There is a considerable amount of confusion online about the topic of rising damp. Some say it does exists, others say it's very rare, while some others categorically deny its existence.
If you have been doing research on how to tackle dampness in old buildings, you probably run into Peter Ward from Heritage House dot org, ending up upset, in disbelief or alarmed by some of his statements and conclusions.
Is everyone out there evil, corrupt and after your money, as part of a big scam - except one man, Peter Ward, who is on a mission to expose it all in order to protect old building owners? Not quite.
Heritage House - A web of lies
The information contained there is the personal opinion of ONE man only who depicts a very sinister story of the UK building and conservation industry.
His whole ideology and website is built upon two fundamental statements - both of them lies. These two statements are: (click on the arrows / toggles for more info)
1. Rising damp, as a phenomenon, doesn't exist.
He says: "Rising damp doesn't exist, except in the mind of surveyors trying to sell you injection damp proofing. (...) They are treating something that doesn't exist."
2. Rising damp has been invented in 1962 by the damp proofing industry with the sole purpose to scam and defraud the general public.
He says: "Rising damp has been invented by the chemical industry. In a particular chemical industry boardroom in 1962 actually. (...) I know because I've spoken to a man who was in that meeting."
Let's look at both of these statements in a bit more detail and see whether independent, third party data supports or refute these claims.
Statement #1: Rising Damp Doesn't Exist
After an extensive research of the scientific literature, here are some of the many research papers from all over the world, all of them confirming the existence of rising damp, while also highlighting some of the damages it can create in old buildings.
Click on the arrows / toggles below to view more details about each paper.
Rising damp: capillary rise dynamics in walls, 2007
This UK research paper published by the Royal Society in 2007 not only acknowledges the existence of rising damp, saying that it is an important cause of wetness in buildings...
...but also discusses in detail the various factors influencing rising damp. The paper provides the necessary formulas for the calculation of various rising damp parameters (rising damp height, quantity of water inside the walls etc.) for walls of different thickness.
An operative protocol for reliable measurements of moisture in porous materials of ancient buildings, 2006
This scientific paper published by the University of Bologna, Italy in 2005, states at the very beginning that capillary rising damp (along with other types of moisture) is one of the main problems in old buildings.
The paper discusses the various moisture measurement methods, while also presenting a methodology to relatively easily recreate rising damp under laboratory conditions.
Rising moisture, salts and electrokinetic effects in ancient masonries: from laboratory testing to on-site monitoring, 2013
This research paper on rising damp from 2013 studies rising damp and its effects under both laboratory conditions and in real buildings. The paper acknowledges that rising damp is a complex phenomenon influenced by a multitude of factors, which leads to the decay of both ancient and modern building materials.
Results of rising damp recreated in the laboratory after 6 months are also presented.
This 270-page Austrian technical reference book discusses in great detail every aspect of moisture movement and building Physics.
It describes in detail the development of rising damp through its various phases; one interim phase being interstitial condensation. The book makes a clear distinction between rising damp and condensation, which are two different phenomena.
The stages of dehydration and various mechanisms that contribute to the dehydration of the building fabric are also presented in a logical and structured way.
Rising damp in two traditional clay-brick masonry walls and influence on heat transfer performance, 2019
This 2019 research paper from China studied the effect of rising damp on the heat loss of the building and they found that "the presence of capillary water has a direct impact on the heat transfer coefficient of the wall." - the damper the walls the more heat loss occurs.
More technical papers are listed on our scientific research papers page.
Statement #2: Rising Damp has been invented by the damp proofing industry with the sole purpose to defraud the general public
Spending a few hours digging through Google's old books digitization project, I found some relevant historical references dating between 1840 to 1910 which consistently mention rising damp, damp proof courses and various period damp treatment methods.
Click on the arrows / toggles below to reveal more information about each document.
The Builder was a journal of architecture published between 1843 and 1966. Issues from year 2 (1844) mention dampness rising from the ground due to capillary attraction, and as a solution recommends the use of slate a few inches above the ground, inside the walls, to prevent the ascent of moisture up the walls.
The Building News and Engineering Journal was a long-running British periodical on building and architecture, renamed to The Building News and Architectural Review in 1860, running until 1926.
The 24 January 1862 edition mentions the concept of a damp proof course needed to keep houses dry: "In order to a house being dry, it must stand on a dry foundation; and where this is not otherwise obtainable, artificial means should be adopted, either by forming a stratum of concrete, varying in depth according to circumstances, but never less than 12 inches, by a bedding of slate in cement, or by a bed of asphalte laid through the whole thickness of the wall under the floor level."
The 2 May 1862 edition describes the double slate damp proof course: "... a slate course, consisting of two courses of slate breaking joint bedded in cement, should be inserted in all walls immediately above the ground line to prevent damp rising."
Helps to Health - 1885
Realizing the effect of damp walls onto the health and well-being of inhabitants, between the 1870s - 1890s a number of health bills have been passed throughout UK, all of them recommending damp proof courses as a means to combat capillary rising damp.
"We must now turn our attention to the walls, which is equally necessary to protect from rising damp. If you plant a brick or stone wall o ground which is capable of retaining moisture, it will inevitably happen that unless you take means to stop its progress, the moisture will climb up the walls in obedience to the law of capillary attraction."
Solution to the problem is a vitrified (glass-like) layer of bricks or two layers of slate.
The book also provides technical advice with drawings, presenting the wrong way of laying a slate damp proof course, if gaps are left between them.
Clause 96 of the The London Public Health Act from 1891 stipulates the use of damp proof courses for underground rooms: "Any underground room (...) shall not be let or occupied unless (...) every wall of the room is constructed with a proper damp proof course."
A Treatise on Hygiene and Public Health - 1892
This document on hygiene and public health dating 1892 mentions rising damp and damp proof courses in several sections, the most relevant references from pages 41 and 650 are presented below.
The section from page 41 links the existence of rising damp to higher fuel bills: "Every pound of water so evaporated from the walls of a room means (...) the burn of an extra pound of coal. This is now prevented in better houses by interposing an efficient damp-course, which prevents the water passing upward from the ground."
Page 650 in chapter "Hygiene - The Dwelling" mentions again the need for an efficient damp proof course: "The whole of the walls of the dwelling, whether external walls, party walls, internal cross walls, or sleeper walls supporting the flooring of the lowest storey, must have an adequate damp-proof course to prevent moisture rising in them by capillary attraction."
This book on old buildings published in 1905 describes how ground water affects the base of period buildings built without a damp proof course: "Damp proof courses were unknown when these houses were built; the lower part of the walls in winter was moist and damp".
The study of the scientific and historical literature leads us to the following conclusions:
- Rising damp, as a natural phenomenon, does exist and it's a real problem in old buildings. This has been known and consistently documented since Georgian times. Today's scientific research papers also confirm its existence.
- Researchers agree upon that rising damp is a complex phenomenon, which despite all modern technical advances, we don't yet fully understand. The research, however, is ongoing.
- Rising damp can and has been successfully reproduced under laboratory conditions many times - some research papers listed above evidence that fact.
- Around the 1870s the connection between damp houses and health problems became very clear, As a result a number of health acts have been passed on throughout Britain, among other things addressing the problem of damp dwellings and of rising damp.
- The need for damp proofing developed as a natural consequence to resolve the problem of damp dwellings - in order to make houses drier, healthier and warmer. The damp proofing industry handles a very real problem - not an imaginary or an invented one.
Today's Damp Proofing Industry
Peter Ward suggests that today's damp proofing industry has no legitimacy, and it has been "invented" with the sole motivation to scam and defraud old building owners. All historical documents confirm that this is not the case.
The fact is that today's damp proofing industry as a whole is not better nor worse than any other industry. It is very similar to any other trades or industries, having both high-quality professionals and "cowboys" alike.
I would use the car industry as a comparison as virtually everyone today drives a car, and thus has first hand experience with car dealerships or car repair shops. Among reputable car repair shops aren't out there "cowboy" repair shops that do a sloppy job, overcharge clients or take advantage of the vulnerable or less knowledgeable? Of course they are. Do these examples make the WHOLE car industry a scam that must be eradicated without any judgement? Of course not.
The Role of Peter Ward - His Real Character
For the past decade Peter Ward has been extremely busy creating and maintaining an ongoing conflict between the following three parties:
1. The conservation industry
2. The damp proofing industry, and
3. Old building owners
Presenting himself as a "conservationist", he has been primarily targeting old building owners (the least knowledgeable group on technical matters, thus the easiest to manipulate), being extremely busy in alienating them from the damp proofing industry. His "black marketing" behind the scenes also resulted in considerable distrust between the fields of building conservation and damp proofing.
He achieved all this by two deceptive statements, presented as self-proclaimed "truths".
The first statement (that rising damp doesn't exist) is not only a technical falsehood, but he used this as a pretext to go after and destroy the professional reputation of anyone who questions the validity of this statement. Any professional voicing publicly that rising damp does exist became his target, as it posed a threat to his shady character. So he took "justice" into his own hands and became busy inventing "facts" or publishing "revealing articles", going to great lengths (in many cases bordering illegal) in his quest of destruction.
His second statement (the "conspiracy theory" of the damp proofing industry, that everything is a large-scale scam) created a lucrative foundation for his deceptive marketing strategy, selling overpriced surveys (£1,000 - 1,500) and telephone consultations (£200). After all, convincing old building owners that everyone out there is a scam and after their money, and they shouldn't trust anyone - except him - is one way (although shady and very reprehensible) to get some attention and make some easy money for a good living, "fishing" in the murky waters of self-generated confusion.
His destructive behavior was not limited to damp proofing companies or technologies, but he published libelous statements about leading heritage organizations, professional groups or individuals, even his own customers.
Here are some real-world examples of Peter Ward "in action". You are welcome to draw your own conclusions.
Badmouthing his own customers - old building owners
Here is a Facebook thread dating back 1 October 2013, showing some of Peter Ward's Facebook comments about his customers.
Customer relations "Peter Ward style" at its best:
Why do I spend the time sorting out collapsing Grade 2* houses for arseholes who question the price (...) and they won't pay that because it is too much - the bastard wears a £30,000 brietling gold watch and drives a Maserati - people like this need someone to cover them in brown, smelly, sloppy shit from a great height. Arsehole...
Throwing nails into a customer's driveway
"The bigger the manor, the more they become arseholes. (...) He he... a few handful of nails every so many days on his driveway as they go past is sorting him out - I hate to think how many new tyres he had this month."
Keeping a customer's deposit because he decided to go with a different supplier.
"One northerner contracted to re-point in lime (...) cancelled the contract when he found a local "Pedro" who said he could do it cheaper. Luckily we'd just had a deposit for the windows, so kept that and told him to bugger off."
Derogatory statements about RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors)
Badmouthing RICS, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors
"We are having to deal with an unprecedented volume of incompetent RICS Chartered Surveyors. (...) These people are incompetent at best. (...) RICS Chartered surveyors who use damp meters are professional idiots. (...) The average RICS Chartered Surveyor has not got a bloody clue what he or she is doing. (...) I can prove what a bunch of idiots they are."
Derogatory statements about the SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings)
"People telling us that SPAB believes in rising damp. (...) I cannot believe that such an organization can actually promote uneducated rubbish about "rising damp". It places serious questions about the entire credibility of SPAB. (...)
Doug - rising damp isn't rare, it exists in your fevered imagination only."
Badmouthing the IHBC (Institute of Historic Buidings Conservation)
"The Institute of Historic Building Conservation - the IHBC - who apparently think they know something about old buildings in this country. (...) There are so many holes in the IHBC idiots supervision that you could drive a bus through them."
To satisfy his personal vendetta, he created a fake Twitter account impersonating one of Core Conservation's directors, spreading lies about him. The fake account has been promptly taken down by Twitter when reported, as it violated their terms of service.
A real story: his hate campaign against Core Conservation
Here is a timeline of events on Peter Ward's interaction with Core Conservation.
2018 April - Several attempts to solve the situation peacefully
April 2018: out of the blue, PW posted a negative article on his web site about the Aquapol building dehydration system which we were distributing at that time - calling it a damp scam. This article was published based on a quotation I gave to an old building owner (let's call him Mike) who embarked on the restoration a fairly large listed building, and contacted Peter Ward for some other advice, who thus found out about us.
The interesting part is, Peter published this article WITHOUT any experience about this non-invasive rising damp remedy technology, and without ever informing us about his intent, or reaching out to us to at least maintain an appearance of fair-play.
After his article went online, we tried contacting him many times but he did not reply. We also sent him a friendly email, trying to get a peaceful resolution of this issue. Here is an excerpt of this rather long email:
Then I called the client (Mike) who was shocked upon hearing how his quotation has been mis-used by Pete Ward, and he ensured me he had nothing to do with it. When I shown him my reply to Peter Ward, this is what he wrote me back:
Finally, a few days later, after still not receiving any response from PW, I visited him and we had a good long professional conversation. I must admit, after we "broke the ice", I enjoyed the conversation; we went into a lot of technical details about:
- Rising damp, its mechanism, whether it exists or not
- Movement of moisture in old buildings
- Damp meters, how they work, pros and cons
- Building diagnosis techniques
- Some material science
- Best practices
- Difficult building cases and ways to handle dampness in them
- etc. etc.
Anyway, to keep it short, towards the end of our discussion, Peter also mentioned his own cellar, which was damp despite all measures undertaken and despite having a professional bi-directional ventilation system installed.
After surveying the cellar I told him that the Aquapol system could improve his cellar, however some additional pointing work would also be needed to stop some of the sideways water penetration which I spotted in certain areas. Then I offered him a free trial project by installing and leaving in consignment one of these systems in his basement, free of charge, then by monitoring the results together we can have an objective case study for his readership.
2018 May - Joint scientific trial project (His own basement)
Peter welcomed the idea of a scientific trial project and a few days later we have installed the Aquapol system in his cellar. We initially estimated that it would take 1.5 to 2 years to reach air-dry equilibrium moisture levels in hi cellar. Here are some pictures of his cellar, installation and measurements taken:
After the installation of the system I asked him politely to remove his disparaging article, or at least amend it, indicating that we have started a joint trial project. He refused that on the grounds that we are still dealing with rising damp, which doesn't exist. I left it that way, hoping that after the follow-up moisture checks he will change his mind, as the results will speak for themselves.
November 2018: six months after the installation of the system I tried to contact him again to do the first set of follow-up measurements. He was very hard to reach - no response to multiple emails or phone calls. Then after another two weeks I finally reached him, but he was very unfriendly, strongly hinting that he did not want us to go back.
2019 March - Social media attacks
March 2019: out of the blue starting attacking us on twitter, calling us scam publicly. Here are some of his Twitter posts online with his usual "professional" language.
Notice his last tweet: dating 14th of March, when he wrote: "I'll do some stuff when I get a chance - got my hands on one of their secret wave con machines. 🙂" He was already planning his next round of attacks, showcasing himself as someone smart, giving something valuable for the great public. The fact that we left the unit with him in good faith, as part of a scientific trial project, of course is not mentioned, twisting the truth to suit his own agenda and to harm others.
2019 August - Systematic discreditation campaign
August 2019: further attacks, launched as hinted 5 months ago. He disassembled the Aquapol unit in a public video solely to discredit it, telling that it did not work. But there are a few contradicting things in his statements:
1. At the time of the video the damp proofing system has been working in his basement for 16 months. Before taking the unit apart he did a walk-through of his basement, stating how dry his basement was and how "there is nothing wrong" with it. He also refers to the place as "a basement" withholding the fact that this is "HIS own" house basement - for obvious reasons.
2. If he TRULY believed that the damp proofing technology was a scam and non-workable why he bothered taking it apart with such a fanfare? Just think about it: wouldn't have been easier for him to just let the unit in place, let us go back for follow-up measurements and let us fail? Then based on "no-results" he would have had the most sensational story unmasking the latest damp scam, for real. Obviously, he didn't do that because he saw the positive changes in his cellar. He did not want us to go back and take measurements, to prove the public at large the positive outcome, as this would have discredit him professionally, on several counts:
a). About the existence of rising damp: by us being able to improve his basement, something he could not do (even in his own home!), would have proven his total incompetence in the handling of rising damp.
b). About the technology: he labeled upfront this technology a scam without testing it in any way or having any first-hand experience with it. The workability of this technology would have proven that he was lying. He also destroyed the unit, putting an end to the dehydration process.
c). About his professional expertise: if he can't do anything about the rising damp in his own home (but we could), this would have raised some questions, proving the public out there that professionally he is a fake, who is defrauding old building owners about rising damp, giving them incompetent and incorrect advice (by misinforming them that rising damp does not exist, that they do not need to do anything about it, except a little ventilation and lime plaster which will solve everything). And with this advice on rising damp he is directly contributing to the further decay of many old buildings.
d). Commercial interests: and for his incompetent advice he is charging old building owners over £1,000 + expenses for a survey, while misleading them and giving them no real results.
A professional is someone who can and does achieve results. In the field of rising damp we do, he doesn't.
So he had no reason whatsoever to cooperate with us on the trial project, but on the contrary, he had every reason to sabotage it, undermine it and make it fail in every respect. These were his true motivations.
Here is our public reply to him, uncovering his true motives, his business strategy and hate campaigns against the whole building industry.
Then finally, here is a video about the results of the joint trial project, The condition of his cellar 16 months into the project is described by Peter Ward himself.
The TRUE Information & Supporting Scientific Facts About Rising Damp
As a result, after a significant amount of research onto this subject, we have published extensive information about the TRUE nature of rising damp.
The information presented on the next pages cover the fundamentals of rising damp, both practical and theoretical aspects, supported by latest scientific research from leading universities and researchers all around the world. Most common rising damp myths are also presented and debunked.
Hope you find it interesting and useful while researching and learning more about this vast subject.
For any more information, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to help.