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What Causes Damp?

As a homeowner, you will probably have to deal with damp at some point in your lifetime. It can be found in many forms and common areas including walls, doors, floors, around windows and pipe-work. But what is it that causes damp? In this blog, we discuss how poor maintenance, ill-fitting building materials and poor ventilation can contribute to damp growth in your home.

All houses, no matter what their age contain moisture as it is present in the building materials used. The air circulating our homes and internal moisture sources then cause a gradual local build-up of moisture triggered by its inability to escape. Damp is simply a localised excess of naturally occurring moisture.

Identifying damp and its causes:

Rising damp can be identified by decaying skirting boards, tide marks on the walls and crumbling plaster. Moisture drawn from the soil in the ground, leaking of high-level gutters and rainwater pipes can often contribute to this type of low dampness, especially in solid external walls. Regular gutter maintenance of cleaning the debris and checking for defects from time to time is a great way of avoiding the cause of damp in your home. However, rising damp can be easily misdiagnosed so it is always better to seek expert advice.

The older the property, the harder it is to prevent the excess of damp but the cause is usually associated with common causes and can effect any property at any time.
Leaking gutters can cause water to run down the side of the outside directly or splatter on the ground and windowsills. The sizing of your gutter plays a huge part in how supportive they are of the flowing water. If there have been changes in the climate or the roof area since your house was first built may mean that the gutters are too small to cope with current rainfall and they need to be replaced with larger-capacity gutters.

Additionally, tiny drips from plumbing over time can cause large, intense damp patches. Even though the escaped water is a small amount, it can cause a lot of damage when it’s a regular and concentrated drip over a period in the same spot. Hairline cracks in grouting, corroded concealed water pipes, failing waste pipes and damaged seals can all contribute towards the causes of damp within your plumbing. It’s important to seek professional advice from a plumber before you attempt to attempt to identify and fix your damp causes yourself.
Dampness in your roof can be caused by leaks in gutters feeding water directly into your roof space or holes caused by slipped tiles and slates. Roof leaks can be tricky to find which is a cause of damp if left for too long.

Does humidity cause damp?

Humid air also causes damp so you should get rid of it before it condenses into water and forms patches of speckled mould. This is the type of damp that can penetrate through walls, floors and ceilings, causing external construction damage to guttering, rendering and wall joints.

A great way of tackling humid air is to install extractor fans in your kitchen and bathroom, reducing emissions of vapour caused by tumble dryers by venting outdoors, and insulating your walls.
Arguably the most common cause of damp is condensation, with 1 in 5 UK homes affected. The symptoms if condensation include streaming windows and walls, deterioration in decoration such as discolouring of window panes and eventually the growth of black mould. This is due to when the air contains more moisture than it can hold, it reaches something known as a ‘saturation point’ and when this is reached, the moisture turns back into water and condensation occurs.

How can I counteract damp?

Ventilation, insulation and a firm control over your property’s humidity are the best ways to treat your home’s dampness.
Damp can often be masked by a lick of paint for a short period of time, but it won’t solve the problem indefinitely. The longer the damp is left, the more expensive it can be to rectify. That’s why homeowners often paint their properties before allowing viewers in and purchasers get a nasty shock a few months down the line when their walls start growing speckled black mould. A chartered surveyor knows how to identify damp in any property and can advise on how this will disrupt the asking price of the property.

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