Preserving the University of Manchester’s listed building for future generations


One of the things that many people do not realise is that Manchester was the world’s first modern industrial city and, as such, the University of Manchester is intrinsically entwined with the city. Timberwise were contacted by the University of Manchester and were instructed to undertake a damp and timber survey on Waterloo Place building, their iconic Grade 2 listed building forming part of the original campus and home to the University’s occupational health service.

Waterloo Place is a typical redbrick Victorian property and as such it could be assumed that the building could not have been built in line with building standards we see today. The University was concerned as part of the toilets and corridor facilities on the ground floor were subject to the large ingress of moisture coming through the walls ultimately badly affecting the internal decoration.


An extensive and thorough survey was carried out, including an external inspection and review of the general well-being of the building advising on any areas that Timberwise believe could be exacerbating the concerns the University had.

Timberwise’s industry trained Surveyor noted the rear elevation downspout from the gutter was not sealed and fixed correctly, this was allowing moisture to enter the building instead of being dispersed away as required. The mastic seals around the windows were in poor condition and therefore allowing water to trickle through.

Other areas of the guttering were leaking and allowing water to track down the external brickwork and latterly penetrate through the mortar again increasing the internal issues. Lastly, a service drain located on the pathway to the rear of the building was blocked and allowing water to back up and tracked through the building at a low level.

With an experienced eye and also the use of high-performance electronic moisture meter Timberwise surveyor Graham Malpass was able to determine that there was indeed ingress of water through the corridor and male WC areas which were causing a degrading of the internal plaster/decoration.

The University of Manchester have over 30 listed buildings that make up their campus, like Timberwise, they are committed to the care of historic buildings. It was a joy to collaborate and work towards a shared vision –   to ensure that their listed building can be enjoyed by future generations 

Graham Malpass , Surveyor CSRT CSSW

As Waterloo Place is a Grade 2 listed building, Timberwise were conscious that recommended solution could not in any way affect the integrity of the building as some chemical solutions would not be permitted by a conservation officer. It is very important when dealing with listed and historic buildings to be very sympathetic to the building and ensure that the solution meets the criteria laid down by the conservation officer and also does not damage the structure of the building.

Timberwise advised the wall would eventually dry out and some of the current problems being experienced will naturally cure themselves once the walls are fully dried. Timberwise would then consider whether any future long-term works are required. In the meantime, the University needed a temporary measure to make the wall presentable, this solution also needed to be able to be removed safely as to not harm the original structure of the building.

Timberwise then proceeded to remove the surface plaster and a low-profile membrane was then placed on the wall with an integral mesh, a lime-based plaster was then applied which meant that in the future, possibly after 12 months, Timberwise would then re-inspect the property and if the walls have had indeed dried out naturally, as expected, Timberwise would then remove the temporary plaster and membrane and re-apply a traditional lime-based plaster to put the wall back into original condition without having affected the original integrity and structure of the building.

Once the work was completed a follow-up re-inspection of the property for a future date was scheduled advised to determine what the next course of action will be. It is necessary for regular inspections over the next 12 months to ensure that the timbers within the brickwork forming part of the original structure were not subject to excess moisture levels which could lead to further problems such as Dry Rot or Wet rot outbreaks.

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