If you’ve been following the story you’ll know we have had a “damp” problem in this room for quite some time, in fact we pretty much bought the place with a problem. The people who sold it seemed nice enough but on reflection there’s a chance they thought they were selling us a pup or at least half a pup. Some kind of problem was apparent but the extent or cause were not clear to us, mainly because there were numerous possibilities – leaks from above, “cold bridges”, problems with the roof, condensation caused by previous owners installation of gypsum walls…etc. My thought at the time was that the price was a fair reflection of condition as it was $120,000 less than what anyone else wanted for similar (or worse) apartments on the same estate and was way cheaper and better than anything we found elsewhere. We like it here, there are never many opportunities to buy and so it was a reasonably easy decision despite the potential problems even though it remained something of a gamble. We moved in in the winter of 2011 and it was the first spring thaw when watery problems started to appear, a little in the kitchen and a lot in what was Zosia’s bedroom at the time. It was easy to jump to conclusions but what we needed was real evidence of what was causing the problems.
[insert long (18 months) story involving experts, more experts, tests, arguments, Building Inspectors, growing damp patches, Zosia moving into the other room, legal threats, fallings out with neighbours & administration]
We were eventually assured that some remedial works had been done in the apartment above us as well as on the roof – all without accepting any blame of course! It was therefore time to do something rather than just watch it get worse. First was to get Zosia a proper bedroom rather than sleeping on a sofa in the study. The room was stripped and rebuilt to a new design. She now has the best room in the house. Zosia happy, job done. Next was to strip the wet room and see the full picture for the first time. Also done. We then used a drying machine to suck out the moisture and took readings of the moisture content of the walls which dropped over time from wet to okay to dry. We waited for rain to come. No water ingress. We waited a bit longer, just in case. Still no obvious problems. So, Zosia and I painted the one remaining plastered wall in a beautiful “Exotic Curry” colour and we moved the desk and computer back in and waited a bit longer. Still no problem.
Now we have to wait for two further crunch points – the rigours of a Polish winter & spring. Winter, when it finally arrives, will test any problems with the external insulation and thermal problems caused by having -20 outside and +22 inside. Spring will bring plenty of seriously heavy rain. If we get through that we then wait for the new insulation to be put on the outside of the building, planned for next spring but may be up to a year later. Then, assuming we experience no further ingress of water we can finally plaster the walls and finish the room. As this is clearly going to take some time it makes sense to use the room in the meantime and so a trip to Ikea was called for. A sofa bed, two chairs, two bookshelves and a few cuts and bruises later and we have a perfectly useable study cum spare bedroom!
Strangely, we and indeed visitors too are finding our unfinished room to be nothing like as nasty as you might expect. In fact we’ve actually been complimented on creating a really good industrial or deconstructed design as if it were intentional. This is not unusual because if you go to the Praga district across the river, for example, it is full of Boho-chic cafes and small shops that have been created in the run down tenements and they all follow a similar pattern to our study, primarily the idea of having rough bare brick walls. Praga has the advantage that they are real bricks not the blocks we have but at least the colour and roughness are very similar.
There is a case to be made for leaving it as it is.
EDIT Jan 2015 – the room is still holding up very well. No water whatsoever, not even any lingering slightly damp smells. We could now decorate but given the constant praise for the look and feel of the room and the fact that it works just fine, we’re not going to bother. Bonus point, upstairs neighbours who undoubtably contributed to the problem and certainly didn’t give a shit about it have moved elsewhere! Finger crossed for the new owners to be good people.