It's that time of year again...cold, damp and wet. One of the most common issues reported by tenants at this time of year is damp. More often than not the reported “damp” is actually caused by condensation.
What is condensation?
Air contains amounts of ‘invisible’ water - the higher the temperature of the air, the more water it can hold. Condensation occurs when air carrying water comes into contact with a cool surface, e.g. windows.
Every home gets condensation at some point. Condensation manifests itself as small water droplets / mist / beading water on window surfaces. This observation is quite normal after a cold night and is not indicative of a serious condensation problem. Black mould on surfaces is also an indicator of condensation.
Where does dampness and condensation occur?
The most vulnerable areas will be in rooms that produce excess moisture i.e. bathrooms and kitchens. Cold rooms or cold surfaces, mirrors, cold corners of rooms, wardrobes and behind furniture or beds which are against outside walls are at risk of condensation. Walls of unheated rooms or single glazed windows and metal frames are also at risk.
Mould growth in your home is not only causing damage to the property but it is also unhealthy to live with and needs to be tackled.
mould growth is a sign of damp conditions which can be a result of:
- structural problems, plumbing leaks from fixtures and fittings
The first two are dealt with by your landlord carrying out the necessary repairs and you should report them to your agent/landlord as soon as possible but you can take action against condensation right now.
1. Improve ventilation
- Use the extractor fan in the bathroom and kitchen (if fitted) or slightly open a window when taking a shower, bath or cooking.
- Leave the windows slightly open for half an hour after showering / cooking to get rid of the excess moisture in the air. Open at least one window in each room for some part of the day to renew the air. If your property has tilt and turn style windows, use the tilt position.
- Keep radiators uncovered and move furniture away from the outside walls to allow air to circulate.
- Do not block vents. Properties are fitted with vents and windows with trickle vents, these are there for a reason and should not be blocked / closed. Trickle vents allow a small amount of external air to enter a room at the top of a window which, in turn, allows air to circulate in the window space via convention.
- Open curtains. By leaving curtains closed, you will create a cold, dead space with no circulating air. By opening your curtains every morning you will allow air within the room to flow across the window space and carry away moisture.
- Allow air to circulate in cupboards. By keeping cupboard doors closed, air cannot circulate and mould can form on items within the cupboard. Ensure the doors are left slightly open and clothes not packed too tightly together to ensure air can circulate in these areas.
2. Turn up the heat
- The colder your home is, the more likely you are to suffer from condensation. The process of heating your home will reduce the relative humidity, providing it is dry heat (e.g. from central heating system). Heating will counter-balance most of all the moisture produced by modern living.
- Try to make sure that all rooms are at least partially heated. To prevent condensation, the heat has to keep room surfaces reasonably warm, above 15oC (this will stop condensation forming on external walls). It takes time for a cold building to warm up, so it is better to have a small amount of heat for a long period than a lot of heat for a short period.
Tips to produce less moisture
- When taking a bath try putting cold water in the bath before adding hot (it actaully creates less steam this way!)
- After your bath, close the door and open the window / turn on your extractor fan.
- Put lids on saucepans so less steam is produced and food cooks quicker.
- Wipe down windows and window sills every morning to remove any sitting water produced by condensation.
- Dry clothes outside whenever possible, if you have an outside clothes line use it.
- Use a vented tumble drier (if provided).
- Allow wet outdoor clothes to dry properly before hanging in wardrobe or cupboard.
- Remove wet clothes, towels and bathroom mats and dry out on a daily basis as these will contribute to moisture retention in the air.
- Do not hang clothes on radiators – if drying clothes inside, ensure they have been spun dry in the washing machine and are not dripping wet before hanging them on a clothes horse in a ventilated and heated room. Remember to close the door between this area and the rest of the property.
- Buy a dehumidifying tray or moisture absorbing device – these can be bought at any DIY shop or on Amazon for as little as £2.50 a unit. Dehumidifying units are filled with moisture absorbing crystals, or similar substance, to absorb excess moisture.
- Please note these units require emptying and replacing when full of water.
What to do if you spot mould
Any home is at risk of condensation. If the property is properly maintained and you as the tenant make small changes to your lifestyle, you should be able to live with condensation without ruining your clothes, furniture and your health.
If you do notice mould growing in your home, you should treat it straight away to stop it from spreading and causing more damage. If possible sterilise the affected area with a suitable fungicidal wash (available from most DIY stores), following the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep checking the affected area for at least a week.
If the mould reappears, wash it down again with the fungicidal wash to make sure the area is thoroughly sterilised.If the treatment appears to have been successful, you can carry out any necessary redecoration.
If mould or mildew is growing on clothing or carpets, you should dry clean them. Don’t disturb mould by brushing or vacuum cleaning.