Preparing for the cold snap: are you condensation wise?

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Weather reports this morning suggest that the UK is on the verge of a cold snap. Scotland is expected to be the first part of Great Britain to feel the effects, with snow possible in some areas.

It is at cold times of year like this that many homes notice damp problems, and one of the most common problems is condensation.

With winter just around the corner – are you condensation wise?

What is condensation?

Condensation is a property problem that affects millions of homes in the UK and is most common in properties that have issues with poorly implemented heating, insulation and ventilation. This makes condensation a particularly common problem during a cold snap, because more people are turning on their heating and filling their home with warm air that gets trapped and condenses on cold walls.

Condensation occurs when warm moist air makes contact with cool air or a cold surface. All air contains water vapour in varying quantities, so when warmer, damp air comes into contact with cooler air or a cooler surface, the warmer air is unable to retain the same amount of moisture, and this moisture is released to form condensation. It is this excess water settling as condensation that can lead to damp problems within a property.

Condensation – the tell tale signs

The most common signs of a condensation problem are wet windows, damp patches on walls and black mould on walls, timbers, furniture and clothing.

Black mould is unsightly and smelly and the spores from this mould can have adverse health effects on anyone in the property. Mould spores are a particular risk to those with respiratory conditions already affected by a cold snap such as bronchitis or asthma.

Which rooms are most vulnerable to condensation?

The most vulnerable rooms within a property are rooms where the most moisture is produced, usually the bathroom and kitchen. Activities that involve heating water, such showering, cooking and washing clothes can generate many litres of water vapour on a daily basis. These activities are essential to everyday life, so condensation treatments and solutions must be looked into if water vapour is causing damp problems within a property.

Condensation – what can you do this winter?

There are a number of lifestyle choices that can dramatically reduce the levels of condensation within the home during a cold snap. For example, by opening windows when cooking or showering a lot of the excess water vapour will escape your property. Other effective DIY condensation solutions include - keeping the lids on pots whilst cooking, drying clothes outside whenever possible and leaving a gap between furniture and cold walls.

More persistent condensation problems will require treatment beyond lifestyle change. Many options are available: Mould sprays and paint additives will attack black mould, dehumidifiers will reduce the amount of water vapour in the air and positive pressure systems will provide the most complete solution to any condensation problems caused by poor ventilation.

Find out more about the cold snap and condensation