Damp can cause all sorts of problems in the home, from the health risks associated with mould and mites, to structural damage caused by weakening walls and ceilings. While the results can be devastating if left for long periods of time, it’s possible to prevent most sources of damp from entering your home. It’s also possible to treat damp if you spot and identify it early.
Different types of damp
Three types of damp are commonly found in houses, they are:
- Condensation: caused when water vapour in the air forms onto cooler surfaces. Visible as beads of water or as patches of dark mould and a musty, unpleasant odour.
- Rising damp: caused by ground water moving up into the walls. Visible symptoms include damaged skirting boards, crumbling or stained plasterboard and peeling paint or wallpaper.
- Penetrating damp: caused by water leaking through walls, generally from holes in the exterior brickwork, gaps in the roof, damaged guttering or plumbing leaks. Visible as dark patches on ceilings, floors or walls. You may notice these appearing, growing or changing during wet weather.
If you’ve identified damp in your home, and have found which of the three main types of damp are affecting the building, it’s time to identify where the water or condensation is coming from, and to remedy it. Here we have listed the common causes you’ll find.
Condensation-related damp is usually caused by air circulation issues, which can include:
- Damaged extractor fans.
- Leaks in the heating system.
- Clogged air vents.
- Warm air from the kitchen or bathroom circulating into cooler rooms.
Rising and penetrating damp, on the other hand, can be caused by a number of problems which arise both externally and internally.
- On the roof you may find loose tiles, broken guttering, defective lead flashing (weatherproofing) and damaged joists connecting the roof to the masonry.
- Walls may also be the source of damp, look for holes in the masonry, damaged brickwork or crumbling grouting.
- Door and window frames should be checked for rotten wood or damaged seals.
- Look for compromised damp proof courses (DPCs) around the base of your walls, and ensure that all damp-proofing is higher than the ground outside of the wall.
- Damaged plumbing.
- Leaks in baths, toilet cisterns and sinks.
- Washing machine and dishwasher leaks.
Once you’ve addressed the causes of the issue, then it’s time to combat the damp itself.
How to Get Rid of Damp
Treating damp properly is an important job and first you need to make sure what sort of damp you have by having a damp survey conducted of your property.
How do I know if I have rising damp? If you think you have rising damp you need to have the entire damp proofing course checked around your property. If you find breaks in the right places then you will have found the rising damp problem areas.
How to treat rising damp? You will need to call a professional local contractor who can use a chemical damp proofing material and insert it between the walls where the damp course has failed.
Condensation damp treatment means making some modifications to your home.
How to Treat Damp Walls
Now that you have repaired the leak or fixed the problem you will need to treat any damaged walls and interior surfaces. Damage will be to paint finishes, plaster and will leave water marks, peeling paint and wallpaper and if bad enough rotten flooring. Clean up any mould and water marks with household products but use a mask when treating mould.
You will need to make sure that the walls and plaster ceilings and finishes are totally dry before you attempt to repaint and repair. If the areas are not dry you will have to repair again as the paint won’t adhere properly to the damp walls. If the damp was severe you might want to get a professional building survey done.
Dealing with damages
If damp has taken hold and mould is spreading, you may need a professional tradesman to treat the infestation, dry the building and replace damaged plasterboard and rotten wood. However if the spread isn’t too serious, you may be able to complete the cleanup yourself.
Generally, a thorough process will involve:
- Removing wet furniture and fittings.
- Protecting other items with dust covers.
- Airing/drying the property, sometimes opening windows and turning on the heating is enough
- Removing rotten plasterboard and flooring
- Fumigating to kill the mould, or applying stain blocks to prevent mildew spreading.
- Repairing damaged structures.
- Replacing plasterboard and flooring.
- Replacing DPCs.
- Adding additional damp-proofing measures.
- Returning furniture and fittings.
How to prevent damp in a house
The ideal scenario is of course preventing the appearance of damp in the first place, or at least ensuring it doesn’t reoccur once you’ve fixed an earlier incident. The good news is that there are simple maintenance routines that should prevent all but the most unfortunate of circumstances.
- Conduct regular checks on the building exterior.
- Repoint your home if it’s been over 50 years since this was last done.
- Clear the guttering at the beginning of winter.
- Check drains are clear at least once a year.
- Install and regularly check DPCs.
- Ensure extractor fans are working.
- Dry clothes outside where possible.
- Open windows when cooking and cleaning.
- Use a dehumidifier if condensation builds up on windows during winter.
- Fix dripping taps right away.
- Check pipes for bulging or cracking.
- Insulate pipes during winter.
- Avoid putting food and other solid waste into drains.