You might be surprised that living in a suburb, like Prospect, can bring about salt damp. In fact, it occurs in most Adelaide suburbs, where aggressive soils are present. It turns ‘aggressive’ due to a number of reasons including marine deposits and minerals.
Salt damp happens when moisture passes through the soil ground and reaches the masonry wall (brick, stone or concrete). This natural process is referred to as ‘rising damp.’ It occurs because one of two reasons:
- There’s no damp-proof membrane
- The damp proof membrane has been ruptured
The heat prompts the moisture to evaporate out of the wall surface, which is why the deterioration of the mortar in the wall occurs. The salt that rises in the moisture crystallises after evaporating. This causes the mortar to crumble and walls to structurally fail. A portion of the salt residue also creates a chemical reaction that destroys the internal frame of the house.
It’s natural for walls to ‘breathe’, in that the air contained within its pores expands as it warms and as it cools down, contracts. Anything that prevents a masonry wall from this process will reduce its life expectancy. Salt damage becomes an even bigger problem when coatings have been used to seal the surface of masonry walls. This essentially traps the moisture, causing a damp problem elsewhere, on the other side of the wall, for example.
The increased level of moisture in the walls becomes more than a structural problem. It attracts pests to the property, such as termites, as the environment becomes conducive for breeding. Then, problems multiply.
Why are Adelaide homes at risk?
South Australia’s environment poses an issue for homeowners. The hot and dry climate is one part, but it’s also local soils with higher salinity levels. To prevent salt damp occurring, it’s important to ensure that a building is constructed in accordance with current specifications, performs a site drainage, and regular property maintenance.
That’s all well and good, you’re thinking, but how do you know if there’s damage? Don’t go ahead and look for DIY tools to investigate. Get in touch with a local structural engineer who can give you a professional opinion.
Right now, here are three top maintenance tips you can prioritise:
- Check the gutters and downpipes
- Fix any plumbing issues
- Inspect for termites, fungal rot and borers in damp floor timbers.
To find out more about salt damp, visit the Department for Environment and Water. For Adelaide construction management services or a team of residential structural engineers, talk to our Adelaide team today on 0405 950 053.
You can also book a free 20-minute consultation with one of our structural engineering Adelaide consultants.