Whether you own a house or you’re renting, damp is an inconvenient annoyance to all. Damp can cause damage to property and possessions as well as bring around negative health impacts, so if you do have damp or want to be prepared in the future, we’ve got you.
We’re here to save you endless hours of searching for “How to get rid of damp?” or “What causes the smell of damp?” and give you the tools to recognise, treat and most importantly of all, prevent damp.
How to know if you have damp
If you suspect you have damp – you probably already do! To figure out if you have damp, you must be able to recognise the tell-tale signs:
- Walls – Hold your hand against the wall. Does it feel very cold or slightly wet? Look for signs of mould or fungal growth which will appear as black speckled marks or grey growths on painted walls, woodwork, grouting, and wallpaper. Flaking paint or curling wallpaper can also be a sign.
- Ceilings – As well as looking for signs of mould, pay close attention to the colour of the ceiling. Is it discoloured or stained in areas? Brown patches in the external corners and near chimney breasts can be damp.
- Windows – Condensation on windows in the morning, along with small puddles of water along windowsills, can indicate high moisture levels within your house. This can be both a cause and a symptom of damp. Black mould may also develop on wooden and PVC window frames, and on the silicone sealant used around the edge of frames.
Make sure you check regularly in bathrooms, kitchens, unheated spaces, and soft furnishings as these are all hotspots for damp and mould. If you think you have mould, you’re likely to find the proof inside curtains or blinds. These are likely to be little black specks, whilst the mould on wooden and plastic surfaces is more likely to appear as cloudy condensation.
How to identify types of damp
There are a few different subcategories of damp, each with its causes and risks. Knowing what type of damp you have is the vital first step to treating it.
This is the most common type of damp on internal walls and is caused by warm air coming into contact with a surface that is colder than itself. If rooms are not well ventilated, common household tasks such as cooking, boiling a kettle and even drying clothes can cause condensation.
A high level of condensation can cause peeling plaster/wallpaper and damp patches that provide mould with the ideal environment in which to grow. This can lead to respiratory problems as well as creating a musty odour in the rooms affected that will make clothes and everything else smell.
Condensation can be spotted early on and can be prevented causing minimal property damage… unlike the following types of damp:
Unlike condensation, comes from structural problems with properties. This can be from leaky pipes, cracks in brickwork or poorly sealed windows. This type of damp can be spotted by the discolouration of interior walls, mould growth and wet walls.
Penetrating damp not only poses the same threat as condensation with respiratory issues and unpleasant odours, it can also cause walls, floors, and ceilings to rot which is incredibly dangerous for those at home.
This can be easily identified on walls and will only ever affect the ground floor of a property. There will be horizontal discoloured marks that are known as ‘tide marks’, which can be seen up to 1 metre up a wall. This is caused by groundwater being absorbed and rising through the brickwork via capillary action – porous bricks ‘sucking’ up water.
Rising damp poses similar threats to penetrating damp, causing mould growth that can lead to respiratory problems, as well as causing damage to external and internal walls and in turn, damaging the structure of your home.
How to treat damp
Once damp has developed, there are methods to treat and then further strengthen your home against the risk of damp in the future.
For external walls
- With either rising or penetrating damp, the first port of call is to repair any cracks in the brickwork. Once repairs have been made, look upwards and remove excess moss and leaves from guttering. A build-up of plants can lead to leaks and moisture seeping into walls.
- For rising damp specifically, the installation of a damp proof membrane, as well as a damp proof course (DPC), will halt any further deterioration of the building. The DPC will fill holes in porous bricks preventing capillary action, and the membrane will stop groundwater from rising through the bricks.
- Improving the heating of the property and insulating cold walls can work wonders in reducing moisture and protecting internal walls from damp.
For internal walls
If walls in your home have been affected by damp, a dehumidifier is a useful tool. Dehumidifiers can help remove moisture from the air that will indirectly remove it from your walls as well. This is a great tip for drying out water that has made it through via cracks in the walls, leaky roofs, or rising groundwater. If you’re looking for more information on these handy appliances have a read of our 13-step guide to buying a dehumidifier.
Once your internal walls have dried out it’s then time to tackle any mould growth. Mould that has grown due to damp can not only damage the structural integrity of your home, it can also really damage respiratory function, especially for those with asthma. For this reason, it is imperative to remove mould as quickly as possible to keep you and your home and loved ones safe. Follow our three-step guide for removing mould below:
- Start by cleaning off the mould with a spray containing bleach. This will help remove the staining that persistent mould can leave behind. Leave to dry overnight.
- Once the bleach spray has dried, treat the affected area with an anti-fungal wash and allow that to dry. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consider wearing a face mask when spraying.
- Once the affected areas are mould free and dry, you can apply specialist anti-mould paint. Coat walls or ceilings to stop the mould from coming back.
Once you have rid yourself of damp and mould throughout your home, that unpleasant odour of damp may linger. Luckily there are a few methods to absorb this smell and get your home odour free. Some experts recommend placing cat litter in the room which will be effective for around 2 weeks and is a fantastic and inexpensive hack for getting rid of musty smells. Using an air purifier can also help deal with the damp smells as well as clean the air of any remaining mould that may be lingering.
How to prevent damp
Though some older houses are more susceptible to damp, every renter and homeowner should be prepared by employing the methods below to ensure you have the best defence against damp in your home.
- Improve ventilation in high-moisture areas e.g. kitchen, bathroom, and areas where clothes dry. This will reduce condensation and most importantly reduce the risk of damp and mould.
- Make sure you air out your home regularly to promote natural airflow and allow moisture to leave.
- Be vigilant. Regularly check the walls in poorly insulated parts of your home. If you’ve experienced damp before, examine these areas well with the methods laid out at the start of this article to see if the signs of moisture have returned. Damp can appear well before it starts to smell, or mould appears.
If your windows attract condensation even after installing ventilation, you may want to consider fitting double glazing. Cold surfaces attract condensation, and double glazing will help make your interior windows warmer. A dehumidifier is an efficient and cost-effective appliance to reduce condensation and moisture in your home. Now you have the tools and know-how to identify, treat and prevent damp throughout your home! Remember to check regularly as signs of damp can be recognised way before a smell appears or mould grows.
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