Dampness is something we often associated with older buildings but even the newest house can suffer from damp problems if moisture gets into the house. There are many different ways that moisture can gain access to a property and also a variation of problems that it can cause once there. So if you see signs of moisture in your home, you want to do something about it as quickly as possible.
Sources of moisture
Moisture gaining access to a building may not sound a very big issue or one for a great amount of concern. And while an odd drip of water isn’t likely to lead to a major issue on its own, it is an indication of a bigger problem. Plus, once there is a higher amount of moisture in the home that there should be, issues such as mould growth and other damp related conditions, such as timber decay can begin to spread.
There are several ways that moisture builds up in a property. One is through the walls of the building, either rising from the ground or penetrating from under the ground, laterally and this water then being absorbed further into the house. Another is where rain is able to leak through a weak spot such as a hole in the roof or faulty guttering. And the final one is through internal high humidity, condensation.
Moisture related problems
If you have noticed moisture and there are issues in different parts of the house, then assessing where the water is gaining access is the first step. The location will tell you a lot about what the problem is.
If you think that the problem with moisture in the property comes from the ground upwards, then the most likely cause is the damp proofing course (DPC) on the property and is known as rising damp. The damp proof course is a fine black line of material you can see around 15cm up from the ground when you look at your outside wall. If this is sound it acts as a barrier that stops water from being drawn up from the ground, into the house. But if the DPC isn’t working properly, the damp can slowly rise up the wall making it wetter and wetter.
Should the DPC not function properly, the most common signs inside the property are water marks on the lower parts of the walls and sometimes the growth of black mould if there is a lot of water. You might also notice wallpaper peeling or signs that skirting boards are cracking and starting to decay.
Lateral Damp Penetration
As the name suggests, lateral damp penetration is damp that is coming is sideways (laterally) from higher external ground levels. The damp is forced through the wall under hydrostatic pressure and can cause considerable internal damage. This is common in basements and semi-basements. Directly above the external ground level it is likely that rising damp is causing further damp and damage high up to 1.5 metres above the ground, making the room considerably damp, cold and uninhabitable.
Condensation is by far the most common of damp in homes – say, after a shower or when there have been a few pans boiling at once. With the right ventilation, the moisture created simply dissipates and there is no problem. But if your home doesn’t have the right ventilation then condensation can lead to damp problems. This is because the level of moisture in the home is too high.
One of the main problems caused by condensation is the growth of
fungi such as black spot mould. This can cause health problems for people with allergies, conditions such as asthma and respiratory issues. It can also cause considerable damage to your decorations, furniture, clothes and personal belongings.
A damp property is the sole reason for dry-rot which can have a devastating effect on the structure of the property, spreading from wood to masonry. Signs of these conditions include the fruiting bodies that look like mushrooms, white strand-like growths, a smell of mushrooms, spores as well as other damp signs mentioned above. These can occur anywhere in the house and fungal conditions are most common around areas which are dark and poorly ventilated, such as floor voids, cellars and timbers that are built into the walls.
Dealing with moisture
Once you notice that you have a problem with damp in your home and have spotted one or more of the signs of a damp condition, it is important to get a qualified damp consultant to look at it as soon as possible. There is a range of different treatments for the different conditions and an damp expert will be able to completely assess the nature of the problem and the course of action to take.
Making sure your property is well ventilated and weatherproofed is the only way to ensure you never run into damp related problems. So, while it may mean work now to solve a minor problem or to reduce the moisture levels in your property, it will be worth it in the long term.