Everyone knows that if they have a large hole in their roof, or leave their windows open during a thunderstorm, they will end up with soggy carpets. But they are far less familiar with some of the other causes of damp – and, just as importantly, how to combat them. This at-a-glance guide should put homeowners on the right track to a dry home.
1. Tackle rising damp at its source. Rising damp used to be a subject of comedy. It provided the title for one of Britain’s best-loved sitcoms. But actual rising damp can hit homeowners hard in the wallet and adversely affect their health. Rising damp, as the name suggests, is caused by groundwater finding its way into a home through stonework or brickwork. It can be combated through a modern, properly maintained, damp-proof course.
2. Keep an eye out for ‘tide marks’ on the walls. If your damp-proof course is defective, one of the first ways in which this will manifest itself is in ‘tide marks’ at the bottom of walls. You need to pinpoint the source of the problem, have the necessary building works done and, in serious cases, use a dehumidifier to dry out the room affected.
3. Maintain the fabric of the exterior of your property. Always remember that water can get into a property through its walls as well as through its roof and floors. Poor pointing or damaged masonry is often a harbinger of damp problems further down the line, so look out for potential weak spots.
4. Check that your guttering is in order. If your guttering is defective and rainwater streams down the side of the building, it will only be a matter of time before the water finds its way into your home. So check your guttering regularly and, if there are blocked drainpipes or other problems, deal with them sooner rather than later.
5. Watch out for black mould. Another warning sign to householders that they have a damp problem is black mould forming on either external or internal walls. The mould is not just unsightly, but potentially hazardous, because it attracts mites and, in extreme cases, could cause respiratory problems. You can get simple mould eradication kits online to combat the problem.
6. Remember that damp has internal as well as external causes. If you are boiling a kettle or having a shower and the windows mist over, it is a tell-tale sign of condensation. It is one of the most common forms of damp in the home, and its harmful consequences are often overlooked. You need to be on your guard to stop excess condensation from doing lasting damage.
7. Consider installing ventilation aids. When there is moisture in the air inside a property, the best way to stop it lingering is through ventilation. “Make sure you air rooms well, even in winter,” advises James Carter of Knight Frank. Opening windows will often do the trick, but in kitchens and bathrooms, where the problem is usually most acute, ventilation fans can help speed up the process.
8. Dry your washing outdoors whenever possible. This one is just common sense. Keeping damp clothes on a clothes-horse in the spare bedroom is only going to exacerbate the problem of condensation. Try to dry the clothes outside if possible, even in winter. Alternatively, dry them in a room that is well ventilated.
9. Temperature control is critical. Condensation is at its worst in cold weather, so it is worth keeping your home reasonably warm, even if nobody is at home, otherwise you may pay the price later. Thermostat-controlled heating systems are the optimum way to achieve this.
10. Check out grants for tackling damp related problems. Local authority grants are sometimes available for works to protect properties against damp. The website www.nihe.gov.uk gives a good overview.
If you remain vigilant and think proactively you will save yourself the stresses and strains – not to mention the financial costs – of unwanted damp in the home.