From making rooms feel cold and unwelcoming, to more serious health, structural, and weatherproofing issues, damp is a problem that any property owner could probably do without.
Fortunately, damp issues are often something that can be easily identified and resolved, and quite frequently without having to call in the professionals. However, if damp problems in your house are left to develop and worsen they can cause serious damage to your property, and so if you have a damp problem that you cannot resolve with DIY solutions, then calling in an experienced and qualified damp proofing professional is always recommended.
The below advice provides information to help you spot damp, identify the cause, and fix it.
How to spot damp in your house
Most people will only be alerted to a potential damp issue when aesthetic symptoms begin to appear on their internal walls or ceilings. Tell tale signs of a damp problem can include:
A musty smell – a damp house often has an unmistakable scent, once you have identified it you will not be able to miss it.
Cold walls – if your internal walls are very cold to touch, then this could be a sign of damp appearing. Internal walls in a heated property should be warm and dry to touch if there is no moisture trapped.
Lifting and peeling wallpaper or flaking paint on the surfaces of internal walls – again this is likely caused by internal moisture.
Wall marks – damp can manifest as discoloured or stained areas on walls or ceilings. Brown patches can also appear in the external corners and near chimney breasts. Don’t forget to look up too, and check your ceilings for any signs.
Mould – black speckled marks or grey growths on woodwork, painted walls and wallpaper can be a sign of mould forming, which again is an indication of damp. Make sure to also check grouting and sealing, window frames, the inside of curtains, blinds and upholstered surfaces such as sofas for specks of mould too.
Excessive condensation on windows – this can occur most frequently in the morning on cold days, and can also leave drops or pools of water along window sills.
Tide marks – these low blemishes can appear on your wall about a metre from the floor.
If allowed to develop, what is typically just an aesthetic problem at first can lead to a more serious issue, including the development of rot which can affect structural timbers, or lead to the need to replace plasterwork. It is therefore important to act as quickly as possible to the first signs of damp in your house to prevent irreversible damage and costly repairs.
Beyond aesthetic or structural problems, dampness can also exacerbate symptoms of respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and contribute to higher household bills due to poor energy efficiency.
Different damp problems you might spot in your house
Condensation is the most common cause, which occurs when moist air comes into contact with a colder surface like a wall, window or mirror. It can be exacerbated in winter due to both increased rainfall and a drop in temperatures. Modern houses, with their double glazing, loft insulation, and draught excluders, can inadvertently seal humid air within the property and increase the chances of condensation developing on cold surfaces.
Solutions: fortunately, condensation can be easily rectified. More often than not, merely ensuring that there is adequate ventilation in your property will solve the problem. Though it may seem counterintuitive, especially with colder weather on the way, opening the window and allowing humid air to escape as often as possible can be very effective – particularly in bathrooms if you do not have an extractor fan.
Other solutions to stop condensation include: avoiding drying clothes indoors and using a tumble dryer whenever possible; ensuring radiators are not blocked by furniture; wiping down windows each morning; checking that washing machines and tumble dryers are plumbed in and vented correctly; covering pots and pans when cooking; and switching on extractor fans or cooker hoods.
Rising damp is due to a defective (or non-existent) damp course. In these cases, water held in the ground can be drawn into the house, commonly leaving a ‘tide mark’ about a metre above the floor, salty stains and peeling or cracking paint. If you do have rising damp, the first course of action is to determine whether your house actually has a damp-proof course (DPC) and damp-proof membrane (DPM). These were made obligatory in houses built after 1875, so houses older than that will likely not possess one.
Solution: if your house does have a DPC or DPM but is still showing signs of rising damp, then it is likely they have become damaged or worn over time. Fixing rising damp is a job for a professional, and will require a remedial damp proof course to put it right.
Penetrating damp is produced by moisture that enters the house through defects in the building structure. Common ways this can occur is through cracked pipework, a damaged roof, blocked guttering, gaps around window frames and cracked or defective rendering and brickwork.
Solutions: penetrating damp can often be remedied with low effort and at a low cost – such as clearing out gutters, particularly after stormy weather, or unblocking window sill dip grooves. You can also use specially designed gutter clearing tools, or install gutter guards, to help keep debris out. Overall, it is crucial to keep on top of outdoor home maintenance, as prevention is often better than a cure when it comes to damp problems. However, more serious cases of penetrating damp can lead to problems with wet or dry rot, requiring a surveyor to visit the site and provide a professional assessment.
How to repair damage caused by damp in your house
Research from Peter Cox discovered that over a fifth (21%) of UK adults admitted that they have tried to fix a damp issue by simply covering or painting over the problem area. Unfortunately, due to the structural nature of some causes, ‘papering over the cracks’ can quickly become an expensive solution in the long-term.
You should never try to just paint over a problem and instead seek advice from an expert to decide the best course of action. However, once you have identified the source of the damp and it has been properly fixed, it should not be too difficult to get rid of the marks left behind, and stop them from becoming an eyesore in your home.
What to do if you need help
The key to dealing with damp in a house is to quickly identify and rectify the source of moisture. While this can often be completed by yourself using various DIY measures, if you are at all unsure, or your damp issues persist, it is imperative that you consult an expert who can fully investigate and diagnose the cause of your problems, as well as provide options for ways to deal with them.
Find out more about our damp proofing services here.