For many new businesses, such as shops and restaurants that are constantly opening in and around London every day, having a basement or cellar is a big benefit, whether it be for storage or for use as everyday space, including extending the existing business. In many cases this valuable space, which has been unusable for years, becomes solely for the use as a completely new business. Basements and cellars have a somewhat dubious reputation and for good reason – they are often prone to damp and cold. If not dealt with, damp not only means this part of a property is unusable but it can also lead to secondary problems such as timber decay, including dry-rot. So, what can be done to reduce dampness in a basement or cellar?
Understanding the problem
Before you begin to look at solutions, you need to understand the problem. When you work with a damp expert, they will be able to do this for you but it is always a good idea to understand what is going on.
Damp in cellars or basements is a common problem, especially in older buildings. Often these may have sat unused for long periods of time or only have the occasional use. They may not have the openings and air flow that other parts of the building have or may not have been constructed with damp proofing measures in the same way as above ground areas of the building have.
There are three main sources of damp that cause problems in cellars:
If the weather has supplied one inch of rain, this can be the equivalent of 1250 gallons of water falling on the roof of a building that measures 2000 square feet. Buildings have a variety of ways to deal with this such as guttering and downspouts but this doesn’t catch all the water. As a result, the rain falls on the ground, increases the water table and can penetrate into the basement or cellar.
Higher than normal levels of water such as flash flooding or actual flooding create and even bigger problem.
Interior moisture sources
Inside the building, there can be various sources of moisture that can create dampness in the basement or cellar. The main reasons for these are
- The absence of a suitable Tanking or Membrane System to prevent lateral damp penetration.
- The absence of a damp-proof course to the external and internal walls to prevent rising/damp.
- The absence of a damp proof-membrane in the concrete floor to prevent rising damp and damp penetration.
- A lack of heating and ventilation causing high humidity.
Signs of damp
One of the biggest problems with excess moisture in an enclosed space is that you don’t always immediately spot the problem. However, when it leads to wet walls and floors and mould problems, there are plenty of visual signs that can indicate an issue is worsening. One of the most noticeable things initially is the musty, damp smell. While premises with cellars that haven’t been used much, often have this smell, paired with other signs, it is a good indication of a damp problem.
Mould or mildew forming on walls can also indicate a problem alongside dark patches and even walls that are wet to the touch – when you run your hand on a wall and it comes away wet, then you have too much moisture in the air. Cracked, peeling or stained wallpaper or peeling paint also indicate a problem with damp.
Cracked, peeling or stained wallpaper or peeling paint also indicate a problem with damp.
Any wood in the damp areas may be showing signs of decay, cracking or fungal attack. Mortar can crumble and there may be discoloration or fragmenting of plaster on the walls, all in all, not a suitable place for occupation.
Top tips for dealing with moisture
There are a few methods that damp experts can use to deal with excess moisture levels and it is important to use the one that is suitable for your particular problem. Once they have assessed the nature of the problem, then measures can be put in place to stop the issue and prevent reoccurrence. Here are a few examples.
To stop ground water being forced through the walls under hydrostatic pressure, waterproofing and damp-proofing systems can be installed to the walls and floors internally, to create dry warm surfaces to control and prevent damp for many years to come. Some of the methods used are
- The installation of high-density Polyethene, studded membranes, to walls and floors, incorporating a chamber and pump to discharge water. These systems can either be dry/lined or plastered directly onto. (Cavity Drain Membrane System)
- Tanking, using slurry coats of a cementitious structural water/proofing system and damp proof plastering. (Tanking)
- High-density external membranes which are installed at the time of construction.
If the everyday activities of the business create a lot of condensation, such as restaurants and hotels, then steps may be needed to reduce the humidity and to help the building process the moisture away from the basement. Ventilation and condensation control units will often help with this and can be installed to draw moisture out of the building where it can disperse.
Damp proofing floors
Like damp proofing that is applied to walls, it is just as important to damp proof the floors. Often this will involve removing the existing concrete floor and replacing it with new, incorporating a damp-proof membrane that connects to the wall membranes. Alternatively, the surface of the solid floor can be damp proofed, using either a cavity drain membrane or tanking. This prevents water from seeping up from the ground and is usually done in accordance with the complete damp proofing of the basement.
If you find that the basement or cellar of your business premises is suffering from damp, you should deal with it as soon as possible. By calling an established expert such as Tapco HomeDry, you can be certain that the work done will solve the problem and prevent reoccurrence, making the new rooms a pleasant and useable space for many years to come. This work is guaranteed and can be protected by Guarantee Protection Insurance (GPI).