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Why use a Specialist Consultant?

There are many cases where a definitive diagnosis is required for dampness, rot or insect attack of timbers. Frequently, this will form part of legal proceedings were a dispute has developed.

Whatever the case the problem and its causes will need to be accurately-and most importantly - objectively assessed. This will involve the use of those with the appropriate qualifications, knowledge and expertise to undertake such an investigation, and objectively. It is therefore important to ascertain what experience and expertise the specialist has before employing their services.

Why not use, say a Chartered Surveyor? In general terms it is unlikely that they will have the necessary expertise, specialist background or facilities to undertake such specialist work. It is rather like a GP -v- specialist consultant in medicine: 'horses for courses'. In many ways the specialist investigator in damp/timber problems could be regarded as a 'building pathologist'.



In many cases the specialist will need to undertake an investigation: in the case of dampness this will almost always require obtaining objective data by both sampling and making other measurements and observations.


Floor/wall junction plasterwork bridge of physical dpc - injection dpc unnecessarily installed


In the case of dampness especially, data is of paramount importance - figures can be presented which may support (or not) a particular claim. Indeed, such data presented as part of an overall investigation frequently solve the dispute one way or another, thereby eliminating further legal costs, court fees, etc.

Where dampness problems exist the right data must be obtained - if not the dispute may continue unnecessarily and become very expensive. For example, there is little point arguing over surface electrical moisture meter readings; a very small amount of free water/hygroscopic salts can cause high meter readings to be obtained - and on masonry, what do they really mean or reflect when a definitive diagnosis is required?

Similarly, a couple of simple Carbide meter readings would be of little value especially where samples are taken just above and just below an injected damp-proof course. And of course there may be considerable difficulty in interpreting such a minimal amount of data which is probably inadequately taken in the first place. Any site sampling must be done thoroughly and sufficiently for the data to be meaningful, and also very important, suitable for the questions being asked to identify the problem. And of course, can the investigator interpret the results?

Such investigations take time and are certainly not going to be free; the overall work (site investigation, analyses, collation of data and, very important, the preparation of the report) will take several days over a period of time, and fees appropriate that work will be charged.


Dry rot growing over masonry treatment - failure of treatment and to remove timbers out of contact with damp wall

In general, timber investigations are somewhat different. Although one can collect simple data such as moisture content of wood (or masonry if appropriate), site inspections usually revolve more around thorough observation together with the investigator's full understanding of the nature and requirements of the invading organisms, especially in relation to the prevailing conditions. Again, such investigation must remain objective. Occasionally, analytical work may be required. For example, has a timber preservative been applied, and how much? Is there sufficient to be theoretically effective? Such a data will require specialist, authoritative techniques to be used. Again, it is necessary to ensure that the investigator can undertake such work, and equally important, can they interpret the results?


The use of a specialist investigator can prove invaluable where objective in-depth investigations are required. A proper objective investigation into dampness and timber infestation problems will require objectivity and may (almost certainly in the case of dampness, will) require appropriate and sufficient sampling and interpretation of recorded data. It is therefore essential to ensure that the investigator has the expertise, experience and qualifications to undertake that work to produce an objective report which will stand up to scrutiny, especially where legal proceedings may be underway. Indeed, such expertise and knowledge is essential where the investigation may purely revolve around the evaluation of provided documents.

Finally remember, "Yer get out for nowt"; in other words there are no short cuts. Investigations take time, and depending on the requirements, will cost. But a full (as far as reasonably practicable) objective report can save considerable costs in the end, and should (hopefully) be able to resolve the dispute objectively.


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