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What is a Damp Survey?

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Mike Ashton

6th Apr 2018 (Last updated on 4th Apr 2022) 7 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.

A damp survey is usually carried out by a damp specialist. They will inspect the property and assess where the damp is present, what damage it may have 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.

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 Long Does a Damp Survey Take?
  4. How Much Does a Damp Survey Cost?
  5. What Can You Expect From the Damp Survey?
  6. What Does the Damp Report Include?
  7. The Different Types of Damp
  8. What Do You Need to Do as a Buyer?
  9. What to Do After Bad Survey Results
  10. 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.

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.

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, the report will not be as thorough. Property surveyors need to assess the entire building and its overall condition, meaning they will not focus on one specific issue.

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 survey highlights a concerning amount of damp or damage, you should hire a specialist to carry out a focused and thorough damp survey. This will then help you get to the source of the problem.

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

This information is highly beneficial as it’ll also allow the damp surveyor to recommend how these issues should be tackled and the associated costs.

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 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-£350 for a typical 3-bedroom detached house. Although, 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. When choosing your damp surveyor, make sure they’re experienced in this specific type of surveying to ensure nothing is neglected.

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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 questions about damp in the building, concerns they have or any developments they’ve seen in the moisture.

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 signs of damp, but they will also look for any current or potential causes such as faulty or blocked guttering. All these areas will be noted and assessed as part of the report.

What Does the Damp Report Include?

The survey covers anything that is being damaged by damp as well as anything that may be the cause of that damage.

The document will be easy to understand and will include all the findings of the survey as well as any considerations the surveyor has made. You will likely receive the report as an email but in some cases, the report is sent through the post.

The assessed areas will include signs of damp ingress from defects in the fabric of the property as well as unusual features or defects in the external gutters and down-pipes. It will also cover missing or damaged pointing, visible cracking in the external render coating and external decorations that have been poorly maintained.

There will be notes on any findings related to 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.

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

The Different Types of Damp

There are 3 main types of damp that your surveyor will look for:

1. Condensation

Most homeowners will be familiar with condensation as it’s the build-up of moisture on a surface. When moist, warm air condenses on cold walls, water droplets are formed creating condensation. It’s a very common type of damp and a little found is normal depending on the season.

Excessive condensation can cause issues. Signs of condensation include dark mould on walls or ceilings and moisture on windows.

2. Rising Damp

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, then the property you’re viewing may have an issue with rising damp.

3. 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. 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 be suffering from penetrating damp.

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What Do You Need to Do as a Buyer?

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/owner.

This is because you’ll need to coordinate getting the surveyor full access to the property. They will need to access a number of different areas and may want to talk to the current tenant about any issues they’ve previously noticed.

What to Do After Bad Survey Results

Many issues can be easily fixed and some negative results may not cost you anything.

It's likely that the survey will have been undertaken before you pay for the property so you may still be able to reopen negotiations based on your findings.

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.

Whilst the current owner is under no obligation to lower the price, 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 you’re both happy with.

For more information, read how to negotiate a house price down after a bad survey.

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.