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What is a Damp Survey?

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

6th Apr 2018 (Last updated on 18th Nov 2021) 8 minute read

A damp survey is a detailed look into a property that has shown potential damp-related issues and damage. Damp is a common issue that affects many houses across the UK, however, if left untreated it can develop and cause major problems to the property.

This is usually carried out by a damp specialist who will know exactly what to look for in terms of where the damp is present, what damage it may or has already caused and how much it would cost to remedy it. The survey usually follows a property survey such as a Home Survey Level 2, Home Survey Level 3 or even a valuation, which may have highlighted damp patches or visible mould growth that needs further inspection.

In essence, it's a deeper investigation into a property that suffers from damp, highlighting issues and helping you decide how to remedy them. This guide thoroughly explores the damp survey including why it's different from other property surveys, why you need a specialist to do it, the average cost and how to deal with the results.

This article will cover the following:
  1. Does Damp Show Up On a Property Survey?
  2. Do You Need a Specialist Damp Survey?
  3. How Much Does a Damp Survey Cost?
  4. What Can You Expect From the Damp Survey?
  5. What Does the Damp Report Include?
  6. What Do You Need to Do as a Buyer?
  7. What to Do After Bad Survey Results
  8. Learn More About Surveying

Does Damp Show Up On a Property Survey?

Whilst the description and advice will be brief, damp can be highlighted during a property survey should evidence be found.

According to gov.uk, in 2015-2017, 4% of the estimated 23 million households in England had rising damp or other damp problems in at least one room. This means that around 944,000 English homes had damp issues found and treated. Damp is a fairly common problem that often needs immediate treatment before it worsens.

Whilst surveys such as the RICS Home Survey Level 2 and Level 3 (previously known as the homebuyers report and building survey) will highlight evidence of damp should it be found, the report will not be as thorough as a specialist damp survey. Property surveyors need to assess the entire building and its overall condition when conducting a home survey, meaning they will not focus too much on one specific issue.

If your property survey uncovers serious damp-related issues, it’s advised you then seek further professional help by arranging a damp survey. If normal amounts of condensation or damp are detected, ask your surveyor for advice on whether a separate specialist survey would be beneficial.

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Do You Need a Specialist Damp Survey?

If your property survey highlights a concerning amount of damp or damp-related damage, it would be best to hire a specialist to carry out a more focused and thorough damp survey to get to the source of the problem.

Your damp surveyor will be able to give you a more detailed idea of how damp is impacting the property, such as how far it has sunk into the affected area and whether it’s rising damp, condensation or penetrating damp. They will do this by using special tools to measure the level of internal damp and will look at certain areas that are often affected by moisture-related issues.

This information is highly beneficial as it will also allow the damp surveyor to recommend how these issues should be tackled and the associated costs that come with the necessary repairs.

How Long Does a Damp Survey Take?

On average, a typical damp survey can take anywhere between 3-5 hours to complete.

However, the length of a damp survey will depend on a variety of factors such as the specific type of damp survey you get, the size of your property and the severity of the problems found. A thorough and detailed damp survey could take as long as 5 days to complete, whilst a less thorough survey could take a few hours.

How Much Does a Damp Survey Cost?

A damp survey will cost between £200 to £350 for a typical 3-bedroom detached house, though as with most surveys, the cost varies widely based on the size and location of the property.

Property SizeAverage Cost
2-bedroom flat£200
3-bedroom terraced house£250
4-bedroom detached house£300

All costs presented above have been taken from CheckaTrade, correct as of November 2021.

This cost is what you would expect to pay if you use a fully qualified, certified chartered surveyor to inspect the property. When choosing your damp surveyor, it’s key to make sure they’re highly experienced in this specific type of surveying to ensure that nothing is neglected during the work.

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What Can You Expect From the Damp Survey?

Once you’ve booked the survey, a specialist surveyor will visit the property. If the current tenant is available, they may ask them some questions about the damp in the building, any concerns they have had or any developments they have seen in the moisture over time.

Once they’ve done this, they will then work systematically through the building and focus on any areas that have been highlighted as potentially damaged.

Not only will the surveyor look for potential signs of damp, but they will also look for any current or potential causes of that damp such as faulty or blocked guttering and the condition of any pipework or drainage. All these areas will be noted and assessed as part of the report you’ll receive.

Types of Damp

When assessing the property, there are 3 main types of damp that your surveyor will typically look for:

Condensation

Most homeowners will be familiar with condensation as it is the build-up of moisture on a surface. When moist warm air condenses on cold walls, water droplets are formed, creating condensation.

It is a very common type of damp and a little found is normal, depending on the season. Excessive condensation, however, can cause issues. Signs of condensation include dark mould on walls or ceilings and moisture on windows.

Rising Damp

As the name suggests, rising damp is caused when water rises up from the ground through a building’s walls. Whilst walls and floors do typically allow in a little water, excessive amounts are usually stopped by a barrier called the ‘damp-proof course’ or ‘damp-proof membrane’.

If you notice wet skirting boards or peeling wallpaper at the bottom of the walls, then the property you’re viewing may have an issue with rising damp.

Penetrating Damp

If a building suffers from structural issues, it may have a problem with penetrating damp. Penetrating damp is caused by rainwater seeping into the home from outside. Heavy rainfall, broken roof tiles and blocked gutters can also cause this type of damp.

If the property contains a number of damp patches on the floor, walls or ceilings, then it could potentially be suffering from penetrating damp.

What Does the Damp Report Include?

You will likely receive the report as an email, although in some cases, the report may be sent through the post. The document will be easy to understand and will include all the findings of the survey as well as any other considerations that the surveyor has made from their additional desk research.

In terms of the areas that will have been assessed, these will include any signs of damp ingress from defects in the fabric of the property as well as any unusual features or potential defects in the external gutters and down-pipes. It will also cover any missing or damaged pointing, any visible cracking in the render coating on the exterior of the house and also any external decorations which have been poorly maintained. There will be notes on any findings in terms of gaps around doors and window frames as well as flashing and defective roof covering.

Finally, there will be considerations for the ground level around the building which could lead to damp bridging into the property. Basically, the survey covers anything that is being damaged by dampness as well as anything that may be the cause of that damage.

If requested, the survey will also include cost considerations for all the resulting damage that has been caused and any repairs that will need to be made. This is useful as it will allow you to easily negotiate with the owner based on the cost and inconvenience of having that work done.

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What Do You Need to Do as a Buyer?

As a buyer, having a damp survey undertaken is a fairly simple process with little input required on your behalf. Initially, you’ll need to make a decision on whether the survey is required based on either your own observations or the finding of a separate property survey.

You’ll also need to maintain a good level of communication between both the surveyor and the estate agent as well as the current tenant or owner. This is because you’ll need to coordinate getting the surveyor full access to the property. You have to make sure that they can get into the building, access any areas they need to and whether or not they would like to talk to the current tenant about any issues they’ve previously noticed.

What to Do After Bad Survey Results

Many issues can be fixed relatively easily and some negative results may not necessarily cost you anything. It's likely that the survey will have been undertaken before you physically pay for the property and so you may still be able to reopen negotiations based on your findings.

First, look through the survey results and assess how much it’s going to cost to make the property safe and inhabitable. You can then discuss this information with the estate agent and get their opinion on how to continue. Although the current owner is under no obligation to lower the price of the house, you’re also not obligated to go through with the sale until contracts have been signed and exchanged. Therefore, you should work with them to find a middle ground that you’re both happy with.

This could result in the current owners getting the work done before you move in, allowing them to get the best deal they can whilst still receiving the original accepted offer. Alternatively, the owner may reduce the offer by the cost of the repairs so that you can complete the work yourself once you’ve moved in.

It’s worth noting that in many cases, you may have to accept some of the cost for the damp repairs. You’ll need to assess whether these repairs are still in line with the overall value of the property and whether or not the property will be worth the investment once the repairs have been made.

Learn More About Surveying

This is part of our guide to surveying. In the next part of this series, we take a look at the home report in Scotland. To learn more read what is a home report Scotland.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Mike Ashton

Reviewed by Mike Ashton

Director, Cambridge Building Surveyors

With over 20 years of experience in the property surveying industry, Mike Ashton is now the director at Cambridge Building Surveyors.