Thursday, 28 July 2005

Leaky homes 'suck it up'

Intelligent guest commentary here from a retired builder who says "architects are part of the leaky homes problem[s]." [Pluralisation is my own.]

I don't necessarily disagree with him, as I pointed out when I heard that Richard Priest Architects Ltd went into liquidation. In my opinion too many of the architects who do have culpability for these and other problems are too often protected by their Institute -- and of course the 'solution' proposed is that more of us join the various institutes and bodies to which so many of the culpable people already belong.

Anyway, here's the guest commentary (lightly edited just for punctuation):

"The houses of the last century are still up and serving their owners well. They didn't treat wood in those days. The problem is they don't have a clue about design, or any of the more scientific reasons that create this problem. Pressure treated timber is far superior to painted treated timber, but that has nothing to do with the problem. The problem lies in the fact that design is completely wrong. Build a house with untreated wood exactly as your great grandfather did, and it will last 150 years. Let the timber breathe; no stupid insulation in the wall.

All this treated timber, or untreated timber, or bad builders has very little to do with the problem. The problem lies solely with the people that make the rules. The rules up to the seventies never encountered the leaky home problems that we have today. They had bad builders, idiot designers, untreated wood, so lets concentrate on what changed.

The 'Spanish' look was born, that's when the rules changed. We had air tight walls full of insulation like it was the Arctic Circle. That in itself is a great mistake: the pressure inside the wall is less than the pressure outside the wall, so that the wall will suck water up hill like drinking with a straw. They still don't know that, that is the problem they run round like headless chooks each blaming the other.

If you want a ROLLSROYCE job don't try and do it with LADA parts. If you want a Spanish house build it with blocks the way the Spaniards do, not like these clowns on a timber frame. "


  1. So true. But it's hard to find people who understand buildings these days.

  2. He's right, more or less. There is a lot to be said for building a home that breathes.

    Dry Rot 101:
    Wood can get wet, and not rot, AS LONG AS IT HAS A CHANCE TO DRY OUT.

    Dry rot occurs when wood gets wet, and stays wet. Air circulation will prevent dry rot. And new homes have much potential for capillary action to draw moisture in. My understanding is that capillary action most often occurs in homes that are sealed up and have HVAC systems constantly in use. The differential in pressure inside vs. the pressure outside is what causes the capillary action that draws water into the smallest of cracks. I personally prefer a house that has a lot of air flow day and night, summer and winter. But this isn't alays practical, depending on your climate.

    I don't think you need to sacrifice insulation. Far from it. But builders need to be extremely conscious of thinking like a drip when waterproofing. There is no substitute for conscientious waterproofing during the building process.

    And homeowners need to be conscious of the need for constant maintenance of exterior caulk joints.


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