Damp in your home – identifying the problem and the solution

Damp in your home – identifying the problem and the solution
September 15, 2016 Rosie Williams
Types of damp in your home

Noticing damp in your home can be worrying. After all, we’ve all heard horror stories or watched an episode of ‘Homes from Hell’ where the home-owner finds damp and ends up selling a kidney to fix the problem.

But part of the reason we worry so much about damp is that most of us have very little knowledge about what damp actually is. Furthermore, every trades person who comes to give their opinion about the damp seems to suggest a different solution, making you wonder who you should believe.

To help you identify what sort of damp problem you’ve got, we’ve put together a handy little guide. So, let’s look at the three different ‘types’ of damp; Rising damp, Penetrating damp, and Condensation, and how to identify the type of damp you have.

Rising Damp

What is it?

If you live in a basement or ground floor apartment, and have rotting skirting boards, lifting and stained wallpaper, flaking plaster or a tide-mark up to 1 meter from the floor, you’ve probably got a problem with rising damp.

This is usually caused by a failing damp proof course, or because there is no damp proof course installed at all. Rising damp is most likely to occur in older properties (pre 1970) where the building materials used were more prone to deterioration.

How can it be treated?

In many cases, rising damp is caused because the external level exceeds the level of the damp proof course causing moisture to rise, for example, if you have a build up of leaves or soil sitting against the outside walls. In this case, the solution is usually to remove or reduce external levels (ie, remove soil and leaves).

Where a damp proof course has failed or is not present, the most effective treatment is the injection of chemical damp proofing to external walls.

Penetrating Damp

What is it?

Penetrating damp can look similar to rising damp, but the symptoms can occur at any height on the wall. It’s caused by excess moisture penetrating into the walls externally. Leaks are also a major cause of penetrating damp.

If you can see damp stains around your windows, patio or balcony then you could have a leak, so it’s best to get it checked out before it causes too much damage. Sometimes extreme weather conditions can mean external walls become saturated which can also lead to penetrating damp, although this is likely to be rare and localised.

How can it be treated?

If you live in a top floor apartment and have noticed signs of penetrating damp, it is a good idea to check your gutters. If they are blocked, then the water won’t be able drain away.

It’s important to make sure your roof is in good condition too. Any damage or missing tiles can allow water into your loft space and cause penetrating damp.

Once you’ve found a leak and fixed it, allow the area to dry thoroughly before redecorating.


What is it?

If you’ve noticed spores of mould or paint bubbling on your walls and ceilings, it could be caused by condensation.

When excess moisture inside a property is unable to escape, it hits colder surfaces and forms water droplets. Over a period of time these water droplets can stain and discolour surfaces as well an encourage mould and mildew growth. Everyday things like cooking, washing, bathing and even breathing cause condensation, and it’s usually worse in the winter.

How can it be treated?

A condensation problem can usually be fixed by following a few simple steps:

  • Improve ventilation and circulate air – it’s as easy as opening some windows or installing a vent or extractor fan.
  • Insulate your property
  • Consider using a dehumidifier to extract some of the excess moisture from the air
  • Dry your washing outside the property when you can
  • Using insulated plasterboard over a damp proofing course will keep the lower temperatures away from the inner wall, keeping damp out and the warmth in. This can also add value to your home.


How much value does damp proofing add to your home?

Getting damp proofing work done can be an expensive job and people often wonder if it really adds any value to a property. The truth is, getting the work done probably doesn’t add any more value to the property in the same way that an extension would.

However, a damp property without any work done will almost certainly lose value. Looking at it from that respect, it seems worth the investment.

Value aside, a recent damp proofing course can be a very powerful sales tool when people are viewing the property as it is a very desirable attribute in old properties, saving the buyer hassle and money down the line. Additionally, a dry property gives a buyer less ammo for negotiation after they complete their surveys.

If you live in a city like Brighton, most older properties suffer from a bit of damp and it is often one of the first things a potential buyer will ask about the property when you come to sell.