Damp, Mould and Condensation Problems

publication date: Feb 5, 2015
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

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Problems with damp, mould or condensation? Read on...

The winter tends to make the signs of damp, mould or condensation problems in our homes easier to spot. Just as the cold and damp weather hits many of us with achy joints, so too do many older houses suffer in the winter from problems associated with cooler temperatures and too much air moisture, whether you live in the city, where it’s a few degrees warmer, or out on the wet and windy coast! So a bit of time and trouble now could save you a lot of hassle and expense in the future. Damp can cause mould on walls and furniture, and rot wooden door and window frames if left untreated. And if your house, or parts of it, is generally damp and cold, this encourages mould and mites to grow, and then the mites feed on moulds and can cause respiratory problems – not what you want at all!

Read - Identifying and Solving Rising Damp

The first thing to do is to work out what the problem is. The way we live now, especially in the colder months, means that our houses are quite humid: double glazing, central heating, kitchen and household gadgets producing steam, showers, baths and drying clothes indoors – all of these modern conveniences contribute moisture to the air, and poor or no ventilation is often behind damp, mould or condensation problems. Trying to save energy by stopping draughts and closing windows and doors is great, but might bring different problems if you’re too good at it.

Everyone’s familiar with water running down windows and mirrors in the bathroom after a shower or bath; that’s because warm, moist air is in contact with cold air or surfaces, resulting in condensation. Actually, condensation is the most frequent cause of damp and mould and is sometimes not noticed until patches of mould become apparent in hidden corners, or wooden window or door frames start to rot. Mould produced by condensation most often appears in bathrooms and in bedrooms furthest away from heat sources, e.g. exterior walls covered by large wardrobes or far-away upper corners of the room.

Read - Identifying and Solving Rising Damp

If you’re renting out property, then it’s in your interests to prevent all these nasties before they become a real problem! So talk to your tenants and find out if they could be taking simple measures to make sure your property stays dry and warm. There are plenty quick fixes: just ask them to wipe down windows and window sills each day. It’s also good to cut down the amount of steam produced when cooking, or when drying clothes – simply opening a window can help. And that's what I do in our bathroom and it works perfectly well!

However, if problems are more serious than a DIY fix can handle – stains on a chimney breast, say, or damaged brickwork - call in an expert to check that it’s not structural faults, leaking pipes or blocked gutters that are to blame. If your property has rising damp, they’ll quickly establish whether, for example, you need a damp-proof course (or to replace an old one). Don’t assume, by the way, that because your property has ‘blue bricks’, drill holes or a grey line between bricks and mortar, the damp proof course is still working – in older houses these can perish and break down, and in reality, any property built before 1990 needs checking. Signs that you’ve got rising damp include damp ‘tidemarks’ on solid walls, whiteish ‘salt’ marks and discolouration, peeling wallpaper and skirting boards with dry or wet rot. What’s called ‘penetrating damp’ can be caused by loose slates and tiles, defective gutters and leaking downpipes, and cracked or damaged brickwork and render.

Read - Identifying and Solving Rising Damp

A timber and damp specialist affiliated to an association like the Property Care Association will produce a report for your whole property and either give a quote, or simply advice on how things can be repaired. They should be able to explain various options to you, and don’t be bamboozled by terminology – make sure you understand what choices you have! They should also be able to advise you on follow-up work like how long you should wait before replastering, and what sort of paints to use.

Getting a PCA member means you get a range of guarantees including deposit protection and insurance, so that you’ve some come-back if things don’t work out. And try to get someone who has been in the business for at least twenty years, and knows their stuff!

If you want to get it right first time and get real professionals to work on your property, contact us and do take a look at our Building and Renovating Checklists and Property Problems Checklists.

All our information is brought to you by Kate Faulkner, author of Which? Property books and one of the UK's top property experts.
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