How to Treat & Prevent Damp

At risk of damp?

According to the most recent Government Survey, houses built before 1919 - a whopping 4.5 million UK homes - have a much greater risk of damp. In spite of this, modern and post war homes are still at risk. Condensation regularly appears on our windows and covers our cars in mornings and evenings. Romantic and charming as it may seem, but moisture-related damages on homes cost UK homeowners millions of pounds every year.

Causes of damp

Condensation Problems comes from airborne moisture. Air will always contain a certain degree of moisture but its ability depends on the temperature. This means that in a colder area or if there is a drop in temperature the air will be unable to contain all its moisture and will leave it behind as condensation or damp spots.

Indoors, this means that any cold areas are likely to suffer more from moisture-related problems – and these areas are also where damp is most likely to occur. Window panes and frames, behind wardrobes, non-insulated outer walls or ceilings are common trouble spots.

For homes, the problem is that if moisture is generated faster than it can be removed the relative humidity will rise until condensation occurs. Because of their lower surface temperature windows are usually the first surfaces on which condensation is noticed. For that reason they are often used as an indicator of excessive humidity. Walls and floors can be equally affected but as the condensation is less noticeable here it is not until visible damp spots occur that the problems are noticed.

The effects of damp

Damp is a major problem for both health and home. As it is a sign of high humidity levels in the home, arthritis, asthma and allergy sufferers are likely to feel the effects of their environment. Damp is also a major contributor to the millions of pounds spent on home repairs every year in Britain. Redecoration, new window sills, skirting boards and floors are some of the most commonly incurred repairs following damp problems. However, as penetrating damp reaches into walls, ceilings and floors the damage can be critical and much more severe and cost many thousands of pounds to repair.

Damp prevention

To prevent damp and related damage, damp proof courses, dehumidifiers and good air circulation are crucial. Damp proof courses are materials inserted in walls and foundations to prevent moisture traveling from one place to the other. If your house lacks damp proof courses it could be advisable to look into having them installed – check with a building expert on the best way of tackling this problem.

Remember buildings must breathe. Water is a natural component in all building materials. If this is sealed in by a waterproof coat on the outside and similar applications on the inside.
Who is affected?

Damp problems are most prevalent in older housing and among large households. The Government’s most recent Housing Survey claims 25% of all houses built before 1919 suffer from penetrating damp. This does not mean the problem only occur in old housing stock but rather that if left unchecked, excess moisture will cause severe damage over time which inevitably will affect the price and standard of the house.

There is also a connection between the size of the household and damp-related problems. Experts claim this proves the link between the amount of moisture generated and the rate which our modern homes gets rid of excess moisture. With double glazing, improved insulation and other energy saving measures the modern home has become a sealed unit which does not allow much to escape.

Damp affects a large number of UK households and causes damages worth millions of pounds each year. It is a preventable problem. Start by making sure washing machines and tumblers are ventilated to the outside if possible; check walls and ceilings for holes and other damage; and pipes and taps for leaks. Controlling moisture levels and improving air circulation with the help of a dehumidifier is an easy and inexpensive second step which also will contribute to heating your house. Damp proof courses are also highly recommended, although they require more investment in time and money and the help of outside contractor. These measures should see an almost immediate improvement in your indoor environment and protect your home from damp and other moisture related damages. 
Where to look for damp:

In pockets with poor air circulation or poorly ventilated areas near an outside wall
Cold areas of walls and ceiling
Bathrooms, kitchens and areas with high moisture generation
Cupboards and wardrobes
Floors and ceilings
Check masonry for defective mortar joints or cracks in stone or rendered walls.
Check roof tiles for damage. Water can get in and run down the roofing felt collect in the bottom of the felt where it meets the external walls and rot through
Check brickwork for efflorescence - salty, white deposits. They are a sure sign of excess moisture as these spots stem from water evaporating and leaving behind its salts.
Make sure all seals around windows and doors are good. Bad seals can allow water to get in and trickle through the joints.
Check all gutters and overflow pipes for leakage, blockages and overflow. Leaving leave dammed up moisture long enough will dampen the surrounding wall or floor which lead it to suck in moisture.
Problems caused by damp

Cosmetic damage to walls, window sills, carpets, furnishings and textiles
Structural damage to beams, walls, ceilings, roofs, floors and insulation.
Can lead other problems including mould and musty smells.
Damp and mould can increase the occurrence of allergens in the air – dust mites thrive in humid environments and mould spores are a common source of irritation.
How to prevent damp

Increased air circulation
Ventilation (beware of heat losses and security issues) – needs to be consistent throughout the house, including loft and basement, to be fully effective. Fans will only shift the problem elsewhere.
Damp proof courses.
Level heating throughout the house – excess moisture remains but is concealed and can lead to interstitial condensation (condensation forming inside walls)