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The science of rising damp

A seminar looking at the causes and treatment of the age-old problem of rising damp is being offered to building professionals

Posted by Dave Higgitt | March 02, 2015 | Bricks & mortar

Aimed at architects, builders and other specifiers, Safeguard’s RIBA-accredited seminar ‘Rising Damp: Causes and Treatment’ aims to help professionals keep up-to-date with the latest materials and systems and meet ongoing commitments to continued professional development (CPD). From the physics of rising damp to the chemistry of damp proof courses (DPCs), it will look at what causes the problem and the range of potential treatments available, including recent developments. “Rising damp is nothing new: Vitruvius wrote about it in Roman times!” says Safeguard director Hudson Lambert. “However, our understanding of how it works and the best ways to treat it have developed significantly since then.”

Rising damp occurs because water travels up through the pores in a wall’s material, with the height it reaches governed by a combination of pore size and the rate of evaporation from the surface of the wall. Limiting evaporation can exacerbate rising damp, a problem today’s building professionals need to bear in mind when specifying external wall insulation, as the Energy Saving Trust has warned.

Once water has risen up the wall, there can be further problems due to salts in the water being deposited. Some salts such as nitrates and chlorides are hygroscopic, which means they attract water, so they draw moisture from the air into the wall furthering the problem.

There are a number of treatments for rising damp. The most popular are chemical DPCs which have developed from the early silicone or stearate liquids to silane/siloxane cream injections in 2000 and, in 2014, to silane rods. The latter have been shown to be particularly effective as they ensure the even dispersion of waterproofing molecules.

Replastering is often required when treating rising damp, using a special plaster to prevent the recurrence of problems due to hygroscopic salts. A modern alterative to the 3:1 sand:cement render solution sees a salt-retardant primer applied to the wall and an adhesive which resists moisture and salt used to attach insulated plasterboard, saving time and money.

As Safeguard’s CPD seminar illustrates, rising damp is not a simple issue. Debate about it continues – around, for example, the best way to test the effectiveness of chemical DPCs. Understanding the science behind the treatment is important: only then can informed decisions be made.

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