As winter approaches and the temperature outside plummets, condensation and damp become increasingly common problems in our homes.
Left unchecked, they can cause unsightly mould patches, and may even rot or damage surfaces or structures, which could prove very costly to repair. Worse still, condensation and damp can contribute to respiratory health problems.
Knowing which type of damp problem you have, and the solutions available to tackle it, can stamp it out for good. Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to banish condensation and damp from your home this winter.
Condensation is arguably the most common type of damp problem, and most of us probably experience this in our homes at some time or other. Condensation is caused by excess water vapour in the air, which can't escape. As well as a lack of ventilation, condensation can be caused by poor insulation or inadequate heating in the home.
Condensation tends to be a 'winter' problem. When the temperature is cooler in the winter, the air inside our homes isn't able to hold as much vapour, so when it starts to build up, it forms water droplets that settle on colder surfaces, such as walls, mirrors, glass or window frames. We're most likely to find condensation forming in rooms where moisture levels are high, such as kitchens or bathrooms, but it can also form in areas where air is less able to freely circulate, such as behind furniture or inside cupboards.
Additionally, in the winter, we're less likely to open windows or doors in an effort to keep homes warm, so locking the air in means excess moisture has nowhere to escape to.
Rising damp and penetrating damp are also problems that tend to surface at home during wintertime.
If you have rising damp, this is caused by ground water rising up through a wall or floor. It's most commonly a result of not having an adequate damp-proof course in place, which seals the home from contact with ground water. If you notice a tide mark, or damp patches surrounding skirting boards or floor coverings, or peeling wallpaper at ground level, this could indicate a rising damp problem.
Rather than rising from the ground, penetrating damp is caused by water that moves horizontally through walls. Structural problems are usually to blame for penetrating damp, such as cracks in walls, doors or windows, damaged roofing or guttering, or even an internal pipe leak. If you notice damp patches on walls or ceilings, especially following rainfall, this is likely to be due to penetrating damp.
Over time, condensation and damp may result in dark mould spots, patches or spores, possibly producing an unpleasant smell. If not tackled, this could damage window frames, paint and plasterwork, cause structural problems, and contribute to health problems, such as asthma or bronchitis.
There are plenty of ways that you can help minimise condensation and damp appearing in your home. Simple changes can make all the difference, and could save you money further down the line, and can help to safeguard your health.
Condensation is caused by excess moisture in the air hitting colder surfaces, so if you want to reduce it appearing, slash moisture levels at home. When you cook, put a lid on pans and keep the kitchen well ventilated by installing an extractor fan or keeping the window open.
Similarly, when you take a bath or shower, keep the room well ventilated to allow steaming air to escape through a window or vent. Remember to keep the door closed to avoid moisture escaping to other parts of the house.
Where surfaces attract moisture, wipe them down to get rid of the excess damp.
As winter beckons, we may be more tempted to dry wet clothes indoors on radiators, but doing so creates higher moisture levels in the air, contributing to condensation. Try to hang your washing outdoors as much as possible during winter.
Additionally, if you use a tumble dryer to dry clothes, make sure that this is vented to the outside to allow moisture to escape.
Allow air to circulate in parts of the home where it may otherwise remain stagnant. Regularly open cupboards, drawers and wardrobes, for instance, to give them an airing and don't overfill them. Create a gap between furniture and walls to stop air from getting trapped and causing condensation to form.
Avoid damp from entering your home by ensuring it's properly insulated and has an effective damp-proof course. Seal up any cracks or gaps in structures, and repair any damage to gutters or roofing, sooner rather than later. Consider replacing outdated windows and doors with those offering the highest insulation protection, such as double or triple glazing.
Adequately heating your home can help to reduce condensation and damp, so keep temperature levels fairly consistent, especially in those rooms that you may not use often. A heating thermostat can be useful for this. Avoid using paraffin heaters as these tend to create excess moisture.
As well as installing extractor fans or air vents in the kitchen or bathroom, there are other home ventilation systems, such as those offered by Envirovent, that you may wish to consider if damp or condensation are a particular problem.
Products such as dehumidifiers and condensation control units are excellent at reducing moisture levels in the home, but you may also find heat recovery units beneficial for improving air quality and reducing damp or mould problems.
If you notice mould forming, you may need to buy specialist products to remove this effectively. Tackle this as soon as mould appears, so that it doesn't worsen, which may make it harder to remove.
For problems associated with rising damp or penetrating damp, it's wise to seek professional advice, in case there's any evidence of structural damage which may need repairing.