How to get rid of damp (and stop it coming back)

How to get rid of damp (and stop it coming back)

One of the biggest problems some landlords and homeowners face in the colder months is the dreaded damp.

For landlords, penalties for letting 'uninhabitable' properties are severe after the implementation of the Homes Act 2018.

And for homeowners, battling against condensation, damp and mould can be an ongoing battle.

Water has a nasty habit of getting into places you don't want it to and damp issues can be caused by both structural problems and 'lifestyle'.

So, how do you stop damp taking hold?


How to stop damp

Structurally, your property should have a damp-proof course and a damp-proof membrane.

The damp-proof course is a horizontal layer of waterproof material that runs horizontally through the walls of a building.

A damp-proof membrane, meanwhile, is a similar waterproof material that is laid underneath concrete floors and connected to the course.

Of course, stopping rainfall is impossible, so preventing damp from the outside of your property coming inside or impacting on the building's structure is crucial...


Rising damp, penetrating damp and damp on walls

Rising damp is moisture from the soil beneath the property rising up into the floors.

In newer properties, this is rarely a problem due to the damp-proof course, but some older properties the damp-proof course may be less effective - or not even there at all.

Look out for cold surfaces, or mould growth in corners of downstairs rooms.

Penetrating damp usually occurs through a leaky roof, damaged rendering or blocked guttering and downpipes.

Look out for brown damp patches on interior walls, ceilings or near chimney breasts.


How to get rid of a damp smell

As well as your eyes, your sense of smell will also detect and damp or mould problem.

Dampness has a very distinct, musty smell and the best way to remove it is to remove your damp problem.

There really aren't any long-term shortcuts, although room fragrances can help mask the mustiness.


Clear gutters and downpipes

Gutters and downpipes are in place, essentially, to take water away from your property.

So, if they are blocked and can't do their job, damp can take hold.

Regularly check your guttering and downpipes for blockages and keep them clear.

This is especially important during the autumn and winter when falling leaves and other detritus can severely affect your external pipework.


Fix leaks fast

Leaky plumbing or a leaky roof can cause severe damage to the external and internal structure of your property.

So, if you discover a leak, no matter how small, act fast to fix it.

Equally, if you notice signs of damp on upstairs ceilings or in your loft, that could mean a roof problem.


'Lifestyle' damp

Have you ever woken up on a chilly winter morning, pulled back your curtains and found a soaking wet window on the inside?

If so, you have a condensation problem, which can lead to damp.

Condensation occurs when warm air meets a cold surface, so when warmer air from showering or cooking hits a cold window surface, condensation is formed.

Obviously, you can't stop showering, bathing or cooking food.

So, how do you stop condensation causing a damp problem in your home?


Ventilation

Condensation is usually due to a property being poorly ventilated, meaning the warm, moist air has nowhere to go so 'glues' itself to windows, walls and other colder surfaces.

Kitchens and bathrooms are most susceptible to condensation due to showers, baths and cooking producing that warm, moist air.

And in those rooms, you could start to see those horrible black spores of mould and damp occur if you don't boost your property's ventilation.

Bedrooms, too, are top targets for condensation.

Why?

Because most people keep the heating off at night and close their bedroom doors, meaning the only place their warm breath has to go is the cold window.

This can cause mould on window sealant that is really tough to remove.


Keep the heating on

Often landlords face a mould battle when tenants keep heating systems off to save money.

But this can be the case for homeowners, too.

The second biggest cause of internal condensation and damp is a cold property, so keep the heating ticking over during the colder months to maintain a steady internal temperature.


Ventilate bathrooms and kitchens

If your property doesn't have a bathroom extractor fan, then fit one.

This will help to collect all that warm, moist air and dispatch it outside before it takes hold on windows and walls.

Better still, even in the colder months, open the bathroom window when you shower and leave it open for a while after you've finished.

When cooking, do the same, and ensure the cooker extractor fan is running. Keep lids on saucepans to limit the amount of warm, moist air escaping.

And most importantly, keep bathroom and kitchen doors closed when showering or cooking so moisture can't escape to other rooms in your property.

It all makes a huge difference.


Get fresh air flowing through the property... and don't dry clothes on radiators

Damp clothing and a hot radiator are the perfect combination for damp and mould, so avoid drying your clothes in that way during the colder months.

Okay, so it's cold outside, but open windows for a short time each day to get some fresh air flowing through the property.

And even if you don't like a draught, never be tempted to block up air bricks or close trickle vents on windows - they are there for a reason!


If you are already battling damp and mould inside

Firstly, do the things outlined above to stop the issue getting any worse and if you're a landlord, make sure you educate your tenants on the best ways to prevent damp and mould.

If damp and mould are already present, use a dehumidifier to dry out walls, doors and wooden frames that could be carrying moisture.