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How To Treat Damp Walls (Simple Steps)
No-one wants damp problems in their home, but it is something many of us may encounter at some time in our lives. Whether you are a homeowner or you rent, whether you live in a bungalow, a three storey house or any other type of property, damp can still occur.
And it isn’t something that only happens in older houses. In fact, insufficient ventilation can lead to damp in even the newest of properties. Damp proofing measures can be incorrectly installed, or they can fail over time.
Since damp is one of the most damaging issues you can face in your home, you want to get it under control as soon as you notice the early signs. Thankfully, there are professionals that can help and also a few simple tricks you can try to help control moisture around the home.
This guide will walk you through the steps to identify and tackle damp walls and clear an irritating damp problem once and for all.
Damp is most often seen in winter but it can appear at any time of the year. There are some parts of the property that you should monitor for signs of damp and particular places where signs of it may appear.
We’ll start with the walls, as this is often where damp is seen first. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they feel damp and cold when you touch them?
- Can you see patches of moisture on the coldest parts of the wall?
- Are there signs of mould or fungi growing such as small black speckles or grey growths?
- Is the wallpaper peeling or plasterwork cumbling?
The ceiling can also be an area to keep an eye on for damp. This might be more obvious, as your ceiling is more likely to be painted a light colour and less likely to be obstructed by furniture.
- Can you see discoloured or stained areas?
- Are there brown patches or black spots?
Bathrooms and kitchens are often the most common locations for damp because of the warm, moist air we create from the showers, bath and cooking. Black spot mould can grow on wood or PVC as well as on walls so regularly check these areas for any signs of a problem.
Cold basements and any unheated parts of the house are the other areas to monitor for signs of damp. You may notice a musty smell and the air feels damp or humid. Check for stains on concealed walls and woodwork too.
You might need to move large items of furniture out of the way to spot the signs of damp. If you notice a damp smell in your home, it could be a sign that you need to investigate further.
Isolating the cause
The walls are the most common place to find damp problems and therefore are usually where you start dealing with it. Once you have spotted damp signs or noticed a wall that is feeling damp, then you need to tackle it quickly.
It is important to handle the cause of the damp first. This might be penetrating damp on upper walls and ceilings where a leak above is letting rain in. It might be a problem with a faulty or missing damp proof course , which is allowing water to rise from the ground.
Another common problem is condensation. This is warm moist air that exists because of our everyday activities such as showering or cooking. When this air cannot escape, the moisture will settle on the coldest surfaces in your home, which is usually the windows and external walls.
Dealing with damp walls
The first step is to start controlling the humidity you produce by opening windows. You might also use dehumidifiers to extract more moisture from the air and help you to quickly get the problem under control.
Once the walls feel dry to the touch, you can start applying a mould removing treatment. This is a good idea, even if you can’t see the mould. You can buy mould and mildew removers in most supermarkets and DIY shops. When using these products, it’s vital to make sure you aren’t spreading the spores around. These products may also contain bleach, so you should be careful with clothing and soft furnishings.
Once the affected areas are mould free and dry, you can apply special anti-mould paint. You can apply this to walls or ceilings to stop the mould coming back.
Solve the damp problem
Treating the walls is a big part of clearing a damp problem but it is even more important to handle the underlying cause too.
- If the issue is condensation, then consistent heat and ventilation are key. Start the day by opening the windows in your home to let out any moisture that has built up overnight. You should also heat your home consistently in winter to help prevent damp building up again.
- If the issue is rising damp , a new damp proof course and special replastering may be needed.
- If the issue is penetrating damp , the external cause has to be repaired. It is best to get help from a specialist damp expert to make sure the problem is eradicated properly and doesn’t come back.
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Five Top Tips For Damp Problems
Damp Proofing Help & Advice
Home » News » Help & Advice » Five Top Tips For Damp Problems
Written by Warren Muschialli
How to Solve Damp Problems
Damp problems are a common concern for many homeowners. Identifying and treating any damp problems before they cause significant damage is essential. To help you with any damp problems, we’ve compiled these five top tips to solve your damp problems for good.
Look Around Your House
1. are there defects, cracks or blockages through which water could be getting in.
This could be the cause of penetrating damp problems.
Penetrating damp is caused by defects within the building or rainwater goods, allowing water to pass through the roof or walls and into the property. A watermark on an internal wall would be a sign of penetrating damp, and will usually indicate the point of the defect, so check externally in the same area as the watermark for any obvious problems.
DIY Solutions for Damp Problems
- Check the downpipes, hoppers and gutters for any blockages including moss, leaves, dead birds etc. Remove the blockage and you might find that this resolves the damp problem!
- If the rainwater goods are old, they may need replacing.
- Ensure that any cracks or voids in the walls or around window or door frames are fixed.
- Have a good look at the roof. Are there any loose slates? Problems with the roof are a common cause of penetrating damp.
2. Are there any signs of damp mould on the internal walls?
3. Are the walls cold and damp to the touch?
This could be a sign of condensation.
Condensation occurs when there is excessive water vapour held within the air of the house. When water vapour cools due to contact with cold walls, surface condensation forms. This will make the walls damp and can lead to black spot mould forming, which can be hazardous to health as well as producing an unpleasant dank and musty smell.
- Use extractor fans in the kitchen and bathrooms
- When using the kitchen or bathroom keep the doors shut and extractor fan on so that excessive water vapour does not go into other parts of the house
- Consider installing humidistats within areas with high humidity
- Ensure washing machines and dryers are adequately plumbed in according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. Do the ground floor walls exhibit damp patches and salt bands to about 1 metre from the floor?
Solutions for Damp Problems
The damp proof course (DPC) could be bridged by high external ground levels.
Removing the high ground levels will stop further rising and penetrating damp, but ground salts are hygroscopic and although the wall will no longer be receiving moisture from the high ground, the walls may still be damp due to the moisture received by the salts that still remain in the wall. Advice should be sought from a damp-proofing specialist.
Older properties may not have a damp proof course installed.
We recommend installation of our Newtonite Damp Proofing System , which includes the high-performance Newton 809-DPC, and a number of damp-proofing membranes such as Newtonite 803 Membrane .
5. Is the property affected by damp in an exposed area, or is it older than a hundred years old?
Houses in exposed areas often suffer from penetrating damp problems due to the effects of driving rain.
Newton 807-BKK eco is a clear coating that seals the walls with a vapour permeable treatment, preventing water from entering the walls and so stopping further penetrating damp and allowing the wall to dry out. Repairs to pointing and other defects need to be carried out in addition to this treatment.
Find a Good Damp Specialist
If you are unsure as to the cause of the dampness within your home, it is always best to consult a good, trustworthy damp proofing specialist.
Please call Newton on 01732 360 095 or e-mail [email protected] and we will be happy to give you a list of damp proof specialists who cover your area free of charge. Newton’s Registered Installers are trained to offer you the best level of service and expertise, and always offer a reliable solution for your damp problem.
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How to Treat Rising Damp
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Rising damp is one of most talked about and controversial types of damp. Putting aside the debates for a moment, if you think you might have an issue with rising damp you are in the right place. This How To guide takes you through identifying rising damp, the causes and how to effectively deal with it. A large part of this guide is given over to correctly identifying rising damp in your home, telling it apart from much more common damp issues. We also bust some myths around rising damp and its treatment.
What is Rising Damp?
Rising damp is a relatively rare form of damp that affects the walls of buildings. It occurs when moisture from the ground travels up through the walls by capillary action. This means that ground water is effectively sucked up through tiny tubes in the bricks, like a series of straws. This water contains salts that also travel up through the wall.
Around the affected wall, you get other porous building materials such as plasterwork and the timber found in the floor boards, joists and skirtings. These materials will also absorb the ground water easily and you may find evidence of wet rot in the timber. Read our guide for help diagnosing and treating wet rot .
Generally rising damp is first noticed by the damage it causes to the internal walls of a building. Plaster and paint can deteriorate and any wallpaper tends to loosen. A visible stain often appears on the wall in the form of a tide mark at the point where the ground water has reached. You may also see salts blooming on the internal surface. This is something often associated with rising damp and will lead to the debonding of paints and even plaster work . Externally, mortar may crumble and white salt stains may appear on the walls. We will go into the common signs of rising damp in more detail later in the guide.
Causes of Rising Damp
Most buildings have some form of barrier installed at the lower level of the wall to prevent water rising up in this way. It is called a damp proof course (DPC). These can be made of non-absorbant, water-resistant materials such as slate, bitumen and plastic depending on the period the property was built. Sometimes these physical DPCs may fail over time; in older houses they may not exist at all. If you don’t have a DPC or there is evidence that it has failed then there is nothing to prevent the water from travelling up your wall.
Traditional slate damp proof course. Photograph: Steve Wookey
Sometime the DPC can remain intact, but the DPC can be bridged. This is where the damp from the ground is able to travel up past the DPC because of a construction fault.
Examples of this include:
- Debris in the wall cavity or subfloor void.
- Internal or external renders / plasters overlapping the DPC
- External ground levels being raised above the DPC.
- Inappropriate insulation material in the cavity.
- Solid floors
- Intersecting masonry structures / abutting garden walls.
H igh external ground levels causing rising damp on the window wall. The wall to the left has had the earth removed to a lower level. Photograph: Steve Wookey
Is Rising Damp a Myth?
At this point it's worth addressing the debate around whether rising damp exists or not. There is a long-standing debate, both online and off, where people question if rising damp is real. The main reason that this debate continues to rage is the all-too-common misdiagnosis of rising damp.
There are inexperienced and underqualified surveyors and tradesmen out there that incorrectly diagnose rising damp. When the diagnosis is wrong, it means that the treatment fails and the 'damp' issue remains.
Misdiagnosis of Rising Damp
Rising damp is often confused with damp caused by condensation - this is one of the most common reasons for misdiagnosis. The PCA offer good advice around this in their Code of Practice for the Investigation and Control of Dampness in Buildings referring to BS5250: 2011 that states: ‘One of the most reliable ways that may be used to differentiate between dampness due to condensate and due to rising damp is to compare moisture in the contents of samples of masonry, or preferably mortar, from within the depth of the wall and near the inner surface of the wall; samples from within the wall will not be damp if surface condensation is the sole cause.’
In some other cases, there is a correct diagnosis of rising damp but the contractor fails to treat it. In most cases, this involves a failure to successfully inject a chemical DPC cream. Unsurprisingly, the incorrectly installed chemical DPC doesn't work. With both of these situations, you end up with a dissatisfied and often angry customer, and an industry that suffers.
The truth is that rising damp does exist and it does affect some houses. It is a genuine and serious problem that requires fixing with care and attention by qualified professionals. Hopefully, our guide will help with this.
Rising Damp - Internal Walls
Most people first notice an issue with rising damp on internal walls. Rising damp often results in tide marks on your internal walls up to the height where the water has reached. In most cases, these tide mark stains appear up to a metre above the skirting board. In some very rare cases, water can travel beyond this point.
The height the water reaches depends on several key factors. These include the pore structure of the bricks and mortar and the rate of evaporation. Masonry containing a high proportion of fine pores will allow the water to rise higher than one with less pores. Rising damp can occur up to 1.5 metres and even higher in some very rare instances.
The water from the ground often contains salts that are then deposited on the wall when the water evaporates. These salts can cause the paint to bubble and a white fluffy deposit to be left on the surface. There are two main types of salt - sulphates which result in crusty white patches and invisible hygroscopic salts known as nitrates and chlorides. The hygroscopic salts continue to draw moisture and therefore must be treated. Read more about treating salts on walls in our guide.
Salts debonding the paint work - if you look at the top of the bubble you will see the white fluffy salt deposit. Photograph: Steve Wookey
What causes rising damp in internal walls?
Rising damp in internal walls is caused by the same movement of ground water up through the brickwork by capillary action. It is the result of a failed or non-existant DPC or when the DPC has been bridged.
Rising Damp External Walls
Rising damp can affect both internal and external walls. When looking for evidence of rising damp on external walls, again you should keep an eye out for tide marks. You may also see some of the mortar crumbling between the bricks or stonework and salt deposits too.
Signs of Rising Damp
Rising damp is a relatively rare form of damp and treatment will only work if it is correctly diagnosed. It is therefore vitally important to get a professional diagnosis from a qualified surveyor – this will involve a rising damp survey of your home including analysis of the salts.
It can be hard to distinguish rising damp from other forms of damp like condensation or penetrating damp.
Having said that, the following are some of the more common signs of rising damp that you can look out for:
- Tide marks of salts
- Dark patches on walls that can be damp to touch - for a better indication of rising damp you want to determine that the brickwork / masonry is actually wet and not just the plaster or wallpaper.
- Staining of wall coverings, peeling wallpaper & blistering paint.
- Damp and musty smell.
- Discolouration & fragmenting plaster.
- Decaying timber e.g. skirting boards, floor boards, floor joists.
For more information on damp on external walls , read our guide.
What does rising damp look like?
Rising damp is often characterised by the tide marks on your wall above the skirting as well as powdery white salt deposits. It can cause plaster to bubble and wallpaper to peel away.
Rising Damp Images
The following rising damp images give you an idea of the visual appearance of the signs of rising damp:
Photographs of Rising Damp on Internal Wall
Photograph: Steve Wookey
Photograph: Steve Wookey
Damage to Paint and Plaster due to Rising Damp
Photographs: Steve Wookey
What does rising damp smell like?
It is hard to distinguish the smell of rising damp from other forms of damp in that it’s a damp and musty smell.
Is rising damp a serious problem?
Rising damp can be a serious problem, as if left untreated it can lead to structural issues. The damage it can cause to your plaster, flooring and decorative finishes as well as the smell also makes it very unpleasant to live with. As with most forms of damp, rising damp is not good for your health, making some respiratory conditions much worse. It can also result in increased heat loss, leading to higher energy bills.
Buying a House with Rising Damp
If you are in the process of buying a house and a survey carried out by a RICS-approved surveyor suggests that you may have an issue with rising damp, you should investigate further. We would recommend getting a professional damp company to carry out a rising damp survey before completing on the property.
You will want to get a qualified surveyor ideally with industry-recognised professional qualifications. If your property was built after the 1850s, you would expect to find some form of DPC whether it be bitumen or slate. It is rare that this will have deteriorated unless there has been some subsidence which is a very serious issue in itself. Another potential reason the DPC has failed is that it has been bridged, usually by debris or insulation in the cavity wall that exists below the DPC level. The ground levels outside could have also risen above the DPC level.
Renting a House with Rising Damp
If you suspect that your rental property has a problem with rising damp notify your landlord or letting agent immediately.
Rising Damp Treatment
The most effective and economical way to treat rising damp is with a damp proofing injection cream . You can choose between complete kits or individual cartridges of cream from leading brands such as Kiesol C and Aida .
The cream is injected or hand-pumped into specially-positioned holes in the mortar course. Once inserted, the damp proofing cream reverts to a liquid. This allows it to penetrate the bricks and achieve complete absorption. As it cures, it creates a powerful water-repellent barrier and a new chemical DPC that stops water from rising up the wall. For full instructions on how to treat rising damp with damp proofing cream read our guide to injecting damp proof courses .
Alternatively, you can install a new damp proof membrane to act as a damp proof course . This is a much bigger and more complicated process that involves taking out each brick along the failed mortar course and installing a new physical damp proof membrane.
How to treat rising damp on internal walls
When you see evidence of rising damp on internal walls, you need to remove any wallpaper and plaster back to the bricks or substrate. You will also need to do this on the external wall of the property.
Check that the DPC has not been bridged in any way before proceeding with the injection of a new DPC. Treating rising damp on internal walls is all about carrying out the injection process as outlined above and then getting in a position to make good and redecorate internally.
The quickest way to do this is with a damp proof membrane .
How effective is a chemical DPC?
Chemical injections are highly effective at treating rising damp if installed correctly. The formulations have improved over the years and are now proven to provide long-lasting protection. Kiesol C is the highest strength cream on the market with an active ingredient level of 80%. You can watch a video showing Kiesol C injection below:
Re-Plastering after Treating Rising Damp
Once you have injected the new DPC, you will need to get the affected area re-plastered. The existing plasterwork is likely to contain hygroscopic salts that will continue to attract moisture unless fully removed. It is vitally important that you get the plasterer to re-plaster to a precise specification to prevent further issues with salt contamination.
For more details on the specification and step-by-step instructions read our guide to re-rendering after the insertion of a new DPC . In our guide, we take you through how a damp proof membrane can be used to speed up the process of making good after a new DPC.
Plaster removed from a wall affected by rising damp. By Kebabknight [ GFDL ] or CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Who treats rising damp?
If you believe your home or a property you own has an issue with rising damp, then you need to confirm your suspicions with a professional diagnosis. You should opt for a qualified damp surveyor, rising damp treatment specialist or preservation company that are experienced with rising damp injection treatment. The surveyor will carry out a rising damp survey, complete a thorough analysis and then recommend a treatment based on their findings. We suggest looking for certain qualifications when deciding who fixes your rising damp issue.
The surveyor should ideally have national industry-recognised professional qualifications:
Certificated Surveyor in Remedial Treatments (CSRT) - a qualification for surveyors in the remedial property industry. The qualification comprises three modules, including one on damp.
Certificated Surveyor in Structural Waterproofing ( CSSW ) - a qualification for those involved in diagnosing problems with water entering structures below ground level and who recommend design solutions.
If you live in a rented property then it is the landlord that is responsible for dealing with rising damp. They should get a professional to diagnose and treat the damp, being sure to rule out other forms of damp first.
Permagard – Rising Damp Specialists
Permagard has been supplying damp proofing cream for over two decades. Our years' of experience mean that we can discuss your issue and recommend the products that will provide the solution. You can also browse our rising damp treatments as well as our DPC membranes .
We are here to help so if you have any nagging questions or are unsure about any aspect of this rising damp guide then please contact us on 0117 982 3282 or [email protected] . Our technical team are always happy to help and make sure you get the right product for the job.
Gregg is the Technical Operations Manager at Permagard and one of our experts. With more than 15 years’ experience in the damp proofing and waterproofing industry, he has the practical knowledge and professional expertise to provide the support you need.
His expert knowledge spans all products and systems that we sell at Permagard, including internal and external waterproofing, structural repair and green roofs.
Connect with him on LinkedIn .
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