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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    High up above and deep down under

    Default Consumers count the cost of rising damp

    Hi Guys

    Sunday News item:

    Consumers count the cost of rising damp
    06 June 2004

    Poor ventilation can affect people's homes and health. ROB STOCK considers some solutions.

    The retching cough volunteer firefighter Sean Smith's asthmatic flatmate developed reflected the seriousness of their home's dampness and mould problems.

    Officials estimate as many as four in five houses are affected by damp and mould problems, which worsen each winter. But, by any standard Sean's house in Glen Eden, Auckland, was an extreme case in any season.

    "At the time, we did not realise how bad it was for his health," says Sean. "My flatmate was just coughing his lungs out."

    The mould was so bad, "we were just clearing it off with our hands. The walls in one room looked like blue cheese."

    Clothes in the wardrobe developed a mildew fur, shoes rotted and the air reeked of mould.

    The costs of damp often include extra cleaning, replacing rotting shoes and stocking up on products such as Exit Mould, but can also extend to increased sickness. In Sean's home, it was literally eating his walls away.

    Sean bought his house in 1999, after it had been moved to the site from further up the road. Although he covered all the bases - LIM report and pre-purchase independent survey - he ended up with a house that soon developed severe rising damp resulting from insufficient drainage.

    But while he was fighting his corner in the courts to get $47,000 compensation, Sean got a lucky break. A brief appearance on TV's My House, My Castle raised his plight and in stepped "forced ventilation" specialist Healthaire, run by Curtis and Jessica Dobbie of Westmere in Auckland. They installed their system for free and it has transformed the house, says Sean.

    "Four years ago, it smelt mouldy throughout the house. The rising damp is still there but there's no mould any more. It has made me much more comfortable wanting to stay here."

    The many systems on the market - such as Healthaire's - take air from the roof space where it has been warmed by the sun and channel it through the house via ceiling vents.

    The makers of these systems make many claims and counter-claims.

    Paul Facoory, managing director of Condensation Control in Dunedin, says lay people would find it difficult to decide on a product because there's "so much misinformation out there".

    Technical whiz Curtis Dobbie, who enjoys a bitter rivalry with Facoory, agrees on that point. "It is hard for people to understand the merits of the systems out there. This is a sales-driven industry."

    The industry is unregulated and claims made come under no scrutiny.

    "I have contacted the consumer protection people, but they say they are too busy to investigate," says Dobbie. "It is absolutely pathetic."

    And in a fragmented industry, there are a lot of names in the market to choose between including DVS, HRV and Avon. Internet searches under Drivaire, Clean-aire, Airmax, and Wiess will also throw up results.

    There are two types of system: forced-air ventilation and heat-recovery. A recent Consumer magazine report showed prices varied from around $1200 up to more than $4000, though costs varied according to the size of the home.

    Comparisons of the systems are not easy. Consumer did not recommend any specific brand or make, as the systems should be tailor-made for each home. But suppliers agree consumers can level the playing field.

    They say no one should sign a contract for a system without having a money-back clause. It is not uncommon for firms to offer a "three winter months" guarantee. If the homeowner is not happy with the results during three winter months, the supplier will readjust it and, if the customer is still not satisfied, take it out.

    Though they take their system away, they will only seal the ceiling vents rather than remove them. Another system can then be put in and the homeowner has not lost out.

    In comparing systems, homeowners should:

    * Ask for references from the company. Someone in your area may have had a system fitted. Ask around among friends.

    * Find out if the system is powerful enough for your house: Consumer says ideally you should change all the air in your house or room every hour. The manufacturers rate their products by the floor area of the house, assuming the room height is the standard 2.4 metres. That gives an indication of suitability. You can also check the system's airflow and work out how often it will turn over the air in your home. If you can't do it yourself, get the salesman to help you crunch the numbers. Then check it out with a friend.

    * Decide the level of filter you need. Each system has a filter to keep out dust, depending on the amount of dust in, for example, the roof space. Fibre-glass requires a filter to take out particles of one micron. Also check how often the filter needs replacing. If you live by a busy road, the size of the filter is even more important.

    * Get a guarantee. Ask for how long the firm will back its system. Three years should be a minimum. Five is common.

    * Ask how much the system will cost to run. This is hard to verify.

    * Make a note of the salesman's claims. Some claim to be able to eliminate condensation. A careful note will make it easier to argue your case if the system lets you down.

    * Check whether the system contains "in-line" heating. Does your property need it?

    * How noisy is the system? It may bother you at night.

    Tips for a drier home include:

    * Ensure the floor is well-ventilated and that walls are properly sealed. Polythene put over damp ground can help prevent rising damp.

    * Install a range-hood, a bathroom extractor fan, and don't use unflued gas heaters.

    * Dehumidifiers will help. Consumer rates the Delonghi range as best performer. The costs are around $1000 to purchase plus $1 a day to run.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Dannevirke, NZ



    We have this problem in our IP at Wanganui. So we are thinking Pink bats being put in the ceiling, new carpets laid, fire burner or DVS and heating ducts put in. We have several quotes ($4000) for all of these and are juggling with either a fire or DVS.

    Has anyone else had to combat dampness and heating problems. If so what do you do.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2004

    Default What about a dehumidifier?

    Depending on the size of the property, and also how much of it is affected by damp, a dehumidier may do the trick. In my own house, which is double course brick dating from the 1920s, one room was virtually unusable for 3 months of the year - cold and damp. I invested in a big capacity dehumidifier, and ran it continuously one winter. It also had a powerful fan heater as well, which could be switched on when anyone was in the room for a quick boost. The amount of moisture that came out of the walls was amazing. It is fine now, though I did install a DVS last year, which is working well.

    I have supplied smaller versions for a couple of rentals as well (small properties so don't need a big dehumidifier). They depreciate quickly and the tenant pays the power. Most can be hooked up to the plumbing to drain so they don't need to be emptied. Might be worth trying as a first step.

    PS I would not buy Cascade brand from the Warehouse again.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Dannevirke, NZ



    The tenants have our dehumidifier going until the fire place and carpets are in place. Hopefully this should take care of any excessive condensation and add some value so we can get our LVR around the 75% range.


  5. #5


    Has anyone had those Home ventilation systems installed? I was almost sold on one a wee while back: They're supposed to save on heating costs, combat dampness, and make the house a whole heap healthier ... and then I found I couldnt do it cos I dont have any ceiling cavity
    They have them at the BBQ factory I think, and I saw an outfit in wellington selling them off cheap on trademe ...[/url]

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2004


    Hi Wada, I don't think a fireplace will make any difference to the moisture content of your house. A DVS would be better, but in saying that it may better to get to the source of the problem and fix it. The moisture has to be coming from somewhere.

    Put small extractor fans in the bathroom and kitchen. They are cheap to put in. I get the bathroom ones wired up to the light switch, so tenants have to use it. Direct all water away from your house, and check for damp spots under the house.
    You can lay plastic on the ground or staple it up under the floors as a moisture barrier.
    In one case the cure was a new driveway, it had slumped slightly towards the house and was chanelling all the water underneath for years unbeknown to me.

    The very best thing is to open windows and doors. Easier said than done with some tenants. Some people just don't appreciate fresh air

    Good luck
    Find The Trend Whose Premise Is False - Then Bet Against It

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2004


    I agree with Gatekeeper
    Try to reduce all sources of exterior moisture, are there any areas
    of the house that are close to the ground level - should be minimum
    200mm from floor to ground level. Remve any vegetation thet is too
    close to the building as this traps moisture.
    Install fans in bathroom & kitchen.
    The plastic sheeting under the house onlt works if the under floor area is well ventilated (ie has a clear space of at least 1.0m) as it actually
    traps moisture overnight & then releases during the day
    If there is not enough ventilation then it goes up through the floor.
    a better idea id to fix it to the underside of the joists
    or install polystyrene insulation - Expol - approx $600 for 100 sqm house
    It is relatively easy to install yourself.

    The way to reduce mildew & mould is to provide adequate ventilation
    We have been installing a fixed ventilation grille to a lot of the HNZ
    modernisations we have been involved with recently.
    The fixed vents are fitted to an existing window pane.
    Passive Air Vents available from 'Joinery Developments - Glenfield'
    ph (09) 443 0038


  8. #8


    I recomend Expol (http://www.expol.co.nz)
    They will let you buy direct from the factory, which can be cheaper that pink batts. Only thing is make sure you specify exactly the size you need, (and then err *slightly* over), because they come in sheets that need to be cut to size (i.e. they dont squash) I found that this also caused problems at the edges where holes were left off ... you can cut expol to the size of the gap at the edges, but I had some batts left over, so i stuffed them in the hole!
    Also have a look at Wool insulation provided by insulteck. It's expensive, but i hear that it's really really good!


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