You may have heard winter is coming and that means one thing for your home - no not dragons and sword fighting but an equally dramatic issue, condensation and damp.
Condensation damp is caused when excess moisture comes into contact with a colder surface like a wall or window. If left untreated condensation damp can lead to mould and severe damage to your home, this effect is intensified in the the colder winter months.
As winter approaches and the temperature outside plummets, condensation and damp become increasingly common problems in our homes. Condensation around windows is caused by excessive moisture in the house, and it often occurs in the winter when the warm air inside the house condenses on the cold windows.
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.
However when it comes to determining if you have condensation in your ceiling the problem isn't always apparent. It can be quite difficult to know if you have condensation on your ceiling or a leak or even condensation caused by a leak. Although condensation is generally associated with the winter months it can still affect your property during the summer.
When it comes to knowing how to stop condensation on your ceiling you must be vigilant in checking for structural damage, this could be damage to your roof or even damage to the sealant around your windows. Ensuring that your attic space is adequately ventilated is the major key in stopping condensation on your ceiling.
It's also a good idea to try and avoid condensation from forming on cold surfaces in the first place by making sure your home is heated evenly. Keep the thermostat at the same temperature in every room, and if there's a room in your home that you don't use often, keep the door closed.
Interior window condensation is caused by excessive moisture in the house, and it often occurs in the winter when the warm air inside the house condenses on the cold windows.
While condensation can be worse on single glazed windows (due to the internal surface of the window being much colder than the internal surface of a double glazed window) replacing single glazed windows with double glazing is not enough to eliminate the problem. The reason being is that although the inside of your new windows will be warmer, they will simultaneously eliminate draughts. This will reduce ventilation, and contribute to the build-up of moisture.
Could the double glazing be faulty?
On older or poorer quality units, the sealant used to create the seal (around the windows) may be of a low grade or become loose over time. If the seal and bead that’s supposed to hold the glass in the frame deteriorates, moisture and water can get into the frame. Allowing large amounts of water to settle in the frame like this for a long period of time will eventually affect the ‘air gap’ seal surrounding the two panes of glass.
Sometimes, the UPVC frames themselves will crack and allow water to gather. Another reason why you may see condensation in double glazing is because of a fault with the ‘spacer’ bar. Most double-glazed windows now feature a ‘spacer’ in between the two panes of glass and this is full of desiccant, a highly-absorptive material which sucks up any moisture in the ‘air gap’ void.
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 groundwater 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.
Damp wil generally start lower down and you want to stop damp from geting into the bedroom, of course you may have bedrooms on the ground or even lower floor. In which case it's important to be very aware of any changes to bedroom walls such as cold and wet patches. In order to stop damp open the windows but keep doors closed this should prevent spores spreading to other areas of the house.
Additionally, certain rooms may generally feel damp, cold rooms like cellars and basements that have not been converted or at least converted well can often feel cold, moist and damp. The root cause of this damp feeling is moisture deposited by condensation on the inside of the cold room ceiling, but keeping the door open won’t solve the problem. As warm, moist, indoor air hits the cold surfaces of the room, water droplets condense on the surface. If it gets cold enough outside, frost and ice develops, too, which can cause serious damage to the structure of the property especially so low in the home.
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. To stop condensation forming, the bathroom windows should be opened and extractor fans turned on. Try to keep the bathroom door shut as much as possible so the moisture doesn’t escape into other parts of your home.
Wet surfaces attract moisture, so 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 more advice on tackling mould check out our great article - Don't ignore mould in the home.
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.
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