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Dampness and Condensation Issues

One of the most common problems to be found in a property which causes concern to an owner is dampness; and in particular rising damp.

Before the 1920's, properties were often built without a damp proof course, which is an impermeable membrane preventing dampness rising into the walls from the ground. This dampness is a problem in itself but can often lead to other problems such as rot and fungal decay in adjoining timbers, and damage to internal plasterwork and decorations. After that time, it became routine to incorporate a damp proof course in property construction, normally of bitumen although plastic damp proof courses became common in the 1970's. Many of the earlier bituminous damp proof courses have now failed with age and therefore require replacement. Dampness can exist without being noticed by an occupier and indications such as staining to decorations and internal plasterwork are often reduced by central heating.

A surveyor will seek to find all evidence of dampness within a property, and electronic moisture meters are now widely used to locate and diagnose problems. It is important that the surveyor carefully records the extent of any dampness found and reports on the likely consequences, particularly as concealed timbers such as those under the ground floor may be affected by rot or fungal decay. Dampness can be dealt with in one of several ways (electronically, chemically or physically) and many specialist contractors carry out this type of work and provide long-term guarantees. It is important to use a reputable contractor which is a member of a recognised trade association such as the Property Care Association.

Most properties are free from rising and penetrating dampness and our homes are generally less draughty and better insulated. As a result, condensation is now more of a problem and improvements such as the installation of double glazing or the installation of a second bathroom, can produce condensation in a property where it did not previously occur.

Condensation is often a problem for one occupier where it has not been a problem for earlier occupiers. It is not unusual for an owner of a property to be reluctant to accept that condensation problems are generated by the living conditions of the occupiers rather than by the property itself. Many occupiers can endure the results of condensation (such as mould growth on items in cupboards and wardrobes) for years without realising that condensation is the cause.