Is it damp or condensation in my home?

Is it damp or condensation in my home?

We at Martin & Co Gosport are constantly asked this question in the colder months, as condensation tends to be worse this time of year.


What is condensation? 

Moisture in always present in the air, even if you cannot see it. As the air gets cooler the moisture appears as droplets of water, which are found on cold surfaces, this is condensation.  It  also happens when you 'see your breath' in cold weather, or when the mirror mists up when you have a bath.


Where does condensation occur?

It is found where there is little air movement.

 It appears on 'cold  surfaces',such as:-  in corners of rooms, behind large pieces of furniture, in wardrobes, on windows and on external walls. Soft furnishings can also have condensation form on them, as they can absorb moisture from the air.


What is the difference between damp and condensation?

Other forms of dampness leave a 'tidemark', such as rising damp and leaks from plumbing, or through the structure, and tend to be worse wet weather rather than cold weather.  But condensation does not leave a ‘tidemark’. 


Is condensation  accompanied by mould growth?     


Mould can also accompany dampness caused by leaks but rarely with rising damp.  But if the weather is cold, and the mould appears on those 'cold surfaces' mentioned earlier, then there is a good chance that it is condensation. 


How do I combat condensation?

• Wipe down windows and sills when condensation appears on them.

• Wring out the cloth rather than drying it on a radiator or in front of a heater.

• Fit condensation channels or sponge strips to windows to collect the condensation.


These inexpensive items can be purchased from most DIY shops. Care must be taken to fit these properly.


How do I avoid condensation?

To reduce condensation:


When cooking: try covering pans and do not leave kettles boiling.


If drying washing indoors, then dry clothes in a closed, heated and well ventilated room, such as a bathroom, preferably with an extractor fan if fitted. If a tumble dryer is used, then ensure it is ventilated directly to the outside air.  as those tumble dryers that vent directly into the room will only increase condensation.


Some ventilation is needed every day to get rid of  moisture produced in the property.  If a window is ajar or a trickle vent open for a while.

Kitchens and bathrooms need more ventilation when you cook, wash up, bathe or dry clothes. At that time you will need to open windows wider or use extractor fans,  if fitted. When these rooms are in use, it is necessary to close kitchen and bathroom doors (and for a while afterwards), to allow the moisture to be released to the outside.

This will help to cut down on the moisture moving to other parts of your home. It is also necessary to  ventilate cupboards and wardrobes. Try not to overfill them, as this reduces air circulation aound the inside.

Also leave a little space to allow air circulation between the backs of large furniture and the walls. If you can, avoid putting wardrobes and large furniture against external walls.

Do not cover airbricks or other  ventilators, these are often strategically placed to ventilate vulnerable areas. Some ventilators may be providing vital combustion air for gas appliances (these should be marked ‘Do Not Cover’). Covering these can cause the gas appliance to give off carbon monoxide, which is toxic and can be lethal.


Secondary and double-glazed windows will reduce heat loss but sufficient ventilation is still needed to avoid condensation occuring.


What is the best way to avoid condensation but keep my home warm?

 If the temperature is kept on 'low' as background heat, even if you are out. This will allow the building to warm up as well as the air. (As short bursts of heat will only warm up the air, leaving surfaces cold – an ideal recipe for condensation)! 


How do I get rid of mould in my home?

The mould can normally be wipee off with a disposable cloth using some household cleaner.  If this is done regularly using diluted household cleaner this should stop mould growing back. You can use a fungicidal wash that carries a Health and Safety Executive approval number. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions precisely. If mould affects clothing this should be dry-cleaned. If carpets and other soft furnishings are affected by mould they can be shampooed with a suitable cleaning agent. Brushing and vacuuming mould can release spores and increase the risk of breathing problems.


What is my landlord responsible for?

As the law stands, your landlord can only be held liable for condensation that has been caused by disrepair to existing items that he or she is obliged to repair. These should be listed in your tenancy agreement, but as a minimum, these will be: the structure and exterior of the building, the services for the supply of water, gas and electricity, the installations for the disposal of waste and foul water, and the installations for space and water heating.


Essential housing

Unless it is stated in your tenancy agreement, or the building is subject to a ‘wholly exceptional vulnerability to condensation’ (which is so unusual that there would have to be a special form of heating to combat the condensation), then your landlord is not obliged to provide or upgrade central heating, extractor fans or insulation.


Points to remember

Produce less moisture vapour:

• keep lids on pots and pans when cooking and keep the kitchen door closed

• dry clothes outdoors or keep a window open when drying clothes indoors

• vent your tumble dryer to the outside air

• don’t dry clothes over warm radiators

• keep the bathroom door closed when running a bath or having a shower

Ventilate effectively:

• ventilate rooms when in use

• open windows to increase ventilation when cooking and when you’re washing and drying clothes

• ventilate cupboards and wardrobes and do not overfill them

• if extractor fans are fitted, use them

Heat your home effectively:

Keep low background heat on all day. This is better than leaving the house cold all day and then putting the heating on high when everyone is at home.