Damp 101: What is it and How do I Avoid it?


Damp is a common problem in UK homes. It can affect the structural integrity of your home and to make things worse; it can also affect you and your family’s health negatively.

The English Housing Survey (EHS) is a national survey of people's housing circumstances and the condition and energy efficiency of housing in England. Here are a few facts from this study.

What is damp?

If your home is suffering from damp, it’s recommended that you deal with it as soon as you discover the problem. But before that, you need to understand what it is and what causes it.

Damp is the presence of moisture and water in areas of the house where they shouldn’t be. It can affect any building and can cause timber decay and mould problems. The three leading causes of damp are poor building quality, poor property maintenance, or the failure of an existing damp proof course (DPC).

Telltale signs that damp is present in your household are as follows:

Causes of damp

All properties, regardless of age, contain moisture. Ideally, the moisture should spread out from wet to dry areas and move downwards because of gravity. However, the problem occurs when there is an excessive amount of moisture present that can’t seem to ‘escape’.

There are a lot of reasons behind how damp is formed. Some of the most obvious ones are as follows:

Types of damp

Rising damp

This is a rare type of damp which is the result of moisture being drawn upwards through the walls because of capillary action. Most buildings have DPCs (damp proof course) installed to prevent the water from rising. Rising damp can either be because the property doesn’t have one or because the DPC installed had already failed.

Usually, a visible stain appears on the wall in the form of a tide mark which indicates up to where the groundwater has reached. It’s also noticeable because of the damage to the internal walls like paint deterioration and wallpaper becoming loose.

Penetrating Damp

On the other hand, this type of damp is caused by rain water getting inside due to strong winds. This is often seen in buildings with solid walls rather than cavity walls. When it rains, moisture soaks into solid bricks or stone walls. However, it shouldn’t reach the inner surface in general because of natural evaporation.

But when excessive moisture has accumulated, and the building fabric is absorbent or if defects are present, the evaporation rate will not be enough to prevent water from getting through. This results in penetrating damp.


Condensation is the process through which gas changes into liquid when it touches a cooler surface. It’s a natural phenomenon but it can also cause damping in a property. Everyday activities like boiling a kettle, cooking, drying clothes inside, and taking a shower all contribute to condensation. And when there’s too much condensation happening, more water and moisture is produced.

Condensation becomes problematic during the winter season since windows are closed to keep the cold out and trap the heat inside. Compared to the first two types of damp, this one’s a lot easier to handle. You just have to make sure that your house is well-ventilated to prevent moisture from building up.

Health risks of dampness and mould

How to avoid damp

While it’s true that damp can affect your home and your health, it’s still something that can be prevented. Here are tried and proven ways to do so.

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