National trade body the Property Care Association says many of its 400 members across the UK report a growing trend in the number of homes featuring higher levels of humidity and dampness.
And according to the association, a range of factors associated with modern living and the way homes are occupied are contributing to the rise.
These include increased levels of occupation and rising fuel costs, as well as a drive to make homes more energy efficient.
Efforts to reduce air leakage through draught proofing and retrofit insulation, as well as the changing climate patterns, featuring warmer, wetter weather, are also of significance.
While householders should seek professional advice if they feel their property is unduly affected, there are a number of steps householders can take to control the issue.
James Berry, PCA technical manager, has provided five ideas to help manage damp this winter:
- Think about ventilation - one of the most effective ways to reduce excess moisture in a building is to introduce an effective well-maintained ventilation system. This should be of a specification to ensure the right level of air movement for a particular environment. Appropriate servicing, repairs and checks on ventilation fans and air management systems should also be implemented. The PCA’s Residential Ventilation Group includes specialists capable of designing suitable residential ventilation solutions for homes.
- Control water temperatures - when filling the bath, it’s a good idea to put cold water in the bath first and then top it up with warm water, as this can reduce the steam that leads to condensation by up to 90 per cent. It’s also worth using pan lids when cooking food, such as rice and vegetables, to limit steam. We’d advise that, whenever possible, to avoid drying clothes on radiators as this can affect moisture levels in the home too.
- Understand insulation issues – failed or compromised insulation can be considered as a possible cause of damp. Poor quality design and installation of retrofit insulation, coupled with defects such as poor pointing and cracked render in filled cavity wall buildings, can lead to major problems and early signs should never be ignored. Faults caused by or made a great deal worse by retrofit insulation can have a significant effect on homes. It could be that it’s not working effectively to reduce energy consumption, but it can also lead to internal dampness and that has the potential to cause significant damage to a property if left unchecked. Signs such as peeling wallpaper, cracking plaster, mould or flaking paint could be indicators of an issue. It’s important that the cause is identified as early as possible.
- Building maintenance – make sure your home is in tip-top condition to stop water coming in. Chimneys are one area to consider as they can provide an entry point for damage at the point where lead flashings meet the joint with the chimney stack. If not sealed tight, water will stream into a property. Any cracked or slipped roof tiles can also provide an easy route for water to enter a home. Bear in mind that damaged, loose or eroded pointing and rendering offers another route for water to enter a building, particularly in driving rain. Gutters should also be in good condition to enable water to drain away quickly. Even a small blockage can cause problems. It is a good idea to check the entire system, including the downpipes, is properly connected with no faulty joints.
- Be aware of wet and dry rot – both of these thrive in damp and humid conditions – and they can impact on a property’s structure if not properly addressed. Specialist investigations to establish the exact cause are key to limiting damage and ensuring localised, non-invasive treatment is carried out. Wet and dry rot are both caused by excess moisture. Broken roof tiles, blocked gutters and leaking water pipes, as well as poor ventilation of timber surfaces, can all be sources of the excess moisture and dampness in buildings which can create the problem. Usually basic property maintenance is all that is required to dry out the affected timber, but if the issue is a longer-term one, then further problems could be present. And don’t be misled by the term dry rot. The name is confusing as dry rot needs a moisture content in excess of 20 per cent before it will develop.
The PCA offers a range of further information for homeowners wanting to manage moisture levels in their homes. Visit www.property-care.org/homeowners for details.