Patches of damp can be terrifying for homeowners to find. The discovery brings to mind long-term, deep-seated issues that are expensive to fix. That’s sometimes the case, but not always. In all cases the sooner areas of damp are investigated and treated, the better (and the cheaper…)
Here we look at the main causes of damp in your home.
Leaks from above
These are usually the most obvious to diagnose, and caused by e.g:
- a leaking roof, gutter, rainwater pipe, soil pipe, etc.
- a leaking bathroom/ kitchen/ radiator above
- a damaged chimney/ chimneypot
- damaged brickwork, window surrounds, etc.
Leaks from above can often be fixed easily by finding and eliminating the cause i.e. fixing the underlying problem so the water stays where it ought to be (on the outside of the walls/ roof or within the pipes designed for it to pass through).
Example – we’re working on a flat which suffered extensive water damage because a rainwater downpipe was blocked by a plastic bottle at roof level (how??). Rain had been pouring down the brickwork for months. Once the bottle was removed, the rain stayed in its pipe and the flat is drying out…
Complications in fixing these issues arise if the source is difficult to access, I.e.:
- The leak is coming from a bathroom above in a separate apartment. This repair will require the cooperation of the owner of the apartment above, and how effective the repair is will depend on how well it’s done. (You don’t normally have control over this, tho most leases will require all owners to ensure there are no leaks from their properties.)
Example – we’re working on two separate flats suffering leaks from bathrooms above. One neighbour v cooperative; the other not at all – we’re testing our negotiating styles…
- Problems in accessing the roof/ gutter, etc. if too high for a ladder to be used safely. This may require scaffolding – which is expensive – so it’s cost effective to take care of any other maintenance in the same area at the same time (i.e. external renovation)
If the wall of an occupied building sits directly against an area containing water (such as earth…), the wall will eventually show signs of dampness unless a barrier against damp has been properly installed and remains in good condition. This situation usually arises when the room is question is below the adjacent ground level – common in basement flats.
This is dampness being drawn upwards (usually by capillary action) from the ground – either because of the amount of water occurring naturally in the ground from rainwater or because of excess water cause by a water leak in the ground nearby (i.e. from a mains water pipe (incoming) or a drain pipe leading to the sewer (outgoing).
In both situations, the solution is usually to fit a barrier to prevent the dampness travelling from its source into the area. This barrier can take a variety of forms and sometimes several methods are used at the same time – these vary in price, effectiveness and level of disruption to the areas in questions.
Consider having nearby pipework checked for leaks – CCTV surveys of nearby underground drainage can be a good idea in identifying these.
Issues to consider after a leak:
- allow the affected area to dry thoroughly before attempting to repair – a dehumidifier may help in this situation
- check affected area for signs of mould or rot, and consider treating the affected areas to prevent infestation in future.
If you are considering renovation work, we recommend checking for and resolving any causes of damp as part of the works, to prevent future damage to your lovely new finishes. We can help with this and all aspects of your renovation – get in touch!