Spotting Signs Of Damp

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Q: How do I spot signs of damp in my house?

We are here to help you identify the early stages

To check for any signs of damp in a house, carefully examine walls, floors and ceilings for any of the usual tell-tale symptoms . You should feel for damp patches and look under flooring that appears to be lifting. In the early stages, the only indication of a possible damp problem might be a damp or musty smell.

  • A damp, musty smell.
  • Mould or mildew on walls, floors or ceilings.
  • Walls, floors or ceilings that feel cold or damp to the touch.
  • Dark or discoloured patches on walls or plaster.
  • Lifting or peeling wallpaper.
  • Excessive condensation on windows.

If you spot any signs of damp in your home it is always best practice to get it treated in the early stages. This will save you from more extensive and expensive work that would have to be carried out by leaving the situation to get worse.

For more information on how to identify the types of damp, you can find more information by clicking the tabs below for a more detailed description.

  • Rising Damp
  • Dry & Wet Rot
  • Condensation
  • Woodworm

Rising Damp

If you have an older house or a house that has had insufficient damp proofing when constructed, rising damp can become a serious problem and compromise the structural integrity of your property.

It is caused by moisture present in your walls as a result of water in the ground, underneath, or next to your walls. This then rises up through the fabric of the wall, whether it be brick, block or stone, and usually reaches a maximum height of approx 1.2m. However, the effects of the damp, such as salt deposits, may be seen higher up the wall. This is usually due to the presence of non-breathing wall coverings, for instance, vinyl wallpaper and non-breathing plasters, renders and paints.

Typically, the first signs of rising damp, rather than other damp problems, is a ‘tide line’ of yellowish or brownish staining or blown plaster in the lower area of your wall, above your skirting board. You may also have damp or rotting skirting boards or flooring. In addition, you may see fluffy white deposits in your plaster – these are ‘salts’ which the damp has washed out of the bricks and into the plaster. Black spots of mould may also start to appear on the damp areas of your wall.

Black mould can be particularly damaging to health and should be eradicated as soon as possible.

Signs of Rising Damp

  • Yellow/brown staining (Tide Marks)
  • Blown Plaster
  • Peeling Wallpaper/Paint
  • Fluffy White Salt Deposits
  • Wall feels damp to the touch
Signs of damp in property rising above skirting board
'Tide line' in lower area of wall are typical signs of rising damp
SIgns of damp. Rising damp on wall causing blown plaster and salt deposits
Blown plaster and salt deposits caused by rising damp

Dry & Wet Rot

Identification of the type of rot is the first part of this important process.

DRY ROT

Dry rot or brown rot refers to wood decay caused by certain species of fungi, also known as True Dry Rot. It digests parts of the wood that gives strength and stiffness and can deteriorate timber in buildings and other wooden constructions, seemingly without an apparent source of moisture. Eventually, if left untreated, the decay can cause instability and cause the structure to collapse.

When dry rot starts to grow, strands can be seen which look like roots. These strands are typically white, off white or even silver grey. When they dry out they turn brittle, where wet rot would stay flexible. This consequently forms a kind of skin on the surface of the affected timber. It can sometimes be yellowish or slightly lilac coloured, but never a bright white – a brilliant white would indicate wet rot, rather than dry rot.

Dry rot can cause wood to form deep cracks along the length of the timber and then smaller cracks form across the grain to form a cube-like structure. The wood can also shrink and curve inwards.

It is a worthy point to note that dry rot can seriously damage your property so if you suspect that it is present it is well worth giving us a call here at Total Stop Damp.

WET ROT

There are two types of wet rot, brown and white and both can be destructive to timber. They have a different affect upon the wood depending upon type. The most common type of wet rot we find in the home is brown wet rot and is commonly known as Cellar Fungus.

A high moisture content within the timber provides ideal conditions for the fungus to establish. The causes are typically gutter leaks, roofing defects, plumbing leaks, etc. Damp, poorly ventilated environments are susceptible to outbreaks of wet rot.

Brown Wet Rot

The structure of the timber is seriously affected by the rot feeding upon the cellulose and the wood will shrink and crack. Because of this, it will become brittle and take on a darker colour. Similarly, these signs typically also appear with a dry rot attack. The shrinking of the timber will create cube like sections but the depth of cracking is generally less with wet rots than with dry rot. This condition seriously undermines the structural integrity of the timber.

White wet rot

Spores germinate in the pores of the timber. The resulting mycelium feeds upon the cellulose where it spreads out and eventually produces spores. When released, these once again lodge in the pores of the timber, repeating the destructive cycle. The wood breaks down exhibiting a coarse, fibrous appearance with a lightening in colour. This condition undermines the structural integrity of the timber.

Dry rot does display similar symptoms but typically tends to form bigger, more irregular cubes. Wet rot forms smaller and more regular cracking.

The attack of such rots requires immediate action if outbreaks are to be controlled.

All our timber treatments for woodworm and dry/wet rot are safe and non-flammable and kill all wood destroying insects including woodworm and death watch beetles.

Signs of Dry & Wet Rot

Dry Rot
  • Timber which is crumbly, dry and brittle
  • Rusty red dust cast by the mature fruit that cover surrounding areas
  • White, off white or silver grey strands that turn brittle
  • The wood forms deep cracks along the length of the timber

Wet Rot

  • Timber feels damp to the touch
  • Damp, musty smell
  • Timber looking discoloured (usually darker)
  • Usually a brilliant white 'Skin' or coating with flexible strands
  • Timber may be cracking and feel softer
Image of timber cracked because of dry rot
With dry rot the wood forms deep cracks along the length of the timber
Signs of damp. Timber with wet rot
Brilliant white strands on timber caused by wet rot
Signs of damp. Cracked window frame caused by rot
If left untreated rot can cause serous damage to timber such as window frames

Condensation

Condensation is often caused by increased humidity in houses. An average household produces several litres of water vapour per day which can cause damp surfaces and consequently damp problems in houses.

For instance, the most common causes are cooking, bathing/showering and the washing and drying of clothes, where a lot of water vapour is released into the air. 

If left untreated, condensation provides an ideal environment for mould growth, especially black mould.

However, it is very much a seasonal problem and is usually worse during the colder months, typically between Oct – April. During the winter, doors and windows are usually closed, which causes poor ventilation of the building. This allows a build up of water vapour, which is sufficient to cause condensation. During the summer, the problem is seen to go away.

Signs of Condensation

  • Damp patches on walls and around window frames
  • Worse during the colder months typically October to April
  • Windows steamed up
  • Mould growth on fabrics, such as clothing and soft furnishings
  • Wall feels damp to the touch
Wet and mouldy window sill caused by condensation
Condensation running down windows can cause mould growth
Steam coming from boiling pan can cause condensation
Cooking, bathing and laundering clothes are common causes of condensation

Woodworm

Woodworm is not actually a worm, as many people think, but are types of wood boring beetles and their larvae. Left untreated they can cause weakening of the timber in your home which can be devastating. Therefore, if you notice small holes in your timber/woodwork, Woodworm is more than likely the culprit. Most people are unaware that they are affected and because of this most cases are only found when the property is surveyed before being bought or sold.

By far the most common species of woodworm in the UK is, for instance, the Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum). Despite its name, the Common Furniture Beetle is just as likely to attack building timber, such as joists, floorboards, etc, as it is to attack furniture. Other species of woodworm include the powder-post beetle, death watch beetle, longhorn beetle.

Signs of Woodworm

  • Tiny round holes in your woodwork, typically 1mm to 2mm in diameter
  • Fine, powdery dust around these holes
  • Crumbly edges to boards and joists
  • Woodworm season is May to October
Tiny boreholes in wood made by woodwrom
Holes can be found all year round but often form from May to October
Image of boreholes in wood made by woodwrom
TIny holes in the timber are the result of boring woodworm larvae
Image of the most common woodworm beetles
Powder-post beetle, death watch beetle, longhorn beetle and more commonly the furniture beetle