How Do Surveyors Check For Damp?

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check for damp

Damp is a word no one wants to hear, whether you’re trying to buy or sell a property. It doesn’t only look bad but can also pose serious health risks if you’re exposed to damp for too long.

So, when it comes to buying a house, a survey will be one of the first things you will have to organise. You will have all sorts of questions like ‘what do surveyors look for? How do surveyors check for damp?’

Well wonder no more because we have the answers!

We’re not only going to answer ‘how do surveyors look for damp’ but also detail what a damp survey is and how to fix damp, if it has been found.

If you have a specific question, this menu will help you to find the answer:

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What do surveyors look for?

As you may expect, surveyors will look at different things depending on the type of house survey you’re wanting. The different types of house survey are condition report; homebuyer report; and a full structural survey.

Condition report

A condition report is the most basic type of survey, meaning the surveyor will look at the property less closely and will produce a report in less detail. The survey is designed to complement the mortgage valuation and provides an overview of the property’s condition, detailing any risks, urgent defects and potential legal issues. These reports are normally most suitable for newer houses, as these should have fewer potential issues.

Homebuyer report

A homebuyer report, or home condition survey, is the most commonly requested survey and is suitable for most standard built properties in a decent condition. The survey will have all the same details as a condition report, plus some guidance on maintenance and repairs needed on the property. This report will also highlight any defects which may impact the property in the future.

Full structural survey

A full structural survey, also known as a building survey, is the most comprehensive survey you can get. This survey is generally needed for larger and older properties, as well as properties built with an unusual layout or unusual building materials. A full structural survey is also needed for properties in a bad state, which will require lots of repairs, or those which you wish to make significant structural changes.

If you’re wanting to know more about house surveys, have a read of this!

Will a HomeBuyers survey pick up damp?

A HomeBuyers survey is a detailed inspection of the property, which is carried out by a chartered surveyor, followed by a written report. A HomeBuyers survey will pick up damp, as it’s a fundamental aspect of an inspection.

The damp inspection will be a less detailed check, with the surveyor having a quick look over the walls, floorboards, etc, whilst also using a handheld moisture meter. To get a more detailed look at damp, you will need a damp survey (don’t worry – more on this later!)

How do surveyors check for damp?

As we mentioned earlier, surveyors will do a visual check for damp and will also check using a handheld moisture meter. The meter will indicate to your surveyor if the moisture in the walls is higher than it should be. The surveyor will also inspect the damp proofing and drainage of the house.

You could also get a damp survey which will give you a more thorough check and accurate report of the damp in the home.

A mortgage surveyor will check the property for all the different types of damp (little hint – we’re going to talk more about the different types of damp very soon. Just direct your eyes down the page!) They will also look for signs of damp which has been caused by plumbing related issues.

Types of damp:

Rising damp

Rising damp, as the name suggests, is caused by water rising up from the ground through the walls of the building. Naturally walls and floors do allow in a little water, but it’s normally stopped by a ‘barrier’ called a damp-proof course or damp-proof membrane.

Penetrating damp

Penetrating damp is usually caused by rain seeping into your house from outside. Penetrating damp is normally caused by structural problems in a building or as a result of build-up of water after heavy rainfall, or in blocked pipes and gutters.


Condensation is caused by moist warm air condensing on cold walls, creating water droplets on the surface. Condensation is a form of damp which most people will be familiar with, as a little bit of condensation is normal, depending on the season, but excessive condensation is where the issues begin.

Are damp meters reliable?

There are two different types of damp meters which your surveyor may use: pin-type and pinless.

A pin-type damp meter uses electrical resistance to measure the presence or absence of water in wood, drywall, hay, etc. The amount of the resistance measured is used to calculate how much water is present in the material. Water is a conductor so the less resistance that there is the higher the moisture content of the material. A pin-type damp meter is the most reliable type of meter, as there are probes to more accurately measure the resistance.

A pinless damp meter uses an electromagnetic frequency to look at a specific area for the presence of moisture. Pinless are less precise as the moisture measurement is an average of the total area scanned. However, they are a faster method at detecting the presence of hidden pockets of moisture.

What is involved in a damp survey?

A damp survey will involve mapping the moisture patterns within the walls and their impact on the timber. The ‘map’ created will reveal how moisture is flowing through the walls, where salts have been deposited and where the problems are occurring.

The map created during the damp survey won’t be enough on its own to provide all the information needed to come up with a solution to any potential problems. To add more detail, it’s advisable that you have a general house survey (at a level of your choice) to go alongside the damp survey to help record full details of the construction and defects with the property.

How long does a damp survey take?

How long a damp survey takes will depend upon the type of damp survey you get. A detailed damp survey can take up to 5 days, whereas a less detailed survey will take between half a day to a full day.

Of course, the length of time a damp survey will take will also depend upon the size of the property and also whether any damp is found and how big the area of damp is.

Damp survey cost

The damp survey cost will differ depending upon the size of property and number of rooms. Where you live will also impact the damp survey cost, with areas like London and the South East being more expensive.

Here we have a price guide to help give you a rough idea of the damp survey cost:

 Size of property Average cost
 2-bed flat £200
 3-bed terraced house £250
 4-bed detached house £300

Statistics from ‘Checkatrade’

An emergency damp survey will also mean you will have to pay an additional fee of around £50 for same-day survey.

You can also get a ‘PCA damp and timber’ survey, which some mortgage lenders may ask for you to carry out. This type of damp survey will cost an average of around £200 to £300.

How do you fix damp?

Knowing how to fix your damp will rely on knowing what type of damp is present, with each different type of damp having a different solution, as you may expect.

Penetrating damp will normally be solved by replacing or repairing your gutters, to ensure they don’t hold rainwater, as this would result in damp as a result of built-up water.

Rising damp may be harder to fix, and you may find your surveyor recommends installing a damp-proof course into your walls. This consists of injecting the walls with chemicals which will form a water-repellent ‘barrier’ to help prevent future damp and stop the damp from progressing. This course can be very expensive, with it potentially costing thousands of pounds.

We also have some easy ‘top tips’ on how to minimise and avoid damp in your home. Following these tips will help to save you lots of time and money further down the line:

  1. Heat every room – leaving rooms unheated will lead to cold spots, which are more susceptible to damp. This doesn’t mean you need to have your heating on full blast all the time but if you do struggle with damp issues it’s worth thinking about more consistent heating
  2. Air out your home – even if it’s cold outside, you still need to make sure you’re letting the damp air out, especially if you’re one to not have your heating on very often
  3. Pipes, drains and gutters – ensure you’re checking these regularly to make sure they’re not getting blocked up with any leaves or plants, as this will cause a rainwater build up, which will result in damp
  4. Check window frames – make sure you look for any rotting or peeling paint as this is normally an indication that you either have damp or will get damp if you don’t solve these smaller issues
  5. Feel your walls – may sound slightly silly, but damp can be present before you will be able to smell it so having a feel of your walls will help you to spot damp earlier
  6. Close doors when bathing or showering – keep your door closed until you have removed all the moisture, through either your extractor fan or even an open window. This will help prevent moisture from spreading around your house, causing damp
  7. Check your roof doesn’t have missing tiles – missing tiles will cause leaks in your house, which will lead to damp
  8. Check roof insulation is dry – a similar step to feeling your walls. If your roof insulation is wet, this is a pretty good indicator either that you have damp or you will have damp if the issue isn’t resolved quickly
  9. Washing machine and tumble drier – make sure these two items are externally vented, as washing and drying your clothes naturally brings moisture which you don’t want nestling in your home

Well, that’s everything you need to know about damp, including the answer to ‘how do surveyors check for damp’ and all things damp survey! Do you have something to add? Or maybe you fancy having a go at writing an article yourself? Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

photo of Millie Archer

Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.

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About Millie Archer 142 Articles
Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You'll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.

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