by Uma Casa Portuguesa

What you need to know about damp (and how to fix it!)

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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While you may be living a picture-perfect life in your modern home with fabulous furnishings, there might be a hidden evil doing its worst without you suspecting a thing. Yes, damp can cause quite serious havoc and once spotted, needs to be dealt with severely. 

Poor ventilation is one of the main causes of damp. Like all things, a house also needs to breathe and rely on constant air circulation. Anything that impedes the flow of air through your home prevents moisture from escaping or evaporating, which leads to damp.

With winter already in full swing, many people have started turning their homes into hermetically sealed boxes with little or no ventilation. As well as being bad for your health, this can also contribute big time to damp problems.

Let’s take a look at some other causes and how to get rid of them.

1. Rising damp

Rising damp is one of the main causes for a damp house. The problem, however, is that its presence is not always obvious as much of it occurs below floor level. Only with time does it worsen and begin to creep up walls. 

Look out for patches above skirting boards and use your nose: damp can often be smelled even if it can’t be seen. 

If left unchecked, rising damp can cause damage to brick, concrete and wood structures, and cause wet rot and the much-dreaded dry rot.

How to treat it: If no damp-proof course exists, many homeowners opt for a chemical damp-proof course which is injected into the walls to prevent moisture rising above a certain level. This treatment involves the structure of a property, and is therefore subject to regulations. 

However, installation should only be performed by a professional and reliable company, as this can affect your insurance claim or your house’s listing price when it becomes time for selling.

2. Condensation

The signs of condensation are much easier to spot: steamed-up windows, puddles on the windowsill, damp patches, peeling wallpaper, water running down walls, black spotty mildew, etc. But while badly ventilated bathrooms and kitchens are at obvious risk, less noticeable condensation can occur in unseen places such as chimneys with no vent, or underneath tightly fitted laminated flooring which prevents proper air circulation. 

How to treat it: Good ventilation and heating is key. Sometimes it can be as simple as opening a window, and other times you have to resort to more appropriate measures, like installing vents and extractor fans, or turning up the air-con or heater when necessary.

3. Penetrating damp

Seeing signs of damp and blotchy patches on walls? How about wet and crumbly plaster, symptoms of mildew and fungus, or some water on the floor?  

Many sources can be blamed for penetrating damp, including loose or missing roof tiles, leaking downpipes, overflowing gutters, faulty roofs and badly fitting windows or doors. Damp problems occur on ground floors if the ground level outside is higher than the damp-proof course or covers the air bricks designed to allow air to circulate underneath suspended floors.

How to treat it: Ensure your home is well maintained and in good repair inside and out. Check roofs regularly by looking for any wet timbers or signs of water coming in. Keep areas around damp-proof courses and air bricks clear. 

Where a general air of dampness prevails (such as bathrooms, cellars and basements), an open window, radiator or storage heater left permanently on a low setting will help to keep the atmosphere drier.

4. Leaks

Slow and small leaks can, over time, grow into much bigger (and damper) problems. Look for growing patches on floors, walls or ceilings and drips and puddles where they shouldn't be. 

Watch out for damaged or badly installed piping and appliances (especially dishwashers and washing machines), bad tiling, porous grout and perished rubber pipe work. Damaged or poor seals around showers and especially over baths can also contribute, although the damage often goes unnoticed until it appears down the walls or on the ceiling of the room below.

How to treat it: Keep your eyes open. Check connections and waste pipes on domestic appliances regularly. Make sure that seals around bathroom appliances are effective, and always use an expert plumber to carry out any work. 

If you live in an upstairs flat it is quite crucial to be vigilant, as your downstairs neighbour will be the one suffering the most!

5. The appearance of a water-stained ceiling

A dark ceiling ruining your home’s look? A water leak from a downpipe in the roof will cause dark staining (mildew) in the ceiling, as well as nasty, fungal-like growths. 

When wood gets wet, mildew seeps through and will continue to show as a dark stain, even through multiple coats of regular emulsion.  

Get a professional in as soon as you start noticing these issues.

6. Proper insulation

Insulation is essential in preventing exterior moisture from entering your home. 

It also helps a lot if you tend to make regular use of air-conditioning and/or heating, keeping your indoor temperatures at stable levels while preventing major condensation problems.

7. Keep on top of wiping down mould

Be aware of where condensation tends to collect in your home. The most common places are usually: 

• Behind furniture, such as a sofa, bed or bookcase 

• In the corners of a room 

• Inside fitted cupboards and wardrobes.

Wiping with watered-down bleach and a wet rag works great for more obvious mould stains. Otherwise, check out what products are available at hardware stores and supermarkets. 

Speaking of wiping, be sure to see these: Errors you MUST avoid when cleaning your home.

Has your home ever suffered from damp?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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