Wall showing signs of Rising Damp

Rising damp

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Rising damp

Rising damp is one of the most serious yet misunderstood damp problems that affects properties across the UK. Our guide below will help you understand what causes rising damp and how to identify the tell-tale signs that appear on ground floor walls, skirting boards, paint, wallpaper and masonry.

Treating true cases of rising damp will often involve installing a remedial damp proof course, and the earlier this can be performed the more likely you are to avoid creating an unpleasant and damp environment in your home. Also, if left to accumulate, the excess moisture content in the wall can reach the timber resulting in wet or dry rot. Continue reading for help and advice from our rising damp specialists on spotting the signs of rising damp and how to treat it, or click the button below to book a survey.

What is rising damp?

Rising damp is the name given to the process of water in the ground entering a property by travelling up through the pores in brickwork - also known as capillary action. Rising damp will stop when gravity and evaporation impede the pull of the capillary action, and this usually results in a visible "tide-mark" around 1m high. That said, other signs of rising damp may be visible above 1m due to non-porous renders or paint on the wall.

Typically walls will be surrounded by porous materials like plaster, timber and wallpaper and this is where a lot of the aesthetic damage will be noticed as these materials rot and deteriorate. Groundwater also contains salts that travel up through the bricks and cause white marks to form on the internal wall - another common sign of rising damp.

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What causes rising damp?

During construction, a damp proof course should be installed into a mortar joint of low level brickwork to prevent water travelling through the brickwork to cause rising damp.

In old buildings, the original damp proof courses can begin to breakdown or get damaged. Normally, you will not even be aware the damp proof course has failed until you begin to notice the typical tell tale signs of rising damp.

A common cause of rising damp in newer buildings is the damp-proof course being ‘bridged’. This can be caused by a few things. Raising the external ground level above the DPC, re-plastered or newly rendered walls or a build up of debris and building materials in a cavity wall can all cause bridging.

How to identify rising damp

Understanding what rising damp looks like, and how it differs from a penetrating damp problem or dampness caused by condensation is not always easy if you are not trained in what to look for.

To help you recognise the differences you can check out our rising damp images below displaying a typical rising damp 'tide stain', damaged plaster, peeling wallpaper and salt marks.

Signs of rising damp pictures

Spotting the signs of rising damp

Being able to identify the signs of rising damp at an early stage will allow you to intervene and avoid the more serious consequences.

Take a look at our tips below on how to identify rising damp, and if you are worried your property may be displaying some of these symptoms you can give our specialist team a call to find out the best course of action to remedy the issue.

Tide-mark damp stains on internal walls

The most common sign of rising damp is a “tide-mark” or damp staining along the bottom of the wall sitting approx 1 metre above the skirting boards. As the water evaporates from the brickwork, a tide-mark appears that typically feels damp to touch. The tide mark is often in association with hygroscopic salts that have been absorbed into the plaster (see the next tell tale sign).

If a tide mark isn’t visible, yellowish-brown damp stains may appear along the skirting board. This is typically another sign of the moisture within the walls evaporating.

Salts visible in the plaster of internal walls

As the moisture rises from the ground by capillary action, the water contains salt washed out from the brick onto the plaster often leaving walls damp to touch. As the water evaporates, the salt fragments are left leaving a residue and creating fluffy white deposits. The salt draws moisture from the air leaving a permanent damp smell within the wall.

Salt-contaminated plaster is one of the clearest indicators of rising damp and is a very common sign.

Damp and decaying skirting boards

Depending on how long you have had the rising damp issue, it is possible for skirting boards to begin to rot from the overexposure to water. Things to look out for include:

  • skirting board crumbling
  • visible cracks in the skirting boards?
  • paintwork peeling or flaking

Also be aware of any exposed timbers around the area as this could potentially lead to further problems with wet rot or dry rot if left untreated.

Damp wallpaper

The increase of moisture within the wall(s) can cause damp patches on walls and wallpaper to start peeling away from the wall, particularly around the skirting board or up to 1 metre from the skirting board.

Damp stains and peeling wallpaper can be an indication of condensation issues but by feeling the wall with your hand you may be able to hear the paper crack and crumble due to the moisture-attracting salts behind the wallpaper drying.

Black mould on walls

Depending on the amount of moisture there is within the building fabric of the wall and the humidity of the property, black mould can be an indication that there is a form of dampness in your property. If the black mould is located along the skirting board and does not affect other areas of the property, it could be a sign of rising damp.

Does rising damp smell?

Just like any other form of dampness, rising damp can create a musty smell and damp atmosphere in the property. Unfortunately, it is not possible to identify a unique smell associated with rising damp to discern it from any other cause.

Rising damp on external walls

Rising damp also shows on the external walls of a property. The most common signs of rising damp on external walls are pretty similar to inside, with tide marks and salt deposits being visible around a metre high from the base of the wall.

You may also notice green and brown staining from external debri and vegetation, similar to the kind of stains that occur around broken downpipes.

Rising damp treatment

The most popular method to treat rising damp is installing a remedial damp proof course (DPC) via the damp proof injection method. Remedial damp-proof courses are injected into specifically drilled holes in the affected wall. Once injected the DPC is absorbed by the bricks and creates a water-repellent barrier as it dries.

A damp proof course is a popular way to treat rising damp for a few simple reasons - it has proven to be highly effective, economical and is accredited by all leading trade bodies in the industry. That said, there are other treatment methods available and you can find out more about these on our rising damp treatment page.

Before any remedial damp-proof course is installed, the most important part of the rising damp treatment process must take place - diagnosis. Before assuming there has been a failure with the original DPC, the experts at Peter Cox will carry out a full rising damp survey. Our specialist surveyors will be able to identify rising damp or any other conditions that may be causing a problem such as penetrating damp or condensation where a new DPC would be ineffectual and unnecessary.

Damp proof membrane can also be used in rising damp treatment where applicable. This is material that prevents moisture transmission and is also an excellent key for plasterwork.

It may be the case that even after treatment, walls require some time to dry before you can replaster them. Our surveyors will also be able to give help and advice on replastering walls after remedial treatment is completed.

Why some say rising damp is a myth

Rising damp is categorically not a myth. Water rising upwards through brickwork and other materials via capillary action is a scientifically observable occurrence that has been documented since Roman times. Despite this, there remains a debate on whether rising damp can actually affect houses.

The root of this controversy is largely down to unqualified tradespeople who misdiagnose other damp problems as rising damp. Unfortunately for homeowners, a misdiagnosis will result in treatment being installed which will ultimately fail as it was not targeting the actual cause of their damp walls.

That is why it is vitally important that you ensure any damp surveyor you invite into your home has the required accreditations and trade body certifications, and the company they are associated with have a long and proud trading history and can demonstrate their guarantees are real and meaningful.

Can you Buy or sell a house with rising damp

Any evidence of rising damp either in the home report or on a viewing is a clear red flag to buyers. Most are aware that rising damp will not resolve itself and some form of remedial treatment will inevitably be required.

To negotiate a fair value for the property it is advised that you act to treat rising damp before the property goes on the market. Meanwhile, if you are considering putting an offer in for a house with rising damp, it is in your interests to contact one of our qualified surveyors to visit the property and provide a full damp report along with an itemised pricing guide for any rising damp treatment necessary.

Is rising damp bad for your health?

There are many health problems associated with living in the type of damp and mouldy environments that rising damp can create.

The NHS advise that living in a home affected by dampness and mould means you are more likely to aggravate symptoms of asthma and other respiratory problems, with the very young and elderly the most likely to be affected.

Our rising damp reviews

We are very proud of our reputation as the UK market leaders in rising damp treatment. To demonstrate the high regard that our clients hold us in, take a look at some of their comments on our rising damp services from the respected review platform Trustpilot.

Contact a rising damp specialist near you

If you suspect your property has a rising damp issue, then our CSRT and CSSW qualified damp proofing experts are here to help. Our specialist surveyors will be able to determine the cause of the problem and recommend the most appropriate course of action. If necessary we have a team of experienced technicians ready to get started resolving the issue for you. All our methods are approved by leading trade bodies such as the Property Care Association and TrustMark. 

Get in touch with your local Peter Cox branch or give us a call on 0800 633 5712 for some help and advice. Alternatively, book a survey online using the button below.

Author: Steve Jameson CSRT CSSW

Steve is our National Operations Manager and has been applying his expertise and experience to rising damp in homes and commercial premises for more than 30 years. As one of the nation's leading professionals in remedial rising damp treatment, Steve can offer the best help and advice for your property.

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