Damp can be caused by many things, from condensation to leaks, rising damp to poor construction. If you have a damp issue, it’s always best to get a PCA qualified surveyor to check it out. However, considering these questions may help you get an idea of the likely cause, and help speed diagnosis.
1) When was your house built? Changes in housing regulations and common building practice mean different properties can be affected by damp in different ways. New builds may suffer damp from excess water used in construction. Older homes may have issues with failed pointing, damaged guttering or missing roof tiles. Of course, these issues can affect homes of any age too. However, knowing when your house was built can give an idea of what issues are most probable.
2) What is the construction? Again, the type of construction can affect damp – as can any changes you make to the building. If you’ve had cavity wall insulation retrofitted, added linoleum or other impervious flooring or made structural changes to the building, this could all have an effect on damp. Even wallpapering or moving a radiator can make a difference so let the surveyor know if you’ve made any changes to the structure.
3) Has the building been unoccupied or unheated? If so, the problem may be down to condensation and may be solved by something as simple as airing out the property, heating, and perhaps using a dehumidifier.
4) What are the building occupation levels? Is it a family, a single person or an institution such as a school? If there are more people living in a home than it was originally designed for, this could lead to damp as people are water-producing machines.
5) Is it exposed to severe wind and rainfall and, if so, in which direction? If damp is affecting walls that are exposed to bad weather, it could suggest you need to check your pointing.
6) What has the weather been like recently? Frost, heavy rainfall or simply changing seasons can all have an effect on damp.
7) When did the dampness appear and how long did it last? If damp appears and disappears over time, it’s a good indication that condensation may be an issue and lifestyle factors could be leading to damp; or, obviously, can suggest water ingress is an issue if you only get damp occurring after heavy rain.
8) Is there any liquid water on surfaces or dripping from window heads or ceilings? While water may appear far from the root of the problem, it’s worth making your surveyor aware of any areas that are particularly badly affected – and letting them know whether the issue is persistent or only happens on occasion.
9) Where are the damp patches in the room: wall, ceiling, floor, corner or elsewhere? Again, it’s worth noting whether these are constant or occasional.
10) What colour and shape are the damp patches? Is there a stain, tide-mark, mould growth or salt deposit? All these can point to different problems.
When it comes to diagnosing damp, the more information you can give your surveyor, the faster they’re likely to be able to spot the problem – and help you fix it.
When tackling damp always ensure you have adequate heat and ventilation, leave heating on at a low level as this will minimise the risk of cold spots developing. Also, air out the property whenever possible. Damp walls are cold walls so treat with Stormdry masonry protection cream which will improve thermal performance of the substrate.