Damp Proofer / Damp Proof Technician
What is the work like?
Damp proofers treat or repair brickwork, woodwork, floors and roofs to stop damp, fungal decay (i.e. dry rot and wet rot) and insect attack (woodworm / wood boring beetle). They provide this service to customers with residential or commercial properties. The most common treatment is the installation of a damp-proof course. This is a horizontal layer of waterproof/water-repellent material that prevents moisture rising up the wall from the ground.
In new properties, bricklayers lay damp courses, usually as the walls are constructed and a damp-proof membrane or material is installed between the bricks. Consequently, damp proofers usually work in established properties, responding to issues of rising damp, which if left untreated could further damage decorated surfaces and cause timber, such as joists, floorboards and skirting board, to rot.
Damp proofers and/or damp surveyors often conduct an initial property inspection, using moisture meters to assess whether:
- A damp course exists.
- Cracked render or broken brickwork may be responsible for the problem.
- There are signs of penetrating damp being drawn through walls.
- Black spot mould is occurring.
- There is evidence of decay or insect infestation.
- There is evidence of condensation or wall cracking.
- Appropriate ventilation has been provided.
After these investigations, damp proofers provide clients with their expert opinions and recommendations, including an estimate for the work required. This may involve:
- minimising moisture sources
- ensuring adequate ground drainage around the building
- ensuring that surface water is drained clear of the foot of the walls
- repairing structural damage
- installing a chemical damp-proof course into existing brickwork.
A number of remedial damp-proof course (DPC) systems are available to damp proofers. Most of these involve drilling holes in the walls and using high-pressure or low-pressure DPC injection of mortar or injected creams or gels.
Damp proofers, on completion of the treatment, would then be expected to re-fill holes and re-point mortar, taking care to colour match it with the original. An understanding or brickwork and pointing is therefore very useful.
Hours and Environment
Damp proofers usually work standard hours, Monday to Friday. Overtime may be available or required at times, and this may involve working on Saturdays. Hours worked are likely to depend upon the location of the job, on the requirements of the customer and, in some cases, on the weather. It may not be possible to work in bad weather.
The work is mainly outdoors and can be very physical. Working conditions can sometimes be uncomfortable, depending on weather conditions. Some time may be taken up travelling between different work sites and projects. A driving licence may be useful.
Damp proofers must wear protective clothing to protect them from the large quantities of chemicals being used. Care must be taken at all times, as these chemicals can affect people with skin allergies.
Salary & Other Benefits
These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.
- Starting salaries for trainees can range from between £12,000 and £15,000 a year.
- With experience salaries can range between £16,000 and £25,000.
- Specialised or highly experienced damp proofers may earn around £35,000.
Damp proofers are paid in line with industry-recommended rates. Bonus payments are a regular feature of this type of work.
Skills & Personal Qualities
A damp proofer should be:
- reasonably fit, with good stamina
- agile, in order to apply treatments in confined or awkward spaces
- co-operative and team-orientated, and enjoy working alongside others on a project
- practical with the hand skills for operating drills and specialist machinery
- able and willing to follow written and verbal instructions
- good with numbers for calculating cavity spaces and materials required
- safety conscious
- customer focused
- attentive to detail
- willing to travel.
It helps to have an interest in:
- building and construction
- working outdoors.
There are over 1,500 specialist damp-proofing contractors across the UK. Approximately 356 are members of the Property Care Association (PCA).
Job opportunities exist with specialist damp-proofing companies and building contractors. There are also many companies working in related fields such as timber treatment, waterproofing and pest control. Once trained and experienced, self-employment is common.
Vacancies may be advertised in local newspapers and media, Connexions centres and Jobcentre Plus offices. However, approaching local employers to enquire about trainee roles can be a worthwhile way to find out about opportunities. Entrants can contact their local ConstructionSkills area office for potential companies to approach. The PCA also maintains a list of members on their website – www.property-care.org
There are no set entry requirements. However, some employers may request GCSEs (A*-E) in maths, English and technology, due to the measuring and numerical aspects of the job. Entrants also need an aptitude for maintaining written records and producing estimates for customers. Employers may prefer individuals to have some on-site construction experience and a basic knowledge of brickwork.
The Diploma in construction and the built environment may provide a useful introduction to this type of work.
Although there are no colleges that provide Apprenticeship training specific to damp proofing, employers may offer Apprenticeships that include the opportunity to learn damp proofing or a related occupation like cavity insulation. Entry to an Apprenticeship scheme usually involves an aptitude test.
Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer and, from August 2009, pay at least £95 per week. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk
Training is mainly on the job under the supervision of experienced damp proofers, with special courses available on safety awareness from the damp-proof installer companies. The PCA runs short class-based courses and there are also some instruction courses run by damp-proof course product manufacturers. Asbestos awareness training will usually be required, as the operative may come into contact with materials containing asbestos. Training and education programmes are also organised by the Institute of Specialist Surveyors and Engineers (ISSE).
Apprentices may work towards an NVQ Level 2 in insulation and building treatments (construction). This includes an optional route in wood preserving and damp proofing.
Training would also include qualifying for the appropriate ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. This provides evidence of competence to work on building sites, a requirement in most instances. Damp proofers may apply for Red, Experienced Worker or Blue cards, depending on qualifications and experience. They must pass the Operative Health and Safety test to qualify.
With experience, there may be opportunities for promotion to remedial treatment surveyor or supervisory posts. The PCA runs its own training courses for surveyors.
Damp proofers may also use their skills and site experience to move into the wider construction trades.
Some damp proofers become self-employed or set up their own business.