Damp forms due to the presence of excess moisture caused by factors such as condensation through rain water seeping into a property or rising damp where moisture from the ground travels up through the walls by capillary action.
It’s not surprising that damp is a big issue for many households thanks to the nation’s climate with the wettest part of the UK, the Western Highlands in Scotland, getting over three metres of rainfall per year.
Damp problems tend to be at their worse during the winter however if left unresolved damp can be an issue all year round. You can spot the signs of damp on walls and ceilings, your walls may feel cold and look wet whilst ceilings will look stained and discoloured rising from the skirting boards.
If left untreated damp can have an affect on your health causing things like; runny nose, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation.
Damp can also be a costly affair, not only could you potentially have to pay a professional to resolve the issue you may find you've wasted money either trying to fix it yourself with countless products or racked up high energy bills trying to keep the damp down.
Damp can form quickly so it's important to be aware of any signs of damp. Such signs of damp could be; a musty smell, walls feeling damp or cold, discoloured patches on walls and excessive condensation around windows.
There are three main types of damp:
Penetrating damp is caused by water leaking through walls. It tends to happen as a result of structural problems, such as faulty guttering or roofing, or cracks in external walls. Causes of penetrating damp could be -
The first sign of penetrating damp that you may see could be a watermark that appears on your decoration. With penetrating damp, damp patches will grow as the water continues to enter. It is advisable for a professional to tackle a penetrating damp issue to properly identify the root cause.
Rising damp is a relatively rare form of damp that affects the walls of buildings. It occurs when moisture from the ground level travels up through the walls by capillary action. Around the affected wall, you get other porous building materials such as plasterwork and the timber found in the floor boards, joists and skirtings. These materials will also absorb the ground water easily and you may find evidence of wet rot in the timber.
Generally rising damp is first noticed by the damage it causes to the internal walls of a building. Plaster and paint can deteriorate and any wallpaper tends to loosen. A visible stain often appears on the wall in the form of a tide mark at the point where the ground water has reached. Externally, mortar may crumble and white salt stains may appear on the walls.
Most buildings have some form of barrier installed at the lower level of the wall to prevent water rising up in this way. It is called a damp proof course (DPC). These can be made of non-absorbant, water-resistant materials such as slate, bitumen and plastic depending on the period the property was built. Sometimes these physical DPCs may fail over time; in older houses they may not exist at all.
Rising damp is often misdiagnosed but if you have taken all necessary measures to eliminate condensation damp, you should enlist a professional.
Condensation damp is the most common form of damp, it forms easily and quickly but can also be eliminated a lot more easily than penetrating or rising damp.
Condensation occurs when moist air comes into contact with a colder surface like a wall, window, mirror etc. The air can't hold the moisture and tiny drops of water appear. Water vapour in the air can be naturally occurring from weather conditions, respiration from human beings, and even plants. You can’t see it, but it’s there in your home. The water vapour floats merrily around your house, and is fairly innocuous. It’s only when it comes into contact with something cold that it starts to become more troublesome.
Ventilation is the most effective way of eliminating condensation damp.
Many cases of damp are not as serious as they look, however, damp can have a detrimental effect on our health especially if you suffer from respiratory problems or asthma.
If left untreated, damp could lead to mould growth and depending on the type of damp, even structural damage. Acting fast to the problem and taking action will save you time, money and safeguard your health.
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