Why do properties actually suffer from damp?

Damp problems on a property are sometimes more obvious than others – for example penetrating damp due to poor or broken guttering, rising damp, and damp due to condensation. However, in our experience there are instances where damp issues also arise, but the actual cause may not be obvious to someone who does not come from a surveying background.

For this reason, if your property suffers from damp problems, we would recommend you consult a specialist who will be able to comment on the reasons behind this.

In the next section we introduce how damp can be caused in a property and the potential solution involving external wall insulation retrofit.

Damp caused by condensation (cold walls)

Walls that are either north facing, do not get enough solar radiance or are not heated properly in the winter months may suffer from condensation. A lack of air flow in rooms is also a common cause of condensation, as water vapour built up in a room is not able to escape the property.

This can become exacerbated when external walls are particularly cold compared to the inside air. When two forces meet against one another, this causes a “dew-point”, which condenses the water in the air to a liquid, thereby causing condensation. If the rooms are well heated and ventilated on the inside, it is possible for most of this build-up to dissipate away. But if not, then condensation could be a pretty common occurrence.

The first sign of this will be around the windows themselves. You will see them steam-up on the inside as the moisture has been allowed to “condense” on them. To be honest there may well be condensation present on the walls as well, but this may not be so obvious at the start of the process.

Persistent condensation will be more obvious when you begin to see water droplets staining the inside walls and eventually if untreated the condensation will turn to damp patches.

So what is the actual solution for this form of damp?

Insulating walls externally  to prevent condensation

EWI is of course a great way to reduce condensation based damp!

Ensure the walls are nice and dry and free from any moisture when installing external wall insulation. The best time to carry out the works are between May and September when the weather tends to be stable and dry.

The external wall insulation will form a cosy blanket around your house, which will change how the inside of your home behaves.

The formerly cold walls will not be cold walls anymore because the insulation on the outside will keep the masonry bricks/ blocks warm, which will mean that there will not be a big difference between the temperature of the wall fabric and the air on the inside of the property – thereby mitigating the effects of condensation.

When the walls are insulated externally the rooms themselves retain more thermal mass as the heat is stored in the fabric of the walls and released back into the room when the heating is turned down. As a result, your heating system will work more efficiently.

Damp caused by penetrating water

As mentioned, if the property has problems with the guttering and downpipes water will finds its way onto the walls – damaging the brickwork and overtime potentially causing water to penetrate inside the property.

Where the property has leaking external fittings it demonstrates that it requires some repair work – not only to the guttering but potentially to all of the fascia boards and other parts of the roof.

Using external wall insulation to kick-off external property repairs

External wall insulation itself will not remediate broken gutters and worn out facia boards. All this has to come off the walls and put back on when the walls have been insulated. However, if the walls are stained due to water penetration, the external insulation will mask those imperfections as it will be covered by a fantastic layer of render.

If you have roofing issues, ensure this is fixed before you undertake the insulation. You may want to do this at the same time so that you can utilise the same scaffolding and not have to pay twice.

Issues with Rising Damp

Rising damp problems are really tricky to diagnose without having prior consultation from an external building surveyor. Essentially what happens is that moisture travels up from the soil into the dry brick work (bridging or going through cracks in the DPC), causing wet patches starting from the ground up. Evidence of rising damp will become quite noticeable both on the outer wall and potentially on the inside on the house.

External wall insulation is installed from the level of the DPC up to the soffit of the property. Most standard system designs do not cover insulation below the DPC. The EWI Pro system designers go into a bit more detail on how this could be treated.

First of all, bridging or the breakage of the DPC needs to be treated with a chemical or a Dryrod solution. This will make the existing fabric less permeable. Thereafter we recommend the DPC is insulated with the extruded polystyrene or XPS boards. The XPS boards don’t absorb water and will in addition provide an extra layer of protection for the base of the building.

Does external wall insulation prevent damp?

In summary, external wall insulation can prevent future damp on walls from condensation but it won’t mask existing problems of water penetration. If you have burst guttering, roof problems or rising damp, make sure you get those items repaired at the same time, or prior to the insulation being installed on the walls.

External wall insulation will keep your home nice and cosy and with all other elements addressed prior to application keep the property free from damp.

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