How to Deal With Condensation in Your Home

When trying to figure out how to deal with condensation in your home the first question you need to ask is do I have a damp problem or a condensation problem?

This can be a difficult question to answer as it will depend on hundreds of different variables and each property will have different issues. So, rather than try to explain everything in one article (when I’d need an entire book), I’ll just cover the basics points here.

How do you know if you've got damp or condensation?

Over my years of carrying our property surveys I’ve lost count of the number of homeowners who swear blind that they’ve got a “damp problem” when they’ve actually got a condensation problem.

But how can you tell the difference?

A good starting point is to look where the problem is. If the “damp” problem is below 1m from the ground floor level it could be rising damp. Or if it’s in an area near leaking down pipes, gutters or cracks in the fabric of the building it could be penetrating damp.

So initially, look to see if there's anything obvious that could be allowing moisture to get into the fabric of the building; such as:

  1. Flower beds or log piles that are raised above the level of the damp proof course (DPC) on the outer walls. The DPC should ideally be at least 150mm above the level of the finished ground level.

  2. Are there any leaking down spouts or rain water gutters in the vicinity of the problem. If so water running down the wall could be allowing moisture to penetrate the wall.

Do you have black mould?

If you’ve got black mould then there's a good chance you're dealing with a condensation problem. But this is not always the case!

You’ll probably notice the first sign of mould up in the corners of rooms such as your bedroom or bathroom. Or if you pull your wardrobe or bed away from the wall you may see evidence of black mould on the walls.

Another common location to find mould growth is on window frames.

How to deal with condensation and/or black mould:

Once you’ve established that black mould is present the most common solution I see people using is to buy a bleach product and wash the mould away. This will work in the short term but you'll have to keep doing it as you haven't dealt with the cause!

Sure it’ll kill the mould for a while but if you don’t cure the problem then the mould will just grow back again. Read my article on removing black mould for the full story.

But as the mould grows on moisture left by condensation you really need to learn how to deal with condensation so that it doesn't come back again once you've got rid of it.

Condensation can be difficult to eradicate but you can reduce it significantly with a few lifestyle changes. It's also worth getting to know what dew point is and once you understand it you can see how to reduce its effect.

Below I'll start with the cheapest options and I'll work my way up towards the more expensive solutions.

  1. Increase heat and ventilation - this is a difficult one as increasing heat and opening windows are counter intuitive. But if you think about it, it can be done. Try to Open your windows when your heating isn't running to get rid of stale moisture laden air. Then close them just before your heating comes on to try to keep the heat inside you home for as long as possible.

    Alternatively you could increase the ventilation by installing additional controlled ventilation which means you don’t have the additional security issues of leaving windows open.

  2. Insulate - because condensation forms on cool surfaces you could try to warm the surfaces in your home. This can be done by increasing heat as in point 1 above and/or by insulating your home to make wall surfaces and ceilings stay warmer for longer.

    This is obviously easier if you have cavity walls which can simply have insulation pumped in and a roof-space in which you can lay rolls of insulation. If you have solid walls and or a flat roof then insulation will be more expensive.

    Most houses built in the UK prior to 1925 are likely to have solid walls. To insulate these you could add internal or external insulation which would insulate the wall and leave the surface of the inner walls warmer, thus reducing the risk of condensation.

  3. Controlled ventilation - these ventilation systems reduce condensation by diluting the air which contains the water vapour by either forcing in fresh air or extracting the moisture laden air from your house. 

  4. Contain the water vapour - this is how I cured my condensation issues in my bathroom. But you also need to be able to control the removal of the water vapour after you've contained it.

    There are different types of controlled ventilation and which one to use will depend on your personal situation. The different types are:
How to deal with condensation

How to deal with condensation in buildings - Conclusion:

Condensation on windows and other parts of your home stems from water vapour condensing on cold surfaces. So when trying to decide how to deal with condensation in buildings, if you can warm the internal surfaces of your home either by increasing the heat or insulating them you‘ll reduce the occurrence of condensation.

Or you could try to remove the moisture laden stale air from your home and replace it with fresh air by installing a good quality ventilation system.

The secret when trying to figure out how to deal with condensation is to try to achieve the above solutions in a cost effective and sustainable way.

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