• Chris Reynolds

Why are Cornish Properties especially damp?

Cornish property by and large, is no more damp than in any other areas of the UK but it does have its fair share of challenges.

When we think of Cornwall we tend to think of happy holiday memories of sunny days spent on stunning beaches. Cornwall after all, apart from its border with Devon, is surrounded by the sea. The southwest and in particular, Bodmin Moor, ranks as one of the wettest regions in England!

Cornwall can in fact, suffer from some of the UK's most extreme weather events such as flash floods and heavy snowfall. It suffers from extreme south westerly wind driven rain. After all, its in the south west!

Combined with this, Cornwall is officially one of the poorest regions in Europe. Much of its income is or was derived from Fishing, Mining, Agriculture and Tourism. The latter obviously having a seasonal element to it. This means there is a lot of agriculture property with agriculture ties and there is a lot of post second world war prefab housing known as Cornish or Cornwall units. These are structures made of concrete based render panels fixed to concrete frames at first floor level.

Prior to this, a lot of housing stock was built from concrete block which is a composition of waste rock from mining and quarrying and beach gravel that over time and due to damp atmospheric conditions, leads to a deterioration of the minerals otherwise described as 'Mundic'. Mundic block is a common place term heard in reference to some Cornish property normally meaning you cannot get a mortgage on this type of property.

A lot of housing stock aligned with the Fishing, Mining and Agriculture industries was built to accommodate the local workforce. It had a practicality rather than functionality and built using materials to hand rather than imported. To be fair, a lot of this kind of property is still standing today and is highly sought after as second home property but they are not without their remedial issues.

I have covered weather conditions and type of construction as being reasons for damp issues but the most common place problem I come across is the poorly thought through or misplaced use of 'remedial' repairs for damp problems. Often carried out by a local builder who may have little or no understanding how a structure reacts with excessive moisture in the air or in the ground.

This will often result in damp affected walls having been rendered and or, they have been dry lined internally. Ask yourself when viewing a property, why has it been rendered possibly to only one or two elevations. Use a compass App to determine the south westerly elevations and if it is these elevations that are rendered this will almost definitely be a remedial job rather than someone having thought they would do this to improve the appearance of these walls. Equally, tap these walls on the internal side. If they sound 'hollow' this will almost definitely be a wall that has been dry lined either dot and dabbed or battened and unless it was for an insulation value the it will have been to cover over a damp problem. Rendered and dry lined and you could have a bit of a problem on your hands as this wall/s, when originally built, will have possibly been working in a way to accept any moisture but would dry down. Stop this process or inhibit it and you can create a far worse damp problem including the dreaded Dry Rot.

Again and to be fair, some of these poor remedial measures may have been undertaken when product solutions were limited, funds for the repairs limited and work where possible, is always best given to a local tradesman who may have learned of remedial damp proofing processes in a handed down fashion or discussed over a pint in the local with another builder.

So, whilst you would be living in one of the most beautiful places in the UK you will be looking at property that can be faced with any number of challenges. The key is to remember why you are living here in the first place and to continue to enjoy that. Then get in touch with a qualified surveyor or tradesman who most importantly, treat your property with respect and sympathy to ensure the right thing is done by it!

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