Damp and mould issues are far from uncommon in the UK, with some 904,000 homes suffering damp issues in 2021 alone (House of Commons Library 2023).
And the prevalence and dangers of mould were highlighted by the shocking and tragic case of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died from a respiratory condition that had resulted from prolonged mould exposure (BBC News, 2023).
Clearly, these issues are not to be taken lightly. While issues related to damp and mould (especially for social and private rental accommodation) is also a socio-political issue, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and other members of your home, as well as the instructional integrity of the property.
#1 High Levels of Moisture
Arguably the most important cause of damp and mould is high levels of moisture in the air. Moisture can fill the air with daily activities such as showering, handwashing, washing the dishes, drying clothes and boiling food on the hob.
However, the moisture does not technically lead to damp or mould directly. Instead, it is the condensation that it forms that is the real issue. When a warm moist area makes contact with cold surfaces, condensation forms. This can then significantly increase the risk of damp issues or the formation of mould.
Ways of preventing high moisture/condensation levels include:
- Employ dehumidifiers or/and air conditioners.
- Opt to dry clothes outside when possible.
- Open windows in your bathroom and kitchen after use.
- Be sure to use your bathroom and kitchen extractor fans.
#2 Water Leaks
Water leaks from your roof or pipes can result in mould growth, particularly if you do not have these leaks dealt with promptly. You may need to take a look at gutter repair costs.
Here are some symptoms of water leaks:
- Increasing water bills that can’t be explained by any other reason
- Stains (e.g., ceiling or wall stains)
- Wet spots *
- You notice the sound of dripping water.
- Picking up a scent of mould.
*If you want to be a real detective, watch out for patches of grass beneath your home’s roof that seem to be flourishing more than others – it might mean that water is leaking from the roof and onto this area of grass. Either that, or you’re watering it a little too much!
There isn’t a ton you can do to prevent water leaks from occurring in the first place. That is aside from re-caulking and re-grouting bathroom facilities or having a suitable professional take a look at your water pipework. Ultimately, though if water leaks occur, it’s important to hire a plumber and have the issue fixed as soon as possible. They should also be able to identify any mould that may have already formed.
#3 Lack of Ventilation
Expanding on our earlier points, good ventilation is also key to reducing the risk of damp and mould forming.
Dehumidifiers and air conditioners are popular ways of lowering moisture levels in your home. On average, it costs about £70 to £200 to purchase a dehumidifier. However, with the ongoing energy crisis, you’ll want to consider running costs too.
If you were to run a dehumidifier for 2-3 hours a day, you’d be looking at paying somewhere in the region of £0.46 to £1.80, but those costs will add up (reaching approximately £42 to £165 after a three month period).
Low-cost alternatives include simply opening windows after you’ve had a shower or bath or opening kitchen windows after boiling food. Of course, bathroom/kitchen extractor fans are great ways of minimising moisture formation in the first place. Beyond that, as touched on earlier, you may want to dry clothes outside where possible.
#4 Home Flooding
This is not a very common cause; however, given the nature of this hazard (and the fact that climate change is set to make flooding more prevalent in the UK over the coming decades), it’s worth addressing.
Should your home ever be flooded, first and foremost, it’s key to clear the water promptly (but only if it’s safe to do so – if in doubt, ask the emergency services’ what they advise as in some scenarios, you may need to be evacuated).
The next steps should involve having the structural integrity of your home evaluated, fixing any damage and having a professional inspect your property for remaining water and prevent mould/damp or addressing issues that have already arisen.
Obviously, steps such as setting up dehumidifiers should only be done if there is an absolute certainty that there is no water on the socket or surface remaining that could lead to an electric shock when plugging in and running a dehumidifier.
#5 Inadequate Heating
One common cause that doesn’t come to mind promptly is poor household heating. If your home is not heated to a sufficient level, condensation may increase. Moreover, substantial increases or drops in temperature may also lead to a rise in condensation.
Ultimately, by increasing the average surface temperatures throughout your home, the risk of condensation (and therefore mould and damp) should decrease.