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Common property problems and how to spot them

Common property problems and how to spot them

Whether you are already a homeowner or looking to buy a property for the first time it’s important you are aware of some of the problems that can cause issues. We take a look at four of the most common ones.


Damp can be a real issue which can pose a real health risk, damage decor and furnishings and, at its most extreme, make a building uninhabitable.

Any property can be affected by damp but it is older properties that are affected by the most damaging kind - rising damp. Rising damp happens when the bricks of a property absorb water from the ground up. Most properties stop this from happening by having an effective damp proof course, however many older properties do not have this. Rising damp can also occur in newer buildings if the damp proof course has been breached in some way.

Some signs of a rising damp problem include mould patches on the inside of the property, ‘tide lines’ on the inside and outside and rotting skirting boards or floors.

Treating rising damp can be very difficult. It’s important to identify what the cause of your rising damp is. This may involve installing a new damp course around your property.

Penetrating damp is often confused with rising damp. In this type of damp water finds its way from outside to the inside of your home. This can happen as a result of missing roof tiles, badly fitting windows and damaged pointing, brickwork or render. If you have this type of damp you may notice growing patches of damp on walls or ceilings. To treat it you need to get rid of the source of water.

Damp can also be caused by condensation. You may notice patches of mould around windows, behind pictures or in cupboards. The easiest way of preventing this type of damp is to ventilate the property better.

Wall ties

The walls of most properties are made of two brick layers with a cavity in between. These two brick layers are held in place by wall ties which stop them from parting company. The ties are made of metal and cemented in place. But, over many years, these ties can start to corrode. This particularly happens in coastal areas where the salt air gets to them, causing the ties to expand and push out mortar and crack bricks. In severe cases the outer wall can fall down, though this is quite rare.

To spot wall tie issues look for cracking brick work or render, particularly in a ‘stepped’ fashion. Replacing wall ties can be done, but can be quite expensive.

Slate roofs

The majority of slate roofs will be seen on properties over 100-years-old. This means that many original slate roofs are now coming to the end of their life and will need a complete replacement if it hasn’t been looked after. Look for broken or missing slates, ‘flaking’ of the slates and ‘powdering’ of the underside of the tiles.

Many modern tiles are heavier than the old slate so you may need some roof strengthening work done as well.

If the slates on your roof are very evenly cut then this is likely to be a modern replacement or new roof.


Subsidence is a very serious problem which can affect the safety of a property, as well as its resale value. It happens when the ground under a property moves or sinks lower, pulling some of the building’s foundations with it.

One sign that a property is experiencing subsidence includes cracks which are wider than 3mm, are diagonal and wider at the top than the bottom. Other signs include wallpaper crinkling, door and window frames warping so that they stick when trying to open and cracks where an extension joins the property.

With subsidence the sooner you identify it and start taking steps to improve it the better. If you already own the property then you should get in contact with your insurer. They will probably send someone out to assess the situation. If it’s a property that you are looking to buy then you may want to get a surveyor in to look at it before going any further.

To stop the subsidence underpinning of the property may be required.

Does your property have a problem that’s making it difficult to sell? We’ve teamed up with trusted property buyers House Buy Fast who buy any property in any condition. To find out more fill out the form below or contact Reader’s Digest Property on 0800 4337979.