Many Brits turned to their hand to home improvements during the full UK lockdown earlier in the year. American Express revealed that more than £3.7 billion was spent in the UK on gardening during that period, and the latest retail sector ONS figures suggest DIY and home improvement products helped drive total retail sales up 1.5% from August to September.
The forced time indoors also caused a spike in internet searches for ‘rising damp’, a problem that can often become noticeable during DIY and gardening projects. In fact, over the period from March to August the search volume for ‘rising damp’ on Google increased by 43%, when compared to the same period last year.
Rising damp is caused when a home’s damp proof course (DPC), a barrier commonly found in most UK houses, and usually formed by a membrane built into the walls of a property, typically 150mm above ground level, to prevent damp rising through the walls is damaged or compromised. But there are all kinds of damp issues, and in this piece we will explore what to do if you think your property could be suffering from a damp-related problem.
What to look out for
Damp is usually accompanied by an unmistakably musty smell. It can leave stains, dark patches and discolouration on walls and can sometimes cause mould to form. Damaged or rotting skirting boards or plaster within properties are also often a sign of damp and there may even be visible wet patches. There are three main types of damp to look out for; rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation.
Rising damp occurs when moisture is drawn upwards through the mortar and masonry of a building. Porous building materials such as bricks and sandstone are most likely to be affected. Modern buildings in the UK include a damp proof membrane that should act as a barrier to this form of damp.
Penetrating damp is most often caused by exposure to prevailing winds, which can drive rain into the masonry, and is most pronounced on buildings with solid, rather than cavity walls. Property defects such as gaps around windows, leaking roofs or even plants growing on the building can all lead to moisture entering the premises. The most effective way to protect a property from penetrating damp is to rectify such defects and apply a weather protect coating to the exterior walls.
Condensation becomes most problematic during the winter months when windows tend to be kept closed to keep the cold out while the heating is on. Condensation affects one in five homes and happens when moist warm air meets a cold surface. This can be caused by many day-to-day activities such as boiling the kettle, cooking, having a shower, or drying clothes inside. Ventilation is key to defeating condensation, and homeowners with double glazing should keep the trickle vents open while extractor fans should be used in the kitchen and bathroom to combat moisture.
What shall I do if I think I have a damp problem?
The first thing to do is call in the experts, as if a problem is incorrectly diagnosed then further issues could be caused in the future. Peter Cox’s surveyors are all industry level qualified and will be able to advise on the best course of treatment.
The most common form of rising damp treatment is the injection of a chemical damp proof course, a reliable form of damp proofing, which in most cases is the fastest and most cost-effective rising damp treatment to install. Walls affected by rising damp will often contain salts that have become soaked into brickwork and wall plaster, so it is important to address these whilst carrying out damp proofing work. Our service involves a three-step process following a damp survey that includes removing any salt-contaminated plaster from the walls.
Our high-strength cream then creates a barrier within the wall to prevent any rising damp problems from resurfacing, and new plaster can then be applied.
Protect your property from damp
When it comes to dealing with damp, it’s better to take preventative measures in the home to stop it from becoming an issue. Simple things include keeping your property ventilated so condensation doesn’t become an issue, and regularly checking drains and downpipes to ensure there are no blockages or leaks.
There are solutions to the different sources of damp. However, it is essential they are dealt with early before lasting damage is caused to the property. Keep an eye out for damp patches, discolorations in the interior and that signature musty smell. And if in doubt call in the professionals.
Catherine Hill, National Commercial Manager, Peter Cox