At Healthy Abode our independent damp surveyor, Stuart’s been inspecting properties for Condensation defects since 2004. It is after all the most common type of damp found in UK homes. Though this wasn’t always the case! So why has condensation became more prevalent?, you may ask! Well, there’s a huge number of factors including the vast changes in building materials, the ability to hermetically seal homes, so that there isn’t a free flow of moist air out, being replaced by fresh. There’s also the lack of understanding among many occupants of the importance of ventilating, hanging clothes outdoors, modern appliances, different cultures and occupant’s lifestyles.
‘So it’s not all the occupants fault?’ is something many of our clients ask. ‘Absolutely not’ is almost always our response. Our condensation surveyors consider the fabric of the building including the introduction of double-glazing, UPVC doors, cavity walls, loft insulation and external insulation as being some of the major causes of condensation. Because whilst these products all improve thermal efficiency and drive down heating bills, they unfortunately limit ventilation, doing little to enable background air flow, which takes moist air out of a property and replaces it with fresh. Thus moisture gets trapped in the property.
‘So is it all the buildings fault, then? is usually the follow up question. ‘Absolutely not’ responds our damp surveyor! You see Condensation is water vapour suspended in the air, which condenses upon coming into contact with a surface, that has a temperature colder than the air, the moisture is suspended in. This enables microscopic water droplets to form and soak into plasterwork. Something has to create the water vapour in order for the condensation to occur. That’s where the occupants come in!
Drying clothes produce water vapour as does breathing, cooking, bathing, showering, shaving, boiling the kettle etc. This moisture then unable to vent out of a room (unless by good chance there’s mechanical extractor fans, trickle ventilation units and/or open windows) drifts often unabated around the property. Upon coming into contact with a cold surface, the water vapour is able to condense form water droplets, which then provide conditions for damp, decay and mould spores to develop.
‘What else do I need to know’ is typically another question. Well, the moisture in the atmosphere of a room changes depending on the different activities going on; even breathing normally produces moisture, as does cooking and bathing. The amount of water produced from normal day-to-day living can be quite high and activities such as drying clothes over radiators will significantly add to the amount of moisture in a room. That’s why our condensation surveyors use Protimeter Psyclones to measure percentage relative humidity (vapour content) to give an idea of levels with relative humidity datasticks installed for long-term monitoring.
So condensation (microscopic water droplets) enable ideal conditions for condensation induced mould spores to develop. These mould spores can be detrimental to physical and psychological health.
Condensation damp most often occurs as black or green moulds, but not always. Black or green mould is commonly found on cold walls and often behind furniture which back on to cold walls, or in cold built-in cupboards where there is a lack of airflow, or to the backs of curtains in window reveals and in the corners of rooms both high and no. Have a look at the photograph above, for a better idea of what condensation induced mould looks like.
Here, at Healthy Abode, we can help you by coming out to do a full property inspection for damp, timber and/or mould. Our survey will inform you about the type of damp you have, the remedial works necessary. For example, if it is condensation damp, then we will tell you. So that you’re not unwittingly sold a chemical DPC injection by a contractor. We’ll then go on to highlight small changes that you can make to implement into your lifestyle such as opening a window for a few minutes a day to get the air circulating, to putting in extraction fans to take the moisture out the air, to help get rid of your damp problem.