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Five top tips to diagnose damp in the home

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 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 five tips to help to spot damp, 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?

Well it is quite easy really.

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.

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.

Tip two: 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?

Tip three: Check your walls

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.

Tip four: Ventilation is what you need……!

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.

Tip five: 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 of 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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