Are Basements in Victorian Houses always prone to damp and what can you do to help?

(13 Posts)
dartingtonday Thu 14-Oct-21 10:47:16

Hi,
We are looking for a family home and have seen a few listed with basements. One that we have already seen has obvious signs of damp. The agent was playing the issue down massively.
I remember a conversation with a builder previously who advised that these sort of basements are always prone to damp and to proceed with extreme caution.

Has anyone got any advice/words of caution for us? Are those positive pressure pumps effective?
I've seen @PigletJohn giving some really helpful advice on other threads.

OP’s posts: |
cabinfever102 Thu 14-Oct-21 10:50:56

Never had one but a friend has and they spent quarter of a million building and within a very short time it started leaking water and has flooded several times, their builders went bust and no recourse. It looks awful in the back room and has mould growing on the walls snd smells horribly damp and the drains don't clear properly either. The front of the it is huge but really dark and is just full of kids junk. Honestly for the money they spent I think what a nightmare. They cannot afford to do anything major about it so just go from flood crisis to damp crisis and live with it. I would just move to a house that doesn't. You are more likely to have some sort of problem than not.

toastfiend Thu 14-Oct-21 10:56:52

My parents have a Georgian house with a basement. Basement has been completely redone, they've lived previously in another big Georgian house for decades so have lots of experience of managing that type of property, and they've put a lot of money into it, and are happy to pay the higher running costs of keeping it warm etc., but it's still damp. There's always a dehumidifier running in the basement but it still seems, and smells, damp to me. I'd avoid in future, I think, and, whilst their house is gorgeous, I'm not convinced they'd go for the same again now.

minipie Thu 14-Oct-21 13:17:37

Do you mean an original Victorian cellar or a recent basement dig out ?

Original Victorian cellars - might be damp might not, depends on the local water table but they are likely to be a bit musty at least. Ours isn’t very damp but cardboard and fabric does tend to attract a bit of moisture and I wouldn’t store anything precious down there.

Basement dig outs: it’s all about whether the damp proofing has been done properly with a decent pump and has the pump been well maintained. Impossible to tell really if you didn’t do the work yourself. There should be guarantees from the builders and pump company etc, if there aren’t that’s a bad sign,

YukoandHiro Thu 14-Oct-21 13:21:37

We live in a top floor flat of a Victorian property and even up there is terribly damp. It's awful. I'm desperate to move. I don't recommend it

BlueMongoose Thu 14-Oct-21 15:27:15

A surveyor would be the best person to ask. It depends such a lot on the house- has the cellar been tanked, does it have a pump, all sorts.

A mate had a damp Victorian house, tried everything, nothing really worked, then got forced ventilation, problem solved. He uses the cellar as a workroom, but according to him that's now the only less-than-bone-dry room, but he accepts that, and it's not damp as in 'water running down the walls' or anything, just not 100% dry, if you get me.

PigletJohn Thu 14-Oct-21 18:42:26

A Victorian cellar was usually intended for keeping the coal in, and was damp. Some large houses kept the servants, wine and kitchen there, and were damp.

My neighbour's cellar used to flood in high tides, and is damp.

Tanking the inside of damp walls is fundamentally unsound, because the pressure of water through the wall is liable to push the tanking off. Possibly there are areas where the soil is unusually dry and this does not happen.

Victorian houses have drains and waterpipes next to the house. AFAIK the drains are always cracked and leaking, which delivers water into the ground so it makes the cellar damp. Water pipes are very often leaking.

Modern practice is to accept that underground structures will always be damp, and to construct a false wall and raised floor inside them, with waterprood lathing, so that water penetrating the walls and floor will trickle into the gap and run into a sump, from which it can be pumped out.

If you have a cellar that is just slightly damp, you can prevent it getting worse by mending the drains and providing lots of ventilation. When the ventilation evaporates the water and blows it away as fast as it enters, the cellar will stop getting more damp. This means the cellar will be cold as well as damp.

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Why2why Thu 14-Oct-21 20:32:01

This is very interesting and useful. We were thinking of building a basement but now I think not.

PigletJohn Thu 14-Oct-21 20:37:45

it's not mainstream building work in UK. In Germany, cellars are very common and the standards and techniques are much better understood.

Phalarope Thu 14-Oct-21 20:47:30

We’ve got a Victorian cellar. It’s fine - bit damp so I wouldn’t keep anything in it that might absorb water like wood or cardboard boxes. But the washing machine lives there happily, plus shelving for tools and garden stuff including the lawnmower. We fantasise about getting it tanked and using it as a living space, but then where would we store all the STUFF.

dartingtonday Thu 14-Oct-21 21:24:39

Many thanks for all the replies.

It's a Victorian cellar @minipie

@PigletJohn- many thanks, very helpful. I haven't heard of this before 'Modern practice is to accept that underground structures will always be damp, and to construct a false wall and raised floor inside them, with waterprood lathing, so that water penetrating the walls and floor will trickle into the gap and run into a sump, from which it can be pumped out'

It sounds as if it would at least be an idea to get a company to perform a drain inspection and consider one of those positive pressure pumps and presumably airing it very regularly and using radiators to warm it too?

OP’s posts: |
Why2why Thu 14-Oct-21 22:03:36

When you think about it, it makes sense that damp would be a problem. I’ll ask my engineer colleagues what they think but it’s easy to appreciate why, with the best will and techniques it will be a constant issue to keep at bay.

LittleWingSoul Thu 14-Oct-21 23:09:46

I lived in a basement flat of a large edwardian house for 3 years. We ran dehumidifiers in the two most buried rooms of the house (the bedrooms) day and night and emptied them daily. I grew used to the smell but I bet everyone else could smell it on me! The walls had creeping black mould and it was very hard to heat.

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