Getting damp in your property is never a good thing and may lead to a variety of structural problems for the building as well as health issues for its occupants. Being able to spot the signs of damp early is key to successfully treating it and keeping your home safe, dry, and issue free.
But how do you know if you have damp, how does damp even start, and how do you fix a damp problem once it occurs? These are all important question that you’ll need to answer if you want to protect your home but without the help of a professional, they aren’t easy to answer.
In many cases, you may need to hire a tradesman to fix your damp problem. But this brings with it even more questions. Choosing the right professional is an important decision but picking the first person you come across in the phone book is seldom a wise choice.
Before hiring anybody, you will have to do a bit of research, get quotes, and look for recommendations and testimonials, all while living with a worsening damp problem. It’s no surprise that many homeowners jump at the first professional they come across.
But you don’t need to anymore because in this article we will explain everything there is to know about damp and how to treat it. We will look at how damp occurs, how you know if you have it, and how to hire the right damp proofing specialist in Oxford to get rid of the problem.
What do you mean by damp?
Damp inside a property presents itself as the presence of moisture, water, and condensation on walls, ceilings, floors, and windows.
Many problems with damp occur without warning signs and, if left untreated, can cause serious damage to the infrastructure of your building.
According to a survey by the Government (UK English Housing Survey – link here) around 1.4 million homes (that’s 7% of the total number of homes in the UK) had some form of damp issue in 2018. The most common damp problem listed was condensation and mould (the two often come hand in hand) which affected 3.5% of homes, that’s half of the damp issues reported. Condensation is often considered a minor problem but if left untreated can lead to more serious issues down the line.
Other more serious forms of damp often found in homes are rising damp and penetrating damp:
- Rising damp is a problem that impacts the lower portion of walls on the ground floor of properties. It is caused by water flowing upwards through the wall structures from the foundations and earth beneath the house. The water is sucked from the ground in a capillary action at the base of the wall of your property. Rising damp can be incredibly damaging to the structure of your property and accurate diagnosis and remedial work by a professional damp proof specialist will need to be being carried out swiftly to deal with the issue.
- Penetrating damp is caused by water entering a property through walls and ceilings from the outside. Many problems cause penetrating damp, but cracked or damaged brickwork, pointing issues, or missing roof tiles are usually the main culprit. Water will seep through the damaged outer fascia of the property and into the building creating damp patches that can be difficult to spot until the issue worsens.
Nearly all damp issues increase in prevalence during winter months when excessive rainfall and snow put the structure of your home under increasing stress.
How do you know if you’ve got damp in your home?
Damp can be difficult to spot in a property but there are a few tell-tale signs. When looking for damp in your property look for the following indicators:
- Windows: High levels of moisture in your home will often appear as condensation on windows. Signs of condensation include water droplets or the appearance of steam on the window, puddles of water on the windowsill, and black mould growing on the window or its frame.
- Walls: Damp on walls can present itself in many different ways. If the damp issue is condensation, then the wall may feel cold and wet to the touch and black mould may start to grow. If the problem is penetrative damp, then you may see darkened patches on the wall that feel wet to the touch. If the issue is rising damp, then you will see similar symptoms (dark, wet patches, mould, etc.) on the bottom portion of downstairs walls (up to about a metre in height normally). In all cases, paint may begin to flake, and wallpaper may peel off.
- Kitchens and bathrooms: Kitchens and bathrooms are subjected to more moisture than most other rooms so spotting issues can be tricky. Again, windows are a good place to check. Look for condensation and mould growth. Mould may also present itself on ceilings or walls and in the sealant around bathtubs, sinks, etc.
- Basements: Basements are magnets for damp. Look for visible water accumulation and dark patches on walls. If there are windows, look for condensation and mould.
In all cases look for a musty smell. Damp will often create an odour before it is visible.
What causes damp in your home?
Most problems with damp are caused by moisture outside the property. The UK receives a lot of rainfall so it’s not a surprise that damp in homes is a common occurrence.
As discussed previously, more serious damp issues can be caused by structural defects. Cracks in mortar, damaged brickwork, and missing roof tiles are the leading causes of penetrative damp. Rising damp is an altogether more difficult problem to address but its cause is quite simple: water underneath the property seeping into the walls and being sucked into the house. Condensation, on the other hand, is often the result of issues within the property. Here are a few things to look for that could be causing your damp issue:
- Cracks, holes, and damage to brickwork, mortar, and roofs.
- Damaged pipework or drainage pipes within or underneath the property. This is a common cause of rising damp.
- Damaged or blocked guttering or pipework that removes rainwater from the roof. A damaged gutter can lead to water overflowing or running into the property through the roof or walls. It can also allow excess water to run into the property’s foundations leading to rising damp or flooded basements.
- Too much moisture being created within the property. A lot of people don’t realise that most condensation issues occur because they are putting too much moisture into the air. Running a tumble dryer that has no external vent, having hot baths or showers, boiling food on a stove, and drying clothing on radiators all increase the levels of moisture within the home.
How can damp be treated?
Once you’ve diagnosed damp as an issue, figuring out how to fix it is the next problem. The remedies at your disposal will depend on the problem you have. Let’s break down each issue in turn.
Condensation is caused by too much moisture in the air within a property. The best way to get rid of moist air is to allow it to leave through venting. This is most important when you bathe, shower, or cook. Opening windows, installing wall vents, or fitting extractors are great ways to expel damp air from your home. You should also dry clothes on a line outside the property, not on radiators and if the problem is localised you could place damp absorbing tablets (Unibond do great ones and they can be found on Amazon here) on windows where condensation is an issue.
Fixing penetrative damp requires you to find the source of the problem. You may be able to see the damp patch inside the property, but can you find where water is coming in from outside? If you can, then this can often be filled with mortar or expanding foam. If not, then you will need a professional builder or damp proofing specialist to resolve the problem.
Rising damp is never something we would recommend trying to fix yourself unless you really know what you are doing. Our tip is to hire a professional damp treatment specialist to find and repair the source of the problem and fix any damage it has caused. This will need to be done as soon as you spot the issue to prevent long term damage to the structure of your home. Check out Trustatrader.com who offer a free searchable database of damp treatment specialist in your area.
How do I choose a damp treatment professional in Oxford?
Realising that you have a serious damp problem is only half the battle. Finding a good quality damp proofing specialist in Oxford is the other half. Here are a few factors to look out for when hiring a tradesman for your job:
- Look for a damp treatment professional with a recognised qualification – At the very least ensure they have an NVQ or City and Guilds certificate in damp treatment so you can rest assured they have the knowledge to complete the job to a high standard. You can find a searchable NVQ qualification database on the City and Guilds website here.
- Make sure the damp treatment specialist undertakes a thorough survey of the property – All damp treatment professionals will thoroughly inspect the problem and provide a written survey detailing the cause and necessary fix. Our tip is to consult more than one specialist before proceeding with work. This way you’ll be able to compare reports and make a more informed choice. We would also recommend that you are present when the survey takes place to ensure a thorough inspection of the inside and outside of the property using moisture meters to check levels of damp.
- Make sure the damp-proof specialist has valid insurance. Check for insurance certificates or you may be left in the lurch if problems arise.
- Look for guarantees. Make sure that any damp proof specialist guarantees his work. You don’t want to be left with the same problem a few months down the line.
- Look for a professional who is a member of a trade association. Trade associations insist on quality and being a member is normally a badge of quality. Good trade associations for damp proofing include the Damp Proofing Association (website here) and the Property Care Associations (website here).
Advantages of hiring a local professional for your damp problem
It may be tempting to opt for a larger out of town damp proof professional over an independent local company, but choosing a local tradesman has many advantages. Here are a few to consider:
- The cost of work may be cheaper: Most large national companies charge an arm and a leg for damp treatment. Yes, work is generally guaranteed but most of the cost comes from travel and the “prestige” of using the company. A local professional can often offer the same level of quality (or better) for a far more reasonable price.
- Damp proofing specialists in Oxford will want to protect their reputation: Local businesses rely on reputation and word of mouth to make money. One bad review can ruin the hard work they put in every day. Our advice is to check out websites like com and Ratedpeople.com for reviews. Both sites allow you to refine your search by area making it easier to find a local reputable damp treatment specialist.
- Work can often be completed quicker: Local damp treatment specialists have less distance to travel and will source materials locally. This often means they can complete work quicker and more efficiently.
- You are supporting local business: This past year has been difficult for many local businesses. By hiring locally you are helping to keep the local economy afloat.
Damage caused by damp problems can have a devastating effect on your home. Not only can the structure be damaged and become unsafe, but it can lead to health problems for you and your family.
We hope that with a little help from our guide, the next time you encounter a damp problem you’ll find it easier to spot, have a little more knowledge on how to fix it, and understand how to hire the best damp treatment professional in Oxford to make it go away.