Water coming down chimney? Selling house!

(28 Posts)
turquoise50 Thu 20-Aug-20 14:25:27

I live in a Victorian end-terrace. The chimney breast in my lounge and the wall to one side of it have become very damp, especially (but not only) when it rains. The wallpaper is peeling off up to about 1m high and the plaster looks to have gone friable in one area at least.

My neighbour is a builder and so far he's done the thing where they drill holes in the brick and inject a chemical - it was already there but he's extended it one row higher - and he's also re-pointed a large area where there was previously a shed attached to the house. He's only done it up to about head height because it looks ok above that.

He did it at the weekend but then yesterday it rained torrentially and last night the wetness seemed worse than ever. Honestly sitting in my lounge felt like a sauna, there was so much humidity in the air. So I’m now thinking the water is coming in from somewhere else and what he's basically done is block the partial escape route which it had before through the gaps in the brickwork.

The obvious candidate for point of entry is the chimney, especially as I’m sure I heard something fall down it a couple of months back, although the problem pre-dates this. There are also some much much smaller damp patches on the chimney breast in the bedroom above the lounge. I’m assuming that whatever kind of cover the chimneys had on them (there are four, I think) has come off or partially off.

My question is: has anyone any experience of getting something like this fixed and could give me even a vague idea of how much it would cost please? Covid has sadly destroyed my livelihood, and the small amount of money I have left is earmarked for a course which I badly need to retrain for a career change. I've already paid the neighbour several hundred pounds for the job he did, which I don't begrudge because it really did need re-pointing, but I can't afford to spend any more unless it's guaranteed to fix the problem.

To make matters worse, I need to sell the house next year! Most houses round here sell to BTL landlords who tend to gut them, so properties in move-in condition tend to take longer to sell than ones in need of refurbishment. Which makes me wonder if it's even worth fixing or whether I should just take a price hit instead. Can I even do that? What would be the relative costs?

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Beebumble2 Thu 20-Aug-20 15:00:50

Water ingress is always a difficult thing to source, especially in chimneys.
We had a long search for water ingress in a very tall brick chimney. First we had the flashing repaired ,(the lead covering where the chimney goes into the roof) so get that checked for damage. Unfortunately it didn’t sort our problem and in the end we had the whole chimney replaced, repointing wasn’t an option because the bricks had become porous.
Not the news you wanted to hear, sorry.

Beebumble2 Thu 20-Aug-20 15:02:59

Sorry, you asked about costs, it was a couple of thousand, but did involve scaffolding. Also, a building warrant and inspection. ( Scotland)

Loofah01 Thu 20-Aug-20 17:57:12

Is this a used fireplace? if not it should be vented to help dry it out. Is there a cowl or cover over the top? I'm about to re-point outside my chimney as over time the water has washed out the mortar and in heavy rain I get a nice deluge of water coming straight through the wall!
The noise you heard could have been part of the lining falling off, presumably due to water ingress. Three main points to check are the top cover, lead flashing at the roof and mortar . Can you stick your head in the fire place and look up with a torch?

turquoise50 Thu 20-Aug-20 18:09:37

The fireplace isn't used, and has been boarded up since I moved in. I’m a bit terrified to remove the board!

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CalicoTheCat Thu 20-Aug-20 18:58:15

Definitely check your flashing. Water started coming down our chimney earlier this year and that was the problem.

turquoise50 Thu 20-Aug-20 21:15:40

Thanks for the info. Hadn't heard of thought about flashing, I thought the cowl (?) or whatever the 'lid' on the chimney is called, must have broken and fallen down it.

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c24680 Thu 20-Aug-20 21:19:36

Same issue in our house, neighbours have cowls and have no issues, we didn't but have just had some fitted today, it cost £120. I'm really hoping it fixes the issues as we want to move in 2 years as well

user1471528245 Fri 21-Aug-20 01:47:37

Definitely check the flashing, that’s the lead around the chimney that keeps the water out of the gap between chimney and roof, if the cement or flashing have come away the water will run down the outside of the chimney stack into the house soaking the chimney Breast and walls around it your builder should be able to sort easily just needs to get on the roof (surprised they didn’t check that first as it’s the obvious culprit every time, assuming it doesn’t need any lead it shouldn’t be more than a couple of hundred to fix

Loofah01 Fri 21-Aug-20 09:34:39

turquoise50

The fireplace isn't used, and has been boarded up since I moved in. I’m a bit terrified to remove the board!

Just checking - it's boarded up and NOT vented? There should be a vent where the front of the fireplace opening would be; if not then you will forever have damp issues even if you fix everything else.

Babamamananarama Fri 21-Aug-20 09:49:16

From a sale POV I think you'd be wise to try spending a few hundred to get the chimney repaired rather than selling it as something with an ongoing issue, which is potentially going to knock thousands of your sale price and definitely put a lot of buyers off.

Requinblanc Fri 21-Aug-20 09:51:48

I am sorry but this should be your priority. If you leave it, it will only get worse and the damage more extensive and expensive to fix.

Get this investigated and sorted. Only a professional can give you a quote and assess what needs to be done.

If you are in financial trouble I would also sell the place now, after you have fixed the damp, rather than wait until next year. You can then downsize to somewhere cheaper...

MoveOnTheCards Fri 21-Aug-20 09:54:31

We had a leak that was via the flashing. We got that re-done and extended and the chimney repointed. Cost us a couple of grand including scaffolding.

Nickschick Fri 21-Aug-20 09:58:15

We sell cowls where I work and they are about £30, obviously they then have to be fitted but if you want to try the cowl route first I think buying one online would be more cost effective and getting someone to fit it.

turquoise50 Fri 21-Aug-20 13:00:41

@Loofah01

No, there's a piece of painted chipboard (?) just screwed across where the opening should be. Is this what's causing the damp? What do you mean exactly by a vent? I’m sure I've lived in other places with disused fireplaces but I guess most of those had a gas fire there. I've never lived anywhere where it just wasn't used at all so I wasn't aware you had to do anything different! (Like I say, it wasn't me that boarded it up.)

@Requinblanc Thanks for the advice but there are complex reasons why I can't move until next year. If I moved now, I'd actually have to move twice - once locally and once long distance.

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PigletJohn Fri 21-Aug-20 14:31:34

Chemical injections do not cure leaks.

PigletJohn Fri 21-Aug-20 14:37:49

In your case it sounds like there is a defect, possibly at the top of the chimney if rain is getting in. You may need a roofer.

But:

Start by opening up your boarded-up fireplaces so that air can flow up, and out of the top. Although this will not cure a leak (if there is one) it will evaporate away some water and the water vapour will escape out of the top (water vapour is lighter than air, and rises. Hence clouds).

Disused chimneys must always be ventilated top and bottom or they will become damp. An airbrick-sized vent is usually adequate, but in your case you already have a damp problem, so open it fully. If you discover builders have hidden rubble in there, it needs to be dug out and taken to the tip, as it will hold damp. This is common.

turquoise50 Fri 21-Aug-20 17:24:17

Thanks @PigletJohn, I will try this. The chemical injection was just in case the water was coming in through the wall from below rather than above, which was a possibility that only occurred to me later because it stops a metre up from the floor. My neighbour basically admitted though that it was a process of elimination with these things.

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PigletJohn Fri 21-Aug-20 18:22:47

" it stops a metre up from the floor"

I'd suspect a fireplace filled with rubble. There might perhaps be a water leak, but because the hearthstone (unlike the walls) will not have a DPC when the house was built, damp can rise through it. But even normal damp can rise through rubble or infill (behind the fireback). Good clean brickwork does not carry damp so much.

If you are not fond of pick and shovel work, pry off the boarding and see what you find.

Loofah01 Fri 21-Aug-20 18:34:41

As pigletjohn says, get it opened up. I guess that the invented chimney has caused damp and in turn caused further issues but hopefully nothing too expensive...

turquoise50 Fri 21-Aug-20 19:11:36

Thanks everyone

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OliviaBenson Fri 21-Aug-20 19:34:23

I can't believe your neighbours works- I hope you didn't pay for them? You've been done if you have.

turquoise50 Fri 21-Aug-20 21:10:52

The neighbour and I agreed that it was a process of elimination to identify the source of the issue, starting with the cheapest and simplest job to see if that would fix it. Really don't see what's wrong with that. The wall genuinely needed repointing, irrespective of this, as there were big gaps in the brickwork across a large area which clearly hadn't been looked at for a very long time (as I say, there was a shed there until a couple of years ago, too close to the wall to allow anyone to get in between.) Neither of us could have known for sure that the source of the damp was elsewhere without going down this route first. I had a smaller damp patch on a different wall once before; he repointed that for me and it fixed the issue, and he's done the same on his own house. It was the obvious first port of call.

And yes of course I paid him, he spent a weekend and two evenings of his free time doing a job at my request, and it would have cost me a great deal more to get someone else in to do it. He's a friend and was trying to help me out, so I find the suggestion that he was trying to rip me off a little offensive tbh.

If the source of the problem is a previously unsuspected issue with the fireplace, which I didn't invite him in to examine, then that's hardly his fault. We agreed that the chimney was the next thing to look at if the issue continued, but I told him I was trying to keep costs down so we were trying to avoid that.

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OliviaBenson Fri 21-Aug-20 22:12:12

Elimination doesn't mean injecting walls though, that's a sticking plaster. Sorry but you've been had. And if it's a Victorian property, any cement based plaster/tanking/pointing will make things worse in the long run.

You should always find the source of the damp and with a chimney, it's pretty obvious.

turquoise50 Fri 21-Aug-20 22:41:57

No I have not been 'had', because I asked for these jobs to be done, they weren't suggested to me, it was my own request to (hopefully) find a quick and cheap solution. So if anyone has 'had' me, then it is myself, but it was far from obvious that the chimney was definitely to blame, because the worst of the wetness is on the section of wall to the right of the chimney breast, not on the chimney breast itself. It wasn't even clear whether the problem was external or possibly caused by condensation.

My neighbour, whom you seem so desperate to slander, was the one to suggest that the chimney may be the problem. My response was that I couldn't really afford to pay for major works involving scaffolding so please could he at least try something else first. I’m sorry if someone has ripped you off in the past and you are now projecting, but that's not what happened here.

I’m curious about your comment re repointing - what would you suggest I should have done instead? Leave open holes in multiple places in my brickwork?

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