We are looking to purchase a Victorian house that parts of have not been lived in or heated for several years. The walls on 3 sides of the house have been painted on the outside, but on the 4th they are bare brick. On this side of the house, the rooms inside upstairs have mold up to about waist height. some of the floors seem quite springy to walk on too. Are we asking for trouble, or could it be something relatively simple to deal with? Having read an article on your website about someone who had springy floors and it turned out the floorboards were holding up the joists…

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hi Ross,

    This is down to how older houses "breathe". When these homes were built (and unpainted/painted with breathable paints) moisture in the house could permeate through the walls naturally and also through draughty spots like chimneys and windows.

    The problem is, over the years as we have tried to block up draughts and covered our homes in impermeable paints, and so moisture now struggles to escape without adequate ventilation. My guess is this is what has happened here. And the moist air is all trying to escape through the fourth (still breathable) wall, meaning this area is excessively damp. It could also be that this side of the house is north-facing maybe and colder so more likely to be damp anyway.

    Hopefully the damp is all on the surface of the walls. This is something a surveyor doing a full home survey (not just the basic homebuyers survey people get for newer homes) should be able to ascertain. If it is just on the surface as a result of being unheated and cold for a while, getting the windows open, checking air-bricks aren’t blocked up and installing extraction where needed will help and should rectify the issue of excess moisture. Having the house at a stable temp of above 12 degrees C will also help.

    I know the case study you are on about, and hopefully this is not the case (again, it can be checked by inspecting). It may be that the floor boards have started to rot because of the damp. They will need replacing and possibly parts of the joists too.

    Hopefully, this is all superficial and not structural, but the only way to find out is to have a thorough survey conducted. I wouldn’t personally walk away yet. The survey will costs a few hundred, and will state how much repairs will cost.

    We have a few articles which should be able to help you understand the issues more.

    Here is one on damp: http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/existing-homes/renovating/damp

    And here is one on dealing with rotten wood: http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/existing-homes/renovating/timber-decay

    This one on internal wall problems may also be useful: http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/existing-homes/renovating/interior-wall-problems

    I hope this is helpful,

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