Damp and mould are common problems in many homes. Understanding the cause of the dampness is key to treating the problem.
In the colder months, condensation can be a major problem in many homes.
It's caused when warm, moist air hits a cold surface like a window or external wall and condenses. This leads to water droplets running down the cold surface. Sometimes condensation occurs in hidden areas like roof voids and under flooring.
The more water vapour (moist air) generated in your home, the more likely you are to get condensation. The main causes of water vapour are steam from cooking and boiling kettles, baths and showers, drying clothes inside, and poorly-vented tumble dryers.
If left, condensation can become black mould, which can cause health problems. It also looks and smells bad, and damages wallpaper, clothes, furniture, and other possessions.
There are several things to consider when dealing with condensation.
Condensation is most likely to occur in homes which are not well heated. Try to keep room temperatures above 15°C.
You'll get less condensation if you allow air to circulate freely. Make sure vents and airbricks are not covered or obstructed, and allow fresh air into rooms whenever possible.
Good insulation helps to keep surfaces warm, improves energy efficiency, and reduces your heating bills. Lofts should have insulation which is at least 270mm in depth. If you rent your property, its Energy Performance Certificate rating should be no less than an E.
Condensation is caused by moist air, so reduce moisture levels by:
- opening windows for at least 10 minutes a day, or opening window trickle vents during the day
- closing internal doors and opening the kitchen window while cooking
- using lids on pans while cooking to reduce boiling time (which reduces the amount of steam)
- only boiling as much water as you need in the kettle - this reduces the amount of steam, and saves you money
- opening the window while you're in the bath or shower, and leaving it open for about 20 minutes afterwards
- put cold water in first when you're running a bath - this makes significantly less condensation
- drying surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom after using them, and wiping down windows which have condensation on every day
- not leaving wet towels lying around
- leaving a gap between furniture and walls to allow the air to flow
Rising damp is caused by a failed or 'bridged' damp-proof course. This allows moisture in the ground to rise up through the walls of your home, sometimes up to a height of 1m.
The typical sign of rising damp is a tide-mark at the top of the area of damp, which is caused by salt deposits.
Black mould does not grow where there are salt deposits, which means the damp is likely to be rising damp.
Penetrating damp is water which finds its way into your home from the outside. It can occur at all levels of the building and is usually higher up.
It's caused by:
- overflowing gutters
- missing roof tiles
- leaking pipes and downspouts
- badly fitting windows or doors
- damaged pointing, cladding, flashing, or rendering
- covered air bricks
Signs of penetrating damp include:
- blotchy patches
- wet and crumbly plaster
- swollen and soft plasterboard
- lifted paint and wallpaper
- mould and mildew
- drips and puddles
- wet rot on wood
Damp and mould in private rented properties
If you live in a private rented property and you're worried about damp or mould, you must report it to your landlord so they can investigate.
It's important to find out what's causing the damp or mould, as well as dealing with the problem.
If a problem with the property is causing the damp, your landlord is responsible for dealing with it. This includes penetrating damp, rising damp, and damp caused by faulty plumbing. If the plumbing problem is caused by something you've done (like flushing the wrong things down the toilet), you'll have to pay to have it fixed.
Your landlord is legally required to provide you with a way to ventilate your home, as well as a suitable fixed form of heating. This means a radiator or something similar, which you do not need to move from room to room to heat your home.
Ideally, bathrooms and kitchens should have mechanical ventilation with a humidity sensor.
Common problems your landlord must fix include:
- faulty guttering and drainpipes
- leaking pipes, for example a leaking bathroom waste pipe
- broken heating systems
- missing roof tiles
- broken window locks or windows which are painted shut
Once the problem is fixed, your landlord should replace any damaged plaster, skirting boards, or flooring, and redecorate if needed.
Landlords are also responsible for making sure their properties meet minimum energy efficiency standards. Properties which do not meet these standards are likely to experience damp and excessive cold.
You're responsible for using your property in a tenant-like manner. This includes heating and ventilating the property to avoid condensation, which causes mould.
Condensation can occur if you:
- do not open windows or use mechanical ventilation systems (like extractor fans) during or after showering
- not ventilating the property enough (for example, not opening windows)
- covering up warm radiators with damp or wet towels or clothing
- regularly drying clothes indoors
Anything you do in your house which creates moisture, or does not remove moisture, increases the risk of damp and mould.
If the damp or mould is caused by something you've done, you must deal with it and redecorate if needed (unless you have an agreement with your landlord). You must speak to your landlord before you do any work.
You must report problems with damp to your landlord so they can investigate the cause. They'll then work with you on a plan to deal with the problem.
If your landlord does not investigate or deal with the problem, we may be able to help. You can report a problem with disrepair (including damp) online or by calling 01642 726001. We can only help with problems which are the landlord's responsibility to fix. You can find out more in the 'landlord responsibilities' section above.
If the damp or mould is so bad that it's a serious health risk (regardless of whose fault it is), we may take enforcement action under the Housing Act 2004. In some cases, we may have to prohibit the use of a rented property.
There are different types of mould. Some are black and patchy, others are green, pink, blue, and textured.
There are a number of commercial products which you can used to remove mould. Or you can use a home-made solution of one-part bleach to three-parts water, or a solution of vinegar and water.
Always wear protective gloves when you're using cleaning chemicals, and if you're cleaning an area with lots of mould, wear a dust mask. It's also advisable to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from spray or splashes.