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Tips For Damp Proofing Old Houses

Damp is a total and complete nightmare and is not something that you want to find in your home. However, sometimes this is exactly what happens, you move an old picture or shift a cabinet to a new location within your home and find those tale-tell black mould spots and a slightly damp patch of wall, and you realise that your home has a damp problem.

However, the fact is that while damp is not something that anyone wants in their home, it is best to know that it is there. Because if you don’t know that there is a problem, you can’t deal with it, which means that the damp will just get worse and worse, and may end up causing more serious damage than creating a little patch of mould and a wet wall.

So if you have noticed an area of your home where the paint or wallpaper is bubbling or peeling, or where there are little black specks of mould, it is important to act immediately. The older a house is, the more prone it becomes to mould, which is why it is so important to keep an eye on older properties for any signs that mould or damp may be present.

Did you know that damp can not only ruin the aesthetics of your home by causing mould spots to appear, but it can also compromise the property’s structural integrity? So dealing with the issue quickly is vital. When it comes to dealing with damp, time is of the essence.

To get rid of damp in your home or to prevent it to begin with, below is a guide to what steps you need to take. As well as some useful advice for spotting mould and damp in various areas of your home.

What causes damp?

You will notice that newer properties are less prone to damp. This is because damp is usually caused by how properties are constructed and the building methods used in older buildings, rather than newer ones. Usually, damp in old buildings is caused by insufficient ventilation, problems with a building’s weatherproofing, cracked foundations or external walls, a leaking gutter, or bad plumbing. The issue is that older properties were constructed with solid walls, without damp proof courses in place, and had badly waterproofed roofs, rain and other sources of water could easily enter these buildings.

What are the different kinds of damp?

There isn’t just one type of damp; there are actually four main types of damp. These are condensation, rising damp, lateral damp and penetrating damp.


Condensation is often easily dismissed as being part of an old house, however it can be a sign of a more complex and serious issue. Excessive condensation is a sign that there is high levels of water vapour inside the property. This water vapour has to come from somewhere, which means that it is usually a sign of a damp issue somewhere in the property, most probably close by.

Rising Damp

Rising damp is the type of damp that fills home owners with fear, because the implications of this kind of damp can be so serious. If you notice ‘tide’ marks on the walls – areas of wet that look like they are rising – this is a sign that your home may have a rising damp problem. These areas are usually darker in colour than the rest of the wall and may feel wet to the touch. Rising damp is often the sign of a problem with the foundations of a property, such as cracks appearing in them, allowing water into the structure of the building, which then rises through the property.

Lateral Damp

Lateral damp shares many of the same features as rising damp, with the main difference being that the intrusion of water is often from an exterior wall, rather than the property’s foundations. It is often caused by leaking gutters, missing tiles, or cracks in the walls of the property.

Penetrating Damp

This type of damp usually originates from the exterior walls of the property. This damp normally gets worse after periods of wet weather, with damp patches within the property growing larger the more it rains. For this reason, penetrating damp is more likely to occur in areas of the property that are close to exterior walls or the roof. Other causes of penetrating damp can also be leaking drain pipes, fault water pipes and broken window joists.

How to identify damp around your home

Usually, signs that your home is damp show up during the winter months when the weather is cooler. However, you can look for the warning signs at any time of the year. Here’s how to check your home for damp:

  • Walls. Place your hand on the wall, does it feel cold or damp? Look for signs of mould – black specks – and damp. Any growths on the walls should be investigated, regardless of their colour and size. Flaking paint or curling wallpaper are also signs of a damp problem.
  • Ceilings. What colour are your ceilings? Are they discoloured in any areas? A discoloured ceiling can be a sign that a property has a damp problem. Brown patches on external walls or near chimney breasts can also indicate a problem.
  • Windows. If you notice that your windows have condensation on them in the mornings and are wet, or the windowsill below them is wet, this is a sign that your home has high moisture levels. This can be a cause and a symptom of damp.
  • Bathrooms and kitchens. Inspect any grouting or sealants for black mould. If you notice black mould, look at the window frames or ceilings for damage.
  • Furniture and soft furnishings. Did you know that mould can also grow on the back of curtains and soft furnishings?

Tips on how can damp be prevented and treated?

Usually, how damp is treated depends on what the cause of the damp is, and what type of damp it is.

Make sure that your home is properly weatherproofed

One common cause of penetrating damp is damaged foundations or a badly built property that has not been properly weatherproofed. This is a common problem with older properties due to how they are built and the methods used. Once the foundation or crack has been repaired, the next step is to treat cement-based floors or cellars with a liquid damp proof membrane paint, this should act as a cure for a damp cellar floor, stopping the damp from spreading. It is vital that you seal the area to prevent more water getting into it and causing the same problem again.

Cellar requring a damp proofing course

Any areas treated with a DPM can then be painted over or covered with carpet or vinyl.

Ensure that your home is well ventilated

For damp caused by bad construction techniques and a lack of ventilation which causes condensation to occur on the windows and walls, causing mould to grow, reducing condensation is vital. As well as repairing the problem with the building itself of course. Moisture is seriously detrimental to a building’s health and can cause mould to appear, which is why making sure that your home is well ventilated is so important.

Wondering what causes moisture? Believe it or not, everyday activities cause moisture to occur. From washing and drying your clothes to breathing and boiling the kettle, all kinds of activities cause moisture within your home. This moisture needs a way to escape. Otherwise, it can damage the building, that’s why people tend to have windows open while cooking or using a tumble dryer.

Use a dehumidifier

When a property seems especially prone to damp and always has wet windows and walls, this is a sign that there may be a more serious problem. In this instance, it is important to consider investing in a dehumidifier that will soak up the water and dry your home out. Dehumidifiers work by removing excess moisture from the air, preventing damp from getting worse and mould growth from occuring.

Choose moisture resistant decor finishes

To reduce the risk of condensation penetrating your walls and causing damp to occur, it is important to choose moisture resistant decor finishes. This is particularly important in areas that are prone to condensation, such as the bathroom or kitchen, which is why the paints sold for these areas of the house are always moisture resistant.

If moisture enters your home and cannot find a way back out, it will cause damp or condensation to occur, which will then make mould growth more likely. A healthy property needs to be able to breathe and have good airflow. Using moisture resistant paints can help to prevent water from penetrating your property’s walls and causing a damp problem to occur.

Keep on top of maintenance

Often, rising damp is caused by cracks in your home’s exterior, which is why keeping on top of household maintenance is so important. If a crack appears in your home’s exterior walls or foundation, it is crucial that it is treated immediately. Gutters that are clogged or overflowing can also cause damp problems, as can leaking pipes or damaged window sills. Over time, bricks used to build your home can become porous, allowing water into your home, making damp more likely. To prevent bricks from becoming porous and letting water into your home, coating them in a liquid sealant is worth doing. This will ensure that bricks remain dry and water-free and the property is not affected by damp. By keeping on top of household maintenance, the risk of damp in your property can be significantly reduced.

Regularly inspect your home

This does not necessarily have to mean having a surveyor come out – you can deal with your home’s inspections yourself. From time to time it can be worthwhile giving your property a once over, to ensure that any problems or potential problems can be dealt with. As part of this process, it is important to look out for any loose or missing tiles on the roof or building, vegetation growing out of gutters, cracks in the stonework, cracks in the mortar between the bricks, or cracks or chips in the chimney.

Keep your home warm

Condensation occurs when warm, moist air touches a cold surface, such as a window or wall, which is why keeping your home warm is so important. Throughout the colder months, ensure that your home’s heating is set to come on regularly throughout the day and night to prevent your home’s walls and windows from getting cold and causing condensation to occur. During the summer months, it is also important to keep your home well ventilated.

Keep your windows open

Make sure to leave your windows open as often as possible, even if they are simply on the locked setting that leaves just an inch gap, it doesn’t matter. As long as there is some air coming into your home, that’s all that matters, allowing the place to breathe.

Renew bath and shower seals

You would be amazed by the sheer number of damp issues that are caused by problems with sealants in bathrooms or kitchens by sinks, baths or showers. By having your home’s seals checked over and replaced if necessary, you can save yourself a large sum of money. A little bit of DIY can prevent wet rot from taking hold and causing a serious damp problem in your home.

There you have it, everything that you need to know about damp proofing your home.