Blog by Simon Corbett – Student Building Surveyor
Cameron and I ventured out to Ledbury to conduct a building survey on a 5 bedroom, red brick detached property. The original building, dating back to the mid-18th century, had later been sympathetically extended to the rear around the mid-19th century, practically doubling the size of the property. The original clay tiled hipped roof had been replicated at the rear, creating a vast double hipped roof, which is joined by a valley.
Cameron set me the task of testing for damp with a moisture meter and noting the wall construction and thickness. There were high levels of damp throughout the ground floor at low levels. Some work had already begun to rectify this in places. There were also signs of historic damp at a high level in the sitting room, beneath a bathroom and en-suite on the 1st floor.
The bay windows in the dining room and sitting room have flat roofs, covered in lead which is clearly failing; the flashing had not been dressed sufficiently into the guttering, consequently resulting in pooling and a build-up of debris.
On the first floor there are signs of penetrating damp in the areas where the chimneys are located. From my studies at university I know the likely cause is the failure of the lead flashing at the joint between the chimney and the roof and thus allowing the ingress of water.
There was also evidence of water tracking into the building through a defective mortar joint around the landing window. This is something that I didn’t pick up on initially, but when Cameron pointed it out I could see the colour difference resulting from the presence of moisture. Cameron had spotted the defective joint and the potential for the water ingress from his external inspection. This further emphasised the importance of being thorough in my observations, following up on any defect and investigating any damage that has been caused as a result. I like that there is a logic and science to diagnosing defects and tracing the likely consequences of an initial cause. This drives me to continue building up my understanding of how buildings work and to be able to confidently diagnose and advise remedies for all types of property.
From accompanying Cameron on this survey I have realised the importance of organisation and having a logical method of recording data. I found myself revisiting areas to record some data that I had realised I had missed; but reflecting on it now I think it takes time to adopt a method of working and a system of note taking. I feel confident that as I progress and undertake more building surveys I can assume an efficient method of working.
It is becoming clear to me that, although the information I am learning at university will be crucial throughout my career, building surveying is a skill that can only be learnt through experience and gaining practical knowledge on site.
What I will definitely take forward into my next survey is to gain an understanding of the building before jumping into the recording of data. Having a general look around the property, internally and externally, to get a feel for how its put together, any potential areas of risk (e.g. valleys and chimneys) and how it relates to its surroundings. Most importantly, let the building talk to you.