Condensation advice from DB Roberts Survey Services on a common problem.
The cold days and even colder nights have increased the amount of condensation in most homes, often accompanied by black staining appearing on walls and inside cupboards. Understandably, many people confuse condensation with damp, but the causes – and treatments – for the two problems are very different. Condensation occurs when warm, moist air comes into contact with a cold surface – something we all see on the bathroom mirror. The warmer air is, the more moisture it can carry, but when it meets a cooler surface, like glass, the air is cooled and the moisture condenses onto the cold surface..
The good news is that the best way of reducing, if not eliminating, condensation in the home is simply to improve air change and circulation.
We introduce moisture into the air every time we breathe – so when you can see your breath as you breathe out on a cold day, that is the moisture in your breath condensing in the air. But we add to that moisture by cooking (especially with uncovered saucepans), boiling a kettle and having a bath or shower; and if you have a tumble dryer which is not properly vented to outside, it can quickly turn the room into a Turkish bath! And free standing bottled gas and paraffin heaters introduce massive amounts of water vapour into the air as they burn fuel..
I remember once visiting a house where the elderly owners had paid a fortune to have their home ‘damp proofed’, yet the problems persisted. It did not take long to identify that the problem was actually condensation; the owners had filled the house with large numbers of geraniums and other potted plants which, of course, produce lots of moisture. In addition, they had applied home made double glazing’ by sealing all their windows with polythene- eliminating all draughts – and all ventilation too! Add in the saucepans bubbling on the stove and the twin tub washing machine humming away in the corner, and the problem (and its solution) were clear to see.
As we make our homes better insulated, we also trap the air in the building and stop fresh air coming in. As draughty windows and doors are replaced with double glazing, and chimneys are blocked up, we are helping to build up the amount of stale, damp air in the house. Extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens (especially over the cooker) can make a big difference, although cooker hoods which simply recirculate the air rather than extract it do not help. Simply opening a window to allow some air change can make a big difference too – that draught you create is colder, drier air replacing warm damp air!
If the condensation is inside cupboards and wardrobes, fit ventilation grills in the doors – preferably two – which will allow air to change. Often, black patches appear on walls in cold corners, on outside walls – often where there is poor air circulation, like behind furniture. Again, improving air circulation will help, and there are plenty of fungicidal washes which kill mould and mildew and stop it returning for up to six months. Treating surfaces with anti-mould paint can offer protection for up to 5 years – although you should still try to improve ventilation.
Condensation will also be reduced if the surfaces are not so cold, so insulating outside walls can make a difference too – cavity and roof space insulation may attract grant assistance too. In the case of solid wall, dry lining with foil backed plasterboard or other insulating material could be the solution, although it will cost you a few inches of floor space.
If you have a problem with condensation, our experienced chartered surveyors will be pleased to visit your property to offer advice and guidance on how to deal with it – for a lot less than you might think.