Every home needs maintaining to keep it in good repair, but often we don’t notice small problems until they turn into big ones.
If a fault is overlooked, it may lead to major structural damage that costs thousands to fix, with huge disruptions while the work is carried out.
Inspect your home once a year as though you were a potential buyer, using our guide to identify telltale signs.
The majority of homes are made primarily of timber and brick.
TIMBER can be damaged by sunlight, which causes it to dry and shrink, or water, which causes it to rot. Untreated timber shouldn’t be installed in contact with the ground or left in direct sun.
BRICK is more weather-resistant, but it’s permeable and can leach water from the ground if not properly dampcoursed. This will cause damp inside the home.
1. Rising Damp
Soft brickwork and mortar, bubbling paint, and damp and mouldy internal walls are signs of rising damp.
A musty, dank odour may also be present.
CAUSE Rising damp occurs if there is a damaged or inadequate dampcourse. This is the impermeable layer of metal or plastic that is installed below the floor level of an external brick wall.
Renovated concrete patios are often built above the dampcourse line and can contribute to rising damp. It is quite difficult to fix andthe dampcourse will need replacing.
SOLUTION Use an anti-fungal spray on visible mould and increase ventilation to the affected rooms until the work’s done. Boost subfloor ventilation to reduce the chance of a recurrence.
If left unchecked, toxic black mould will bloom, and interior lime render can crumble and fall off.
In the long term, it may damage the wall’s structure. In concrete walls, steel reinforcing within may rust and expand, causing cracks.
2. Wet and dry rot
Timber that has black mould is a sign of wet rot, while white or orange mould indicates dry rot.
Both will cause timber to be soft to the touch and crumbly when dry.
CAUSE Wet and dry rot are caused by moisture and are generally a result of an inadequate paint layer or incorrect timber selection. Dry rot spreads more rapidly than wet rot and is more destructive, but both are easy to treat if caught early.
SOLUTION First, seal any source of moisture penetration and then increase subfloor ventilation using a fan and air vents. Scrape away surface fungus and spray the timber with a fungicide two or three times over several days. Once dry, treat the timber with wood hardener.
For dry rot, replace any affected joists. If the timber seems soft or the spread is significant, there will probably be structural damage and a building surveyor should be called in for advice.
Timber boards that feel soft or sound hollow, and cracks in ceiling sheet joints, are signs of termites.
Opening up an internal cavity to reveal ‘mudding’ is evidence of them tunnelling.
CAUSE They don’t like exposure to the elements, so they enter by tunnelling, and a leak provides a path for them. Lacking or damaged ant capping also allows easy access, and in homes with a concrete slab floor, they can get in where pipes and drains penetrate.
So check external taps and hot-water heaters for leaks and drips.
SOLUTION Where timber touches brickwork in the subfloor, a barrier is needed. If you can access under your floor, inspect the ant caps or hire a pest control company.
Termites build tunnels to breach an ant cap, so if you catch them early you can prevent timber infestation.
Concrete slab floors should have a sealed termite mat installed.
It can cost up to about $70,000 to treat a major infestation, so if you find evidence of termites, call a pest controller immediately.