Common causes of damp in the home

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Living with damp in your home is something that be described as both annoying and harmful to your health and it is important that you keep on top of the problem. Damp can occur for a number of different reason with three common types of damp found in homes.

Often it is a case of managing damp in a property rather than ever being able to completely eradicate the problem. This can be due to where the building is located, the structural make up of the property and the age of the building. For example, an older building with no central heating is more likely to suffer from damp than a new build with gas central heating.

Three main types of damp

• Condensation
• Rising damp
• Penetrating damp


Condensation is the most common type of damp found in homes. The symptoms of condensation are droplets of water on windows, dark mould appearing on walls and ceilings and an unpleasant musky smell. Condensation is most likely to occur in the kitchen and bathroom as this is where there will be the most moisture in there air. Also, any room where wet clothing is left is also likely to suffer from condensation.

If you are suffering from condensation it is important to keep your property suitably ventilated, particularly if you do not have gas central heating as damp can worsen in the winter as the temperature drops. Cracking windows open will help to improve ventilation, while investing in a dehumidifier can go a great distance in reducing moisture in the air and help to contain your damp problem.

Rising damp

Rising damp occurs when water, either from the ground underneath or next to the walls, travels up through walls and flooring as a result of what is called capillary action, where water travels up through small openings. In the case of rising damp, moisture will not usually exceed a height of 1.2m, although further effects may be seen higher up if there vinyl wallpaper or non breathing plasters present – this damaged can include salt deposits.

Most newer building will not suffer from rising damp as they will include a damp-proof course or damp-proof membrane, which must be fitted under building regulations in England and Wales from 1875. If your property is fitted with these then you will be able to find a thin strip towards the bottom of your walls. A simple solution to rising damp can be to replace a damaged damp-proof course or membrane. It is recommended that a specialist is called in the case of suspected rising damp.

Penetrating damp

Penetrating damp is usually caused by leaks, such as broken pipes under a sink or bath and can result in damp forming across walls or ceilings. Structural problems like fault guttering and/or roofing, as well as cracks in walls, are also root problems.

Older buildings with solid walls are more likely to suffer with penetrating damp, whereas a new build with cavity walls offers more protection. Symptoms can take weeks, or even months, to present themselves.

Symptoms of penetrating damp are, but not limited to:

• Localised dampness
Plaster damage
• Wet rot
• Internal mould
• External moss
Brick damage

Treating this kind of damp is relatively simple. It is important to check thoroughly throughout the building, as well as externally, for any apparent blockages that could be the route to the problem. Gutters, window frames and any piping must be checked in detail – remove any moss that you may come across which may be causing a blockage.

If the problem persists then there are further damp-proofing methods that you can install such as condensation paint and external water repellent, as well as waterproofing your basement.

Why you should attend to damp immediately

Damp in the property will quickly turn into mould and contaminate the air that anyone in the building is breathing, which can cause illness.

Those more at risk to illnesses caused by damp are:

• Children
• Elderly
• Sufferers of eczema and other skin conditions
• Sufferers of asthma and other respiratory problems
• Anyone with a weakened immune system

Should you ignore the problem for too long then the effects will be harder to manage and can damage your property to the point that expensive work may have to be done to remove the