Craig Philips' Home Advice Episode 2 - Damp And Mould
When it's pouring down outside, there's no better place to be than in your own home, warm and dry. But what are you going to do when your house starts to let water in? Because water in your house can cause damp, mould, and even wet rot. Condensation can be caused by a number of reasons: drying out wet clothes, showers, kettles, and even our breath, and if it's left unchecked, it could cause structural problems to your building.
Now, condensation can form when there's a difference between temperatures inside and outside, and enough humidity in the air. This will lead to damp and mould, and will certainly rot your window frames. Fortunately, condensation is easy to deal with. Just wipe it down with a cloth, and simply rinse it down the drain. If the condensation still persists, try covering up your pots whilst cooking, not letting the kettle boil as long, keep the room well-ventilated, and in some extreme cases, you may need to use a dehumidifier. But do deal with condensation the moment you find it, because if you don't, it will turn into mould.
Mould is a fungus that thrives in humid conditions. It produces micro-toxins, and can give you allergic reactions. Wash down all the infected area with a Health and Safety Executive-approved fungicidal wash. Once you've cleared all the mould and you've left it to dry out, redecorate if necessary using a fungicidal paint and wallpaper paste. But try to keep the room well-ventilated at all times with airbricks, or even leaving the window open.
Now that's not the only way water can enter into your house - what about something more serious, like damp?
Whether it's rising damp or penetrating damp, damp can cause serious structural problems to your home, and if it's left unattended, it can perish your plasterwork, damage your paintwork, and even ceilings can come collapsing down. Damp is easy to spot - it leaves tide marks, it's dark, it's cold to touch, and it comes in two forms.
Penetrating damp: that's when you have a crack in the wall or the ceiling, which will let the rain water come in. It can even come in from gutters and downspouts, and even rubbish left outside, piled up against the wall - that can help penetrating damp draw its way through the brickwork.
The other one is rising damp - that's when you haven't got a sufficient DPC (which is a Damp-Proof Course) in the brickwork to stop water table of the ground penetrating its way through.
If it's penetrating damp, you may be able to solve this yourself - find out where the water's coming from, fix it, dry it out using a dehumidifier if you've got one, and then replaster if necessary and finish with the paintwork. If you do think you've got rising damp, you shouldn't attempt to tackle this yourself: your whole house may need a new Damp-Proof Course. You're going to need to use a qualified contractor - a member of the British Wood Preserving and Damp Proofing Association, because left untreated, it could lead to yet another problem.
If damp or moisture gets into your woodwork, it can cause wet rot. Wet rot is a fungus that gets into damp wood. It starts to deteriorate it from the inside out, it gives a dark wet appearance with cracks in the timber. Although it's not as serious as dry rot, it can do serious damage to your timbers, but you should be able to treat it yourself.
First of all you need to establish where the water's coming in, and then, of course, deal with it. Then you need to find out which timbers are rotten and need replacing. You can do this by getting yourself a sharp tool like a bradawl, simply pressing it through the wood, and if you find it goes all the way through quite easy, you know that it's completely decayed - it has to be replaced with new. But remember, once you've removed all your rotten wood, you need to treat the area with a wet rot fungicide, covering all the areas where the fungus could be hiding (brickwork, plastering) before you apply any new wood.
If you want to stop your problems with damp popping up again, then always make sure your roof is properly maintained, that there aren't any cracks in your walls, and that nothing that might be collecting water is piled up against your external walls. And keep rooms that are prone to condensation well-ventilated, and always address a problem the moment you discover it, because they won't get better on their own.
That way, you can ensure that the water you don't want in the house stays outside, and the water that you do want in the house gets put to good use. Cheers!