Flooding and flood remediation

In recent years, flooding of buildings has become more commonplace, and we have seen a quantum increase in this insured peril. There are several modern techniques that are being sold to reduce the chance of flood water damaging a property. For a traditionally built property most the techniques actually result in damage to the building fabric. We have recently visited a number of properties with re-occurring defects i.e. damp, mould, decay and condensation to name a few. If the property was reinstated correctly with the use of the correct materials policyholders would not have these defects/issues. This is due to the lack of knowledge or experience of reinstating a traditionally built building in the first instance

Flooding is in insurance terms part of the 'escape of water' peril in most instances - drenching or saturation of a building from bad weather conditions, rivers which flood, leaking drains or water supply pipes, building defects like missing tiles, or less common but equally disastrous - putting out a fire using large amounts of water.

As Building Professionals, we have been involved in several insurance claims whether it has been producing building defect reports, specifying reinstatement works or project managing the building related works of the claim.

Heritage House have studied the effects of flooding extensively after the floods which devastated many parts of the UK and how building materials are affected after a flood. We have some ground-breaking case histories of buildings which although badly flooded, dried out with little or no damage because they were almost entirely traditionally built. These buildings - with lime plaster and no modern pointing or internal plasters, dried out without any help, and were the first to be re-occupied after the floods. We understand the different risks involved with floods - not all water is clean, and various contaminants must be assessed and dealt with.  

Drying out of buildings, and measurement of the drying process is an area fraught with problems.  Most insurance 'drying companies' are incompetent - we constantly see examples of supposedly dry buildings that are not.  Recently we had to report on property that was being dried, they advised that the party wall was not drying and was saturated. When we carried out carbide tests the walls were dry and in actual fact the ‘damp meter’ was recording salts within the wall giving high moisture readings.

Most properties stripped out, re-plastered with modern materials i.e. sand & cement / gypsum, redecorated and occupants moved in, only to find major issues with dampness re-occur a couple of months or years later.  It is essential with older traditional buildings that you appoint an expert in old building construction to assess the damage, monitor the drying and specify the correct materials for reinstatement.

The use of dehumidifiers and hot air blowers is almost universal - and such equipment has repeatedly been shown in our studies to be almost useless.  A thorough understanding of the building fabric is needed - knowledge of the materials - their pore sizing, their ability to diffuse contained moisture so it can evaporate, and the rates at which this takes place.  Measurement of moisture content is vital - damp meters cannot be used. WE often see experienced Chartered Surveyors or Historic Building Experts using damp meters to measure moisture in timber and walls - they CAN NOT be used.

If drying out does not take place in a controlled manner, moisture can be trapped - this results in warping or shrinkage of fabric, formation of mould, rotting of timber, structural movement, and the inevitable ruin of decorative finishes. If traditional materials are used within a solid building the disruption can be limited because of their properties. With having knowledge of the materials that should be used within a period property enables our surveyors to prevent destruction of the historic fabric.

Specifying the correct methods for drying out of flood affected buildings is a complex scientific area - and is not something insurers or drying companies know about.  Our experience of most insurance drying companies is no better than the Property Care Association 'damp wallies' who sell fraudulent damp proofing - often they are one and the same.  

Appointing your own Surveyor for an insurance claim

Most people do not realise that their insurance policy allows them to appoint their own surveyor to manage the building aspect of the claim. The surveyor’s fees would be covered by the insurance company, and you receive an expert assessment and specification of repairs.

We would recommend you consult with your adjuster and ask if you can appoint an independent surveyor. We are currently working for an adjuster who recommend that the policyholder appointed their own surveyor rather than using their own in house surveyors. 

The insurance industry is full of loss adjusters who will be only too happy to handle your claim and consult with an independent surveyor. Reinstating a traditionally built (Solid Wall) property with the correct materials is essential. We can ensure this by providing a highly experienced and professional service throughout.  If you have an insurance related problem remember to consult with your adjuster and ask if you have the option to appoint your own surveyor.

We can also assist with other insured peril related works i.e. fire, malicious damage and impact

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