Damp and mould is one of the more insidious issues to affect a home, being something that can cause myriad issues and multiple costs to solve. It is one of the major factors that property surveyors look out for on behalf of prospective homeowners.
Damp is both a symptom of and cause of structural damage to a building, making its incidence problematic for domestic homeowners. Indeed, dampness is a key structural risk to domestic properties, on account of threatening the weakening of structural wood beams or brick mortar.
The structural risks are well-documented but by no means the only forms of risk to a domestic household. There is also a major health risk, that in tandem with the potential for structural issues makes resolving dampness a priority issue: mould. But what are the causes and risks, and how can damp and mould issues be properly mitigated?
The Causes of Damp and Mould
Firstly, how does dampness occur? There are three distinct kinds of damp, with different provenances and implications for a property. The first and most common is condensation, which arises from moisture sources within the property creating a humid internal environment; water vapour in the air condenses on cold surfaces like windows. This can happen when drying clothes indoors, or showering and bathing without properly ventilating the home.
A more serious kind of damp is rising damp, which occurs through the natural capillary action of external walls. Typically, homes are built with damp coursing in mind, where a non-permeable membrane prevents the movement of water up the walls; where this has failed or is not present, walls can take on excess water from poor drainage.
Finally, penetrating dampness is the result of existing structural issues enabling the ingress of water. A leaking roof or gutter can deliver water through cracks in the brickwork, allowing the outward spread of damp and further damage.
Fixing Damp Issues
On the basis of structural issues alone, damp is an issue that needs to be rectified as a matter of priority. Condensation is easily rectified, whether with regular wipe-downs of surfaces, home ventilation or the use of a dehumidifier. Your bathroom might not have a dedicated extraction fan; these are easy to install with little more than a hammer drill and an afternoon of your time.
Other, more serious damp issues will likely require both tools and expertise. Rising damp indicates failing or non-existent damp-coursing, which could mean treatment is required from a specialist. Likewise, penetrating damp could be a symptom of a greater issue, requiring more dedicated help from a contractor.
Mould and Ill Health
Even light cases of damp should be dealt with quickly, owing to the risk of mould that dampness brings with it. Mould growth can result in poor health outcomes for residents in space if not mitigated, with spores from mould causing respiratory issues. Black mould is particularly dangerous for this.