A homebuyer’s guide to damp
According to the stereotype, the UK is a damp, wet, grey, drizzly country. Living here, we can say with absolute certainty that statement is 100% accurate. Love it or hate it, that’s the climate we all live in.
The humidity and temperatures we see in this country mean we face specific issues more commonly than those who live in warmer, dryer climates, such as Spain or California. Of course, one of the biggest of these is damp.
This article, a homebuyer’s guide to damp, will explain what damp is, the different types of damp and how you can spot it.
What is “damp”?
Damp refers to the presence of water in a property (or any other object) and the damage it causes. It
is caused by the presence of water, usually combined with poor ventilation.
There are a couple of common types of this issue, explained below.
It can be more serious than people realise. As the old saying goes, a bit of rain never hurt anyone; however, the presence of damp has damaged many, many properties.
Over time, damp can lead to problems such as rot, itself causing significant damage. If the situation gets bad enough, dry/wet rot can compromise the structural integrity of a building. Preventing damp is a key step in keeping a home safe and maintaining its market value.
Damp, in the form of condensation, can also cause health risks such as black mould.
What are the different types of damp?
The three main types of damp are rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation. In short, rising damp refers to moisture rising up into a property. Penetrating damp indicates that water has penetrated through the walls or roof or has leaked from a pipe, while condensation is caused by an imbalance between heating, insulation and ventilation.
There are a few different symptoms for the different types of damp, but they’ll all come with the risk of secondary damage.
What is rising damp?
Rising damp comes up from below a house, finding its way through foundations and brickwork.
You’re more likely to find rising damp in older properties, from times when building regulations were less strict, and there were fewer damp-management measures in place, such as damp-proof courses.
To spot rising damp, you should look for signs such as:
- Areas that are physically wet to touch
- Peeling wallpaper
- Tide marks on the walls
- Crumbling plaster
- Rusty skirting board nails
It’s not always easy to fully eradicate rising damp however there are some good solutions to help manage, reduce and treat it. At the same time, you should ensure the rising damp hasn’t caused any secondary issues such as dry or wet rot. A home survey can help with this inspection.
What is penetrating damp?
Most of the time, penetrating damp is caused by leaking pipes or rainwater through holes or cracks in the roof or guttering. These issues allow water straight into the house, making walls and ceilings wet. Watch out for the following signs of penetrating damp:
- Noticeable localised damp patches in the walls
- Poor plaster condition
- Damaged decorations
- Broken roofs, gutters, or leaking pipes
- Decaying wood (indicating the presence of rot)
Penetrating damp can be easier to eradicate. A simple clean out of the guttering, fixing a broken pipe, replacing a roof tile or providing better external drainage usually does the trick. However, the damage it can cause can be extensive. If you can catch the cause early and repair or improve the defect then this can save you hundreds, maybe thousands of pounds.
Where does condensation fit in?
Condensation is, unfortunately, usually entirely ignored by homeowners and homebuyers alike. However, it could be a sign of a severe problem.
You find condensation in areas with poor ventilation, heating and insulation. It’s often mistaken for rising damp. Aside from visually seeing and feeling it on windows, you could also notice these two common symptoms:
- Mould growth
- Water droplets
- Peeling wallpaper
The most critical step in dealing with a condensation problem is finding the source and making sure the area gets the right balance between ventilation, insulation and heating. This should deal with – or at least reduce – its impact.
My home survey indicates damp is present… what now?
As a homebuyer, if your home survey finds damp, it can be a red flag. It shouldn’t necessarily put you off the sale, though.
Damp is usually treatable and, in many cases, not too serious. Provided there aren’t any major structural issues or mould/rot infestations, it shouldn’t even be too expensive to treat. If you want, you could reduce your offer, although this isn’t always necessary.
If our RICS-approved surveyor finds damp, they’ll be sure to put all the details in your home survey report, along with their recommended course of action. If you have any questions for them, you’re always more than welcome to get back in touch to clarify things.
Home surveys are a critical part of spotting damp problems early on. For a free initial consultation, please email us or phone us on 03333 600 685.