It’s not uncommon to uncover signs of damp during construction or restoration projects. Damp often lurks in places people rarely look until they start to scratch beneath the surface of a premises.
Last year, many homeowners discovered what it was like to find a damp issue as they embarked on DIY projects over lockdown to improve their properties. We recently polled 2,000 people across the UK and found a fifth (20%) discovered a damp issue in their home while undertaking a DIY project during lockdown. We also surveyed our frontline surveyors to further understand the extent of damp issues in British homes, and 71% said there’s been an increase in damp issues discovered, as a result of people being at home more or undertaking DIY projects during the pandemic.
What to do if you discover damp in your home?
So, what is the best course of action when you discover signs of a damp problem in the home or during a bigger project? If you’re unsure, you’re not alone. Only 31% of consumers said they knew how to address a damp-related problem. But please don’t do what 21% of the population admitted to, which was simply to paint or paper over the problem area!
The most important thing is to act quickly – failure to address a damp issue can allow a problem to become more severe, increasing the amount of damage inflicted as well as repair costs. Following one of the wettest autumns on record in Britain, and as winter blankets the nation with cold, wet weather, it is important to understand how to identify a damp issue early.
What type of damp do you have?
If you’ve found isolated damp patches on your walls then this could be the result of penetrating damp. This is the general name given to damp problems caused when rainwater makes its way into the internal part of your home through defects in the building structure. It is most common with solid masonry, rather than cavity wall construction. To protect your home against heavy rainfall we advise that you check guttering for blocks or cracks and ensure downpipes are properly connected with no gaps or faults in the joints. If rainwater goods are damaged, it can mean brickwork gets soaked.
Our consumer research found just one third of residents undertake a regular inspection of rainwater goods (such as guttering, downpipes and flashing), which are the most common causes of penetrating damp in the UK.
Our experts have also uncovered sparrow nests stuck in pipes. This is likely to be a result of changing spring weather patterns with dry periods suitable for nesting in the top of the downpipe bend, being followed by heavy showers. When it rains heavily, the weight of water can force the nest down the pipe, and water can overflow at the top, eventually causing damp problems. If you have resident sparrows near your property then think about providing them with nest boxes, which will decrease the chances of this happening and help a bird whose population has plunged 71% since 1977.
Some DIY measures exist to treat penetrating damp, but the key is to identify and rectify the source of moisture first. For more serious cases of penetrating damp, plasterwork might need replacing, while it can also cause wet rot or dry rot, meaning a surveyor might be needed to visit the site and provide professional advice.
How to recognise Rising Damp
Rising damp is another cause of problems for walls. It is caused by water held in the ground being drawn into the property by capillary action. Most homes have a functioning in-built damp proof course to prevent this form of damp, but if that has become defective or damaged, walls may become susceptible. If so, you may see damp tide marks up to a metre high, salty stains and peeling or cracking paint. If your property has been affected by rising damp, then you will require a remedial damp proof course to put it right.
Winter is the peak season for damp-related issues, not least because of increased rainfall, but the drop in temperature often causes condensation issues. Our survey of consumers found that 30% of the population reported an increase in condensation in their home last November alone. Mould growth as a result of condensation is estimated to affect one in five UK properties and is the result of moisture laden air coming into contact with cold surfaces like external walls or windows.
The good news is that condensation can be easily rectified, in most cases by ensuring there’s adequate ventilation in a property. Modern buildings are designed to be highly energy efficient and are well insulated, often with double glazing, double insulation in the loft, and draught excluders. However, this can seal humid air within the property, increasing the chance of condensation developing on cold surfaces. Whilst it may seem counterintuitive during winter, it is important to give warm humid air the chance to escape by opening windows or vents in a controlled manner, as much as possible. This also removes stale humid air which leads to musty smells, dampness and ultimately mould growth. Moist stale air may also contain dust mite allergens and volatile organic compounds (from cleaning products, hair spray and deodorants etc), which can contribute to asthma symptoms.
Contact damp specialists
If you have identified damp problems and attempted preventative measures but damp issues are still prevailing, call in the experts 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 services here.