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How to identify damp in the home

Posted on 27/03/2018

Damp in the home is not a good thing for a long list of reasons; it smells bad, is an eyesore and makes even the most common household chores, like drying clothes, a lot harder. On top of this, it can also cause a number of serious health issues, like respiratory and skin conditions.

So, if you have or suspect you may have damp in your home, identifying the source and the cause is essential and can be done by seeing, smelling or feeling the tell-tale signs.

Here are a few things to look out for when trying to identify damp in the home.

Walls

Lay your hand flat against the wall, if it comes away moist then the presence of damp is obvious. But even if it’s dry, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is no issue – does it feel particularly cold when compared to other walls or the temperature of the room?

As well as feeling moist or cold, if black or grey marks appear through the paint or even under the wallpaper this can indicate mould growth, which thrives on damp.

Ceilings

If similar dark blotches appear on your ceilings, commonly in the corners, above windows or around chimney breasts, it’s more than likely you have a damp issue.

Windows

Condensation on the inside of windows, especially first thing in the morning, is a sure sign of damp. There may also be small puddles or wet patches on the window sill where water has gathered. Again, black or grey marks on the window frame, regardless of the material – PVC can be affected just as much as wood – all point to too high levels of moisture.

Kitchen and bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms are most likely to be affected by damp given the prevalence of water and steam in the room. Be sure to keep a close eye for black mould on the grouting between any tiles as well as the sealant around the bath or shower.

Check the backs of cupboards, cabinets and pantries for marks as well as the typical musty smell of mould.

Causes

Once you’ve identified the damp, it’s cause can usually be narrowed down to one of four main causes:

  • Leaking pipe
    If a pipe is leaking somewhere in the home, this can be causing the damp to spread. Check around your sinks and radiators; if there’s a damp patch there, especially one that is growing, it’s likely to be the source and should definitely be fixed by a plumber.

  • Ventilation
    Poor ventilation can trap moisture – typically from baths, showers, boilers etc. – in the home and condense on walls and other surfaces, leading to damp problems.

  • Rising damp
    One of the worst causes of damp – typically seen in older homes and properties – is rising damp, which is caused by a poor-quality or failed damp proof course. Other issues will be difficult to eradicate completely without fixing or properly installing a damp proof course.

  • Penetrating damp
    Any number of issues including poor plumbing, old mortar, a leaking roof or insufficient guttering can cause penetrating damp.

Next steps

If you’ve identified the damp and feel confident you’ve worked out the cause, it’s best to call in a skilled tradesperson to address the issue. Depending on the level of DIY you’re confident with, you may feel comfortable repainting damp stained walls or regrouting tiles yourself; but generally Local Heroes recommend using a skilled tradesperson to deal with the root cause of the damp.