What is rising damp?
Rising damp is when moisture from under the house gets into the internal walls. It’s a common problem with older buildings that are made of porous materials like brick or wood, or houses that haven’t been maintained properly. If left untreated, rising damp spreads fast into the walls and ceiling, making them more vulnerable to mould, wood rot, and structural failure.
Any house with a damaged damp proof course (a layer under the house that prevents ground moisture from rising) can also fall victim to rising damp. If your house is primarily made of brickwork, slate, or unprotected concrete, you are at a higher risk of being vulnerable to rising damp.
What are the signs of rising damp?
Fortunately, the first signs of rising damp are easy to spot.
- Wallpapers flaking and falling away
- Bubbles for underneath the paint on your walls
- A musty smell in a room with no clear sign where it is coming from
- Falling mortar between brickwork
- Plaster flakes away, or deforms into white bubbles, powder, or crystals
- Stains on the walls
These signs can be more noticeable if your area has gone through an extreme period of humidity or weather changes. If your home ever shows any of the signs above, it’s best to call in a specialist or a chartered building surveyor to look. Rising damp can be easily mistaken with other structural issues, so trying to DIY it without a professional opinion might end up doing more harm than good.
Risks of living in a house with rising damp
Aside from structural failure, rising damp also has other effects:
- Health. Mildew, mould, and other microorganisms that thrive in wet and damp environments can be harmful to the house’s occupants. At the very least, the symptoms of damp can trigger allergies –and at worst, can cause bacterial infections.
- Devaluation. A house with rising damp won’t fetch a good price on the housing market, which can force homeowners to soak up substantial costs even if they’re getting rid of the property.
- Regulation. If rising damp is left untreated, it can open the owners of the property for legal action. Many federal and local building regulations require regular checkups and inspections to make sure that buildings are a safe and secure location to work and live in. Non-compliance may cause you a hefty fine and other legal issues.
Rising damp treatment: repairing, waterproofing, and more
Fixing a house with rising damp costs quite a bit. The cheapest estimate by local architects puts repair costs at $10,000 AUD, which includes re-plastering, re-painting, and re-coating of the walls. Timber flooring may also need to be replaced depending on how far the damp has permeated, which adds to the repair costs. Total costs can exceed $25,000 AUD if you factor in waterproofing and other fees.
Of course, there are DIY options on how to fix rising damp. A chemical injection of a damp proof course under your house is the easiest solution you can look into, though this only applies for small patches of damp. If you’re wondering how to stop rising damp altogether, you have to replace the damp course membrane under your home every couple of years – and it’s best to leave this process up to the experts.
Either way, it’s recommended that you have a professional inspect your building every couple of months to make sure that rising damp isn’t a problem in your home. Catching it early is your best chance of dealing with the problem, and will end up costing you far less time and money in the long run.
High and dry
Rising damp can be a big problem for homeowners, but it’s definitely manageable if you know what to look out for. Whether you end up hiring a specialist or taking preventative measures yourself, keeping an eye out for damp is important for a safe and sturdy home.
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