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Dealing with damp problems – finding the cause such as leaks, condensation and rising damp

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Damp Problems

by Russ Ware

In the UK we see a massive 25,000 gallons
of rainwater a year, so it is no surprise that one of the most common
problems in our homes is damp. Damp is usually fairly easy to fix, but can
sometimes be an indication of a more serious problem. This guide aims to
help you find and solve the main causes of damp.


If you notice
localised damp (in one area of one wall for example), often the cause is a

Check the guttering and downpipes in the affected area first; these
are classic causes of localised damp. Make sure they are clear and running
smoothly, as well as that all joints are tight. If not, seal or replace.

If the damp is below a flat roof, or a roof channel, check that the felt
is sound.

Finally check flashing and tiles (around the chimney stack if
the damp is on a chimney breast).

If the damp is below a window, check the
windowsill and window frame. Badly fitting frames can let damp penetrate
the room, as will a bridged drip groove on a windowsill.

Other Causes

If none of these seems a likely cause, make sure
the damp proof course is not bridged. Earth, etc, piled up against
the house could be allowing water to penetrate above the damp

Spalled or cracked bricks
and broken pointing can be another entry point for water. Once the
face of a brick is removed, water will soon work through the porous


water puddling on brickwork


Damp might not always be coming from
outside your house.

Condensation is another classic cause of damp
problems, especially in rooms without adequate ventilation. Condensation
is caused when warm air meets a cold surface (such as a metal window frame
of badly insulated wall).

If you cannot improve ventilation, you might
need to improve insulation.

Condensation on walls can be fairly easily
prevented by wallpapering the wall in question with polystyrene-backed
paper, fixed with fungicidal adhesive. You can also use a polystyrene
lining paper. Make sure the wall is as clean as possible before starting
this job.

Is the condensation is on windows, a cheap option is secondary
glazing. This is cheaper and easier that getting all new UPVC windows.
There are plenty of plastic kits available.

Rising Damp

If damp in walls seems worse at the bottom
of a wall than the top, your damp proof course is probably to blame. Once
you have checked it has not been bridged, and assuming it has not, your
next option is replacing the whole damp proof course. This is usually a
job for the professionals! Using a contractor will mean you receive a damp
proofing certificate, which is useful when selling your house.

Damp in the
middle of a solid (concrete, etc) floor is also a sure sign of compromised
damp proofing. Again, this is a job for the professionals.

DIY Guides,
Projects and Articles, on subjects ranging from Wiring A Plug and
Bleeding a Radiator to Building a Stud Wall or replacing Shed Roof Felt.