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Damp proofing? Advice needed!

(15 Posts)
shockedballoon Sun 05-Jul-15 16:09:13

We live in a back to back terrace on a steep hill. There are steps up to the front door and steps down to the kitchen door which is in the basement.
I've included a pic so you can see what I mean (it's from when we had the dormer done ages ago)

For the past, say 3 weeks, a foisty cabbage smell has been building in a little room off the kitchen. It's bare brick in there, sort of like an 'inside shed' and we use it for storage.
Emptied the room to check for forgotten rotting veg or some other horror, but found nothing. The smell seems to be coming from the walls and some cardboard packaging that was in there was definitely a bit damp.

So - off to Google and now I've confused myself. There are some sites talking about damp and rising damp and others saying there's no such thing and it's actually caused by not letting the walls breathe or something and that chemicals for 'rising damp' protection make it worse.

I obviously need to get a professional to look at it, but I've no idea what sort or have any idea of how it can be fixed - and importantly how much is a fair price.

I've asked our neighbours if they have any smells in their basement and they don't. Also it is not by any plumbing, all that is at the front of the house.

Anyone have any experience advice about this? We don't really have buckets of cash to throw at it so need to be sure that work is right first time. Both me and DH are clueless!

Gosh that was long!

lalalonglegs Sun 05-Jul-15 18:39:19

We sometimes get a drain-y/rotten veg smell if the cat has hidden a dead mouse somewhere. Damp, ime, smells musty rather than foul. Could you have a problem with your drains?

shockedballoon Sun 05-Jul-15 21:20:12

It does smell quite sharp - like something is rotting or moulding, however all drains are at the front of the property and the smell is definitely coming from the side room where the bare brick is, getting stronger towards the back. We've stripped the room of everything and there is no obvious source. I'm thinking condensation damp? We've no extractor fan..?

Tbh, the house has been smelling sort of musty for a while now (say abt 6mnths /a year), it just seemed to have stepped up a gear very recently.

CheeseBadger Mon 06-Jul-15 12:28:37

If it's on an external wall it could be condensation, or it could be penetrating damp. If it's below a blocked gutter that'll be your culprit. If it's an internal wall then it's a bit more complicated. Does it start at the base of the wall? Assuming there's a ventilated subfloor, you could do worse than checking none of the air bricks are blocked.

It won't be "rising" damp, which pretty much doesn't exist.

CheeseBadger Mon 06-Jul-15 13:19:08

Sorry - forgot the whole point of the post above. The important bit is i you do get a pro in to look at it, make sure they don't work for a damp proofing company. They're salesmen, and will diagnose rising damp which isn't there. A good general builder you trust might be a good start.

bilbodog Mon 06-Jul-15 13:33:45

have you checked outside at the back to see if there is anything suspicious going on there? We had rotten joists in our main reception rooms when we bought due to the ground level at the back of the house being too high and once we dug that out and gravelled it and got the ends of the joists cut off and treated all the damp smells have vanished. I agree with the 'rising damp' not really existing and old houses don't benefit at all from chemical injections. Just find the cause and that should be it. I'd go with the good builder as advised above.

shockedballoon Mon 06-Jul-15 20:58:44

It's an internal wall CheeseBadger, sort of below street level, but half way up a steep hill.

We don't have an outside at the back bilbodog , it's a back to back terrace. There's another house immediately on the back of it - as in we have no windows at the back as they would just be a glass panel into someone else's lounge grin I think they may be a northern thing.

The more I read and more I think about it, it must be condensation as
- we have no central heating in the basement, so it's the coldest floor so where all the humidity in the house will condense
- it's the kitchen, boiling pans, kettle etc
- no extractor fan

The bricks look like they could do with repointing. So maybe get it repointed by a decent builder and a dehumidifier? I've just no idea what else could cause it.

PigletJohn Mon 06-Jul-15 23:12:45

might be leak. Where do the drains and the water supply run?

Is it worse after rain?

Have you got a water meter?

shockedballoon Tue 07-Jul-15 15:21:57

It's at the side of the house towards the back. I can see the water pipes at the front of the room where they go up from the stop cock and boiler - all at the front of the house.

CheeseBadger Tue 07-Jul-15 15:44:38

When you say towards the back, I'm assuming you mean not so far back that your "behind neighbour" might have an issue that's causing it? Is it possible that the next door neighbour who shares that wall has a leak? Or has installed an unvented non-condensing tumble dryer in that room?

PigletJohn Tue 07-Jul-15 17:15:19

have you got a water meter?

how is this room ventilated?

Where are the drains and the waterpipe for the kitchen sink?

tape some clear plastic tightly to the walls and floor. Does water form on top of the plastic (condensation) or under it (damp surface)?

Go outside during rain. Does the gutter or downpipe overflow?

shockedballoon Tue 07-Jul-15 19:19:52

I've put more pics of the little room where the smell is coming from, you can see why I call it the inside shed! One pic shows an area the mortar seems to have come away.

The smell does seem to be right at the back. Just had another look and concentrated 'sniff' iyswim. Seems to be much worse today - really cabbagey, wasn't as bad yesterday. Definitely more concentrated at the back under the stairs at head height - smell is more traditional damp smell nearer floor level.

I went next door on Sunday to ask if they had smelt anything etc. Next door has the basement completely separate from the house as a tiny studio flat. New tenant just moved in (I think he's a student - his mum was there unpacking grin ) Again they have all plumbing at the front. They had no smell and the area it would've come from has been turned into a built in wardrobe - they stuck their head in and smelt inside it - no smell.

Argh! I just want our house to smell nice again, it's really pissing me off now. My mum has a dehumidifier but I can't pick it up until school hols have started (lives nearly 2hr drive away), though I don't see how that would get rid of the smell sad

shockedballoon Tue 07-Jul-15 19:40:08

We don't have a water meter. Gutter doesn't overflow (it did in 2013 winter and we had it redone - bit of damp on the front wall by the lounge which has now dried out). Room has a small vent on the front wall. All plumbing at the very front of the house.
I will try the plastic thing. We do generally have the external kitchen door open when we cook and the door to upstairs is literally always open.

PigletJohn Tue 07-Jul-15 22:59:33

if this room is adjacent to the kitchen, how far from it is the drain for the kitchen sink, and the pipes for the taps?

what is on the other side of that wall where the mortar is missing?

shockedballoon Wed 08-Jul-15 08:17:47

Pic is at the back & right corner of the house.

Furthest back our water supply goes is about halfway nearer the front and that's to the shower over the bath 2 floors away.
Kitchen sink and washing machine are right by the front wall, as is all drainage.

House adjacent on the right has drainage in same place (front) as far as I could see when I went round on Sunday. Area at back left (i.e. next to our smelly corner ) is a built in wardrobe that doesn't smell.

Tbf we haven't knocked on house behind in next street to see if they have any issues. Would be massively surprised if they have any drainage /water pipes in that area given general layout of the back to back in our street. Will try this this eve.

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