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As we head towards the 1 year anniversary of Storm Desmond, our thoughts turn towards the winter weather once more. Climate change may be bringing more severe weather events to what is already a relatively wet area and we should be prepared for an increased frequency of heavy rain at any time of the year. Whilst we very much hope that there will be no repeat of 2015 and 2016’s severe deluges, we think it is worth looking at the ways in which heavy rain and ingrained damp problems can affect properties and your guests:
Before looking at preventative measures and remedies, we should mention insurance. We helped a number of owners with insurance claims as a result of the December 16 floods. Although the outcome was positive for most, there are potential pitfalls with cover. For example, one property with seemingly sound render on a weather facing wall suffered considerably damp damage through what were not much more than hairline cracks. The insurers in this case sent loss adjusters who judged the small defects in the render to be wear and tear and therefore the damage was deemed not allowable for an insurance payout. As policy cover varies considerably, we would advise you check your policy key facts to ensure you feel happy with the cover applicable to your property. We recommend two local insurance specialists who will give you a personal service and advice with specialist knowledge of the self catering market.
Simpson and Parsons
Macbeth and Scott
Prevention is much better than cure and there are products and services which you may wish to consider to protect your property:
External grids, guttering and other routes for water to drain should also be checked as part of any general upkeep services that are undertaken. Lakelovers can offer you a service to periodically check such issues and take corrective action – for example, a winter time clearing of leaves and debris, inspection of risk factors and corrective action where possible. Please contact email@example.com for further details of this fixed price service.
Flood gates – expensive items but more effective than sandbags and modular units can be put in place quickly, typically across external doorways. Otherwise sandbags are cheap and can be stored in an outbuilding. Both methods are great for stopping flowing rain water from entering a property but of limited value in preventing damage if underground sewer / rain water courses are overrun with rain causing flooding ‘from below’.
Many guests report damp as being something they notice either by sight, smell or physical reaction. Such feedback will often form part of a complaint which may be associated with a request for compensation. The guest’s reaction to damp is that it is a serious issue in their perception of the property and often part of first impressions. In reality, the effects can actually range from very mild (just unsightly) to severe. In some cases, guests will not help themselves by failing to ventilate properties – an issue we refer to later in this article.
Usually caused by structural problems in a building, such as faulty guttering or roofing, chimney stacks or cracks in the walls, which mean walls or roofs are regularly soaked with water. It can also be caused by internal leaks, such as pipes under a basin or bath. In the case of storms, it can be that the wind forces the rain deep into cracks and gaps. Finding the route that water is taking from the source location can be difficult as it can take surprisingly circuitous routes to the area where it ‘shows itself’ in the form of damp patches, mould or blooming plaster (or all three!). Time is also the enemy here – water can take many months to reach the area where the damage shows up and conversely, will also take many months in some cases to fully dry out again once the source is identified and repaired.
Speak with a builder or roofer with knowledge of diagnosing the cause of penetrating damp. Our experience suggests that the roof/chimney/ guttering accounts for the majority of penetrating damp issues. Render /pebble dashing has a finite life even if looking ok with a cursory look. Some companies can spray coat existing render to give a long lasting weather proof finish and enhance the appearance of the building. Dry lining or ‘tanking’ are more extreme ways to prevent damp reaching internal decorated wall surfaces and again specialist advice would be recommended.
Can be an issue in older properties constructed before the widespread use of damp courses or a sign of a failed damp course. As the name implies, damp marks typically seen on exterior walls up to 1 metre high or so.
Specialist advice should be sought if this problem is identified.
In simple terms, mould can start to grow when moist air comes into contact with a cold surface, typically where there are cold external walls or windows and a critical level of humidity in the air. Excess production of water vapour from showers/baths and also from drying clothes on radiators are issues to be considered .To avoid mould caused by condensation the following actions (or combination of actions) can be taken:
Ventilation – the most important aspect of prevention. If you have trickle vents on your windows, these are intended to maintain a flow of fresh air into rooms albeit, it will usually be colder than the air in the room already therefore heat from radiators needs to balance out the temperature differential and help dry out the air. Windows should generally be easy to open to encourage guests to ventilate with fresh air. Highly insulated / sealed properties can have issues despite the best intentions to minimise heat loss.
Heat – avoid big changes in temperature which exacerbate condensation. Make best use of thermostatic and timer controls to aim for as steady a temperature as possible with a lower limit of 15 degrees Celsius. If you have a remote control system this process of temperature management is a lot easier.
De-humidifying – portable units are available for around £100 upwards for average sized rooms. Portable industrial de-humidifiers are available to hire from local hire firms if circumstances dictate although these units are somewhat unsightly. Try to avoid having de-humidifiers stationed permanently in properties as their presence can be a ‘worry alarm’ for guests who expect a damp problem to be present. There is also a small scale chemical method known as a ‘moisture trap’ (a box containing crystals which absorb water vapour and ‘lock’ within the box ) which could be suitable for areas such as utility rooms.
Extractor fans – modern extractors can be extremely quiet and also feature a humidistat which causes the unit to switch on automatically when it detects a certain % of moisture in the air. Check to see if you can change the settings on any existing extractors to ensure the unit does the job of removing water vapour for a long enough period. Consider re-siting extractors to vent to the outside if at all feasible. Put signs if necessary by isolator switches to deter guests from switching off extractor fans.
Tumble dryers – must be vented correctly but their presence would prevent guests from drying clothes on radiators / airers.
Heat exchange /air conditioning units – Suitable in some cases for heating and moving air around a property. Can be expensive but effective.
Blockage of gutters and drainage paths. Build up of leaves and other debris in guttering/ water channels is a common cause of water ingress through masonry as it often happens over a long period unseen. Plants such as buddleia or ferns can grow with roots in masonry / moss and damage the masonry/ roofing materials allowing rain water in. Render / weathercote / paintwork. Cracks in the walls taking the brunt of the weather can let in water and strong winds will exacerbate the problem.
Visual inspection (use binoculars) of roof tiles and chimney stacks/ flashing. If you are unable to check and resolve yourself, ask Lakelovers to arrange a quote for this service. Gutter cleaning and checking is recommended to be done around 3 times each year for peace of mind. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a quote.
Roadside grids do seem to increasingly neglected by the Council and water can build up alarmingly quickly in sudden downpours or prolonged rain. To report blocked road drains to Cumbria County Council, click the link to see how to make a report http://www.cumbria.gov.uk/roads-transport/highways-pavements/reporting-problem-on-highway/WDM/default.asp
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