Is damp a concern?

The presence of damp is often raised as a cause for concern on a home survey as, if untreated, it has the capacity to lead to health concerns and, overtime can affect the structure of the property itself.

Damp is most commonly found within older properties and can be an off-putting discovery to potential purchasers due to the costly and time exhaustive measures that may be necessary to remove it.

However, while damp can become a serious issue if left untreated, there are potential steps you can take to mitigate the effects or correct the underlining issue causing the damp to occur.

Damp forms due to the presence of moisture in a property through the means of condensation or unwanted water entering through leaks, cracks, or through the foundation of the property. The three main types of damp found are: condensation, rising damp and penetrating damp.

Our surveyors are trained to spot the signs of damp when carrying out a home survey.

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Condensation can be found in all buildings, whether you live in a new build or a period property. Condensation forms where warm air collides with cold surfaces, or where there is high humidity, and it is often rife where there is poor ventilation or air circulation.

While condensation can occur throughout the year, it is most common within the colder months when there is an increase in the use of central heating and windows are typically left closed.

Moisture enters the air within your home through common tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and showering. Where this moisture meets a cool surface, be it a window, door, or wall, small droplets of water will form.

Although harmless to begin with, if these droplets are continuously left unattended, this can lead to black mould forming along your walls, ceilings, and windows.

Black mould is a serious health concern and can lead to breathing problems and skin rashes amongst other more severe conditions.


The most effective treatment for condensation is to ensure you have proper ventilation in place. This can be achieved by installing vents, extraction fans, or by increasing the amount of time you leave your windows open.

You may also consider using anti-condensation mould resistant paint or fungicide sprays to treat areas of concern such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Rising damp

Rising damp occurs when ground water moisture travels up through the walls of the property by capillary action. The porous materials around the affected wall will then also absorb the ground water moisture causing damage to the plaster, paint, floor, or joinery.

Rising damp is most commonly identified by evidence of stains or tide marks which indicate how far the moisture has travelled up the wall.

Other signs of rising damp include:

  • Blooming on internal surfaces where minerals and salts within the groundwater have also traversed up the wall.
  • Discolouration & fragmenting plaster
  • Staining, peeling wallpaper, and blistering of paint or wallpaper
  • Dark patches on the walls that may be damp to the touch
  • Damp or musty smelling rooms

Rising damp can occur where the protective barrier, known as the Damp Proof Course (DPC), has deteriorated, or failed. However, in the case of older properties a DPC may not have been incorporated into the building.


The most effective treatment for rising damp is typically some form of damp proofing however, the type and method will be entirely dependent on the individual case. Therefore, it is recommended to seek expert advice where concerns of rising damp are raised at a property.

Penetrating damp

Penetrating damp, also referred to as lateral damp, appears as a result of water infiltration through the external walls of the property. It is one of the most common types of damp caused by water entering through a defect or where external walls have degraded to the point where they allow water ingress.

Water infiltration can occur through a variety of ways:

  • Leaking through faulty drainage or guttering. For more information, take a look at our drainage and guttering page.
  • Roof damage. For more information, take a look at our roof page.
  • Damaged walls through deteriorated brickwork, mortar or rendering.

It is important to act immediately at the first sign of penetrating damp as if left to its own devices it can lead to multiple problems, including wet rot, damage to masonry and rendering, or increased heat loss in your home.


The first step to treating penetrating damp is to find where water is entering the property. From there you will need to identify the cause, this could be due to a myriad of different reasons from ageing brickwork and defective pointing to issues with the guttering and downpipes.

Once the cause is located and fixed you will need to assess the extent of damage caused, it is recommended to seek specialist advise.

While it is possible to treat cases of penetrating damp yourself, if the damp has progressed so far as to create issues with wet or dry rot, significant damage to the plaster or the development of black mould, consulting with a professional damp specialist is advisable.

Buying a home is one of the most expensive purchases you are likely to ever make, so don’t take the risk of buying one with hidden defects.

Book a home survey with SDL Surveying and we’ll help highlight if there are any issues with the property that may not be immediately obvious when viewing a property.

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