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We have just purchased a C1600 house in a town and are keen to research the drains before we have a problem. The drains are at the back of the property and the cast iron down pipes are clustered either side of the back door. The sink gullies are within three feet of the down pipes. We believe the sewer goes under the house into the road, a neighbor says that when next door had a problem some time ago the pavement was dug up to clear the problem. Our question is, we cannot find manholes anywhere on or in front of the building, is it possible that the drains were put in without any inspection manholes? Little has been touched on the house for the last 50 years. We have looked hard for manholes without success. We are curious on where to research the evolution of drains for a house of this age when would this type of drain have been installed.
It is quite common to find with older properties that there are no manholes on site and therefore no access to drainage. Further, you will probably find that the local authority records of drainage systems cannot help you either.
Sometimes it is possible to assess the direction of drainage etc by way of a CCTV camera survey. However without a manhole the only way to get into the system is through an above ground waste pipe, gulley or soil vent pipe, but you need to find a way of getting the camera in at point. This is not always easy.
To answer your basic question, yes it is almost certainly that the drains were put in without any inspection chambers because it was not a requirement then.
If you were to find a way of having CCTV survey undertaken this might help answer some of your questions.
It is fairly certain that the drains will run under the building because this is quite common for older properties - for each drain to run from the rear out to the front rather than to have a shared drain along the rear before running out to the main sewer. I think it highly unlikely that there will be any documentary evidence for the drains. You could ask the local authority but I doubt if they will have any information. The only way I think you are likely to get information is to have some form of survey undertaken.
This is not an uncommon problem and when dealing with drains on historic sites it is often the case that the only way to find out what happens with a drain is to physically expose it.
In view of the fact that you do not have a problem at present you need to weigh the cost of the investigation against your desire to know.
I have a stone built house near Bath that was originally 2 cottages. The centre wall and one outer wall have persistent damp patches on the plaster. Would the best plan be to bare the stone to let it breathe or have you any other suggestions?
This is a difficult problem to advise on without seeing the property. Although you refer to the patches as dampness it could be that there are other causes. For example it could actually be salts rather than damp itself although the salts are likely to be hygroscopic and will attract damp. Another possibility is staining from something that occurred in the past and for example there could be stains relating to a chimney flue or some other form of fire etc. There are a number of possible explanations.
If the staining and patches that you see are persistent it is probably best to carefully remove the plaster from those areas to expose the stone. If it is simply a matter of trapped moisture that needs to escape then this should resolve the problem provided the stone is then allowed to dry. If there are other problems the issue would need assessing properly before re-plastering. However, the starting point would probably be to carefully remove the isolated areas of stained plaster.
We've just moved in to a cottage renovated about 15 years ago by the landlord, but with some parts being the original 1740's walls. In particular one wall in the master bedroom which is solid, and over a foot thick, appears to have 'salts' coming through the wall in a few places, and a light brown patch that I thought was mould but won't scrape off. This wall is external, with a brick facing. There is apparently no cavity. The inside is painted with normal silk emulsion. Sadly the Landlord is not really interested, only saying there's not much we can do. If I was to strip the emulsion off (which I think could be stopping the wall from 'breathing') and apply either a lime or clay based internal paint, will this help? We also have one of those 'chemical' dehumidifiers next to the affected area of the wall.
As with the question above this is a problem where useful advice can only be given following inspection. The problem could indeed be salts but if there is light brown patch this might be from tar staining if there was once a chimney in this part of the building. Of course the chimney stack may have been removed but this doesn't change the fact that the brickwork could still contain a residue that could lead to such staining.
If the wall is of the thickness described there are a number of possible causes relating to what may be happening within the wall structure. Removing the internal finishes such as the emulsion etc may help if the problem is indeed trapped moisture. However if the problem is staining from old chimney flue deposits it could mean that you will need to consider some form of stain blocker.
The other issue to consider, if this is a high level problem, is whether there is a persistent leak from the roof that might be causing some damage.
Ideally a lime or clay based paint should be of some assistance, certainly in terms of allowing the walls to breath, but trade matt emulsions are also an alternative that might be appropriate. Of course if you do have to apply a stain blocker then breathability is no longer a matter of concern because the stain blocker would not be breathable.
I question whether a dehumidifier is the answer unless of course you have a major condensation problem in which case a chemical dehumidifier is unlikely to have much impact.
Unfortunately this is a matter that has to be inspected because there are so many different possible causes. Even then, it might be that there might be an element of investigation over time with some opening up to establish precisely what is happening and what might work to resolve the problem.
We are currently in the process of buying a grade II listed property, and trying to arrange insurance to cover the house at exchange of contracts.
The windows are wood, opening casement and horizontal sliding casement. We would like to know what types of lock we should have on the windows (BSA) that would satisfy both LBC and the Insurance Companies. I am very confused.
Unless the property has particularly historic locks and ironmongery to the windows I doubt they would be overly concerned about the window locks attached to comply with insurance. I would have normally expected a standard lock suitable for insurance purposes to be acceptable for listed building consent as general security is of course important and the impact on the historic fabric is relatively minor.
Without seeing the windows and knowing whether there is anything particularly special or important about them and the fittings etc, I cannot say for certain but I would be surprised if you need listed building consent for installing window locks. These are after all temporary in that they could be removed quite easily with only a few screw holes visible following their removal. They could therefore be regarded as reversible.
My only caveat to this is that without seeing the windows I do not know if there is anything about them or their visual contribution to the internal or external appearance that might make installing security locks difficult.
My son lives in Hungary and the property is of traditional Hungarian cob construction. It 'breathes' keeping the house warm in winter and cool in summer. He has had problems with damp and put in an air vent around the lower level of the house. He is now having trouble replacing the cob cladding around this lower outside level as local builders have withdrawn their support and say they dont know what to do! He knows very little about the correct materials to use but is going to have a go himself, I wondered if you could give any advice that might help?
The thing about vernacular buildings in any country is that they relate very much to natural materials in the immediate vicinity. I have no experience of working in Hungary and do not know what materials exist in the vicinity of this property. What you refer to as a cob construction could be one of many different types of earth structures. I assume therefore that what you mean is an historic building that has been constructed using earth walls in the manner traditional to that part of Hungary.
I am slightly surprised that the builders say that they do not know what to do because of in many of the eastern European countries traditional building methods and materials have been kept alive for many years. I do not know anything about Hungary and what systems they have in place but if there is a system of protection for older buildings or any form of conservation body for advice I suggest that your son speaks to them in the first instance.
If you look back through the archives of this website (particularly the discussion forum) you will find many posts about earth constructions. There are a number of societies relating to earth structures in this county particularly in East Anglia and the Southwest. A number of publications have been produced over the years (many available from SPAB). It might be helpful for you to find some of these publications and send them out to your son with the proviso of course that any English publication will relate to English practice and materials etc. There is no guarantee that it will be identical in Hungary.
I think the best thing for your son is to find a conservation related body, association etc in Hungary etc to provide advice. I would be surprised if there is not some form of department within the government or an association somewhere that could assist him. The conservation body/organisation that is often found in many countries is ICOMOS and I found the following contact details for the national branch in Hungary; I suggest your son contacts this person.
P.O. Box 721
H - 1535 Budapest
Tel. / fax : 36 1 212 76 15
I have just bought a property and it has an internal flint wall next to the bath. We would like to install a shower over the bath (attached to a normal brick/plastered wall) but to prevent problems we are looking to get the flint wall rendered and plastered and tiled. Can you advise if we should use lime render and normal plaster/tiles on top? or will cement render be ok as we are preventing the wall breathing internally anyway due to tiling the outside of the wall if flint- non rendered.
I understand why you might wish to render and plaster the flint wall but I am not convinced that this is the best approach. Without knowing precisely how the bath relates to the wall it is difficult to give definitive advice. What you could consider is some form of waterproof board for dry lining against the wall that is then tiled. This is the sort of waterproof boarding used when forming partitions around a shower area. This material would be placed against the wall and fixed in placed (usually a few screws) and then tiled so that it provides the protection required without causing so much damage to the flint or completely covering it with render and plaster.
That said it may be that plastering and tiling is the best solution. I would prefer to see a lime render used in such circumstances and I see no reason why this could not be tiled normally but of course the lime render will have to be well set. Further, both the adhesive and the grouting for the tiling would need to be waterproof to ensure that the water does not penetrate through to the lime plaster. This of course removes any advantage of the breathability of the lime, but as ceramic tiles are impermeable anyway the only reason to use lime would be for ease of removing it in future if ever you (or another owner) wanted to remove the shower and tiles, etc to expose the wall.
I doubt if the breathability of the wall will be particularly important for an internal wall face such as this. If this is an outside wall and the external face is breathable I doubt if covering up part of the internal face (and a relatively small area) is going to cause any major problems and therefore it should not be too much of problem to cover one section of the wall with tiles on whatever backing is most appropriate. However, I would prefer to see the drylined water proof board method if this is practical.
If the building is listed you should seek input from the Conservation Officer and you should consider whether there is any other reason why this wall should remain exposed.
We have a 1895 London 3 bed terraced house. In some rooms the finish is the original lathe and plaster. When we had the building surveyed before we purchased it they reported a loss of key on the master bedroom and rear reception room ceilings. Friends, family and other professionals were skeptical and suggested the surveyors were covering their own backs and we need not worry. Two years later part of the ceiling in the master bedroom collapsed.
There are visible cracks under the paper on the rear reception ceiling and I am concerned that the same thing could happen. We have the original cornice and rose and I want to preserve them. There are fine cracks in the ceiling rose that have previously been filled and painted over, so I\'m nervous about disturbing it, but want it protected. How should we proceed with problem, bearing in mind our budget is extremely tight as we have already spent our money on other repairs. We will be saving up for this, setting aside approximately £200 a month.
There are a number possible ways of tackling such a problem. These would apply whether the building is listed or not. Of course if the building is listed then consent would need to be obtained.
Although with older buildings it is of course ideal to preserve the original materials this is not always practical or economically possible. Ideally one would carefully preserve the cornices and ceiling rose by very carefully taking them down and setting them aside. The ceiling would then be reformed in lath and plaster and the cornices and rose reinstated perhaps wired up in place to help hold them securely. Specialist advice would need to be obtained for such work.
Instead of lath and plaster you could consider reed mat as an alternative to the laths but still use a lime plaster system. Reed mat is cheaper than laths and the end result is a wet plaster system that is similar to the original.
If the ceilings are reasonably flat anyway then a method often used with Victorian houses is to carefully cut around the decorative features and undercut the plaster and then introduce plasterboard for forming the ceiling. The plasterboard would be tucked just under the decorative plaster at the edges so that no perimeter cracking occurs. The plaster is then finished in the normal manner such that you have a modern plasterboard ceiling but with original decorative plaster cornices and roses.
Where any of the cornices or roses are coming loose they can be wired and screwed up in places to secure them but this tends to be a specialist job. There are a number of publications that do describe the methods used including some of the older publications by English Heritage that provide advice on conservation building techniques ('Practical Building Conservation' series of books – due to be re-published in 2012 following major revisions, but the older books published in 1988 are still found online).
Although the purist approach would argue that plasterboard is not appropriate for this type of building one has to be realistic and suggest that ceilings may not be of such importance in this house that the actual physical material is important. There are methods whereby the original details can be retained whilst the main flat ceiling areas change to plasterboard or indeed reed mat or another form of boarding (e.g. clayboard, etc).
If economics is a major driving factor I would have thought that using plasterboard for the main areas but retaining the original cornices to the roses would be most sensible way forward.
On the wider problem on lath and plaster failure it is quite common to find lath and plaster suddenly failing. It is very difficult to predict when lath and plaster might fail and the best advice I can give with regard to such matter is that whenever you decorate you should carefully check the lath and plaster by gently applying pressure to try to establish whether it has began to lose its key and therefore whether there is a risk of it suddenly failing. There are methods of re-securing the plaster from above before it fails and if you are concerned about failures elsewhere you may wish to look into these. Again the old English Heritage books give guidance on this.
We have a clay lump mid terrace house, one internal walls plaster is stained up to one foot from the concreted floor . We suspect this is rising damp. Can it be treated by injection damp proofing?
The simply answer is no. Without knowing the precise details of what has been done to this property and precisely what the damage is that leads you to suspect rising damp, I cannot give any more detailed advice. Chemical injection of a damp proof course should be regarded as the last resort and is rarely necessary with this type of property.
It is usually the case that there will be a cause for the damp such as high ground levels or materials trapping moisture in the base of the wall. If you resolve these problems there should be no need to treat the wall at all.
There is a possibility that if you simply inject the wall without dealing with other matters the problem could in fact worsen. If you deal with other matters the injection of the wall is not usually necessary. The best solution in this instance will be to find out precisely what is going on and dealing with the causes rather than taking the easy quick route of injecting the wall that may not actually deal with the fundamental problem.
We recently had the chimneys in our Georgian terraced house swept. This revealed that the flue feathers were in a poor state & that we would need to re-line the chimney, the plan is to have decorative gas flued grates rather than open fires or stoves.
We have now had 2 companies to view the stack & are confused due to conflicting advice. The options seem to be a poured system e.g. Thermocrete or similar or a metal lining. One company says that metal linings tend to degrade & often need replacing in 8-10 years, one advises backfilling the 3 flues that will not be active with vermiculite the other says that this will create damp problems.
Is it better for the house for the internal stack to be re-enforced with a poured system? Or are we likely to be creating problems if we go this route. Vermiculite or not in the unused flues?
When considering lining chimneys, especially in an older property, there are a number of factors that might influence the decision.
The simplest, usually the cheapest method, is to have a flexible steel flue liner installed. This will have a relatively short life compared to some other systems and depending on circumstances could indeed need replacing within a period of perhaps ten years or so. The main advantage is the speed and cheapness of installation together with the fact that you can ensure direct flue provision from your fireplace or stove right up to the chimney pot etc.
It is quite common nowadays to insulate around the liner and in fact in some property types insulation is essential in order to reduce the risk of heat transference through the brickwork that might then cause a fire in the adjoining roof structures etc. This is particularly important in thatched properties. That said one of the problems is that it can be difficult to ensure that the lining is correctly installed down the middle of the chimney flue with an equal amount of insulation around and with no part of the metal liner touching the brickwork. Sometimes spacers can be used around the liner.
There is some thought at present that there needs to be some way of ventilating any heat that gets in the void or area between the liner and the main chimney brickwork. This venting of the heat will help to reduce the risk of heat transference through the brickwork to the adjoining structure. I have heard of situations when airbricks have been installed around the top of the chimney to ventilate this gap between the liner and the brickwork.
With regard to the insulation material there are a number of different materials that could be used but one of the problems with poured insulation systems is that you need to be very very careful to make sure that all other flues are completely sealed off. If you are unsure whether the chimney flue is complete and that there are no gaps in it then a poured system is not a good idea. I have heard of situations where insulation has been poured down one flue only to be found piled up in a neighbouring property or neighbouring bedroom where it has found a route out and not down the intended flue.
At the other extreme are systems whereby a 'former' is put down the chimney (such as a balloon) and the gap between this former and the chimney brickwork filled with thermacrete or similar to in effect create a flue solid flue lined system.
The advantage of this is that it does create a long lasting secure flue with no risk of the heat transference problems provided the material itself includes an insulant. In some situations it could help to make a chimney slightly more stable but of course you need to counter this with the fact that it will add significant load within the chimney. If there are any weaknesses with the chimney structure it could create problems and I have heard of such systems causing chimneys to collapse due to the pressure of the material as it is poured. It is certainly the case that if there are any gaps in the chimney etc the material could find its way into other parts of the building or into neighbouring property much the same as for the poured insulation mentioned above.
The other disadvantage is that it can be much more expensive and it is completely irreversible.
In order to consider which system might be appropriate you will need to think about how many changes in direction there might be up that particular chimney and what are the risks of there being gaps or failures somewhere up the chimney that could result in material being poured down escaping into other parts.
For myself for a Georgian terraced house I would probably consider a flexible steel liner knowing that it might need to be replaced in ten years time but also knowing that it is cheaper and quicker to install and may cope better with any twists and turns in the chimney flue. I also bear in mind that you mention the internal state of the chimney may be weak and poor. If this is the case I would be hesitant about using any poured system. As for the insulation around the liner I would probably think about using a quilt system that is drawn up with the liner itself as far as possible, the disadvantage here is that there may be section where the quilt comes adrift and the insulation will not be complete through the whole length of the flue.
If the building is listed I would suggest that a flexible liner would not normally need consent because it does not involve a physical alteration to the building. However if you used a poured system creating a solid flue through the structure I believe that would require consent.
In short there is no right or wrong answer because it really depends on the specific situation and on the limited information you have provided I suspect that a steel liner might just be preferable to any other system in this instance. As for the insulation I would suggest something that can be wrapped around the liner and you could consider whether the area between liner and chimney brickwork may need venting at the top.
We have a Grade II Listed property around 400 years old. We are in the process of selling. The survey has come back that there is damp even though it has been damp proofed and is still within the 20 year guarantee. The surveyor says it needs more than damp proofing and that part of the sole plate needs replacing. The surveyor also said in her opinion, in the long term it would be wise to take off the white render/plaster from the property and lime the property instead. This, I imagine, is a massive job and extremely costly. I also feel that the surveyor is completely covering her back to make such suggestions. What in your opinion is realistic and how much do you think this would cost?
In this instance I have had the opportunity to contact the poster and have briefly inspected this property externally as it is not far from my office (but please note I do not intend making this a habit for those of you nearby my office!)
In this instance the building does have a cement based render and there is an area to the rear of the building where the render does appear to be causing some problem. It seems that there is a high probability that some frame repair will be necessary. Of course without opening up the structure it is difficult to say how much damage has occurred or how urgently the work may be necessary. I have been involved in situations where a timber frame has been opened up by removal of cement render to find that the render is in effect "structural"! But in other situations no damage to the frame has been found at all. How quickly cement render might cause damage to a timber frame will vary considerably and depends on the circumstances. It is therefore quite correct and appropriate for a surveyor to alert a prospective purchaser to the possibility of a problem but how to then advise and give appropriate guidance to a purchaser without causing undue alarm etc is more difficult.
In this particular instance I felt that the render to the front appeared to be older but in much better condition with no real evidence to suggest that it might be causing a major problem at present. In this instance I took into account the fact that to the front elevation there were no major distortions and no significant cracks or defects to note.
At the rear the render is much more recent but there is some distortion in places together with cracking etc. This leads me suspect that that rear is at greater risk of having problems. If I were advising a purchaser I would therefore suggest tackling the rear at an earlier date and perhaps leaving the front for some time in the future. Gauging quite how long to leave it is of course difficult.
In this instance the ground levels do appear to be high in relation to the building and in particular to the soleplates and therefore I would normally recommend lowering the ground probably by way of creating channels at the bases of walls. I prefer open channels rather than the gravel filled "French drains" that seem to be quite popular. I recommend open channels because they not only allow the water to quickly drain away when it rains etc but means that the lowest part of the wall can actually be exposed with air passing by to help it dry quickly. This therefore means that breathability is achieved at a very low point in the wall. The top of the channel can be disguised by a grating or by other different means if necessary.
I would also suggest that in situations like this the render at the base of the wall be carefully removed to a neat horizontal line so that the base of the wall is exposed and the moisture can evaporate away before it can rise too far and cause damage. If this could involve exposing the soleplate to see what condition it is in and to help moisture to escape around this area that would be sensible.
In this instance I therefore would suggest a phased approach to the work starting with the rear but also dealing with some channels to lower the ground and some careful removing of render at low level to all elevations. It may be that following such measures the front elevation may not need attention for many years if it remains in good condition and there are no problems manifested internally etc.
Without seeing the surveyor's specific report and knowing precisely what was said I cannot say whether the surveyor was or was not accurate. However from what you have put in your query and from our discussions it would seem that the surveyor has correctly identified the potential problem but perhaps could have gone further when advising the purchaser (the surveyor's client) on a pragmatic approach on how to deal with this problem that would spread the cost over time and perhaps not caused undue alarm, but a sensible measured approach.
I intend to replace plastic uPVC windows in an 1806 frontage with appropriate traditional patterns.
The ground floor windows were 8 over 8 sashes, and their design is not really in question. However, upstairs each window had 2 casements, one opening, each of 6 panes (seemingly of about the same size as those in the ground floor sashes). I only have a distant and indistinct photograph of the original versions but it was clear that they were of slender construction and I doubt that they had central mullions or, at least, not ones to show.
I am now looking for advice about how the replacements should be constructed, hopefully including pictures/diagrams of suitable examples, or guidance as to who to consult further.
The design of windows can vary regionally and it would be inappropriate for me to even attempt to suggest specific designs etc for your windows.
This is a matter for some local research. You should start with looking at the typical sort of designs for properties of this era. There are quite a number of architectural history books that give specific details on different elements of buildings. There are also reprints of some early books on building construction. You will probably find local architectural history books that could provide some information. You will also find local history books with many photographs dating back at least 100 to 150 years that may show other similar properties in the area with the sort of window that would be suitable.
Another source of information may be the local authority themselves and particularly their conservation officer. The conservation officer will probably be able to point you in the right direction for further specific guidance. There may also be a local branch of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and/or The Georgian Group and/or the Vernacular Architectural Group. Any of these may have information that could help you.
I am therefore sure that with a little bit of local research you should find enough information to be able to determine a suitable design for the new windows.
As for drawings you may be fortunate enough to come across some drawings. However I would point out that around the period that the frontage was built pattern books were coming into use and therefore the sections for the various glazing bars and elements of the window frame etc would be fairly standardised. The most obvious thing to do is to look at other properties of similar age in the region. You could find other properties with the sort of window that would appear to be similar or appropriate for your property and simply ask the owner if you can take photographs and measurements etc to enable the basic details of the window to be copied.
If you find a good local joiner I have no doubt that they will be able to provide you with samples based on their experience in the region.