Housing Defects FAQ's
Environmental Protection Act 1990 is a legislation formed in the UK which deals with waste management, statutory nuisance, contaminated land and control of emissions. The main objective of this Act is to control the pollution from waste on land and industrial processes. It also includes a set of rules of minimum standards for buildings such as; the design, location and landfill.
Landlord and Tenant Act sets number of legal duties on landlords for maintenance of the property and any repairs on the property they let to tenants. Even if the tenancy agreement doesn’t mention any repairing obligations or if it doesn’t meet the minimum requirement that the Act states; the regulation still fully applies and the landlord will be responsible for any repairs because by law that is the acceptable standard.
The Landlord and Tenant Act describes two repairing responsibilities on landlords and they are:
a) Firstly, to help with repair the structure and exterior of the property (house) when needed including; drains, gutters, and pipes. Structure is defined as anything that is lined to the stability and shape of the foundation not just ‘load bearing’ which includes; a partition wall (party wall), the access (path) to the house, the roof, the walls and windows.
b) Secondly, to help repair the installations for: supply of water, electricity, heating system, heating water, supply of gas and sanitation (baths, sink, WC and basins). Keep in mind that this doesn’t include fixtures and fittings to access water, gas and electricity.
Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 clearly states that there cannot be any modification on the obligation upon landlords to perform basic repairs and even if not mentioned on the tenancy agreement, the landlord must still carry out the repair. The landlord cannot avoid their obligations in this matter through applying changes in the terms and is responsible for repair of sanitation, water, gas, space heating and electricity.
This regulation applies to both private and public landlords. The landlord or her/his agent must provide 24 hours’ written notice to their tenants if they intend on visiting the property for inspection, they will have full right to enter the premises by following this procedure.
Unless the landlord is made aware of the disrepair, there is no obligation of taking action under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Knowledge of disrepair can come from any source other than just the tenant. It can mean that the possible source can be;
a) When repair notices are sent
b) When an professional carries out an inspection such as an environmental health officer
c) When old records are found
As we know that the responsibility of the repair is the landlord’s however there are rules also set for the tenants to follow. If there was any repairs that needed to be carried out at the start of the tenancy; that would be the landlord’s responsibility but not after that. ‘Keep in repair’ is clause that comes with the lease for the tenant, it basically means that tenant must keep the property in a condition for repair. In most cases a commercial tenant will have the duty to return the property to the landlord in the same condition of repair which was initially mentioned on the lease. The extent of the terms will vary on the lease so make sure to check the written descriptions.
Retained parts are the areas within the property controlled and looked after by the landlord. These retained parts are known as ‘common parts’ which the tenants do have the right of access. Common law suggests that the tenancy agreement should explain the repairing obligations regarding the retained parts. The landlord will be held accountable if the tenant obtains any injuries in the retained parts of the property due to lack in maintenance. He/she will also be accountable if any damage does occur within the retained parts.
Failure to repair occurs when the landlord doesn’t carry out any repairs needed in the premises, the tenant can chose to take legal action by suing the landlord for ‘breach of contract’ or seek for compensation to recover damages. This issue can be taken to the court by the tenant in demand for the repairs to be carried out. Usually, in most cases the landlord issues possession proceedings proclaiming that the tenant’s rent is overdue (rent arrears) and if it is proven that the compensation (cost of the repair) comes higher than the counterclaim (rent arrears) then the tenant will have the upper hand. The landlord will lose the claim and he/she will have to pay for the disrepair.
Negligence is known as ‘unintentional tort’ failing to take reasonable care which led to damage in someone property or causing personal injuries. Usually it’s a case of the defendant breaching their duty resulting in damage regardless of their intention. This is taken to the court to decide whether it was an act of ‘pure negligent’ from the defendant or the omission that caused claimant’s injuries. The claimant has to suffer damages (an evidence is required) to be able to sue the defendant for negligence. Further investigation will be made if there is any suspicion of false allegations or if the causative link doesn’t seem obvious.
If an occupant of the dwelling (house) is injured or any damages are caused in relation to building defects then the liability falls under the group of people who were involved in the construction process. You will be covered by warranty in this case because when you sign the contract with the builders or anybody who were responsible for the construction; you can sue them for negligence for any defects.
Liability of negligence will only apply if there is an actual damage to the property or where personal injuries are seen in a person; the court will not accept the grounds for ‘pure economic losses’ (even though this can be in the contract initially). It is indicated that if a building defect is found before any damages has been caused to a property or before anyone is injured, the case is seen solely as ‘economic loss’ and no compensation will be approved. For the negligence claim to proceed further, the claimant must be able to prove that inspector officer, surveyor, engineer or an architect failed on their duties to notice possible threats during the construction stage.
Whoever carries out the work on premises for the building project is responsible to care about the possible risks involved that may affect others; in this case will be the builders. The builders will only be held accountable for negligence if someone is injured or any damages have been done to the property as a consequence of their poor work; the loss cannot be solely economical for e.g.: if the building defects decreases the value of the property then the builders won’t be responsible for the loss.
An architect is responsible for the design whereas an engineer for the structure (stability of foundation), surveyors also have the duty for risk assessments; all these professionals are a part of the design plus construction process. They have a duty to make sure that the property they design must be safe for the future occupiers to live in; they are liable for any defects caused by his/her negligent. A surveyor who ignores the potential threats to a property will be liable for the loss in value of the property too not just the occupier’s personal injuries or property damages.
Local authorities will be liable for poor inspection procedure for the initial plans and not being able to enforce the Building Regulations before the construction stage. The owner or the occupier of the property can sue the local authority for neglecting the risks that should’ve been encountered by the by them (local authority) beforehand but again there should be a proof of damage in the property or personal injuries caused by their action.
The Defective Premises Act 1972 protects the contractor and owner or the tenant of the dwelling (house) from legal liability. Section 1 of the Act states that anyone who is involved in the construction process to take on the work for or in charge of providing the services should ensure that the work is carried out in a professional manner, to use proper materials and that the dwelling is fit for human habitation when the dwelling is completed. The law is applied to only residential dwellings to make sure that standards are met for safety purposes; this regulation was introduced when purchasers or tenants of the defected dwellings felt that they were not protected enough by law and didn’t have the right to defend them. Architects, surveyors, builders, engineer, local authorities and developers all should be aware of the possible liabilities that fall under the Act because they are part of designing and managing the build in the first place. This Act is only effective if there is a proven defect in the property or the defect has caused injuries to a person (usually the occupier).
Occupiers’ liability Act 1957 states that the owner-occupier is responsible for overseeing the safety of any visitors that enters the property; this means that he/she should assess the health and safety risks of the premises before the guests are allowed in the area. The duty of care also depends on the situation for e.g.: whether the party involves children or if the party (visitor) was informed about some safety issues within the property that why completely ignored. The landlord won’t be liable under the Occupier’s liability Act. The Act won’t be effective to those who enter the property without the occupier’s consent such as: trespassers
According to the law there is always a time limit to which a person can bring a lawsuit to the court. This answer can be quite complicated due to the fact that every case is different. In some cases the defect is discovered late or intentionally brought to attention late to avoid legal actions which makes the case harder to solve. If someone’s negligence has caused injury to another person; the claimant must precede the case further within three years of the date the injury was caused (this can change depending on the situation). If there are any damages to the property then the limitation period is generally six years.
Local authorities have the duty to deal with statutory nuisances which fall under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Bad housing conditions is what leads to statutory nuisances, it is usually when:
- Premises is in such a state as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
- There are pond, gutter, watercourse which in awful condition as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance
- There are dust, steam, smell or other waste from industrial premises entering the property
- There is absence of proper sanitary space
- Noises are emitted from premises
- Insects and pests are creating problems making the dwelling unfit for human habitation
In most cases it’s the property owner’s or the landlord’s liability because the premises is where the nuisance originates but they aren’t always held accountable. For instance, in the case of condensation dampness; the landlord can provide the tenant with sufficient ventilation but if the tenant fails to make use of it then the landlord won’t be responsible for any defects. If the condensation is a reoccurring issue and is it is a result of poor construction or design, the landlord has to consider making changes to the foundation/design itself.
For the court or the landlord to see the case as a statuary nuisance there should be a sign indication that something must either be ‘prejudicial to health’ or a statutory nuisance; it can be either one of them. Most common nuisances found in the property are; defective cisterns, unhygienic water tanks and blocked gutters. The premises can be land or buildings, both private and public housing but it have to be occupied. It cannot be classified as statutory nuisance if the premises aren’t affected as a whole for e.g. in cases of flats. ‘Prejudicial to health’ is defined as something that is ‘injuries’ or that can potentially cause injury.
The local authorities have to take action by assigning an environmental health officer to inspect the property; the officer will have the full right to enter the premises for the inspection. The inspection isn’t necessarily carried out with the awareness of statutory nuisance; it can be carried out due to the ongoing complaints by individual residing in the dwellings which then leads to discovering of the statutory nuisance. Once it is proven, the local authority has the full right to take actions to deal with the issue. Even though it isn’t required by law that the local authority sends an informal notice to the landlord, they usually choose to do so to avoid any dispute. The local authority will instruct the person responsible for the nuisance (usually the landlords) with what work should be carried out and give them a time frame for doing so.
Housing and Safety rating system is an assessment ran by the local council to evaluate the safety level of a dwelling and also find out if there is any risks occurring or may occur in the future in relation to health and safety. It was introduced under the housing Act 2004 and there are different categories of hazards depending on the level of hazard, the Act applies to all the residential housing in the UK. The hazard categories are as follows:
- Mould growth
- Electric shock
- The indoor temperature being excessively hot or cold
- Danger related to stairs, windows, balconies, ramps, bath, landings etc.
- Lock of space on the property resulting in overcrowding
- Poor domestic hygiene; disposal of waste and pests
- Poor design and layout
- Risk in relation to food safety
- Hazardous chemical; explosions
- Structural failure; resulting in collapse
Environmental health officers are assigned by local authorities to carry out an inspection in dwellings for any signs of risks and defects. It includes both homes and work places; they have to ensure that the area is safe and hygienic for human use. Their duties includes; collecting and producing reports, gathering samples, investigating complaints, dealing with other organisations, to provide proof of evidence in court and serving notices.
All social housing that are owned by the local council and housing associations has to meet a set of standards established by the UK government. The set of rules were enforced by 2010 and also asked the social landlords to calculate the number of ‘non-decent’ dwellings (houses) to further investigate; if the dwellings were found under the standards set by the government then immediate actions must be taken to solve these issues.
What defines a decent home is measured by these factors;
- A property that meets the set of standards as mentioned above
- A property that is in a ‘state of repair’
- A property that has appropriate services and modern facilities to use
- A property that has a reasonable degree of thermal comfort
A foundation holds the main structure of the building by directly reaching the soil or rock under the ground level. The load of the entire structure is then transferred underground linked to the soil in order to provide sufficient support for the structure. Foundation is also known as the lowest part of a building. Foundation is very important because it will evaluate the safety, strength and durability of the entire building which also indicates its lifespan.
Foundation failure occurs when major problems within the foundation is found resulting in defects of the building. Foundation failure will lead to building movement, it is caused by various reasons such as; problems related to sub-soils, shrinkage of clays, trees and shrubs, weather condition, sulphate attack and landfills.
A walk over survey is also known as site survey in construction; it is a form of early site investigation. This investigation is to discover issues in areas of; suitability of the location, potential geotechnical hazards, nature of contamination, if ecological survey is needed, the groundwater, ground erosion, stability and so on. The aim of a walk over survey is to minimise the risks in the foundation and analyse potential implications, a report is created after the walk over survey with details of the site including images. This survey is taken at the beginning of every building project.
The walk over survey won’t take long to carry out; it will take about an hour or maximum 2-3 hours (this can vary according to the size of the property and its surroundings).
Below-ground investigation involves several approaches; these include the digging of the ground to examine the stability of the ground as well as the sub-soil. There are methods used to determine the state of the soil such as; taking a small portion of soil from the ground and squeezing it to check the water content or to push a metal bar under the ground into the soil to check the stability of the soil. These are simple methods and can only provide limited knowledge about the soil therefore, after doing so ‘a sample’ of taken to the lap for further checks.
Above-ground investigation is a form of inspection that is carried out above the ground level which includes; opening up of walls, ceilings and monitoring any movements. Above-ground investigation will require some time to come to a conclusion but if in case of emergency where the building is literally falling apart or there are risks of injury to a person then there will be an instruction for immediate construction work to fix it or worse comes to worst, the building will be demolished.
- Insufficient depth of foundation (often occurs with shrinkable clays sub-subsoils)
- Insufficient width of foundation
- Is there is soft spots in sub-soils
- If there is trees and shrubs close to the foundation
- If there has been any recent activity of trees removal
- If there are drain runs that are deeper than the base(foundation) of the structure
- Usage of poor strip foundation for sloping grounds
Foundation movements are indicated by number of factors and the most common one found is ‘cracks’; it is a sign of defect. The movement is due to thermal movement or the load put on the walls from floors and roofs. Sub-soils are one of the most important things to consider because it predicts the stability for the foundation. Any sub-soils which contain a high level of water or organic material will result in movement when any pressure is put upon the soil. ‘Seasonal change’ is another key element that affects the soil hugely; when great amount of water is absorbed by the soil, it will expand. In the summer the hot weather condition will soak up all the moisture which will result in shrinkage of the soil. Other issues are caused by:
- Shrinkable clays: some slay soils are highly capable of absorbing and releasing water in short period of time. This type of soil is greatly affected by climate changes and seasonal movement.
- Trees and shrubs: trees require a lot of water to grow therefore if it is close by the dwelling; it is capable of extracting great amount of water from the sub-soils linked to the foundation. Also the growth of the tree will expand the roots which can have an impact on the dwelling movement due to the roots reaching the foundation.
- Trees removal: trees removal can lead to damage in the sub-soil due to the fact that amount of water absorbed by the roots of the removed trees will now be absorbed by the shrinkable clay underneath the dwelling.
- Drains: the drains can be cracked or damaged in any other form affected by the building load; the leakage of the drain will expose the sub-soil to hazardous substances.
The common sign of foundation movement is cracking in walls; there are several causes for foundation movement such as: soil movement, moisture that comes from drainages, leakage of plumbing and most importantly bad structural instability and poor construction. These problems cannot be seen because it occurs below ground initially which eventually builds up over time, other signs of foundation movement in later stages are:
- the floors will appear uneven
- cracks will appear on the floors and walls
- tile breakage
- the mould will become severe
- gaps will appear between walls and ceiling
- gaps will appear between windows and walls
Sub-soils are located below ground underneath the surface soil, consideration of the sub-soils is vital before any building work is carried out above it because it can lead to foundation failure. There are five main types of sub-soils you can find and they are:
- Granular soils (sands and gravels)
- Peat & topsoil (organic soils)
- Made ground
Removing topsoil also known as ‘topsoil excavation’ before the construction gives a firmer base for the structure also because the topsoil consist of vegetation and decaying matter that will eventually end up in movement of the soil.
The Public Health Act 1875 introduced a law where the local authorities will be in charge of any inspection for nuisances and they were given the power to serve abatement notices for nuisances. ‘Nuisance’ is defined as anything that would be ‘a nuisance or injurious to health’, for e.g.: overcrowded home, unclean workplaces, exposure to hazardous chemicals and structural defects. The Local Government Board was responsible to create regulations which would prevent diseases from spreading.
The local authorities had the obligation to provide clean water, dispose of all sewage and refuse and keep in check of what food were sold. They also had to ensure that dwellings were connected to the main sewerage system; any new builds during that period weren’t given the permit for build if they didn’t meet these requirements.
Building regulations is a vital part of the process for a new build because it is a set guideline for design and construction of a building to make sure that the health and safety of the people is under control. Whoever is carrying the building work must take the responsibility to meet the criteria. This service is provided by the ‘Local Authority Building Control’ and the benefits are:
a) It helps reduce project costs by providing the great consultation.
b) It avoids delays in the project which makes the process run smoothly.
c) They respond quickly to the inspection/application request.
A building movement that is associated with the wall is usually due to thermal or moisture movement which results in expansion and contraction of materials. In most cases the cracking won’t be a major problem and can be fixed but finding the main cause of this problem is crucial. The investigation should include the basic information leading to potential implications, these all should be recorded in a report. A report should have:
- The length of the cracking
- The width of the cracking
- Identify what areas are affected
- The depth of the crack on the wall
- How long the crack has been there
- Is the crack vertical, diagonal or horizontal
- Anything that links to the crack
- How is the crack positioned
- what possibly does it indicate (it can be the foundation or the uneven floor)
It isn’t always ‘cracking’ in a wall the main issue sometimes; a wall can be subject to distortion when it can be seen bulging or leaning. This will most likely lead to collapsing of the wall if not taken action immediately. Most of the time the wall weakens due to the heavy load imposed or even because it was poorly built in the first place but mainly because the thicknesses of the walls aren’t dense enough.
The inspection of a distorted wall will involve internal examination known as ‘borescope’ (an optical device used for visual inspection) or a brick/stone is taken out from the affected area to carry on an examination.
The examination will also include:
- Measuring of the wall thickness
- The depth of the distortion
- To what extent has the distortion reached
- Prediction of implication if the problem continues
- Materials used to build the walls
There are two main primary functions of a wall:
- A wall is used to load the weight of the roof, ceilings and support the floor while it transfers the total weight to the foundation; both external and internal walls are responsible for this.
- An external wall protects the structure from the environment; it also protects the internal wall. It also provides shelter and security.
Wall distortion is caused by many reasons but the most common ones are;
- Poor building practice: where the right bricks or stones are not placed in allocated area, it creates unnecessary gaps.
- Lack of support: this is mainly due to unsuitable thickness of the wall where the wall cannot hold the required weight or in case of excessive loading.
- Thermal movement: this is when the walls are exposed to temperature changes which lead to expansion or contraction.
- Moisture movement: this is a foundation issue which results in expansion and contraction
Thermal movement is caused by a change in temperature which leads to materials expending and contracting overtime. In hot weather conditions the masonry will expand causing compressive force, regardless of its strength to cope with the high compression when the weather condition changes after form hot to cold; material will shrink with tensile forces causing cracking. This cycle keeps repeating every year which will eventually show cracks in the wall.
Moisture movement is mainly due to weather conditions, moisture is defined as anything that enters and travels in the building as liquid water and as water vapour. Moisture can move around within a property in many ways but what creates the most damage is the moisture below ground which is linked to sub-soils, drainage, trees and sulphate attack.
In buildings there are materials that tend to dry out quicker than others and they are:
- Lightweight concrete
- Sand-lime bricks
- Portland cement products
- Calcium silicate bricks
- Certain platers
In the UK most days are cold and wet, which is the common denominator in the case of defect. ‘Water penetration’ is unhealthy for the walls because it shortens the life-span of the bricks and stones used to build the buildings. Not saying that other activities aren’t the cause of defects found in houses, depending on the durability of the materials used in the construction process and how someone looks after the property are also key elements to avoid defects.
Before a house is built there things that are carefully monitored and thought about, the materials are the key factors to ensure the stability therefore, being careful with the positioning and location of the building saves you the trouble of future defects:
a) The position of the building: will placing the house in the coast or on top of the hill give exposure? What factors will affect the exposure; the surrounding of buildings or trees?
b) Geographical location and orientation: think about which areas have higher chances of facing the sun or the wind, depending on this the front, the back and sides of the building can be determined.
In simple words, cavity walls have a gap (cavity) between two layers whereas solid walls have no gap, which is why they can’t be filled with cavity wall insulation. The names give out the meaning behind them, for example: ‘solid’ meaning that the wall doesn’t have any cavities. It is easy to identify which is which; a solid wall has a pattern which includes a long brick followed by a short brick. The cavity wall has a different pattern; unlike the solid wall, you can tell it’s a cavity wall if all the bricks are the same width (long) and also if the brickwork has been covered.
Defects in brickwork and stonework are mainly caused by poor design, specification, and choice of materials and also due to low level of workmanship. Failure to apply protective coatings can lead to bigger problems because the coating will prevent water penetration and prevent stone decay. There are number of problems found in bricks and stones that can lead to serious damages.
- Frost attack
- Lime run-off
- Sulphate attack
- Wall tie fixture
- Acid rain
- Lime run-off
- Incorrect bedding
- Frost attack
- Organic growth
Site errors can often occur in construction stages due to things being overlooked or if there are other elements that are affecting the progress of quality work. typical site effects for ground floors are:
a) There are industrial wastes that expand if wet such as materials used in the creation of substructure; the density of the slabs is important.
b) If the concrete is not laid in right temperature it can highly affect the strength which often leads to cracking caused by shrinkage or loss of strength.
c) Uneven finish to slab can create problems with partition walls.
d) If there is no perimeter gaps when laying the chipboard can cause problems such as; breakdown of chipboard and the chipboard lifting up (not being in the right position).
e) If screed (material such as concrete to smoothen out the surface) is laid too dry or wet it can result in cracking and can damage the floor finishes.
f) Poor bond between DPM (known as damp proof membrane) and DPC (known as damp proof course) can result in rising dampness.
g) When the choice of membrane is not suitable for the floor for example: Polythene DPMs are not usual suitable for moisture sensitive floor finishes.
h) Joists that are built into cavity has higher risks of rising dampness.
Site errors can often occur in construction stages due to things being overlooked or if there are other elements that are affecting the progress of quality work. typical site effects for upper floors are:
a) When joist support gets weak due to inadequate bearing, if the joist hangers are not tight enough or the joists are too short then it can lead to the floor collapsing
b) If the joists used are wet or lack of strutting then it can damage ceilings and often result in uneven floors.
c) If the floors are sealed with grout the floor will absorb water, stains and bacteria; this will not only damage the appearance of the floor but increase the risk of fire in the property.
d) Poor grouting of beam and block can result in uneven floor.
e) Bridging of the cavity usually allows moisture to penetrate the joists ends
f) Floor sloping towards a loadbearing wall then there will be possible movement in the whole structure
g) In many cases beam and block will require restraint straps along parallel walls, lack of restraint to external wall will lead to wall movement.
The primary function of a roof is to cover the top of a building to protect the structure and persons inside that structure. A roof is a necessity, nowadays people choose different design and materials for a roof to fulfil the aesthetic needs however, and its function wasn’t initially created for that. It provides shelter against weather condition on a daily basis; from rain, snow, sun, hail and wind. Without a roof, not only does it affect human beings but everything else inside a structure such as; furniture, carpets, appliances, artwork, interiors, clothing and everything else in our possessions. Walls, floorings and doors will be exposed to too many harmful substances or weather conditions will weaken the ability of the materials which will lead to structural defects.
Roof defects can be minor and fixable or it can be severe depending on the cause of the defect. Most common defects are:
- The timbers can become weak due to infestation for example of it gets attacked by wood-boring insects.
- If the roof structure is too weak to cope with strong wind or roof covering then the timbers can possibly end up splitting and bowing.
- When roof trusses are inappropriately stored or mishandled; it will eventually damage the trusses and also cause water saturation which results in timber decay.
- It is highly required to focus on structural integrity of roofs because it can lead to roof sagging problems or even splitting of timbers.
- There needs to be sufficient roof drainage because there is a risk of water overflowing as well as damp penetration.
Interstitial condensation is a form of damp which occurs when pressure and changes in the temperature pushes hot humid air through water absorbing materials until they reach a phase which is cool enough for it to condense upon a surface; when a gas/vapour turns into liquid, this particular stage is known as ‘dew point’. Interstitial condensation is a type of condensation and it happens between layers for example; inside the walls, roofs and floors. This leads to mould growth inside the structure and reduces the quality of the air; using vapour proof barriers in the wall can help prevent the problem.
External rendering refers to applying protective coating to the walls of a dwelling. A render is mainly to protect the materials of the structure however people nowadays also use it for visual purposes. The mix of render should be strong to increase the strength when applied because the whole point of external rendering is to form a durable, solid and waterproof finish. There are various types of rendering according to situations and they are; lime render, polymer render, acrylic render, cement render and monocouche render. Rendering is applied to dwellings for a number of reasons, such as:
- To protect the surface from the weather condition
- To give a smooth finishes to the walls
- To hide materials like blockwork or common brickwork
- For decorative purposes
If not careful while rendering there can be defects during the process and the most common defects found are:
- If the application is too thick it will result in the coats sagging which can cause uneven surface and loss in bond.
- If the render is applied too thin (single coat) then it will not be durable enough and can cause damp penetration and won’t be weatherproof for long term.
- If top coats is applied before the base coat has completely dried up because that will lead to cracking of rendering.
- The weather conditions can affect the process of external rendering because it can wash off the rendering when it isn’t completely settled or if the temperature is hot; it can alter the shape/texture.
A partition wall is different from a load-bearing wall and often thinner, it is used to separate rooms. There are often defects found which requires fixing; the common defects found in partition walls are:
- Building non load-bearing partitions
- Lack of support
- Poor or unsecure connection to external walls and partitions
- Thickness of the walls aren’t suitable or appropriate
- Moisture movement
- Lack of fire protection
- Poor workmanship
Plastering is a process used for the purpose of coating, protecting and decorating internal walls. there are different types of plaster available in the market such as; cement plaster, clay plaster, gypsum plaster and lime plaster, they are all used for creating even surfaces and covering rough walls. The durability of plaster depends on numerous factors, they are:
- Number of coats applied
- The thickness of the coats
- The strength of the mix
- Background suction
- Background movement
- Poor workmanship
- Chemical attack and staining
Plasterboard is meant to be maintenance free but to many reasons this isn’t the case. Most defects are caused due to incorrect nailing, not enough background support and carelessness shown in the preparation before applying finish. It is also highly affected by dampness in the internal walls, in the case of dampness the plaster can swell up leading to the paper linings detaching from the inner plaster cor
What is a timber pest
Timber is highly known for its quality of durability but it will eventually lose its durability if attacked by timber pests. Timber pests are living organisms that attack timber for the purpose of food and shelter. There are two different types of pests:
- Wood boring insects
Types of fungi growing in timber?
There are six kinds of fungi that grows on timbers, they are:
- Plaster fungi
- Brown rots
- White rots
- Soft rots
What are the essential conditions for fungi to survive?
Fungi can only survive if the condition is suitable for them which is the whole motive, those elements as:
- Food: sapwood is what the fungi feeds on which is found in young trees.
- Moisture: moisture allows cells produced by bacteria to develop and fungus to grow.
- Temperature: the fungal growth depends on the temperature because it cannot grow under very hot or cold condition.
- Daylight: this can accelerate the growth of fungi even though it doesn’t initially encourage the development.
What is dry rot and wet rot?
- Dry rot is a fungal timber decay which can ruin woods, it is brown in colour. Dry rots grow due to excessive moisture; it prefers damp still air. In dwellings the most common reason for dry rot is leaking washing machines, baths, cooking, dampness in walls and leaking roofs. Dry rots travel through masonry and plaster
Wet rot can either be brown rots or white rots depending on the situation; they are found in places where with reoccurring dampness such as; leakage gutters and faulty plumbing. However, wet rot isn’t as serious as dry rot due to the fact that it doesn’t travel through masonry and plaster. Timbers affected by wet rot are soft and spongy eventually resulting in the timber cracking and shrinking.
What is insect attack?
Known as wood boring insects, these insects feed off timber which causes the timber to decay. They can be found in furniture are timber beams in dwellings. It is always best to seek professional help if suspicion of these insects roaming around the house. They attack any wood that is decayed or damped, there are eleven types of wood boring insects which are:
- Common furniture beetle
- Death watch beetle
- Ambrosia beetle
- Fan-bearing wood-borer
- Powder post beetle
- Bark borer
- Wood boring weevil
- House longhorn
- Asian long-horned beetle
- Wharf borer
- Wood wasp
The cycle of water vapour is simple, the warmer the atmosphere the more vapour is held in air. Condensation refers to the process when water vapour turns into liquid; it is mostly found in bathrooms after shower/bath, toilets, kitchen while and after cooking and bedrooms. Condensation is a form of dampness and known to be the most common one, it will lead to mould growth if not taken care of.
Condensation is often mistaken for penetrating and rising damp usually; if the walls are wet and the plasters are ruined with a black stain then it is a sign of condensation. There are other signs that can indicate condensation, they are:
- Misty surface of the walls
- Damp areas on the walls
- Droplet or streaks of water crawling down the walls of kitchens and bathrooms
- Musty smell coming from wardrobe or musty smell on clothes
- Damp patches
- Signs of mould growth
Condensation can be difficult to avoid because our daily activities link to the causes of condensation but there are actions that can be taken to lower the chances of it, such as:
- Cut down the amount of moisture that is produced
- Well insulated walls
- Provide heating
- Ventilating the property well
Structural dampness is due to the excess moisture that is present in a dwelling/building. It is usually caused by leaking pipes, rain entering the property through roofs and rising damp. Dampness can lead to structural damage in a short period of time if precautions aren’t taken. It can lead to problems like:
- The materials will lose its ability and effectiveness
- Health hazards
- Will lead to dry and wet rots
- Result in building movement
- Cause damage to interior design or decorations
- It can reduce the effectiveness of insulation
Rising damp is often mistaken as condensation or penetrating damp, it actually occurs when the moisture from below (ground) moves up and travels through the walls. The reason moisture travels upward is because in seek of evaporation and will continue to rise until it reaches the level of evaporation. Rising damp affects the internal walls mostly and in early stages; the paint on the walls and decoration can be found loosening as a sign. The height of the rising damp varies on different factors like:
- The nature of the materials; size of the pores
- How much water there is in the ground
- Limiting on evaporations such as; the height of rising damp depends on the rate of evaporation from the wall.
- A good level of heating inside the building can lead to limiting the height of rising damp
- Chemicals in the ground can affect the pattern of rising damp
Penetrating damp is the successful process of moisture (water) from outside the building entering the internal walls of the building. This can affect elderly people and children creating respiratory health issues. You can identify a penetrating damp by taking notes on the signs which is usually damp patches on the wall, damaged plaster, musty smell and black mould on walls, if any suspicion of penetrating damp; external wall should be checked to find the cause. This type of damp can be found in both old and new houses.
A moisture meter is a device that measures the level of water that is stored in a given substance, when a substance has higher moisture then it has better chances of conducting electricity. The main aim for using a moisture meter is to check the conductivity; materials are woods are highly affected by the moisture level which results in shrinkage or expansion also, poor material performance.
A carbide testing is a testing method used for masonry products like; bricks, blocks, mortars and so on. It is used to find out the moisture content in those materials, this is a technique to help identify dampness in properties. This test requires a sample from a wall which is quite destructive and only used if really necessary.
System building (also known as ‘Prefabrication’) is a building method where components are built in prior to construction to speed up the process. This method of building was highly popular in the past before modern techniques were introduced. Due to few incidents that occurred in the past that was caused by unsuccessful system building, the demand for this particular building method went down. The problems found were; poor design, inadequately controlled prefabricated processes and poor construction work. Despite the problems in the past, system building has many benefits that can be highly productive if planned and designed properly.
Houses have drainage system which does work however it doesn’t meet the standards required to perform well which results in drainage defects. There are two main types of defects led by poor drainage system and they are: those which result in blockages and those which result in leaks. They are due to a number of factors such as:
- Internal problems caused by building materials
- Building waste like; cement, plaster and other sanitary products
- Design problems where pipes are laid at wrong gradients
- Pipes crushing
- Pipes damaged during construction process
- Plugs that gets unduly hot with scorch marks on them and scorch marks on the sockets
- When there is a spark from a power outlet
- Blowing of fuses
- When you can smell burning
- When bulbs blow repeatedly