HOME IMPROVEMENT TIPS
BY Zoe Phoon
Damp can cause problems in your home and can be costly to fix.
Serious damp problems can also affect your health. For those sensitive to moulds, exposure to damp and mouldy places may cause stuffy nose; irritation of the throat, eyes and skin; coughing; and wheezing.
Damp problems can range from mould on walls and furniture to rotting wooden window frames.
One culprit is excess moisture which can be due to leaking pipes, rising damp in basements/ground floors, or rain seeping in because of damage to the roof or around window frames. The other usual suspect is poor ventilation.
Even newly built homes are not spared: Damp can occur if the water used when the property was built is still drying out.
For those who have never seen damp before, including buyers of new homes, here’s how to spot damp:
Condensation – Look out for water droplets collecting on the window/windowsill. Black spot mould may begin to grow on walls, surfaces and carpets. Other damp signs are peeling paint or plaster and mould on clothes and fabrics.
Rising damp – Plaster bubbles and peels away from interior walls. Horizontal brown/discoloured marks can be seen up to 1m high on interior walls. Wooden beading and skirting boards will become brittle and eventually show the signs of deterioration.
Penetrating damp – This is usually caused by structural problems in a building such as faulty guttering and roofing or cracks in the walls. This means walls or roofs are constantly soaked with water.
It can also be caused by internal leaks like pipes under the sink or bath.
Another villain of penetrating damp is porous brick/stone. Elderly bricks can reach saturation after years of weathering and this allows water to leach through into the house.
Damp signs include watermarks on the masonry; presence of damp, musty smell and patchy black spot mould appearing internally on walls; and damaged timber due to the wood being saturated by damp.
Dry rot – The wood is brittle and warped and the grain of the wood has cuboidal-shaped cracking features. Presence of damp, musty and fungal smell.
Wet rot – The cracking of wood which may appear cuboidal/linear depending on type of wet rot. Presence of musty smell and the air can sometimes feel damp.
Take note of any springy feeling when walking across the floors as this may indicate a breakdown of the wood structure.
For poor ventilation, simple solutions to improve the ventilation in the room are opening the windows to let fresh air in and turning on the fan.
DIY damp solutions are other ways of treating or getting rid of damp.
For black spot mould, just kill it with a fungicide that eliminates regrowth of moulds.
For penetrating damp, where water is making its way through your bricks and mortar caused by leaky gutters or gutter downpipes, which constantly feed water onto your wall until the masonry cannot resist water anymore because it never gets to dry out, the solution is to stop the moisture coming through the wall.
There are products that form an invisible shield, forcing water to bead up and run off instead of being absorbed.