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Damp - What to look out for when assessing a property

Publish Date: 13 February 2018

By Beth Fox

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Damp - What to look out for when assessing a property

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Looking for signs of damp when buying a property

Damp can seriously affect a property and some of the signs are more obvious than others. Mold? Peeling wallpaper? Condensation? these are easy to spot.
When viewing properties it’s important to be on the lookout for signs of damp, as spotting this before you commit to buying could save you from making a very expensive mistake. Battling with damp in a property is something many of us face and it can end up being costly if it’s not dealt with quickly and appropriately.
 
There are three main types of damp that can affect your home: condensation, rising damp and penetrating damp. Identifying the specific type of damp is important as they all require different forms of treatment and the costs can vary substantially!
 
Condensation:
This is the most common form of damp and is more of a problem in older homes as newer homes are designed to allow moisture to escape. It’s a result of moist air condensing on walls and mainly occurs in winter as at this time the walls are much colder than the air inside. Poor ventilation, particularly in bathrooms and kitchens, and heating that goes on and off can exacerbate condensation as it condenses warm, damp air. Condensation can be spotted relatively easily by looking out for patches of dark mold on glass or around windows, damaged plaster, decaying window frames, wet patches on walls and water droplets on windows.
 
Rising damp:
This is caused by ground water moving up through a wall or floor. Water is usually stopped by a damp-proof course built into the wall 15cm (6 inches) above ground level; however, older houses may not have had a damp-proof course or it may have worn over time, causing it to be ineffective. Ineffectual drainage or a ground level outside higher than the damp-proof course can also lead to rising damp. Damaged skirting boards or plasterwork, peeling paint and wallpaper, or a white tide mark running along the wall can signify rising damp.
 
Penetrating damp:
This is a result of structural problems leading to water leaking through walls or roofs. The damp expands horizontally along walls or ceilings and is more likely to occur in older houses with solid walls, as cavity walls in newer homes stop water soaking through. Penetrating damp can be spotted by damp patches and water marks on walls and ceilings and these patches may darken or drip when it rains. 
 

Viewing a property

Inside the property check the walls for damp patches, flaky paint and peeling wallpaper – this could indicate a problem with penetrating or rising damp or damp due to condensation. Rising damp will usually occur below a meter and a half above ground level on the inside surface of external walls; damp above this suggests penetration damp from leaks or inadequately maintained gutters; condensation damp will be present in bathrooms and kitchens and may indicate poor ventilation and heating.

A damp proof course is installed at least 150mm above ground level to prevent damp rising into a building. It is therefore important to check flower beds and driveways have not been fitted at a higher level than the damp proof course as this could result in a serious damp problem.
 
The hidden cost of damp
Identifying these signs of damp should be warning signs in a property and you should look into the remedial actions that will be required and the costs involved before committing to buy. If you spot any of these issues when viewing the property bring them to the attention of your surveyor and they will be able to advise you on how serious they are and whether any remedial work needs to be carried out.   
 
For further information about viewing properties read our blog article: What you need to look out for when viewing auction properties
 
 
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