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Damp Issues in Homes: How Dangerous are They?

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Picture the scene: after a long search, you finally find your dream property. The offer is accepted, and it looks like it’s only a matter of time until you get the keys to your new home.

One of the first steps before buying your home involves a property surveyor checking that everything is in order with the property. It should be a fairly routine check, right?

But wait a minute… the house survey report comes back, and there’s an issue: they’ve found damp in the property. What does this mean and how dangerous are damp issues in homes?

What is damp?

Damp forms when unwanted water or moisture emerges and enters a building. As the moisture builds, it struggles to get out of the home. This is because it’s trapped, which can happen for a number of reasons.

How does it get in a home?

Inappropriate building work may stop moisture from getting out of the home. Leaks could also be a reason, though this is less common than it used to be. A sudden increase in moisture can also lead to the formation of damp.

 As well as structural issues, there can be health concerns associated with damp. Only a thorough check from a property surveyor will be able to identify the seriousness of any potential damp issues.

Putting a damper on things

A property survey reporting damp isn’t a totally foreign concept. You might even be surprised to learn that damp is actually one of the most common problems found during inspections. There are many different types of property survey, but they will usually pick up damp.

If detected early, damp can be treated relatively easily. If untreated, however, it can cause structural damage – which can lead to much larger problems and even scupper a deal for your new home.

Damp doesn’t come in one form: the extent and type can vary. Condensation is the most common cause, but more significant problems, such as rising damp and penetrating damp, might also come into play.

Different types of damp

 Not all damp is the same! The affected area can be caused by a number of different things, including:

Condensation

Arguably the most common type of damp, condensation is caused by water vapour and excess moisture condensing on walls. The colder months increase the chances of damp, with the period between October and March often coined ‘The Condensation Season’.

Property surveyors identify condensation by looking for water droplets on walls, paint and decay on window frames, and damaged plaster around the property. Mould and unpleasant smells can also indicate condensation problems.

Dealing with condensation is fairly straightforward and requires wiping the droplets away with a cloth. If the condensation has formed into mould, there are special paints that can help safeguard a property from mould.

Condensation and other damp issues can often be fixed by a qualified, trusted local tradesperson who can carry out damp treatments and work.

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 Rising damp

Rising damp occurs when water leaks through the floors and rises up the internal walls. Property surveyors identify rising damp by looking for marks on the wall, peeling paint or wallpaper, damaged skirting, and wet patches.

The majority of homes are constructed to protect themselves against rising damp by using barriers to prevent water seeping through and getting to the walls.

However, older buildings may not have these measures in place. A property surveyor should let you know if a home isn’t sufficiently equipped to protect against rising damp. Ground floors are particularly at risk.

One of the causes of rising damp can be draining issues. If this is the case your surveyor should recommend the best course of action, which might include adjusting the floorboards so that water can evaporate. Another fix may involve improving local drainage or making sure the ground slopes away from your home.

Each solution comes with varying costs, meaning you might have a decision to make about whether you want to go through with the purchase.

Penetrating damp

Any water that leaks through walls, roofs or ceilings is known as penetrating damp. While rising damp travels vertically, penetrating damp tends to move horizontally.

Surveyors will look for damp patches on walls and ceilings and large bubbles in the plaster or paint. If they locate large areas of untreated rising damp, they may find holes in the ceiling.

Penetrating damp levels vary. Regular occurrences are associated with leaks, either from plumping or structural issues. Worsening symptoms caused by rain could be down to faulty guttering, spaces in the roofing, or cracks in the walls.

Fixing issues such as faulty guttering and cracks in the walls can prove to be costly, depending on the size of the job. It’s best to consult with a surveyor before deciding on a plan of action. More issues can lurk beneath the surface of a damp wall than you might think.

Assessing the dangers of damp

 Damp can be as minor as a slight inconvenience or as major as causing health issues. In worst-case scenarios, long-term damp problems can cause depression, reduced lung functions, and even asthma. Kitchens and bathrooms are often the worst affected, however it can find its way into bedrooms too. 

Remember – you can’t always see it easily, it could be lurking behind washing machines or skirting boards. Tide marks aren’t always obvious.

It’s not only vital to make sure you move into a damp-free home; you need to assess the likelihood of whether it’s a long-term problem with no simple fix. Costs could range between a few hundred to a few thousand.

Treatment includes:

  • Opening windows to allow air to circulate
  • Double glazing
  • Extractor fans
  • Damp proof courses

Dealing with damp

Sometimes, the best treatment is to avoid the situation altogether.

That’s why you must get a detailed report from your property surveyor. If they identify any damp-related issues, they can advise you on the next step.

 Hopefully, any potential problems are only minor. But it’s better to have peace of mind and avoid making any decisions that will lead to long-term headaches.

Need a property report from a surveyor? 

Choose from one of our approved panel of RICS qualified surveyors. Make sure that your potential new home is free of any problems. Get a survey quote for free here.

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Last Updated: July 23rd, 2021