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Winter is coming: How to treat damp walls internally

Winter is coming: How to treat damp walls internally
It's been another glorious summer and even this September has seen the warm weather stick around.

But, unfortunately, it will all come to an end in the coming weeks and months.

And that means it could be time to take steps to protect your property from the dreaded damp.

Damp can do untold damage to a property and cause serious issues to its structure.

Not only that, it's bad for your health and looks unsightly - something that is sure to put off potential buyers if you're thinking of selling soon.

Landlords can often find themselves battling against damp due to tenant habits or poor maintenance of rental properties.

If your property is already suffering from damp issues and the warmth of summer has simply masked the problem for a few months, now is the time to take action...

Damp-proofing internal walls: What to do

Firstly, it's important to look at what damp is, what causes it and the fact that there are even different kinds of damp you should be looking out for.

Damp is often caused by a lack of maintenance to a property, which can lead to leaks or building work that has simply not been looked after over a period of time.

Rising damp

Older buildings can be particularly susceptible to rising damp, which usually rears its ugly head when a property's damp-proof course is damaged or, in the case of really old homes, non-existent by modern standards.

In other scenarios, rising damp can be caused by things like raised driveways and paths that sit above the course.

If you've got a rising damp problem in your home, you should already see horizontal brown marks on walls and these will feel damp or cold when you touch them.

Sometimes, plastered walls will bubble and wallpaper may peel away, while mould will often be present on walls, too.

Other signs of rising damp include: 

* Staining of wall coverings and blistering pain
* Damp and musty smell
* Decaying timber e.g. skirting boards, floor boards, floor joists

One way to treat and damp-proof internal walls in this case is with a damp-proofing cream which forms a protective barrier. These can be used on many different types of wall, including brick and stone.

Alternatively, a mortar can be injected into walls where it forms a crystalised barrier to stop water rising.

Penetrating damp

Rainwater usually evaporates from brickwork on the external walls of property, but during heavy rain or in buildings where there are poorly-maintained drainage pipes and guttering, rainwater that fails to evaporate is passed horizontally through external walls into the building itself.

This can cause huge problems to timber work, such as dry and wet rot, while black mould will also grow in these conditions leading to potential health problems for those living in the property.

Signs of penetrating damp include:

* Damp staining on external walls
* Damp patches on walls or ceilings
* Signs of spores or black mould that are isolated to one area
* Wet and crumbly plaster
* Drips and puddles

Masonry protection treatments are available to target penetrating damp, but this should be done alongside measures to fix down pipes and guttering if it is to be kept at bay for the long term.

Condensation and ventilation

As we mentioned earlier, landlords often suffer the most from condensation problems in their rental properties due to poor habits from tenants.

It's the most common form of damp in the country and, probably, the easiest to eradicate, but it can also cause big problems if allowed to get out of hand.

Treatment for condensation usually starts at the source - people.

Areas prone to condensation are bathrooms and kitchens - where hot air clashes with cold air during the winter months and causes moisture to form on windows and walls.

Ventilation is key so air vents should never be blocked off - even if they do let cold air in.

Extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms can also help pull warm air out of rooms when cooking or showering.

But in the main, it's lifestyle changes that fix condensation issues long-term.

Opening a window when showering or cooking (even boiling the kettle) will allow warm air to leave the room and keep moisture levels in the property low.

Landlords should always advise their tenants on the best ways to keep condensation at bay as heavy condensation can lead to nasty black mould spores which look terrible, damage paintwork and window sealant and can cause health problems.