There are different types of ‘damp’ which can affect our homes and there are often different causes. If the resulting problems are left untreated they can ruin clothes, furniture, both internal and external doors and window frames, interior decoration and they can even affect your health.
How to Identify a Damp Problem
Damp results from water penetrating through floors or walls. This can come from above, e.g. rain and snow or it can come from below, in the case of ground water rising.
Identifying a damp problem is usually quite straightforward. You’ll either see it as a result if spotting ‘tide marks’ on walls or ceilings or you’ll soon notice a musty smell before too long. It can soon cause mould to start developing on walls and furniture and will make any timber framed windows and doors soon rot if left untreated.
If you spot a damp patch, it’s important that you trace it back to the source of any leak. If you live in an older dwelling, it’s fairly likely that it wasn’t built with damp-proof membranes or damp courses but whether your house is new or old, you should check for any missing tiles or slates from your roof, any damage to brickwork or rendering outside, leaking window sills, blocked or broken drainpipes, gutters or air bricks or, perhaps, a crumbling chimney. Flat roofs can cause particular problems so you need to ensure that its covering isn’t damaged if you suspect a flat roof may be the cause of your problems.
Another less obvious problem is often caused by any rubbish or soil which may have been piled up against the wall of your house above the level of any damp-proof course. Damp problems could also be caused by a leak in your plumbing or central heating system.
Condensation, whilst it can cause similar problems, is not the same as damp. It’s usually caused when there is excess moisture in the air inside your house or in extremely cold conditions but this is more easily treated and prevented.
The signs of condensation being present are stains and black powder-like mould which can build up behind large pieces of furniture, in the kitchen or in the bathroom, in particular around the windows and even clothes and shoes kept in a cupboard or wardrobe can also be affected. Not only can it ruin your clothes and furnishings but the spores from the mould can be very bad for your lungs and people with breathing problems such as asthma can be badly affected.
However, many problems caused by condensation can be prevented in a number of ways. Opening the kitchen window when cooking helps reduce it as does putting the lids on pans. If you don’t have a tumble dryer and it’s too wet to dry your clothes outside, putting your wet clothes on a maiden a few feet away from radiators will cause less condensation than putting them directly onto the radiators themselves. When taking a bath, putting the cold water in first helps to keep the amount of steam to a minimum and you should keep the bathroom door closed when you are running or taking a bath, remembering to let the steam out by opening a window when you’ve finished. Insulation and draught-proofing also helps as well as making sure that any air bricks are kept free from blockages.
If, however, your problem is not one of condensation, you should seek advice from professional plumbers or builders before it gets out of hand.