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Top tips to diagnose and cure damp in the house, for a healthier home life

Damp, wet walls, mould and mildew are a common issue in UK houses due to the exceptionally wet and wintry climate Great Britain “enjoys” for much of the year.

Here are some top tips on how to spot damp and how to cure it for good, with some practical and helpful advice from property expert and author, Guy Alexander Bell.

No one likes damp.

If you are trying to sell your house at present and prospective buyers don’t take it further than the first viewing, or you are wondering why you keep getting colds, or even why the house feels chilly even with the heating on, your home could be suffering from damp.

Damp is something that is often at the forefront of the “things to get done” for anyone who cares for a property and it is often down to a lack of maintenance or apathy and the reluctance to fix a problem due to either laziness or indifference.

We give you our expert tips to help to spot damp and mould at home, and suggest what to do about it.

Tip one: Rising or penetrating damp?

Damp comes in two main forms, rising and penetrating, but what is the difference?

Rising damp is water that has risen up from the ground, usually due to a failed damp proof course, a leaking pipe, or where the ground outside has been raised too high and then breaches the DPC.
paint flaked off because of damp in walls

Penetrating damp is where the water comes through the walls, not upwards, and this is often caused be wall defects, or at worst, poor maintenance of the exterior of the house.

Does your property suffer from penetrating damp?

Does your home suffer from Mould, mildew, condensation or dampness?

Do you despair of trying to find the cure for all this, and without breaking the bank?

Your walls may LOOK ok but did you know that each individual brick in your house can hold up to 1.5 pints of water!

Warm air inside and cold air outside causes an “osmotic” action which means that the water is drawn through the wall via “capillary retraction” causing internal damp.

Porous brick can act as a “sponge” drawing in many litres of water into the microscopic holes without increasing in size.

This is commonly known as penetrating damp.

Damp getting into internal walls causes the plaster to break down, surface cracking, flaking and a spongy texture to the surface.

These are ideal breeding conditions for black spot mould and mildew which may cause health problems especially to the very young or very old or to people who suffer from respiratory impairments such as asthma or bronchitis.

mould on a house in Plymouth
(C) Plymouth Herald

The sponge effect we have talked about will cause penetrating damp and would require damp wall treatment.

Rain and damp Penetration into Masonry

Rain penetration into masonry (penetrating damp) can occur in buildings of all ages.

At its most obvious, it penetrates right through the wall and is visible as a damp patch on the internal wall. However, rainwater penetration can be damaging to a property, even if it does not penetrate all the way through a wall.

For example, moss growth, increased heat loss, and frost damage can be caused by rain penetration into masonry.

So what can I do about damp?

High performance Wall coating and DPC injected chemical damp proof course services can permanently cure these defects; why not read on to see what can be done about damp homes, especially if your house is suffering from penetrating or rising damp!?

All of our Never Paint Again products will permanently cure penetrating damp in your house or commercial building.

One of the main causes of penetrating damp is the occurrence of spalling brickwork, cracked cement render or pebble dash, or the face of bricks blown and detached from the surface, allowing water to soak into brickwork or substrate.

NEVERPAINTAGAIN wall coatings are flexible and micro porous, acting like a tough skin when applied to exterior wall surfaces.

Water and rain cannot pass through to the brickwork or render, ensuring your walls dry out, and then stay dry.

Exterior refurbishment and renovation of a listed building in warwickshire

We even offer a guarantee for 20 years that this will not happen again.

As our range of wall coatings act in a similar fashion to the human skin (allowing moisture out, but not in) any water vapour trapped in the bricks will pass through to the outside allowing the walls to breathe and therefore to dry out.

This eliminates penetrating damp, cracked and blown render, and also protects interior plaster and decorations from further damage, so as you can see, although instances of penetrating damp are certainly cause for concern, there is no instance where we cannot help you, and permanently cure damp problems.

There are many other exterior wall coating manufacturers who are even nothing to do with us, who would back us up on our claims.

External wall coverings act the same way as the human skin and contain billions of microscopic holes which allow natural expansion and contraction but do not allow the moisture to get into the house.

Our coatings are fully breathable, and we also suggest that coatings From NEVER PAINT AGAIN, allow the walls to breathe, just like an NPA exterior wall coating does!

Rising Damp and the importance of a DPC

Walls can become damp from the foundations upwards if a damp course (A “DPC”) has been breached, or if no damp course exists, especially on older properties.

The capillary action of the brickwork allows water at the base of a property to permeate to the brick course above and therefore dampness will rise up the walls.

What are the problems are caused by rising damp?

render repairs to a corner wall, final coat to be smoothed


Rising damp will continue to rise if left unchecked, and will cause dampness inside the property ruining décor, furniture and causing rotting in the fabric of the property. If you have rising damp in your home, get it attended to by us as soon as possible. THE LONGER YOU LEAVE IT, THE WORSE IT WILL GET.

What can I do about damp?

After repairs or after renewal of the damp course, high performance wall coatings applied to your exterior walls will allow the damp to disperse to the outside but would protect against rain and damp being absorbed back into the walls, therefore the property would be allowed to dry out

A sure sign of damp is a musty smell which infiltrates all fabrics, including carpet and is very difficult to get rid of. In addition, patches of mould will appear on the internal walls.

These are warning signs and both mean you need to take some action now.

Other avenues of investigation in locating damp

Check the pipes and gutters for leaks

A common cause of damp is a leaking pipe or gutter, allowing water to get in where it should not be.
Replace old gutters. Replace old gutters, it’s not going to be expensive

Ironically, the most effective way to check for leaking pipes is when it is actually raining, however the cheaters way if it is dry weather is to set up a garden hose and put it into the gutter or pipe and you should soon see if the pipes are cracked and leaking.

Also it is worth checking for blockages too, which can happen with leaves, dirt and other debris, and anyway it’s good home maintenance to clear and clean your gutters once a year, or more if you have trees overlooking your home. Upvc pipes etc. are rarely expensive to fix and replace.

Time for an exterior spring clean?

Check your walls of your home for any problems, they should be easy to see

Your walls are often the largest area of your home that require maintenance and a distinct lack of care for the exterior of your house will often see you with a damp one, and sat there scratching your head as to why it is damp because you paid the fella down the pub to paint it.

Painting a house with masonry paint will not stop damp

So with that fact cleared up, how can you get rid of damp?

Well, firstly, any defects outside such as cracks, need be filled in properly and any hollow render or pebbledash needs to be fixed too.

Then you need an exterior wall coating to be applied by a reputable contractor, which often gives a 20 year damp guarantee too.

They have the technology and tools to cure BOTH kinds of damp; penetrating and rising dampness.

Ventilation is what you need in many cases, to let the air flow through your house

Many older homes have been improved over the years to become more energy efficient, warmer and more welcoming, however houses built many years ago were draughty FOR A GOOD REASON.

Draughty old windows at least circulated the air.

Air was allowed to circulate in and out of the home, controlling humidity.

With draught-proofed, insulated and double glazed homes that doesn’t happen as the moisture is trapped inside the house.

A simple solution is to install trickle vents in double glazed units, let windows opens to “air” rooms, and that is especially relevant after showering.

Double glazed windows

Some common cures for damp.

Common cures usually relate to finding the SOURCE of the moisture intrusion and having work done to cure it.

This may be a leaking chimney, a leaking pipe, loose or missing roof slates, earth piled up against the walls, or hollow and cracked exterior rendering.

Once the SOURCE of the water ingress has been found, it is best to call in a builder, a wall coating company or a damp proofing firm, to help you cure the damp, so it won’t return.

What about condensation?

Condensation can happen in many homes and is quite simply a lack of ventilation in the home, often coupled with a poor quality external wall paint or render.

Condensation happens when the warm and moist air inside the home, meets the cold coming in through poorly insulated or maintained walls and then condenses, forming water which then ruins your wallpaper, paint or carpets.

Wallpaper can fall off with wet walls

Older houses used to NOT suffer from condensation as draughty windows and doors allowed the air in the house to refresh itself, circulate, and therefore any moisture or vapour inside would disappear.

Condensation is also caused when water vapour comes into contact with cold surfaces and condenses to form dampness or water droplets.

This is the issue people find with open fireplaces, which allowed through ventilation but since the dawn of central heating and many older homes blocked the fireplace up, this kept the moisture inside the home.

Coupled with double glazing, modern heating systems, tumble driers and showers, the humidity level inside homes has increased over the years, which has caused an increase in condensation, which can ruin fabrics, wallpapers and other surfaces.

New build houses can also suffer from this problem and the NHBC said:

“Condensation is not normally a building fault. It can occur in a new home because building materials, such as mortar and plaster, contain a lot of moisture.

Water vapour is formed as the materials dry out when the home is lived in and heated. This is a slow process that takes some time to complete.

Modern homes are built so that they don’t waste energy.

Better insulation, draught proofing on doors and sealed window units minimise draughts and stop heat escaping from your home. But they also reduce water vapour escaping, which can increase the risk of condensation.”

So if any of the above tips sound familiar, and you are confident your home has damp, what do you do next?

Well, for sure, you should NOT ignore it.

For a free damp proof survey and appraisal, call NPA today on 0800 970 4928

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