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Building Problems and Solutions Advice

Building problems and solutions

As a contractor, you’re probably going to be asked all kinds of questions by homeowners about how to deal with different problems. Here’s a few of the biggest problems for homeowners with solutions to help give some advice should these issues come up.

What is asbestos and what does asbestos look like?

Asbestos was no longer used as fire-resistant insulation in buildings before 2000 (although it was most commonly used in houses built before 1980) and can be found in ceiling or floor tiles and wall cavities. It’s a mixture of fibres that, if undisturbed can be harmless. However, because of renovation or deterioration, which can cause asbestos fibres to get into the air, it can be dangerous when breathed in, damaging the lungs.

Asbestos can take on a variety of forms, and used in anything from cement to plastics and textured coatings like Artex, it’s hard to identify. If you have a client that really isn’t sure if they have asbestos, it is possible to send a sample to a lab to get it identified, you’ll find a list of asbestos testing services on Google. It might seem extreme, but paying for asbestos sample testing can decide whether or not an expensive removal of asbestos is needed or not.

Removing asbestos

If asbestos is discovered, the best advice is to contact a company that deals with asbestos removal. As a contractor, keep breathing protection on at all times where asbestos, or suspected asbestos, is discovered and ensure that your team and the client do the same.

Rot and damp in the home

Rot and damp in the home should never be ignored, even if there are just small signs that appear as patches on walls or timber. If your client mentions it in passing or just needs some advice, the best thing to do is suggest it gets dealt with sooner rather than later.

Causes of rising damp

People often start to notice rising damp with appearance of a tide mark on the walls. This can lead to blistering, staining and bubbling of paint and plaster. This is usually prevented because the foundations of a building have the DPC (Damp Proof Course) barrier to prevent this, but over time the DPC can start to deteriorate. If the property is quite old, especially as far back as the early Victorian era or older, it might not even have this barrier at all.

Solutions for rising damp

It’s tempting for people to go for the quick fix and simply paint over the patches of damp on the walls. But this could be putting off a more involved job in the long run, with unnecessary extra expense. Treating rising damp can be done by drilling holes in the lowest part of the wall in the mortar between bricks, then injecting damp proofing cream. This will dampproof the mortar to keep rising damp at bay.

Causes of wet rot and dry rot

When homeowners find rot, it can often lead to serious concerns about the house and how much it will cost to fix. The first step is to identify the differences between wet and dry rot before working out how to deal with it.

What is dry rot?

The cause of dry rot is a rather nasty fungus called serpula lacrymans, and when it gets into timber it has the potential to cause serious damage. It is treatable but should be acted on as quickly as possible as it can spread quite fast.

Treating dry rot

The fungal area needs to be treated directly and scrubbed down with a hard-bristled brush. After this, a wood fungus treatment should be applied. In more extreme cases, the section of timber may need to be cut away and replaced, with the treatment added after for prevention.

What is wet rot?

Sometimes wet rot is thought of as the less severe counterpart to dry rot, but it’s still something to take seriously. When the timber of the house becomes damp and never dries through properly, the damp parts of the timber will start to decay. If left without treatment, this can cause serious structural problems.

Treating wet rot

Wet rot comes from moisture being pulled up into the brickwork and timber of a house, so the first thing to do is identify the source. Sometimes this can be quite simple, especially if the damp patches appear near toilets, baths, or appliances like washing machines - essentially anything that requires plumbing - as this means there’s probably a leak. By fixing the leak and allowing the wall to dry through can help to combat the problem. The affected timber will still need wood rot treatment.

Vermin infestation

Rodents such as mice and rats are always looking for shelter that will keep them warm and protected from predators, which sometimes means making our homes theirs too. Rodents are attracted to build up of rubbish or ignored piles of wood, fabric and anything else that can offer coverage. They will also dig directly into houses too if they can find a weak point while searching for food. As if it’s not bad enough that you have these creatures scurrying around the house, they can also cause health issues by leaving droppings, get into cupboards or even chew through cables.

How to get rid of rats and other vermin

There is a wide range of traps that include fatal and more humane options, which is down to personal choice. But unless rodents and other pests are prevented from entering the property, this is going to be an ongoing problem.

Preventing pest infestations begins with identifying entry points into the home and blocking them. It’s a starting point, but it’s important to keep food and water well covered and protected. Homeowners should try to keep perishables in plastic containers where possible, or loose bags of food, including dry dog food in secure places. Never underestimate a mouse’s ability to nibble!