Let’s face it – it rains a lot in the UK! With our damp climate, it’s no wonder so many people are forced to deal with damp and mould in their homes. As the weather gets colder and wetter, it’s time to identify the most common causes of damp and how you can get rid of the problem before it causes mould.

If you see a small amount of damp, now is the time to act. Don’t let it get out of hand! By tackling now, you can prevent much bigger problems down the line, and save yourself a lot of time, stress, and money in the future.

What is damp, and what causes it?

Simply put, damp is the presence of moisture in your property, seeping into the walls and foundation. Most people identify damp in their homes when they see watermarks, black mould, or identify a musty smell.

To get rid of the damp in your home, you first need to determine what is causing the problem in the first place.[i]

  • Rising damp – Rising damp occurs when moisture rises from the ground floor, reaching around 1m in height. It is caused by moisture seeping into the foundations from the soil.
  • Condensation – Moisture from cooking, showering, and drying clothes can collect on windows and walls, causing mould to grow on furnishings and belongings. It is caused by poor ventilation.
  • Leaks – Leaks cause mould and damp behind toilets, on the ceiling, or in the walls, caused by a cracked pipe or leaking gutter.
  • Penetrating damp – Penetrating damp often occurs on the upper floors, causing mould and wetness to seep along the walls around windows. It is caused by cracked bricks and broken window frames.

Is damp dangerous?

Damp can have serious health consequences for everyone in your home, including your pets.[ii] According to the NHS, you are far more likely to end up with asthma, allergies, respiratory problems, and lung infections if you have mould and damp in your home.

While damp is dangerous for everyone, you need to be especially vigilant if you have any of the following people living in your home:

  • Elderly
  • Babies and children
  • People with skin ailments, including eczema
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system
  • Anyone with respiratory problems
  • Pregnant women

How much does damp proofing cost?

The cost of damp proofing depends on the specific type of damp you are experiencing, and how bad the damage has gotten.[iii] Many instances of damp can be remedied with simple fixes that won’t break the bank, but you must tend to it as soon as possible.

  • Damp proofing for Condensation

Condensation from household activities, such as cooking and showering, can soak into your walls and cause mould and damp. Condensation is easy to fix – it just requires an extractor fan or a dehumidifier. You will likely only need to hire a tradesperson to repair existing damage.

  • Damp proofing for Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp occurs when water enters your home from the outdoors. You need to identify the breach – is it cracked brickwork, broken tiles, or a worn door seal? Once you have found the problem, you can usually have a tradesperson repair the issue for less than £500, and even less if it’s a single roof tile. You may wish to spend more for redecoration to remedy the damage.

  • Damp proofing for Rising Damp

Rising damp occurs when water in the soil seeps into your home’s foundation and rises up through your walls. Most houses are constructed with a damp-proof course (DPC) and/or damp-proof membrane (DPM), located on the ground floor, but these can fail.[iv]

If your home does not have a DPC or DPM, or if it is worn-out, you will need to have it replaced or added. Replacing a DPC is an expensive process that requires skilled labour. For a more affordable solution, tradespeople can install a chemical DPC that forms a barrier to prevent more moisture.


 How to get rid of damp

If you see black mould creeping up your walls, you have a problem with mould and damp. Try the following methods to get rid of damp in your home.

  • Increase ventilation - Mould hates the fresh air. Opens the windows and let fresh air into the house, even when it’s cold outside. If your bathroom extractor fan isn’t working well, open a window, or at the very least, leave the door open. A dehumidifier may also work to remove the excess moisture in the air.  
  • Seal up tiles and grouting - Bathrooms are wet and damp places by their very nature, and so mould can easily grow in the absence of proper ventilation. You might place a damp cloth or towel to dry on the radiator, and when the moisture evaporates, it lands on the cold walls. That provides the perfect environment for mould. Spray your bathroom walls with a specific antimicrobial treatment and use at least two coats of grout sealer to seal your grouting around tiles.
  • Use mould cleaner - Use a mould remover kit or mould killing spray and ensure that you are wearing the correct protective gear so that you do not inhale the spores. While we are on the topic, never use bleach to attempt to remove damp on your walls. This method will only work on non-porous surfaces, such as tiles. If you use it on walls, the water in the bleach will leech into the wall and feed the mould and damp.

  • Use a dehumidifier - Only use a dehumidifier if you have found and addressed the initial cause of the damp. You can buy a cheap one online or on the High Street or rent an industrial dehumidifier for around £270 per week.

  • It’s time to buy new soft furnishings and clothes - Damp and mould have a particularly nasty smell that gets embedded in clothing, bedding, towels, curtains, and upholstered furniture. In some cases, specialty cleaning companies can rescue your furniture and extra-large rugs,  but you’ll need to dispose of clothing and textiles to get rid of the problem.


How to treat rising damp

To prevent and quell rising damp, you need to allow your building to ‘breathe.’ Consult with a tradesperson to find out more about replacing your hard cement render with lime-based mortar, which will enable things to dry out.[v] They can also advise you about removing waterproof renders and bituminous coatings, which can make damp worse.


How to treat damp before painting

  1. Find the source of the problem - Before you start painting, you need to determine the type of damp you’re dealing with so that you can pinpoint the problem and fix it.[vi]
  2. Remedy the issue – Now that you know what’s causing the problem, it’s time to make sure it’s wholly dealt with so that it doesn’t keep coming back. There is no point in painting if the damp is going to keep returning!
  3. Make sure the walls are dry – Now that you’ve removed the source of the damp, your walls’ condition will start to improve, and the surface will begin to dry out. Do not start painting until everything is completely dry.
  4. Prep the walls – Once everything is completely dry, assess the walls for damage. Fill holes, patch cracks, and sand away bubbles and texture. Wash the walls, and scrape away peeling paint.
  5. Apply a waterproofing coat – Before painting, you can add a waterproofing coat to prevent the problem from returning. Look into waterproofing primers designed specifically for bathrooms and kitchens.

Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to paint!


How to prevent damp

Protect your health, your belongings, and the value of your home by preventing damp in the first place.[vii] Here are some of the best measures to take to say goodbye to damp and mould.

  • Ventilation is crucial – Double glazed windows can help save energy, but they also contribute to humidity indoors. Cooking, showering, and drying clothing all produces water vapour, which then settles on cold walls and causes damp and mould. Crack a window (yes, even in the winter) and use your extractor fan in the kitchen and bathroom. Another top tip is to pull your furniture away from the walls so that air circulates evenly, preventing condensation from landing on walls.
  • Insulate your home - Insulation will keep your walls warmer, preventing condensation. You can easily install loft or floor insulation, but for wall cavity insulation you will need the help of a tradesperson. Sheep’s wool is a popular choice for preventing damp, as it regulates humidity.
  • Use a dehumidifier – If you’re experiencing a lot of damp and moisture in your home, you need a dehumidifier. They pull damp air in from the surrounding air and lower the humidity level in the entire home. Consumer dehumidifiers can be quite affordable, or you can invest in renting a commercial unit.
  • Render your external walls – If damp is seeping into your home through cracks in the brickwork or foundation, dry out the external walls and render them. Rendering is not always a cheap process, but it will form a protective barrier that prevents leaks and water damage in the future. It can also dramatically increase the value of your home.

You and your family deserve a safe, dry, and comfortable place to live - don’t let damp continue to take over your home.


Reference list

Bidvine (2019). How to Treat Damp Walls Before Painting. [online] Bidvine Service Guides. Available at: https://www.bidvine.com/a/how-to-treat-damp-walls-before-painting#:~:text=Before%20you%20can%20apply%20paint,down%20until%20it%20is%20smooth.&text=Residue%20should%20be%20washed%20away,out%20from%20this%20moisture%20too. [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].

Cutmore, A. (2019). How to get rid of damp, condensation and mould. [online] Ideal Home. Available at: https://www.idealhome.co.uk/diy-and-decorating/how-to-get-rid-of-damp-185033 [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].

Kent, D. (2020). How to Treat Damp. [online] Homebuilding and Renovating. Available at: https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/how-to-treat-damp [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].

My Builder (2020). How much does damp proofing cost? [online] My Builder. Available at: https://www.mybuilder.com/pricing-guides/damp-proofing-costs [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].

Never Paint Again (2019). Top tips for getting rid of damp and mould in the home. [online] Never Paint Again. Available at: https://www.neverpaintagain.co.uk/blog/ten-top-tips-for-getting-rid-of-damp-and-mould/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].

NHS (2018). Can damp and mould affect my health? [online] NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/can-damp-and-mould-affect-my-health/#:~:text=Yes%2C%20if%20you%20have%20damp,also%20affect%20the%20immune%20system. [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].

Rollande, J. (2017). Top 4 Causes of Damp Problems in Houses and How to Treat It. [online] House Buy Fast. Available at: https://housebuyfast.co.uk/blog/top-4-causes-of-damp-problems-in-homes/.

The Green Age (2017). The best ways to prevent damp in your home. [online] The Green Age. Available at: https://www.thegreenage.co.uk/the-best-ways-to-prevent-damp-in-your-home/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2020].

Wikipedia Contributors (2020). Damp Proofing. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damp_proofing#:~:text=A%20damp%2Dproof%20course%20(DPC,phenomenon%20known%20as%20rising%20damp.&text=A%20common%20example%20is%20polyethylene,gaining%20moisture%20through%20capillary%20action. [Accessed 14 Oct. 2020].


Sources

[i] https://housebuyfast.co.uk/blog/top-4-causes-of-damp-problems-in-homes/

[ii] https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/can-damp-and-mould-affect-my-health/#:~:text=Yes%2C%20if%20you%20have%20damp,also%20affect%20the%20immune%20system.

[iii] https://www.mybuilder.com/pricing-guides/damp-proofing-costs

[iv]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damp_proofing#:~:text=A%20damp%2Dproof%20course%20(DPC,phenomenon%20known%20as%20rising%20damp.&text=A%20common%20example%20is%20polyethylene,gaining%20moisture%20through%20capillary%20action.

[v] https://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/how-to-treat-damp

[vi] https://www.bidvine.com/a/how-to-treat-damp-walls-before-painting#:~:text=Before%20you%20can%20apply%20paint,down%20until%20it%20is%20smooth.&text=Residue%20should%20be%20washed%20away,out%20from%20this%20moisture%20too.

[vii] https://www.thegreenage.co.uk/the-best-ways-to-prevent-damp-in-your-home/