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What Type of Damp Have We Got at Home – and Is It Serious?

If you’ve got damp in the home, it needs to be dealt with. However, not all damp is the same and your approach to putting things right will depend on the kind of damp you have, as well as the root cause.

Treating the symptoms isn’t going to fix your problem and the longer damp is present in your home, the more damage it is going to cause. So let’s take a look at the different types of damp you might experience at home, how to identify them and what your next steps should be.

Condensation: The most common kind of damp

This is the kind of damp you’re most likely to experience in your home. It is caused by warm air condensing on walls and this is particularly common in kitchens and bathrooms where a lot of internal moisture is present in the room. If your walls are cooler than the moisture in these rooms, condensation is going to form on the walls and regular or prolonged condensation can seep into the walls.

Condensation can also be caused by poorly installed cavity wall insulation, if there are gaps allowing cold air to reach the internal layer of bricks in your walls. This results in cold patches where the wall is cooler than the inside temperature of the room, increasing the risk of condensation – an issue that can occur in any room with an external wall.

Never ignore condensation in the home and wipe it away with a cloth as soon as you notice any. Also scrub away any mould that develops and make sure rooms are properly ventilated. These measures won’t fix the cause of damp (unless ventilation itself is the issue) but they will help reduce the damage caused by condensation.

Rising damp: Ground water moving up your walls

Rising damp is the result of ground water rising through your walls, normally because your damp proofing has failed or was never installed in the first place. Cavity wall insulations won’t be the initial cause of this type of damp but it could potentially make the issue worse.

If you have rising damp, it’s likely that the worst of the visible symptoms will be along the lower walls at the ground floor level. Damaged skirting boards, peeling paint or wallpaper and wet patches that are wider at the bottom and narrower at the top are common signs of rising damp.

This is in contrast to damp caused by cavity wall insulation, which can appear anywhere along the external walls of your home, ground level and above. However, poorly installed cavity wall insulation can increase the damage caused by rising damp, even if it’s not the direct cause itself.

Penetrating damp: The reason you have cavity walls

Penetrating damp generally shows as damp patches in walls or ceilings, moving horizontally rather than vertically (like rising damp). This is caused by structural issues in a building, such as cracks in the walls that allow water to seep in. This is precisely why cavity walls were first used: to prevent water from reaching the internal layer of bricks in your walls, even if the outer layer becomes damaged.

Unfortunately, cavity wall insulation bridges the gap between these layers and allows water to seep into the inner layer – effectively defeating the whole point of cavity walls.

This is why it’s so important homes are properly surveyed before being retrofitted with cavity wall insulation. If there’s any external damage to walls of your property, CWI is likely to increase the risk of damp – and this has been one of the most common causes of CWI complaints over the past decade or so.

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