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Every property contains a certain amount of moisture - this is unavoidable. The trick to taking care of your home is to make sure that the moisture has somewhere to go, because when it gets trapped it can lead to a serious and potentially expensive problem: damp.

While the idea of a wet patch on a wall may not sound too serious, it is important to know exactly what this can lead to. Damp can cause mortar to start crumbling away, timbers to rot and metal fastenings to rust. It can also encourage the growth of fungi and mould, which in serious cases can be as dangerous for your health as asbestos.

The thing to realise about damp is that just because you cannot see it does not mean that you are safe. Many homeowners decide to plaster or decorate over damp patches, thinking that this will solve the problem. Some have even gone ahead with expensive home improvements despite the presence of damp. Unfortunately, this is not a problem which disappears just because you cannot see it: if all you do is hide your damp without taking care of the cause, it will only get worse. You may not notice it again until it has already done serious structural damage to your home!

If you suspect that your property has a problem with damp, you will need to book a damp assessment with a damp proof specialist as soon as possible. In addition to identifying the cause of your problem, they will also be able to offer solutions for damp-related issues, such as mould removal, dry rot treatment or extractor fan replacement.

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What causes damp?

Damp can be caused by a variety of different factors, ranging from the age of a property to the materials used in home conversion work. It could even come as a result of a few bad habits on your part! 

Remember, the key to dealing with damp is to tackle the cause as well as the symptoms. Cleaning up the mould on your walls is one thing, but if you do not fix the leaking pipes, condensation or whatever else caused it, you will only have to do more cleaning and repair work down the line.

  • Older buildings - While most modern homes are built with cavity walls, older properties were usually built with permeable solid walls which allowed the movement of moisture from room to room. As a result, incidents of moisture buildup, condensation and damp were rare. Unfortunately, modern cement, paint and other materials are non-permeable. Applying these to a property with solid walls can trap moisture inside, leading to problems with damp.
  • Bad plumbing - There are pipes everywhere in a typical property, including inside walls and under floorboards. A broken pipe in the wrong place can lead to extensive water damage over time. Worse yet, if the pipe is hidden then it could be a long time before you notice any damage! As well as older pipes, problems can also be caused by new plumbing dripping after its first use or failing waste pipes in old bathrooms.
  • Bathroom decor - A typical bathroom will have more moisture in the air than any other room in the house. Because of this, bathrooms must be fitted with methods to prevent damp, such as windows or extractor fans. When one of these methods fails, moisture buildup can lead to problems with damp. Common problems include cracks in grouting allowing moisture behind tiles or damaged seals around baths and showers. Do not wait to get these problems fixed - book a regrouting/ resealing or extractor fan repair service as soon as possible!

  • Gutters - The gutters on your home are designed to collect rainwater and redirect it to drains, away from your walls and roof space. Unfortunately, gutters can fail for a number of reasons. It could be that your gutters are simply too small to handle the volume of rainfall in your area, or blockages could be causing them to overflow (especially if your pipes have several twists and bends). To ensure that your gutters can do their job properly, you should book a gutter cleaning and repair service at least once a year.
  • Roof - Whatever type of roof you may have, it will not last forever. Over time roof tiles can break or go missing, or thatch can wear down and start letting in moisture. If you suspect that moisture is getting into your property through the roof, your best course will be to hire a local roofer as soon as possible.
  • Window sills - Your window sills do a similar job to your gutters, intercepting rainwater and helping to keep it off your property. Just like gutters, window sills can also start to fail over time: the groove on the underside could become blocked with paint, or if the window is poorly fitted then moisture could be getting in through the cracks. For help, consult a local glazier.
  • Chimney stacks - The point where the brickwork of a chimney meets the rest of a property can be a major weak spot if the flashings are not completely watertight. If you have not done so already, it will also be a good idea to have rain caps fitted on your chimney pots.
  • Vegetation - The greenery growing up yours walls may look nice, but if it grows out of control then it could prevent your walls from drying out after it rains. Plants like ivy can also make their way through brickwork and into lofts, providing an entry point for moisture to slip inside.
  • Damp proof course - As the name suggests, a damp proof course is designed to protect a property against damp. However, if a course is broken or incorrectly installed, it can actually exacerbate damp instead. For example, if a wall already has a problem with damp and a new course is injected inside, it will not dry as designed. In other words, you would just be adding even more moisture to the wall.

  • Hidden damp - One thing that cannot be stressed enough is just how bad an idea it is to cover damp up with paint or plaster. In a best case scenario, this will just hide your problem. However, if you apply non-permeable materials to an area suffering from damp, it could trap the moisture and make the problem even worse!
  • Cracked rendering - Cement render can crack over time, allowing moisture inside. Because standard render is non-permeable, this moisture will not be able to escape afterwards, which can lead to problems with damp.
  • Solid flooring - If flooring stops moisture from being able to rise up, it will instead pass into the adjoining walls. This can lead to a buildup of moisture at the base of the walls, usually identified as ‘rising damp’.
  • Converted cellar - What makes the walls of a typical cellar unique from the rest of a property is that they come into direct contact with the ground. Moisture will saturate the walls and keep them cool, but proper ventilation will be required to prevent a buildup. When a cellar is converted, the materials involved can inadvertently stop this ventilation, causing moisture to instead rise into the structure above.
  • Condensation - This is caused by the internal conditions in a property. When warm, moisture filled air comes into contact with a cold surface or cold air, condensation will occur. Over time, a buildup of condensation can lead to issues with damp or even the germination of mould. Luckily, preventing condensation can be as simple as opening your windows for a few hours every day.

How can I get rid of damp?

If you spot a damp patch in your property, the first thing that you should do is contact a damp proof specialist. They will first perform a damp assessment to locate the cause and recommend potential treatments. You will then receive an accurate quote for the necessary work.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with damp is that if a case is left untreated, it will only get worse. While you may not like the idea of paying for the treatment, it will be better than having to fix an even more expensive problem down the line! That said, it will still be a good idea to collect multiple quotes to ensure that you get a competitive price.