Scrim & Sarking: 5 Things You Need To Know

Scrim & Sarking: One of the most problematic types of wall linings in New Zealand and Australian homes.

I remember my time in real estate and the word scrim & sarking came out on caravan.

I’d only been in the game for about 6 months and it was an old army house we were in. We were trying to discover what the wall linings were when one of the more experienced agents said it was probably scrim & sarking.

I remember having to come up with some sort of image in my head because I had no idea what it was … or what it looked like, so I likened it to pretty much what it sounded like … and to me, it was some sort of exotic asian dish!

Yeah … go figure!

Well it’s now back on top of the popularity stakes, especially with owners and insurance companies. It’s because it’s such a fire risk and most insurance companies won’t insure it – they hate it!

Read on to find out some of our solutions

Oh… and don’t forget to look out for our tip on how to interpret builders talk, it could save you thousands!!

What Is Scrim & Sarking?

Scrim in the oxford dictionary is described as:
An open-weave muslin or hessian jute style fabric, which looks like sacking material, used in upholstery, lining, building, and in the theatre to create the illusion of a solid wall or to suggest haziness.
Scrim became popular back in the 70′s when trendsetters started laying it straight on top of the wall linings.I remember it in our TV room, it was a red colour and it did have that sort of haziness they refer to.

Sarking is described as:
A timber or felt cladding placed over the rafters of a roof before the tiles or slates are fixed in place
The word or more so the term, has been extended out to include the popular term as “Scrim & Sarking” It was used to describe the material and the method of internal construction.

It was widely used throughout the 19th & 20th centuries before the invention of plasterboard. The method of application was made up of wooden panels, which were nailed over beams and joists of the house frame. The hessian fabric “Scrim” was then tacked on or stapled over the top. Wallpaper was then applied over top.

How To Detect Scrim & Sarking

1. Knock, Knock – Scrim actually feels like your knocking on wood (Hmm, funny that – Bloody Genius!) – An obvious sign for detecting scrim is when you knock along the wall, you’ll find it hard to distinguish where the studs are in the wall.
2. The floating wallpaper test – Scrim & Sarking is ‘finished’ by covering the Scrim with wallpaper (sometimes the wallpaper has since been painted). With age, the hessian Scrim starts coming away from the Sarking and gives the impression of floating, bulging or twisting wallpaper. This is especially obvious in room corners.

3. Close inspection – With close inspection you can sometimes see rough sawn board (Sarking) or hessian (Scrim) where wallpaper is loose or has come away, or the wallpaper will look ‘textured’ as the woven hessian fabric has imprinted the wallpaper from underneath.

Replacing Scrim & Sarking

You can certainly get rid of the scrim, and also the sarking … well the majority of it anyway, it can prove difficult though. If you do get rid of the sarking you’ll have to put in new dwangs between studs.

Costs Involved

Sarking can be removed, but most builders prefer to leave it in, which makes working with it still extremely difficult!

Imagine trying to stuff an open home flag into the back of your exhaust pipe. You could do it, but it would be pretty time-consuming and dirty work. The same goes for trying to insulate walls with sarking on it. Your supposed to line the exterior wall with building paper and putting insulation over top of that.

So you imagine a builder coming in and pricing that.

And here’s a really good tip: when a builder walks in and looks around the room – holds his chin with his hand – says “hmmm, okay … yeah, nah that’s sweet! – He’s really saying: “That’s a S*!#t load of faffing around, it’s gonna cost you thousands”

It depends on what you want to do, but anyway you’ll want to attack it by planning out what you want to do first and your decision is mostly going to be driven by budget. There are a couple of options:

1. Knowing it’s difficult to work with, you need to figure out if you’re going to make the most of having everything exposed. Like getting it insulated.

2. If you just want to take the scrim off and get the walls re-gibbed. This is the cheaper option.
Either way, it’s not going to be a small job. Your looking at new linings, and most likely architraves, scotia and skirting.

See what I mean?

So if you can afford to do it, it would pay to get insulation done at the same time! But again, just know, it’s a time consuming job, so it won’t be cheap!

What if you couldn’t afford to all of it now?
If you can’t afford to insulate with pink batts and lining, you can get a company in to blow insul-fluff into the walls, this can be a much cheaper option.

We’ll go into cost next time.

Sarking, Scrim & Insurance Companies

It’s a fire risk. insurance companies hate scrim & sarking. A recent article from an insurance broker explained why an insurance company had verbally agreed to insuring a 1905 villa, but upon getting the policy issued, it was declined, leaving the the purchaser, who had gone unconditional in a state of panic.
They were 1 month from settlement, but managed to get a senior underwriter to. It was a simple case of dealing with a younger and not so experienced person at the insurance company, just like you do at the bank. So beware!

Jute: is the glossy fiber of either of two Asian plants (Corchorus olitorius and C. capsularis) of the linden family used chiefly for sacking, burlap, and twine

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