comment on the contractual obligation because I do not know what the contract actually said and if verbal the interpretation of the meaning of the 'contract' is even more difficult. That aside, if the roof covering is sound, whether asbestos or not, I would not expect the builder to recommend work. The fact that they are asbestos based man-made slates is not in itself a reason for having them replaced.

e) Unlikely. The only source might be the local authority and it is worth asking, but I would not hold out any great hope. If the building happens to be Grade II* or even Grade I there would be no harm in approaching English Heritage, but again I think it unlikely.

The tone of your question suggests that you believe someone is at fault. Whether this is so will firstly depend on whether there is actually a problem that needs remedy. If the roof covering is sound, your only complaint is that no-one informed you that the material is asbestos based and that when (eventually) it has to be replaced there may be restrictions on its removal and disposal (although beware some of the present regulations were not in place five years ago). If the roof was unsound, whether the material is asbestos based or not either the surveyor and/or the builder should have advised properly and you may have a claim against one or the other or both. Before you go any further you will need to get an independent surveyor to inspect and advise on the likelihood of a case being possible against the surveyor and/or the builder. A solicitor should advise on the legal aspects, particularly the contract with the builder.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Badly cracked ceiling
FROM: Lauren Beck (Yorkshire)
The ceiling in the living room of our 1890's end-terrace property is badly cracked in several places. A surveyor has suggested the problem is that the plaster has lost its key. We want to repair the ceiling but are worried about the risk of damage to the large ceiling rose and cornice. We have had a local plasterer around but he wants to board over the existing ceiling which would result in the first level of the cornice and the ceiling rose being flush with the ceiling, which as you can imagine we are not keen on this. Please can you advise us what we can do?

Lauren Beck

Is the ceiling plaster 'live' as well as cracked? If so, it seems that you will have some repair to undertake. If not and is still sound, you may be able to simply carefully rake out and fill the cracks and then line the ceiling with a heavy duty lining paper and then decorate.

If it is not sound and does need repair, you may be able to cut out the areas of loose plaster and patch repair using a traditional lime plaster mix.

If the whole ceiling does need replacement, it should be possible to cut around the perimeter cornices, centre light rose, etc and remove the flat ceiling areas. If the rose and/or cornices are loose they may have to be wired up to secure them in place.

Once the flat areas have been removed you can have the ceiling re-formed in lime plaster. If you opt for the cheaper plasterboard option, you will need to cut out the laths. The board should be carefully fixed (to avoid loosening the rose and cornice). At the abutments with the rose and cornice you may have to undercut slightly to tuck the board under the edge. You should use a reinforcement tape as well at junctions. The ceiling can then be skimmed and finished.

The above works may not be cheap and will involve quite a lot of disturbance. It is easier and often recommended to over-board, as your plasterer has advised. However, it does lead to cornices and roses being partially obscured. I only recommend over-boarding to flat areas with no cornice or rose.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Collapsing hall floor
FROM: Bryony Thompson (Oxfordshire)
My family and I have recently moved into a 1900's workmans cottage.

The previous owner was an investment buyer and 'hid' a multitude of sins; the major one is a collapsing hall floor. The titles were laid on a clay base and are all breaking up causing a sloping hallway with lots of holes. I would love to renovate the original tiles, but I don't know who to turn to for help or where to start.

Bryony Thompson

The problem needs to be properly assessed. The information you provide is insufficient to give definitive advice. There are a couple of good surveyors in the Oxfordshire and surrounding area - Richard Oxley, John Gleeson, Henry Russell, etc. Alternatively, or as well as, you could approach Ian Pritchet at the Old House Store (South Oxfordshire) who may be prepared to come around and advise.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Concerns about lead in the water
FROM: Lydia Pendlebury (Greater London)
I have just had a baby and am concerned about exposing her to lead. As the house is Georgian, I am fairly sure that I will have lead water pipes. Is there any way I can get the water tested to find out the lead level - and any way of getting rid of the lead once I do?

Lydia Pendlebury

Most of London has lead in the water supply pipes. It is nevertheless recommended that you replace all accessible lead pipework in the house and out to the main connection (in front garden, path, etc), but this does not remove the lead element completely from the whole system due to the old lead pipes often found in the mains system.

However, most London water pipes have limescale to the inner surfaces isolating the water from direct contact with the lead. You could ask the water board to test the supply, but I suspect you will find negligible levels. Apart from replacing the lead pipework in the house itself there is not much you can do. In my opinion the risk of lead poisoning from the water is a very low risk. There have been some threads on this subject on the Discussion Forum and I suggest you do a search and read through them.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: Free water pooling under the house
FROM: Carol Bowden (Oxfordshire)
We have an Edwardian house in Oxfordshire which is very damp. An old land drain passes through a number of gardens and then under our house. A few years before we bought it, maintenance work was carried out on this drain because, at times of heavy rainfall, there was flooding of a number of gardens. Following the work, the flooding resolved. As part of the maintenance work, the section of the land drain running under our house was lined. This was the only section treated in this way.

Since moving in we have discovered that there is free water pooling under the house. We have not been able to find anyone who can explain why this is happening. We do not know whether there were any branch pipes that would have been closed off when the drain was lined.

We need advice on the investigation of, and remedy for, our problems. Could you suggest anyone that we could contact? Would an engineer be most appropriate?

Carol Bowden

This is not a common problem and I doubt if an engineer would help. I would have thought a drainage specialist could survey the drain itself (CCTV) to establish if there is a problem within the land drain. There is a possibility that the land drain has become clogged in one part and is backing up. In your position I would have a CCTV survey undertaken first. The drainage specialist should be able to assist you further, but you need to find a drainage company experienced in dealing with land drains and not just foul drains.

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.

 
 
 
 

SUBJECT: You would think we were living in a paper bag
FROM: Madeleine Brooks (Yorkshire)
I want advice on sound proofing in between my property and my two neighbouring houses. My house is a stone built mid-terraced house which was built in about 1902. Sound travels between the houses with such audibility that you would think you were living in a paper bag.

Madeleine Brooks

There are various products for sound proofing and several manufacturer's web sites - www.1st4soundproofing.co.uk or www.soundreduction.co.uk or www.owenscorning.com. You will need to consider a sound proofing system to the walls, within floor voids, under the stairs, to anything and everything along the party wall. Leave any hole and you could have continuing problems. When that is done you must remember that sound comes around and through windows, doors, etc. If your neighbour is particularly noisy it may be worth having a gentle chat anyway

Period Property UK would like to thank Stephen Boniface, Tony Redman and other partners at the The Whitworth Co-Partnership with Boniface Associates for responding to this question.