Checking for Damp, Rot or Wood Infestation
Checking Out the Faults
Dampness, rot or wood infestation should be treated before you embark on any decorating. You would not be pleased if your newly painted walls began to crumble because of rot, or your wall treatments began to peel because of damp.
Dampness is a complex problem for which, often, there is no single cause and no single straightforward or cheap remedy. In order to cure a patch of dampness, it is, for example, often necessary to open up sections of walls, floors and so on; doing this can reveal other defects so that the cost of the project rises very rapidly. It is important, therefore, that proper advice is sought right from the beginning of your decorating schedule in order to avoid unnecessary expense.
Dampness is caused by several factors such as:
* penetration of water through cracked rendering, poorly constructed exterior cavity walls, bricks or tiles that need re-pointing
* a defective damp-proof course (Vapor barrier), or no damp-proof course at all
* leaking pavements (in the case of townhouses with basements)
* badly formed junctions of roofs to chimneys, or leaking or blocked
* badly constructed flat roofs, or missing tiles
All of these factors can cause further defects such as, wet rot and efflorescence (in which soluble salts in the plaster or mortar, on contact with water, force their way to the surface and spoil decorations).
Applying-cosmetic cures is rather like digging holes in wet sand. The only solution is to try to correct the basic constructional fault at the foot of the trouble. In Britain, for example, you can take advantage of certain proprietary systems designed for specific problems. A popular method of putting in a damp-proof course is to inject chemicals into the wall. Another method involves cutting out a course of mortar and putting in a damp-proof membrane. A less common means of eliminating dampness is the use of hygrovents. These are porous earthenware tubes inserted in walls to attract water, which is then evaporated away through them. Finally, waterproof liquids are painted on to prevent penetrating damp; they have to be periodically renewed.
In the United States the problem of dampness is limited largely to basements and there is special damp-proofing paint available which can be applied to both external walls and the inside basement walls This paint acts as a water-repellent shield against dampness and resists mildew.
Dry rot starts in moist wood and is usually found in old, damp buildings — although occasionally it is found in new ones — and it can lurk behind walls so that it is not immediately obvious. This type of rot is extremely dangerous because it can spread from wet wood to dry wood by means of airborne spores or through strands of fungal growth. It is essential to eradicate dry rot as quickly as possible after you have spotted the problem. You can detect dry rot by its musty, rotting mushroomy smell, and the excrescences it grows, which are of an orange to deep-brown colour. Affected wood is inclined to crack in squares if you find dry rot, your best plan is immediately to contact a firm that specializes in the treatment of dry rot. All defective wood will need to be replaced, and the new wood will have to be treated with preservative. Any adjoining brickwork or plasterwork should also be thoroughly sterilized
Wet rot occurs only in conditions of constant dampness if the cause of the dampness is arrested the rot dies. Decayed wood and the surrounding area should nevertheless be treated in the same way as for dry rot, becausespores may well be present and the drying-out process provides them with the perfect conditions for germinating.
Ordinaryis caused by the common furniture beetle, which has either flown in through the window or been escorted in, comfortably ensconced in an infected piece of furniture. Young beetles usually emerge in June or July; they lay their eggs in cracks and joints or in the rough backs of furniture. Early summer is thus the time to exterminate them: spray or brush unpainted and unvarnished wood (eg. beams) with an insecticide, and inject insecticide into every third hole in painted and varnished wood.
Termites are a major problem in the United States and in many states, a termite inspection report must be done. They should be exterminated as quickly as possible to avoid major damage.