Putting a Damper on Home Owners

Can insulation cause condensation problems?

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Advances in housing insulation have meant a big increase in condensation problems.

Homeowners are being warned to act to prevent damp talking hold.

Ironically, condensation and dampness is getting worse as homes become better insulated. One specialist says it is dealing with 4000 damp and condensation related incidents every year in Scotland.

Problems with modern insulation

When people used to open fires and sash windows, houses were readily ventilated. Now double glazing, central heating, lagged lofts and blocked up fireplaces, particularly in older premises, mean that air does not circulate around the home, creating the ideal conditions for condensation and dampness.

Les Meikle, chairman in Scotland of the British Wood Preservation and Damp Proofing Association and managing director of Wise Property Care said: “As the average temperature inside your house rises, and plummets outside, you are unwittingly creating exactly the right conditions for condensation.”

The good news for homeowners however, is that relatively simple steps can help stop condensation from becoming a major problem.

Preventing condensation

As a means of preventing condensation, the homeowner should first improve ventilation, which can be achieved by fixing vents in single and double glazed window units; installing fixed vents in bricked up fireplaces; installing extractor hoods over cooking areas and extractor fans in internal bath and shower rooms.

Meanwhile, try to keep those walls which face outside as warm as possible by situating any heaters near these.

The bathroom is particularly prone to damp, as cold air in a toilet cistern will create condensation. This can be prevented by wiping down the cistern with a dry cloth or using a moisture-absorbing strip which can be placed around the cistern, which collects any dripping condensation and allows it to run safely into the toilet bowl, preventing it from reaching the floor or wall.

You should regularly check all areas such as windowsills, and those behind large free standing furniture such as wardrobes. Fitted wardrobes and kitchens should be examined regularly. If you detect a smell that is at all musty then this could be a sign of the onset of damp caused by condensation. The solution is to improve ventilation by fitting small vents to the top and bottom of cupboards and wardrobes, allowing warm air to circulate and dry out problem areas.

Consider purchasing a dehumidifier which will remove excess moisture from the air in your property.
“It is a lot less costly to nip any problems in the bud”, said Mr Meikle.

If the house is already showing signs of condensation then humidistat-controlled heat return extractor fans should be installed on the external walls of the affected rooms.

For minor damp problems use a fungicide to kill off mould, following the instructions very carefully. However, one should not use bleach – the mould will just regrow.

Neither should one use fungicide over wallpaper – strip the infected paper off and treat the wall properly. It’ll save you time and money in the long run.

Finally, when redecorating one should always use wallpaper paste which contains a fungicide. This will help stop damp mould in its tracts.