Tips To Beat Damp In Your Home

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Damp and mould are the unsightly scourges of many homes – and their consequences are often hidden from plain sight. Here’s how to spot and treat damp before it causes too much damage.
 
 

What causes damp?

When moisture is unable to escape a building, it can cause dark, smelly patches of mould to form at various spots in and around your home. All buildings need good air circulation; without this, old, damp air cools and forms water which hangs around and eventually spreads.
 
In many homes damp is becoming more of a problem thanks to the rise in heating bills. People are far more careful to insulate their homes to prevent expensively heated air escaping. However, some go a little too far, almost hermetically sealing their homes and impeding the flow of air. That’s why damp is far from restricted to older buildings.
 
In fact many older buildings were designed to cope with the causes of damp. Porous building materials and tiny gaps between walls and window frames meant that air was drawn in, heated by open fires and quickly expelled again, preventing damp from forming. 
 
 
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What happens if damp isn't treated?

First and foremost, untreated damp is bad for your health. The mould it generates can cause breathing problems and exacerbate the discomfort of asthma suffers. Tiny mites live off the spores created by damp, and these can go on to become skin irritants.
 
Then there is the expensive and distressing damage caused by the spread of damp through a building. Some of this is obvious. You may see paint become discoloured or peel off affected walls, stains in the ceiling, rotting woodwork and dark patches in the carpet. In the worst cases you may see water running down your walls.
 
Yet some consequences can go unseen. If damp is forming in your floor beneath an impervious lining such as rubber or lino, it may still spread even though you can’t see it. Pipework underneath your bath may have worn, causing water to pool and providing the ideal breeding ground for mould.
 
 

Types of damp to look out for

Type: penetrating damp
What is it? This is a form of damp that spreads through a building laterally, often through floors and ceilings. It’s generally caused by water seeping in through external walls due to a structural fault such as degraded pointing or cracked guttering.

How to spot it: Look for damp patches on the walls or ceilings. These may darken when it rains as more water leaks in.

How to treat it: Isolate the source of the damp. Since the main cause of penetrating damp is a structural or external fault, you’ll need to check a number of areas to be sure of the root of the problem.
  • Start up top – check your roof and its guttering for any faults. If you leave in a flat, ask your neighbours above you if they have any problems.
  • Also inspect your pointing and brickwork, as well as your down pipes. Note too that the source of penetrating damp may be some distance away from the symptoms.
  • It may be that you need to call in a reputable builder to repair the fault and stop water leaking in.
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Type: rising damp
What is it? As the name implies, this is a form of damp caused by water moving from the ground up through walls. Most homes have a crucial protective barrier called a damp proof course to prevent this. However, if this is missing or damaged, water can get into your walls and work its way upwards.  

How to spot it:
Telltale signs of rising damp are a tide mark running along sections of your wall, damaged flooring, salt crystals on your walls and crumbling plaster and paintwork.

How to treat it: check your damp proof course. Your home should have a damp proof course installed at floor level or some way up your walls to prevent damp travelling up them.
 
  • If your home’s floor is below ground level, your damp proof course may be too low, allowing moisture to get in above it.
  • A builder may be required to drill holes at the correct point in your walls and insert a damp proofing gel, such as Dryzone
 
 

 

Type: Condensation
What is it? The biggest cause of damp in the home is caused by warm air condensing on cool walls. It is especially prevalent in winter.

How to spot it: Constantly steamed up windows are a common sight throughout winter, but when you see that water begin to run, you should take action. You may also see water droplets form on walls and notice an unpleasant smell. 

How to treat it: ventilation. The kitchen and bathroom are major problem areas when it comes to condensation.
  • Consider installing extractor fans and dehumidifiers (the latter can be set to switch on periodically, for example, if you are drying washing).
  • Try drying any washing outside or in a room with the windows open and the door shut. And remember to open windows whenever you can.
  •  Constant heating: One mistake many people make is to set the heating to turn on and off during the colder months. This sudden jump and decline in temperatures is perfect for the formation of condensation.
  •  Instead, try leaving your heating running at a low level all the time. This maintains a constant temperature, is often more efficient and can also guard against burst pipes too.
 
 

Time to call in a specialist?

If you’ve inspected your home and still been unable to track down the cause of your damp problem, it may be time to call in the services of a damp specialist or surveyor. Try to avoid companies that offer free damp testing as this may mean you are urged to undertake costly and sometimes unnecessary work.
 
Instead, look for a highly-rated anti-damp practitioner. You may find that residents in nearby buildings have used certain companies to cure a similar problem.
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