Is rising damp as bad as you think?

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Rising damp affects many properties, especially in older builds. But is it really the end of the world?

rising damp

Although the thought of damp strikes fear into the hearts of homeowners and buyers alike, how big a deal is it really?

Obviously we’re not saying that damp isn’t problematic. Having damp patches in the home can lead very quickly to mould on walls and elsewhere in your home, which can damage property and cause health problems.

And damp can be caused in a number of ways. If the guttering, windows and pointing are in bad states of repair, this can lead to moisture getting into the house. Seeing condensation on windows is a sign of moisture in the air. Couple this with poor ventilation, and you’ve certainly got a problem on your hands.

If you’re a tenant or landlord, take a look at what to do if there’s mould in a rental property.   

In this article, we’re going to concentrate on rising damp. That’s to say, moisture which is taken up by the building from the ground.

So is rising damp the end of the world? Should it, for example, prevent you from buying a property when running through a list of checks? Let’s find out.

What kind of buildings are prone to rising damp?

Generally speaking, most houses built from the '80s onwards should have a good damp-proof course (DPC). This is a layer of damp-proof material that prevents rising damp, and is a mandatory feature in all new builds.

On the other hand, rising damp can be a big issue for older properties.

Tom Parsons, director of construction company Olive & Umber – a member of the Federation of Master Builders – is well-versed in dealing with properties blighted by damp.

“I’d say that roughly nine out of 10 Victorian or Edwardian properties are susceptible to damp,” he said. 

“In essence, if there’s no damp course, you’re susceptible. No matter what kind of area you live in, if there’s an iota of groundwater, then damp is a risk.”

How do I check a property for rising damp?

Tom says: “It’s always prudent to check for damp. It can be harder to gauge in a property with lots of furniture in it, but it’s worth being thorough.

“In the first instance, it’s good to follow your instincts to a certain extent. One of the initial signs of damp is the smell. If you pick up on that damp, stagnant air, then it’s worth investigating further.

“Other signs could include mould, flaky paint, or even just the general quality and condition of the building.

“These are all indicators. But what you can see in a property isn’t always conclusive. For example, you might detect something visually, but it could just be a ventilation issue.

“Often the only way to know for sure is to get it checked properly with a damp meter.

“These give you a score out of 10. Getting 0-3 isn’t really a huge cause for concern. But we’d say that anything over a 5 needs treatment.

“Without proper testing, you can’t know how bad any damp problem is for sure. That’s why it’s worthwhile in being proactive in getting it checked.”

How can I fix rising damp?

Rising damp can be permanently eradicated from a property, but it’s not something that’s covered by home insurance. 

“As a very rough price for treating damp in a bottom-floor, two-bedroom flat, you’re probably looking at around £4,000,” says Parsons.

“This isn’t just for the damp course. Obviously an appropriate damp course will be put in place, but a large proportion of this will be remedial work, such as re-rendering and redecorating.”

Moreover, the presence of damp in walls shouldn’t scare you off buying a property.

“Crucially, it’s a very solvable issue in the right hands. As long as you’re aware of the costs of doing so.

“If you discover damp yourself, or if it’s highlighted in your survey or HomeBuyers Report, it’s best used as a negotiating tool. If you demonstrate that treating the damp will come at a significant cost to you, then this could hopefully help you in reducing the asking price for the property.”

So despite any horror stories that you may hear anecdotally about damp, it can be vanquished. And If you’re considering buying, and have your heart set on a particular house or flat, you don’t have to let damp be the deciding factor.

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