Top cause of damp in the winter and how to treat it

Damp is something no homeowner wants to deal with. Essentially, damp is just excess moisture in your home that can’t escape and can cause plenty of problems, some costing money to resolve.

A room with damp may feel cold and unpleasant, and if ignored, it can even result in more serious structural issues. However, IPM have pulled together their top tips on how you can prevent, and even fix, damp in your home.

Signs of damp

Autumn and winter – or really any rainy, windy period with long wet spells – is the worst time for getting damp. Usually, you’re able to smell the distinctive, musty damp smell, but there are other warning signs of damp that you should be aware of, including small black or grey spots on walls, ceilings, and sealant, excessive condensation on windows as well as growing mould in hidden spots such as behind furniture.

So, where should you be checking for damp?

  • Walls and ceilings
  • Bathroom and kitchen
  • Windows
  • Furniture
  • Basements and cellars

What causes damp in your home?

Many things can cause damp, and since water and moisture tend to cause damage over time, it may already be too late once you do finally notice. If you can identify what’s causing the damp earlier, you’ve got a better chance of diagnosing and treating it.

1. Penetrating Damp

When the exterior of your home lets in water, even a small crack can cause major issues. Older houses, in particular, can face issues like weathered flashing and mortar pointing that’s falling away, allowing rain to pool and trickle in. Also, check you have no leaking or blocked gutters causing erosion.

2. Poor ventilation

Moisture does not just come from outside, every time you run a shower, leave laundry to dry, cook or wash, you’re introducing a little bit of moisture into your home, which is a top cause of damp. If this moist air can’t escape, it will build up and cause condensation. Modern homes are designed to be watertight, which is great for stopping penetrating damp, but not so great for ventilation.

3. Lack of waterproofing

Whilst older homes certainly have their charm, sadly they are more prone to having damp. Unlike more modern properties, waterproofing tends to be somewhat poor in older homes, so moisture is more likely to pass through ceilings and walls. Chimneys, in particular, can be a cause for concern. This is because if an old chimney isn’t fully blocked off, water can trickle down, causing issues in rooms that may not even have a fireplace anymore.

4. Rising damp

Damp-proof course is a sort of space built into the walls of houses preventing damp from spreading through the walls. Unfortunately, some older properties may not have these, or they may just be less effective, essentially meaning moisture can rise from the ground below the house and move into the house and floors above. If your home begins to feel cold and smell a bit musty, getting progressively worse the closer you are to ground level, you may have rising damp.

How to treat damp

Treating damp is possible – however, it’s better if you can try prevent it occurring in the first place. Here are some effective ways you can ensure your home remains warm and cosy:

1. Treating damp walls

Damp walls may be a pain, but they can be easily treated. Warm soapy water should do the trick and remove any black mould spores and spots from walls. However, professionals may need to be called if you have a serious case of rising damp as they might need to replaster and damp-proof internal walls, which removes any damage and stops it from happening again.

2. Ventilation

Don’t have extractor fans in your home and find that rooms stay damp for a long time (for instance, post-shower)? Well, it may be worth investing in these as they are extremely important in filtering out excess moisture. However, if that’s not possible, opening your windows slightly should help keep your home ventilated and well-aired.

Another solution for poor ventilation is a dehumidifier. These budget-friendly machines pull moisture out of the air and are perfect for that that one particular room which has a specific problem with damp, such as your attic or basement.

3. Keep your house warm

During the colder months, make sure your heating is running for at least some of the day and that it maintains a constant temperature. Sudden drops in temperature and cold spells in your home could cause condensation, especially around windows.

Other ways of keeping your house warm include investing in double-glazed windows – if you don’t already have them – and making sure you have loft and wall insulation to avoid heat escaping your home. As a bonus, this will also reduce your heating bills!