Historic Building Practices in Medway: Part Two

Historic Building Practices in Medway

Despite Medways perceived underclass element and the deterioration associated with that environment, investment in Medway and especially Rochester will effectively elevate the area from being one of the remaining vestiges of affordable housing in the South East. Many professionals and educated middle class families are choosing to move away from London (or are being priced out) as accessibility to the capital is not overly impinged. This is good news in respect of the upkeep of many a terraced property neighbourhood.
Dig down 300-400mm into the ground of any Medway garden and you will generally find the sub-strata to consist of solid chalk.
In regard to pre-1960’s properties, you must take into consideration groundwork undertaken prior to construction had removed the surface soil and exposed the chalk below.
One completion of works, the exterior perimeter ground level would be leveled off with back-filled spoil and topped off with concrete. 
Chalk in Medway
Above: The exposed footings of a 1900’s property in Strood. The perimeter ground level had bridged DPC height for many years. The exposed brickwork was re-pointed, an application of bitumen primer, then a couple of coats of fibrous bitumen were applied. This ensured complete moisture repellency below ground level.
​Herein lies the cause of what many perceive to be rising damp.
Chalk is an impermeable barrier. During construction, when a property was built upon an impermeable barrier with insufficient (by today’s standards) footings, then back-filled with clay-dense mud and sealed with 75mm concrete on the surface; a catalyst was created for many generations to experience the resultant ‘rising’ damp.
Where construction occurred on a gradient, the DPC was often below ground-level. In fact I have exposed the original DPC of many Medway properties where the Victorian/Edwardian bricklayer knowingly built the DPC below ground-level.  Why did they often do this? I can only speculate; regardless of the reasoning, the repercussions are still affecting properties over 100 years later in many cases. Each generation of owner will tackle the issue in their own way. Generally stripping back the plaster to then render and bitumen, each time buying another 5 or 10 years of suppression.
Chalk Medway
Above: Chatham; a classic case of ingress via a defective (original) gully. Once the gully was removed, you can see that saturation has reduced the lime-mortar to sludge. The resultant ingress contributed greatly to a number of damp related issues in the property. It should be noted that prior to our intervention a number of damp-proofing companies priced-up or carried out work to remedy the damp inside the property. They all made a presumption that the damp was a result of a leaking 15mm copper pipe. The owner paid a considerable sum to have floorboards ripped-up in an attempt to locate the non-existent leaking pipe.
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