Damp can affect any home with the obvious health and comfort issues of mould. It is always wise to spot any problems early and remedy them quickly.
What are the causes of damp?
One of the most frequent problems you will encounter in the home is damp. Furthermore, damp and the formation of mould can be very bad for your health. Mould can aggravate respiratory problems and encourage the emergence of mites.
Damp usually occurs due to poor maintenance. There are several causes of damp in the home, but all can be remedied. Leaks in or around the roof, ceilings, walls, floors, windows, doors or pipe-work can cause damp and mould.
Often, if there is a damp patch visible inside the home, the cause can be identified from an issue on the exterior. For instance, a wet patch at the top of a wall might be due to a leaking gutter outside.
Rising damp is caused by capillary action through brickwork and plasterwork into the floors and walls of the property. This type of damp usually occurs where there is no damp proof course, or the course has been bridged. If the walls feel damp and cold to the touch, or if there is a stain mark on the inside walls. Paintwork can become stained and damaged, and plaster can become loose. Any wall in contact with the ground can have rising damp, affecting walls both inside and out. However, it rarely rises up further than one metre in height.
Penetrating damp is caused by issues with the building or plumbing, where a problem has allowed water to enter the home. Symptoms will usually only occur during wet weather. However, it can affect roofs and ceilings, along with walls. A watermark might appear, and grow if the water continues to enter. If not fixed, the plasterwork may shave crazing cracking and paintwork may blister.
Penetrating damp can sometimes be caused by gutter or roof problems which have allowed rainwater to spill onto and saturate areas of the wall. Penetrating damp is most frequent in older homes, which have no cavity walls. A new build property with cavity walls offers more protection and is unlikely to suffer from this type of defect. Penetrating damp can be tricky to pinpoint, and often may require expert help.
Condensation is caused by excessive moisture due to insufficient ventilation inside the home. Mould may appear on walls, ceilings, furniture and even curtains. There is usually a strong musty smell present. Unlike the other types of damp condensation is largely caused by the occupants of the home, rather than problems with the actual building.
How to Prevent, Monitor & Treat Damp
There are several simple measures that will remedy damp, The problem may be something you can fix quickly with an anti-damp product or repair. Keep your property warm and dry with preventative measures and spotting early symptoms of damp.
Rising damp is usually worse at the bottom of a wall than at the top. The most common cause is ‘bridging’. Plasterwork or soil bridging the DPC or rainwater splashing up against the wall above the DPC. This is a common problem but can be remedied by simply digging away all the soil. If not, you may need to check if plasterwork is bridging the DPC. If it is splashing up rainwater you may need to install gutters and downpipes. In the end, chemical methods – injected into the problem areas – may be the only solution.
Penetrating damp forms when water gets in from the outside! Examine gutters, downpipes, flashing, plasterwork, brickwork and window frames in detail. Always make sure that downpipes are unobstructed, and the gutters are clean.
Check the plasterwork and brickwork to see if it’s cracked. Seal any gaps around window frames. Check underneath window sills as there should be a drip groove to shed rainwater before it gets to the house wall. If this is blocked with moss, dirt or cement, clear it thoroughly.
Condensation forms when warm air trapped inside the house meets cold walls, and mould can quickly spread. Open windows after a shower or bath to allow ventilation of bathrooms. Open windows slightly in bedrooms and living rooms during the night to prevent condensation.
To remove mould scrub the area a mixture of hot water and bleach or mould remover. Leave it for several minutes, and then clean off thoroughly.
I posted on my blog, in November last year, about damp walls that arise as a result not having gutters on your home to control the flow of rainwater off your roof.
On Saturday I inspected a four-year-old property that had a
one tile overhang on the roof, no gutters but had paving surrounding the house.
However, the external walls of the house were in a desperate state because of the three most destructive mistakes architects, developers, builders and homeowners make!
As a result, I’m going to repeat part of the issues mentioned in my blog again!
Damp walls caused by no gutters
Gutters collect the rainwater runoff from the roof, discharging it into downpipes which conveys the rainwater away from the house in a controlled manner. In addition, they also protect the timber roof structure at the eaves of the house. Furthermore, gutters protect the exterior walls, windows and doors of the house and its foundation from damp and potential damage.
The splashing up against the walls was the most serious cause of the penetrating damp on the walls of the house. Moreover, the crazing cracking (spiderweb-like fine cracking) in the plasterwork was the main indicator of the penetrating damp caused splashing up of rainwater. No cracking was observed higher up on the walls.
Even if your house has a reduced overhang at the eaves, gutters will still provide the required protection against heavy rain and wind storms your house may be subjected to.
Insufficient roof overhang at the eaves
Roofs with no gutters which have a two-tile
overhang (600mm in the case of a metal roof) or less will allow water to pour
from the roof close to the walls, windows and doors and the foundation.
Did you know that one way to identify a mould problem in your home is watching your water bill? Leaks and damp surfaces are primed for mould growth, especially in areas that are prone to collection surfaces and warmth—think your bathrooms, kitchen and basement.
In addition to leaky pipes, many people don’t realize that mould can form in other disguised areas of your home such as on your mattress. Whether you sleep in a damp room, spill a glass of water that is absorbed into your mattress, or sweat a lot at night, your mattress may be primed for mould growth. Mattresses can include soft, porous materials such as cotton covers or foam comfort layers, any of which can absorb moisture both inside and outside of your mattress.
So, while you may know to check your pipes or
understand that your basement, kitchen, and bathrooms are often culprits of
leaks and potential areas of mould growth, keep in mind that places such as
your bedroom may hide a serious mould problem.
Here are five ways indoor mould causes sleeploss
Mould impacts the air quality in your house by releasing glucans which can cause an inflammatory response to your respiratory system. In turn, it affects your ability to breathe effectively by prompting your body to go into a fix-it mode such as an increase in mucus production which builds up and makes it difficult to breathe.
It is estimated that nearly 22-million people are affected by sleep apnea.Sleep apnea is a dangerous and potentially deadly problem wherein a person momentarily stops breathing. The result is gasping or snoring as the person’s brain tries to readjust breathing. Sleep apnea is caused by the blockage or narrowing of the airways that is often the result of congestion associated with mould.
Moisture absorbed into brickwork and plasterwork causes them to expand slightly. When the brickwork and plasterwork dry they contract slightly. The water absorbed by the bricks and plasterwork usually causes a slight vertical crack at the edges of the internal window sills. The paint then starts to bubble along the vertical crack. This crack may continue around the length of the window sill before you notice it. What started out as a small vertical crack then becomes a horizontal crack along the bottom of the window sill on the interior face of the sill wall.
The cracks are usually not significant unless allowed to continue unabated.
Sometimes the moisture intrusion at sills are mistaken for rising damp! Water leaking in at the window sill may bypass the damp proof course (DPC) built in under the window sill as a water-resistant barrier. The moisture may then appear as bubbling paint or crazing cracking of plasterwork, or both, below the window, extending down to floor level.
On external face-brick walls, this may appear as efflorescence (a white powder).
Internally, this may appear as bubbling paint above the skirting or discolouration of the skirting itself.
How do you prevent the moisture intrusion into window sills?
Mould can occur in your home and workplace anywhere in South Africa. If a room or cupboard smells musty it means it has!
Potential health effects and symptoms associated with exposure to mould include allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints. It is impossible to eliminate all moulds and spores indoors. All moulds can be found on any surface where moisture is present, e.g. on wood, paper, carpet, and foods. Mould growth is best controlled by controlling moisture.
Clean and eliminate sources of moisture.
Repair all leaks.
Reduce indoor humidity to between 30-50% by venting bathrooms, dryers, and other moisture-generating sources to the outside.
Increase ventilation by using air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, exhaust fans and open windows whenever cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning.
Clean and dry any damp or wet bedding and furnishings within 24 hours.
Clean mould off hard surfaces with water and specialised detergents, and dry completely.
Replace damp or wet absorbent materials, e.g. mouldy ceiling tiles, carpeting, insulation etc.
Reduce condensation on cold surfaces (i.e. metal roofing, under-tile membranes, water piping, exterior walls, roof, or floors) by adding insulation.
Prevent condensation on windows in living rooms and bedrooms by keeping the windows slightly open during cold spells and at night in winter. In humid climates keep windows open 24/7.
Do not install carpets or other types of flooring that is not water-resistant in areas with a frequent condensation or perpetual moisture problems, e.g. bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, sculleries, at drinking fountains, or areas that may be exposed to the elements.
What is mould?
It is the common word for any fungus that grows on food or damp surfaces. In addition, it can be any colour but is often black or white.
Some often look like a stain or smudge, and they may smell musty. They can enter the home through windows, vents, and open doorways, heating and air-conditioning systems. Moreover, it can attach itself to clothes, shoes, linen, bags and pets.
You might find it in:
Leaky roofs, windows or pipes
Wall and floor tiles
Built-in units and cupboards
Is mould harmful?
Often reports about the effectsof some moulds include the term “toxic”. However, experts say this term can be misleading, since only certain spores produce toxins, and only under certain conditions.
According to researchers in the Lung Disorders Special Report: 9 Common Mould Myths, moulds can produce toxins. However, that doesn’t mean it will. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that you could inhale enough in your home or office to receive a toxic dose.
Although, only toxic under exceptional conditions, it can still adversely affect your health. In addition, if you suffer a pre-existing respiratory condition, e.g. asthma, mould can aggravate the condition.
Some people are especially sensitive to some moulds and may display symptoms that include:
Eye, nose and throat irritation
Coughing and phlegm build-up
Wheezing and shortness of breath
Symptoms of asthma and any number of allergic reactions
It is mostly found indoors in kitchens and bathrooms, where humidity levels are high. However, who should do the cleanup depends on a number of factors. One is the size of the affected area. If the mouldy area is less than about 1m² you can handle the job yourself. You can simply remove it with over the counter products. However, if there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mould growth covers more than 1m², it is advisable to hire a specialist contractor.
The following measures can help:
During humid months, use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.
Ensure there is adequate ventilation, especially in your bathrooms.
Before painting, add mould inhibitors to the paint.
Use mould killingproducts to clean your bathroom and kitchen.
Don’t carpet your bathrooms and toilets.
Remove or replace wet carpets and upholstery.
If there are musty smells in your cupboards, bedrooms, bathrooms or in your kitchen you have mould in your home! It will only grow in areas where damp conditions exist! I can identify the source of the damp condition for you. Furthermore, I can perform a Mould Inspection and advise you on the best manner in which to remove the mould.