Damp proofing for historic buildings

Protecting historic structures is a challenging task for builders and architects. These buildings have stood the test of time and have witnessed historical events. They are often unique, with valuable architectural features, building materials, and workmanship that are not found in contemporary buildings. One of the most significant threats that these structures face is dampness. Dampness can damage the structure of the building, and it can cause health hazards for the occupants. Therefore, it is essential to take damp-proofing seriously. This article will educate you about specialized damp-proofing techniques that can help preserve and protect historic structures.

What is Dampness, and Why is it a Problem?

Dampness is a general term used to describe any excess moisture within a building. It can occur due to various reasons, including:

  • Groundwater
  • Rainwater penetration
  • Condensation
  • Plumbing leaks
  • Faulty building design
  • Poor Maintenance

Dampness is a problem because it can lead to various issues, including:

  • Structural damage: Dampness can cause the building materials to deteriorate, leading to structural damage.
  • Mold and mildew: Dampness can create the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow, which can cause health problems for the occupants.
  • Pest infestation: Dampness can attract pests, such as termites and rodents, which can cause further damage to the building.
  • Poor indoor air quality: Dampness can lead to poor indoor air quality, which can cause respiratory problems for the occupants.

Specialized Damp-Proofing Techniques for Historic Structures

Historic structures require specialized damp-proofing techniques to preserve and protect them. Here are some of the most commonly used techniques:

1. Cavity Wall Insulation

Cavity wall insulation is a technique used to prevent water from penetrating the walls of the building. It involves injecting insulation material (such as foam or mineral wool) into the cavity between the exterior and interior walls. This insulation material helps to provide a barrier against water penetration.

2. Tanking

Tanking is a method used to create a waterproof barrier on the exterior of the building. It involves applying a waterproof coating or membrane to the exterior walls of the building. This membrane prevents water from penetrating the walls and causing damage.

3. Chemical Damp Proof Course (DPC)

A Damp Proof Course (DPC) is a layer of waterproof material, usually made of bitumen or polythene, that is inserted into the walls of the building to prevent moisture from rising. In older buildings, the DPC may have failed or may not exist. In these cases, a Chemical Damp Proof Course can be injected into the masonry to create a barrier against rising damp.

4. Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilation is a technique that is used to reduce indoor humidity levels. It involves introducing fresh air into the building through windows and vents. This helps to reduce the level of moisture in the air, which can prevent condensation from forming.

5. Roof Waterproofing

Roof waterproofing is a technique used to prevent water from entering the building through the roof. It involves applying a waterproof coating or membrane to the roof of the building. This prevents water from seeping through the roof and causing damage to the interior of the building.

6. Re-pointing

Re-pointing is a technique used to repair the mortar in the bricks of the building. In older buildings, the mortar may have failed or deteriorated, allowing water to penetrate the walls. Re-pointing involves removing the old mortar and replacing it with new mortar, which helps to create a barrier against water penetration.


  1. How do I know if my historic building needs damp proofing?

If you notice any signs of dampness, such as mold or mildew, musty odors, or peeling wallpaper, your building may require damp proofing.

  1. Can damp-proofing be done on historic buildings without damaging their historical integrity?

Yes, specialized damp-proofing techniques can be used to preserve the historical integrity of the building. These techniques are designed to be minimally invasive and will not damage the building’s historical features.

  1. How long does damp-proofing last?

The lifespan of damp-proofing depends on various factors, such as the type of damp-proofing used, the severity of the damp problem, and the overall condition of the building. However, most damp-proofing treatments can last up to 20 years before they need to be re-applied.


Protecting historic buildings from dampness requires specialized damp-proofing techniques that are designed to preserve the building’s historical integrity. These techniques include cavity wall insulation, tanking, chemical damp proof courses, natural ventilation, roof waterproofing, and re-pointing. By taking damp-proofing seriously, you can help to preserve these unique structures for future generations.

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