Dealing with damp and mould growth

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1 Dealing with damp and mould growth

2 Dampness affects many homes in Britain. There are three main causes of dampness. This guide aims to help you to work out what may be the cause of the damp and how you can deal with it. Rising damp This affects ground floor rooms from floor level up to a height of about one metre (approximately three feet) and is usually due to the damp proof course (DPC) in the external walls or the damp proof membrane (DPM) in the floor no longer working properly. Some older properties may have been built without any DPCs or DPMs. Check to make sure nothing outside is covering up the DPC which will usually be built in about 15cm (six inches) above ground height along all external walls. Often soil, rubbish and even paths and patios are covering up the DPC. If it is covered, clear it and allow time for any dampness on the internal walls to dry out. If you cannot work out what is causing the rising damp it might be worth asking a damp proofing company to investigate. Damp proofing companies are listed in the Yellow Pages. Choose one who is either registered with the Quality Mark Scheme or a member of the British Timber Treatment and Damp Proofing Association. If you are a tenant you should write to your landlord to ask him to have the work carried out. Sign and date the letters. Keep a copy of any letters that you send. Penetrating damp Usually this occurs as a result of some part of the building needing repair or maintenance. The damp will appear as a stained area on ceilings, walls, chimneys or floors.

3 Look at your home. Are the windows letting in rain? Are there slipped slates or tiles on the roof? Is the flat roof damaged? Are the gutters blocked? Is the brickwork in good condition? Are any overflows running or pipes leaking? Have a good look around, you may be able to sort the problem out quickly and cheaply. Remember that even when you have dealt with the problem it can take quite a long time for the damp to completely dry out. Give it time. It may be worth hiring a dehumidifier from a local tool hire company. If you cannot find the cause of the problem you may need to contact a builder registered with the Quality Mark Scheme or trade association or write to your landlord if you are a tenant, asking them to carry out repairs. Sign and date the letters and keep a copy of all letters you send. Newly built homes A lot of water is used in making plaster, concrete and mortar. If your home has only recently been built it may still be drying out. Hiring dehumidifiers, increasing heating and ventilation levels may all help. Condensation Modern living produces a lot of moisture! Activities such as cooking, bathing, washing, drying clothes and even people breathing put moisture into the air inside our homes. An average family produces around 10 litres (20 pints) of water vapour a day. This vapour stays in the air unless it reaches a cold surface like a window or a north facing

4 wall where it condenses out. You can see this happening on mirrors in the bathroom when you have a bath or shower. Where the water settles out it can lead to the growth of black mould. Spores are released from the mould into the air, inhaling these spores can make breathing problems worse for people with conditions such as asthma. Moisture and mould growth problems are often worse in bathrooms and kitchens but can affect any room in your home, especially ones which are poorly heated and ventilated. Mould growth is often found in parts of the home where the air movement is poor, for instance wardrobes, behind the back of furniture etc. Severe mould growth can ruin fabrics and wallpaper etc. Step one Getting rid of the mould Thoroughly check all rooms including behind and inside cupboards for mould growth. Clothes, curtains and other fabrics that have been affected may look better once you have them dry cleaned. Affected areas of carpet should be shampooed and left to dry. Make sure you keep the room well ventilated until the carpet has dried. Do not try brushing or vacuuming mould away, it will cause too many spores to be released into the air. Wipe down all walls and other hard surfaces affected by mould growth using a special fungicidal liquid which can be bought from DIY, hardware and some supermarket stores. Choose one with a Health and Safety Executive approval number. Follow the instructions carefully.

5 Keep a check on the mould growth, it will almost certainly reappear unless you follow STEP TWO. Step two Getting rid of condensation 1. Control moisture levels When you cook, put lids on pans, keep the window open or the extractor fan running and shut the door to the kitchen and to all other rooms. Leave the door shut, the window open or fan running for at least 20 minutes after you have finished cooking. When you dry clothes, dry them outside if possible. If you use a tumble dryer, unless it is one of the self-condensing types, make sure it is vented to the outside. Cheap DIY kits are available. If you have to dry clothes inside dry them in a small room with the window kept open and the door kept shut. When you are bathing, showering or washing close the door and have the window open or extractor fan running and leave them like this for at least 20 minutes after you have finished in the bathroom. Generally try to keep doors shut as much as possible and make sure there is some ventilation open in every room. Most modern windows are fitted with trickle vents in the frames to allow a small amount of air movement. Make sure these are open. Alternatively you may need to open a window a little. Aim to make sure that fresh air gets into every room.

6 Do not block any permanent air vents that may already be present either in the walls or chimney breast. These are vital in allowing moisture to escape from your home. Try to improve the air circulation behind furniture by moving it away from the walls a little. Air circulation inside wardrobes can be improved by reducing the number of clothes inside and leaving the doors open when you can. Consider installing an extractor fan and hood above your cooker or mechanical humidifier fans to the bathroom and kitchen which will come on automatically when the humidity reaches a certain level. 2. Improve the heating Try to keep heating going to all rooms in cold and wet weather. Even at a low level, heating all rooms will be better than just heating one or two. If you are worried about the cost of heating consider improving the insulation to your home. Do not use paraffin or liquid gas type heaters. Every litre of fuel sends a litre of water into the air in your home. Try to change to a better and more economical form of heating. Have a look at the section on grants and discounted heating. 3. Improve the insulation Improving the insulation to your home can cut your fuel bills, reduce condensation levels and keep your home warmer. In particular look at improving the insulation levels to any loft spaces and external cavity walls. Draught proofing can also be useful but don t draught proof any rooms affected by condensation as this will reduce the air movement too much.

7 4. Advice and grants for improving insulation and heating Contact Energy Saving Trust on for advice on all types of insulation and heating including solar water heating. They can tell you about the grants that are available to help you insulate and heat your home.

8 Need to write to your landlord? Use this example to help you [Your address] [Your landlord or letting agent s address] [Today s date] Dear [name of landlord/letting agent] Request for repairs to be carried out at [your address] I am writing to let you know that the following repair work needs to be carried out to the above property which I rent from you. 1. [List the things that are wrong and explain the problems caused, for example: the boiler is not working so there is no hot water or central heating; the handle to the bathroom window is broken and the window cannot be opened]. Please could you contact me on [list home/mobile phone numbers] as soon as possible to arrange a time for the repair work to be carried out. Many thanks Yours sincerely [Your name]

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