How to monitor cracks

Worried About Cracks In Your House? Having Sleepless Nights?

crack
Here the foundation on the corner of the domestic bathroom had subsidised! Disguising cracks with paint and Polyfilla won’t work! You need to find the cause first and fix that before you patch walls!
crack
The problem here was with the pooling of water on the paving and the level of the paving being close to or at the floor level of the bathroom. In addition, it appeared the bath waste or water supply may be leaking.

How to monitor cracks in your walls and floors!

Often, home buyers and homeowners are worried by cracks in the house and boundary walls, especially plastered walls!

The good news is that, generally, concrete, stone, brick and masonry walls and concrete or screeded floors that have cracks less than 1 mm wide (the thickness of a credit card) are common and usually do not warrant any corrective action. Most of these small tight cracks are caused by normal shrinkage as the moisture in the walls and floors evaporates over time or settlement of the structure which usually occurs within the first few years after construction.

Be warned, however, that changes in condition around the structure may also cause settlement many years later! Examples are planting a new garden or tree or removing a garden or tree that is against or close to the house.

Crack Fillers

Note that all cracks should be sealed with paint, caulk (sealer) or mortar to prevent water from getting into the structure.

Moreover, if a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal masonry crack is filled with hard masonry patching compound, any substantial future movement is likely to show up as a new crack in the patched area or nearby.  Therefore, always use a non-shrinking grout to prevent stressing yourself!

Continued movement

Cracks that continue to move are a reason for concern! Continued movement in cracks should be evaluated as there may be a need for corrective action. Therefore, if you notice a crack has re-cracked or the crack has opened or gotten larger it should be monitored! However, first, make sure there is no shrinkage of the filler product.  All cracks that are 5 mm and greater should be carefully monitored to ensure there is no continued movement.

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Damp In Freestanding Walls

Do Your Boundary Walls Look Like This?

damp in boundary and garden walls

This photo I took during a client’s comprehensive buyers inspection had rising damp, falling damp and penetrating damp in the boundary and garden walls. In addition, the white marks on the wall were caused by efflorescence.

Often the maintenance of the walls that are attached to or which do not form part of our houses is neglected. These are our boundary, garden and courtyard walls.

These walls are very important in that they protect our privacy and security and are our first line of defence against intruders. Unfortunately, we sometimes do not make enough effort to protect them!

The greatest enemy of these walls is damp which penetrates into the wall from below, above and from the sides of the walls.

Rising Damp

Rising damp occurs as a result of capillary action at and below ground level into porous building materials. These materials are mainly concrete, bricks and mortar. The moisture rises up the wall in this way. It usually occurs where there is no damp proof course (DPC). Freestanding walls such as boundary and garden walls do not normally have DPC built into the walls because it would make the wall unstable. A layer of DPC would break the bond between the wall and its foundation.

The height to which the moisture will rise is determined by the evaporation rate and the nature of the wall. However, the normal limit for rising damp is generally about one metre above ground level.

Rising damp may show as a stain on the plastered and painted wall, the blistering of paint and loss of plaster. A damp area may be evident at the base of walls and in extreme situations, may cause the structure of the wall to wear away and crumble.

Falling Damp

Falling damp is caused by downward water penetration from the top of porous masonry walls. This is as a result of the top of a boundary wall not being adequately waterproofed, if at all.

Walls should be:

  • properly sealed at vertical expansion joints;
  • repaired at copings that have cracked or deteriorating mortar joints;
  • cleaned to prevent the build-up of dirt and moss on upper surfaces of stone or brickwork.
  • Leaves, bird manure, moss and dirt on top of the walls contain weak acids and salts which can promote decay of the masonry and paint if absorbed.

Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp is a common form of damp. It occurs as a result of the horizontal ingress of water through gaps, cracks and joints in the wall’s structure. Penetrating or horizontal damp can be due to your or your neighbour’s irrigation system spraying against the boundary wall. Moreover, foliage growing against the wall (bushes and trees)can also be the cause. Other causes are deteriorating paint finishes and inadequately ruled joints which allows moisture intrusion into faced brick or stone walls.

Penetrating damp tends to produce localised patches of dampness and decay, whereas rising damp may affect the base of the wall.

Efflorescence

Efflorescence occurs when an appreciable quantity of soluble salts and moisture is present in the masonry. It routinely occurs in masonry construction, particularly in brick and concrete. It typically occurs during the initial curing of the cementitious product. Moisture carries these salts to the face of the masonry or concrete where the moisture evaporates.

As the water evaporates, it leaves the salts behind as a white fluffy deposit. Therefore, to remove it, brush the deposit off when the wall is dry. It usually disappears with time after rains or washing with water.

Efflorescence is generally an aesthetic concern and not a structural one. However, where there is excessive efflorescence, the crystallizing salts within the pores of the masonry can disrupt even the strongest material. As a result, this can lead to the breaking up and crumbling of the structure.

How to prevent damp damage in your freestanding walls

Rising Damp

Rising damp is not easy to resolve in any freestanding, boundary or garden walls because of the lack of DPC.  However, you can do the following:

  1. Make sure that there is no pooling of water against the wall. Good drainage away from the walls is essential. If you have a low point in your garden against your boundary walls you will need to create a hole in the wall at the lowest point for the stormwater to drain away. Your neighbours have to accept a certain amount of your stormwater by law.
  2. Try not to overwater your gardens against boundary and garden walls. overwatering will result in sodden earth around the walls and, as a result, rising damp in the wall.
  3. Keep leaves and other debris on the ground which may retain water away from the walls.

Falling Damp

  1. You should waterproof the tops of all freestanding walls with a layer of an acrylic waterproofing system or any other system to prevent moisture intrusion into the top of your boundary and yard walls.
  2. If there is a concrete or brick coping on top of the wall you must ensure that the joints form a water-resistant seal. You should seal all deteriorated joints or porous joints between the bricks and copings.
  3. Seal the top of expansion joints to prevent water from entering the joint with a silicone sealer.

Penetrating Damp

  1. If your freestanding walls are plastered, check the paint finish regularly. It may be time to repaint if the finish is chalky.
  2. If you have a sprinkler system make sure that you are not watering your boundary walls. Sprinklers heads are normally adjustable. If yours are not, change them.
  3. Trim bushes and shrubs so that there is a gap between the foliage, branches and the walls.
  4. If it appears that the moisture is from your neighbours’ sides, you will need to talk to them about the problem.
  5. Clean out and seal vertical expansion joints with a good silicone sealer. Any cracks should be sealed as well. Furthermore, if your plastered walls are covered in crazing cracking wash the wall down. Thereafter, when the wall is dry, seal the wall with a sealer and repaint the wall.

Efflorescence is a sign of damp

Efflorescence is caused by moisture absorbed in the wall evaporating and leaving behind salts as a white powder. Therefore, if you repair and maintain your walls as suggested above, very little efflorescence should appear on your walls.

I am not specifically promoting Prominent Paints as all the well-known paint manufacturers produce the same required paints and sealers. You can use most of them to repair and maintain your freestanding walls.

However, Prominent’s video provides very good advice on how to repair moisture damage to boundary and garden walls!

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » damp in walls

Plumbing

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Plumbing Issues

plumbing and blockages
Advice on DIY repairs when a plumbing issue arises!

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That water or sewage leak

We can’t all afford to call a plumber for every small plumbing issue or blockage. Therefore, it pays to know a few plumbing basics.

Get to know your home’s plumbing from water into the house to sewerage out. You should be able to tackle most minor plumbing repairs yourself. You will need some basic tools.

What to do in case of a plumbing emergency

Do you know the location of your shutoff valve? (Do you know what a shutoff valve is?)

A shutoff valve (stopcock) turns off the water supply, either to your home or to a fitting in the home. In addition, look for the main shutoff valve on the property boundary at the water meter or where the water supply enters your home. Turn this off in the event of a plumbing emergency.

Keep the area around the shutoff valve clean, for ease of access. Grease the shutoff valve from time to time to ensure that it does not seize up.

Blockages in the home

A sink or shower drain blockage is fairly easy to unblock.

Most frequently the blockage is in the u-trap behind, or under the sink. Undo the fastener and remove the pipe to get to the blockage.

Do not use caustic soda to remove blockages!

Shower blockages and smells are fairly common. A buildup of hair causes a shower drain to block. Most drain caps are fairly easy to remove. They either clip or screw into the shower floor. Once the cap is off, remove any blockage. Run the shower on hot for a minute or so to clean out the drain.

Plumbing blockages outside the home

Look at the plumbing pipes outside your home. You will see that pipes have a small, medium or large inspection cap (eye). Open this cap to check for blockages that have not been cleared by cleaning out the drain, or u-trap. Use a hosepipe to flush the pipe out after the blockage has been removed.

Remove the grated cover at the gulleys and check for blockages if a plumbing drain outside your home is smelly. Use a drain auger, or cut off a piece of hosepipe to loosen a blockage.

To check the flow, you should know where your rodding eyes and/or manhole drainage covers are. If caught early, you can resolve the problem by flushing out with a hosepipe.

Safety first when drilling into walls

plumbing

When drilling into walls, in a bathroom or kitchen, take care not to hit a plumbing pipe or electrical conduit. Rather use an electronic multi-detector to locate electrical cables and water pipes. They are a lot cheaper than getting a plumber to repair the pipe. Remember, the hole in the wall will need fixing as well!

plumbing blockages
damp
Damp areas on walls are not always a plumbing leak in the wall. It is often rising damp, water splashing up against the walls or even a geyser or roof leak. Before the plumber chops a hole in your wall or tiles I will inspect and identify the reason for the damp for you. At the same time, I will check your geyser installation.

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THE HOME DETECTIVE » damp in walls

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