Damp and structural issues anyone?

Hi all, I wasn’t expecting this to be my first post on SE23.Life but I am hoping you can help. I am in the process of buying in the area, on Devonshire Road, and very much looking forward to being part of the community. I’ve had a homebuyers report done today and they have identified probable issues with damp (either rising damp or from the chimney) and possibly movement of the property which could be historic, but a few big cracks still including the retaining walls and boundary walls.

I wanted to ask what might be normal in the area for Victorian homes, and for Devonshire Road/Forest Hill in general and any advice or guidance you may have. Please be brutally honest !

Thanks in advance. Stuart

Hi @Stuartf, welcome to the forum.

When I bought my house in Ebsworth St, the survey also identified rising damp.

I think surveyors can be a bit speculative about this, covering their backs in case damp is later found.

In any case I paid Kenwood £1000 inc VAT for damp proofing and tanking, and they seemed to do a reasonable job as we saw no evidence of rising damp in the five years we lived there.

As for the cracks, if any of them are wider than 5mm I’d be nervous. Otherwise, it’s pretty standard for Victorian homes to have small cracks all over the place.

There is (more or less) no such thing as rising damp. Historic (Victorian or older) buildings suffer from damp for various reasons, mostly to do with modern incompatible building techniques and materials being used or lack of ventilation. Historic buildings (i.e. those with solid single wall construction) require breathability to wick moisture away. All modern building materials contain cement or other non-porous elements that block this from happening. Here is a brilliant website:

that will explain all in detail. Do not inject chemicals and do not pay for damp proofing and tanking. You will be trying to solve a problem by force that you can solve with knowledge.

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That is all well, but the concern may also come from the lender who may not wish to read the reports.

If there is a concern, you may wish to get a closer look into the two issues. A homebuyers report is at its most basic and only includes observations. If you’re spending several hundred thousand on a property, then it is in your best interests to spend a little more to ensure it is a good investment.

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the other thing to say is that forest hill as an area is heavy london clay down to a significant depth. This ground has a fair bit of movement in it through the seasons and the building will have shallow foundations that it will shuffle about on with the movement of the ground, this may result in small cracks (under 5mm is the general rule of thumb for those not to worry too much about, although this changes depending on where the cracks are (e.g through multiple courses of brick or through a lintel). The best thing to do first is to make sure there is no other external condition that could be enhancing the crack e.g. rainwater goods failing/cracked below ground drainage that could be pouring water into the ground around the foundations and washing away the stability of the ground. For a retaining wall, it should have the ability to let water built up behind it through the wall, this could be through small plastic pipes or through deliberate gaps in the wall. If they aren’t present there could be a build up of pressure behind the wall that may result in it buckling/cracking etc.

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If it’s still standing after over 100 year it is unlikely to fall down. Our surveyors report for our property in FH (c1895) read like a disaster movie script. Thankfully we had a relation who has done development and they calmed our nerves.

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Hi
we are on Devonshire and our property had previous subsidence issue before we bought it. It had been diagnosed as due to nearby trees (subsequently felled) and no sign since. I believe the owner has to declare subsidence and damp issues to you? (been a while since we bought!)
We also have damp issues but I don’t think it’s rising damp. More due to redecoration not filling in the areas around electrical wiring / switches with the right stuff.

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Thanks for all the responses so far. I am getting a damp survey done, and agree it will be sensible to get a structural survey. Trying to work out what is part and parcel of buying a Victorian basement flat and surveyors covering their backs versus understanding what issues are legitimate is stressful.

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Yes, that!!