Constructed in 1999 as an end-of-terrace, three-storey townhouse, this property has recently manifested damp issues predominantly at the top of the house, adjacent to an external wall and near a shower room. The adjacent bathroom, part of a rarely used guest suite, has not been in use since August. Signs of damp have emerged in the room below, mirroring the location above, and both affected areas are situated over the kitchen and close to the airing cupboard containing the boiler tank. Initially believed to be resolved in the summer, the recurrence of damp signs coinciding with the heating’s use suggests a potential connection.
Subject to an insurance claim, the situation has been monitored with updates. On 3 January 2024, no new signs of rain ingress or staining were observed, with dry conditions noted in the attic room. However, by 4 January 2024, heavy rainfall led to dampness in the kitchen towel and carpet in the same area. Further investigation on 7 January 2024, following a neighbour’s drone inspection, revealed intact roofing tiles with minor slippage of one near some flashing. Despite this, dry conditions returned to the upstairs area, indicating a fluctuating pattern of dampness.
In conclusion, from the data loggers
- The data set does not definitively demonstrate interstitial condensation. We would probably have a more definitive set of data with a data logger placed inside the loft void. I don’t believe there is access without creating a hole. The alternative approach is to monitor longer term.
Evidence & Illustrations
The internal damp zone – see video
The roof – see video
While my instincts tell me the root cause is interstitial condensation, caused by excess vapour in the colder top floor, possibly made worse by insufficient roof ventilation or a defect to the bathroom extractor fan ducting. However, I cannot rule out ingress from rainwater. Occasionally a building is unable to withstand violent storms from a specific direction. My advice is to monitor the dampness during a summer storm.
To keep the property dry
|Monitor vapour with data loggers
|Monitor relative humidity and temperature against the wall or ceiling to observe the effects of improvements, such as ORIA Wireless Thermometer Hygrometer (20m (2 Packs)) – already in place. In addition monitor improvements on the damp wall a pencil line and damp meter such as dr.wood moisture meter, logging improvements each month. Monitor relative humidity and temperature against the wall or ceiling to observe the effects of improvements, such as ORIA Wireless Thermometer Hygrometer (20m (2 Packs)) – already in place. In addition monitor improvements on the damp wall with a pencil line and damp meter such as dr.wood moisture meter, logging improvements each month.
|Use a dehumidifier
|Maintain relative humidity, especially at night when it’s cold outside, with a dehumidifier such as PureMate 20L/Day Portable & Compact Dehumidifier with 6.5 Litre (£179.99 Refrigerant), Duux Bora Smart Dehumidifier (DXDH02UK £300 Refrigerant) or Meaco DD8L Zambezi (£260 Desiccant – best for colder environments) – Which! Best buys. There are plenty of alternatives available. I choose a dehumidifier based on daily and tank capacity, low noise, whether it has a pipe out, and ease of programmable functions over other considerations such as weight and aesthetics. The technology is old and easy to manufacture. So if these brands are not available, you are sure to find another alternative. Evaluate based on daily capacity (20L minimum) and whether it has a continuous pipe out (use this to drip into a sink when away in winter).
|Improve bathroom ventilation
|Consider installing a continuous flow bathroom extractor fan such as Brookvent Airstream DMEV 100 HT (Continuous Running Extractor Fan with Humidistat Timer) – I have installed one in a rental property I own myself, that was bought cheaply because of mould. Although important to have an isolator, it can be sited in a way that doesn’t tempt tenants to use it. Ideally the vent should be located away from the door, closer to the shower. I would also install a bathroom spring to encourage tenants to keep the door closed. Ideally the ducting should be rigid, for reduced air resistance, and insulated to reduce risk of condensation in pipe.
|Remedial actions – estimate of costs
Actions if all else fails
|Consider placing a datalogger in the loft void
|Place a datalogger in the loft void, away from the vent duct comparing the dew point in the loft void to the internal dew point. Significantly increased relative dew point after heavy rain or after a shower with the vent on will lead in one direction or the other.
|Consider replacing damaged external vent
|The damage is unlikely to be the root cause of damp, but could be I would monitor dampness after heavy summer rainstorms.
|Optimal actions – estimate of costs
I conclude that probably cause by interstitial condensation, but only seasonal changes will rule out rainwater.
vapour within any void will condense when the temperature drops below the dew point. Long term high vapour pressure in an adjoining habitable space can create the environment for interstitial condensation.
I turned the top floor bathroom extractor fan on.. By taking a root cause approach, rather than a focus on blocking the symptoms of damp the savings are likely to be around £3,000. This contrasts with typical damp proofing contractor recommendations such as chemical treatment for rising damp and untargeted ventilation, such as PIV systems.
Flood risk: No risk See Flood Risk (note most flood risk is not from groundwater).
Sub-soil rocks: Near moderately productive aquifer with intergranular flow See British Geological Survey.
Therefore risk of Rising Damp: highly unlikely, see explanation by Dr Robyn Pender of Historic England.
I confirm that I inspected the property on 231212SH0800. I conclude that probably cause by interstitial condensation, but only seasonal changes will rule out rainwater. All buildings can be exposed to unvented vapour and external dampness to some degree. You will mitigate the risk of damp if you follow all our recommendations. This report is intended to be read in full including supplementary links in this report. Observations and opinions must not be taken in isolation. Given the right weather conditions almost any house can be affected by rain. Like any building, you need to be aware of the risks of damp arising in the future and should plan a programme of monitoring, prevention and maintenance accordingly. Damp Surveys Ltd reports are designed to provide you with an informed, independent expert opinion as to the cause of dampness in the property, together with any recommendations for further investigation or remedial work. We do not warrant any findings in this report unless we enter into a separate warranty agreement with you.
The survey was conducted during daylight hours. Damp will be more noticeable at night and when the weather is colder and more humid. Gutters are more likely to fail when full of leaves and during periods of prolonged rain and adverse wind. We make best endeavours but cannot guarantee being able to identify all forms of damp, rot and insect infestation affecting the property.
We carried out a careful and thorough inspection of as much of the property as was accessible. However, when a full inspection is not possible, we make a professional judgement regarding the likelihood of a defect being present. In certain circumstances, this may lead to a recommendation for further action to open up an area for additional investigation. We were unable to inspect the entire roof, all the guttering, and some of the drains. Similarly, inspection of woodwork or other parts of the structure that were covered, unexposed, poorly lit or inaccessible such as in the loft, cellar, or sub-floor void was not possible, and therefore we are unable to assert that such parts of the property are free from defect. There were no obvious signs of damp resulting from these limitations
Negligence claims must be made within 90 days of the damp survey site visit. Clients must make best endeavours to monitor humidity and temperature on a damp wall and the closest source of humidity, by purchasing and placing two data loggers for example the Smart Hygrometer measuring humidity on the wall and nearest source of vapour, before and after following our recommendations. These data loggers have sufficient memory capacity to store 90 days of data.
This report is for the sole use of the client (named on the invoice, but omitted here for anonymity) for whom the survey was undertaken and can only be relied upon for 90 days from the survey date. Unless expressly stated otherwise in this report, nothing in this report confers or is intended to confer any rights on any third party pursuant to the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act 1999.
Site visit 231212SH0800
Simon Hichens BSc Chemistry RICS Qualified Expert Witness (Chartered Surveyors)
PCA Certificated Surveyor of Dampness & Timber in Buildings (Property Care Association)
Damp Surveys Ltd, 119 Longton Ave London SE26 6RF Reg. 10977488 (England & Wales)
Founder of damp.aï & Member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)
Our damp surveys are designed to provide a holistic diagnosis that identifies and deals with causes rather than a focus on symptoms. Symptoms will disappear over time, once damp is stopped at source. We look for risks of dampness, but unless moisture is present, we can’t guarantee to identify all risks of future moisture. Our reports:
- identify root cause(s) of major unwanted dampness within the property,
- identify major symptoms of unwanted dampness,
- identify major structural damage caused by dampness,
- recommend actions and estimated costs to stop damp at source and mitigate its effects,
- recognise that treating damp is often a staged approach, treating obvious causes first.
For survey purposes, damp is defined as unwanted water. Water brings life. We need it. Unfortunately, fungus and insects also thrive in water. While a damp wall can cause decorative spoiling, it is not moisture, but the life it brings that causes the greatest concern in the home environment. FACT: vapour causes 85% of residential damp problems.
Independence and Methodology
Our only income is through damp survey fees. We are independent of contractors and never profit from remedial work. We do not receive or pay any fees or other inducements. Our motivation is peace of mind and practical, durable solutions. We use an array of equipment to identify the root cause of damp within walls. Our damp surveys follow guidance from RICS, Historic England and PCA joint position statement and support RICS’s highest standard, level 3 “Home Survey Standard” (HSS).
During the survey we assess likelihood of rising damp*, mainswater leak, penetrating damp, condensation, timber rot and woodworm. We profile the damp patches and consider the likely sources of dampness and test ventilation against building regulations requirements. We consider changes to the property and factors just before the first sighting of damp.
- Rising damp concern: You were concerned about penetrating damp from a roof leak
- Weather: drizzle during survey
- Property: modern
- Background: Subject to insurance claim
- Changes: lifestyle changes including not heating or ventilating top floor
- Occupancy: mainly single
- Mould & notes: low occupancy
- Primary damp concern: no signs of mould
- Compounding: heat loss caused by metal within building
- Tenure: house
- Attachment: an end of terrace
- Build: modern
- Walls: cavity walls
- Exterior comment: slight damage to vent, otherwise no obvious signs of ingress or risk
- Penetrating damp assessment: There is no significant discoloration or damage to the rain water goods that could account for internal dampness. The rainwater gullies and drains seem to function correctly.
- Drains: The drains are of no special concern.
- Leak signs: No suspicion of a mains water leak
- Leak assessment: There are no obvious signs of a significant mains or wastewater leak.
- Floor: The floor is of no special concern.
- Loft: The loft is not accessible.
- Timber assessment: There are no suspicions of significant timber decay.
- Last dry: I understand dampness is relatively recent
- Ventilation assessment: The top floor vent was switched off. There appears to be a split in the vent ducting, although this could be part of the design, and anyway when in use a majority of vapour should exist the building.
W.H.O. indoor air quality guidelines
“Management of moisture requires proper control of temperature and ventilation to avoid excess humidity, condensation on surfaces and excess moisture in materials. Ventilation should be distributed effectively throughout spaces, and stagnant air zones should be avoided.”
FACT: Houses contain 30 – 40 litres of water as vapour typically. Each day, each occupant adds on average about 1.5 litres as follows:
- Each shower results in 1/2L condensing (each additional shower in a series won’t add as much as the first, so long as the door is kept closed)
- Vapour from drying clothes releases about ½ litre per day if dried indoors
- Respiration releases about ¾ litre per day (of which ¼ l at night)
- Cooking produces about ¼ litre per day per person
- Unvented vapour can cause condensation, mould and allergenic dust mites. The simple rule for keeping your property dry and mould free is;
- Vent out as much vapour as produced, each and every day!
- Central heating and double-glazing reduce background ventilation. To overcome this you should use mechanical extractors. Where properties are rented, consider using monitoring devices (such as a Govee WIFI hygrometer) and if necessary, install continuous flow extractors, but beware there can be a thermal cost caused by continuous heat lost.
FACTS about Condensation and Mould
- FACT: warm air holds more water vapour than cold air. The warmer it is, the more air’s capacity to hold water vapour. Conversely the colder it is, the less capacity, until air cannot hold any more vapour. We call that the dew point or 100%RH. As soon air reaches capacity, condensation will form on the coldest surfaces.
- FACT: Mould and dust mites
- FACT: Mould only grows when air is humid for long periods. In the occupied home environment, it is 6 hours over 85% RH. For properties that are unoccupied for long periods, it is 75% RH for many days of consistent and high humidity. Avoid allowing the surface relative humidity of cold walls to exceed 85% RH by ventilating, dehumidifying, insulating, and ensuring airflow, particularly in cold corners, base of walls and ceilings, eaves, and cold window and door reveals.
- FACT: Dust mites are microscopic insects that can cause allergies. They grow in similar conditions to mould. So ventilate more to avoid allergies.
- FACT: Health concerns: There are no health and safety issues from damp noted. It is in the occupier’s interests to keep a property properly ventilated or dehumidified and temperatures above the dew and mould points throughout the property, thereby reducing the health risk associated with dust mites, bacteria, protozoans, as well as decorative spoiling caused by mould.
TIPS To Stay Condensation and Mould Free
- TIP: Reduce the production of vapour at source:
- TIP: Keep bathroom extractor fans running, or window open for at least 30 minutes.
- TIP: Keep bathroom doors closed at all times, and bathroom windows open safely.
- TIP: When filling the bath, run the cold water first then add the hot.
- TIP: Dry clothes outside, in a dryer, in a closed room with a dehumidifier or window open, never on radiators or heated rail without a door closed and a means of removing the vapour.
- TIP: Cook with tops on pots and pans, avoiding excessive boiling.
- TIP: Keep the kitchen door closed and extractor fan on where possible.
- TIP:Mechanical vents are best, but if you only have passive vents, such as a whole in the wall or chimney, then vents open with space for air to move, insulate where possible.
- TIP: Keep trickle vents open or alternatively, open windows on safety locks.
- TIP: Stop mould forming:
* Maintain external wall temperatures above 12°C, with low background heating.
* Declutter leaving space for warm air to circulate around cold surfaces.
* Where possible, avoid placing wardrobes and furniture against external walls.
* Avoid overfilling wardrobes and cupboards as it restricts air circulation.
* Use dehumidifiers or small wardrobe dehumidifying bags and replace regularly.
* Wipe mould and condensation off walls and clothes as soon as it appears.
- TIP: Monitor relative humidity
* We recommend monitoring temperature and relative humidity with a data logger to see what is happening.