How to Identify Defects in Old Buildings

How to Identify Defects in Old Buildings
A Building Condition Inspection is necessary before plunging into a property buying decision for it implements modern technology to identify issues.

Building Condition Inspection

A Building Condition Inspection is necessary before plunging into a property buying decision for it implements modern technology to identify issues. Defects affect the performance of a building during its occupancy stage. Older homes are more prone to be laden with defects as there are higher chances of worn out/ faulty construction, design issues, wear & tear due to efflux of time and lack of maintenance. The defects not only affect the building but also reduce its value. Re-modelling might also turn out to be a costly affair. Therefore it is of utmost importance that a Third Party Building Condition Assessment is arranged for so that the issues can be addressed before it is too late.

There are several areas where issues occur in old buildings. Some of them might be right in front of your eyes while some are hidden problems. How to identify them? Here are a few ideas:

Damp, leakage and seepage assessment

Southern African weather is mostly characterised by a tropical climate which exposes buildings to rain and humidity for long durations. Water seepage through the roofs and walls leaves behind damp patches on both the exterior as well as interior walls and ceilings. The damp areas become bloated with time and in severe cases, the plaster and paint peels off.

In old buildings, continuous seepage causes salt damage. Soluble salts penetrate into the building envelope with rainwater and moisture which transports them further inside. This happens mainly because they do not have horizontal waterproofing. The salts react chemically with the porous building materials causing severe salt-induced damage. Research says different contaminants and pollutants behave differently on mortar, bricks, stones, and wood (majorly used in old buildings instead of iron and concrete pillars). However, it is difficult to assess the impact in each case by just looking at the damp patches externally. One only gets to realize the extent of damage when elaborate renovation work is undertaken. This is when the Contractor discover that the inner fabric of the walls and ceilings have been completely worn out.

Therefore, it is important to engage a professional building inspection team like GOVARO to assess the dampness & its source using advanced technology devices so that the detection is precise, and so is the repair job.


The awe-inspiring heights of the rooms of old buildings often make us overlook the signs of aging and disintegration on their ceilings. Designed to beat the expansive heat and damp of most South African Provinces, the ceilings keep bearing the brunt of high temperatures and water intrusion for years before finally becoming shabby and leaky. Another common feature of the ceilings of old houses is heavy wooden beams. Due to lack of adequate maintenance, these beams become termite-infested but since termites eat wood from the inside, they continue to look perfect up till many years. Only a professional inspection can bring the state of infestation to light and prevent the building from gradually slipping into ‘sick building syndrome.’

Paint of the building

Household paints have been identified to have high levels of lead in them. Though there is no regulation confirming the lead content, it is wise to use paints sans lead as this will keep lead toxicity at bay. If re-modelling is scheduled in line, paints with nil lead content should be chosen. Also, in older homes peeling paint is a common phenomenon. The interior walls are found to have peeling paint which might be due to moisture seepage. In addition to this, seepage from the roof causes paint from the ceiling to be peeled off. This actually relates to the dampness of the old house as discussed earlier. Damp assessment is likely to do away with this issue. Post damp assessment, re-modelling the house and giving the old one a new coat of damp-proof paint would be effective.

GOVARO offers a wide range of Building Condition Assessments and produce detailed reports for Prospective Property Investors, Real Estate Investors, Corporates, Individuals and Developers across South Africa. With a highly experienced and qualified team of Engineers and Technicians, we offer a comprehensive service and we also take care of the remodelling services for our clients. Contact us today for a free first consultation.



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