What do do about condensation?

/ Agents, Blocks of flats, Freeholders, Landlords, Leaseholders, News

Condensation is perhaps the most common form of damp that can appear in your flat and, if left unchecked, it can cause damage to your property including peeling wallpaper, crumbling plaster,  damp patches  on walls,  and a build-up of moisture, all of which could cause streaming windows and rotting frames.

Left untreated, condensation can also lead to mould growth which can be potentially harmful and lead to serious health issues and breathing difficulties; one reason which it is important to nip it in the bud.

How can you avoid condensation damage in your property in the first place? Replacing windows with modern designs with trickle vents, fitting air bricks or installing extractor fans may not be easy or even possible in your flat. So, if you are looking for tips to minimise condensation, here are some suggestions:

1: Wipe down. In the short term, you should regularly clear surfaces and windows of condensation so it doesn’t have time to cause damage or develop into mould. You can do this easily with a towel, tissues, or for windows, a squeegee.

2: Laundry. It may seem obvious but if you have a tumble dryer in your flat, ensure that it is vented correctly. One load of washing can put two litres of water into the air.  Where possible, try to dry your clothes outdoors to prevent excess moisture from building up in your property. If you are unable to dry your clothes outside, then hang them in a bathroom with the door closed and windows open.

3: Cooking and bathing. When cooking food or showering, ensure that your kitchen or bathroom door is kept closed to prevent the moisture in the air from going into colder rooms. The warmer air will cause condensation to form if it touches a cold surface in the next room. Cover cooking pans with a lid to reduce steam from boiling water escaping, and always use your cooker hood and/or extractor fans if you have one.  Don’t turn off an extractor fan as soon as you finish cooking; leave it on for another 10-15 minutes to help to clear the humid air.

4: Heating. Keep your flat warm and draft proof to maintain internal surfaces at a temperature that reduces the likelihood of condensation. Remember, portable gas and paraffin heaters produce a lot of moisture and should be avoided.  (They are also a health and safety hazard. Rental contracts and leases may forbid the anyway.)

5: Cupboards and furniture. Don’t overfill your wardrobes or kitchen cupboards. A lack of ventilation and air moisture trapped in warm overfilled cupboards can become a breeding ground for mould as the air is not able to circulate freely inside. A musty smell or clothes with a damp feeling to the touch may be a sign that the cupboard is overfilled.  Make sure furniture is at least 50mm away from the surrounding walls so that air can circulate around the property. Try to ensure that big items like wardrobes are placed against internal walls. If they are against colder external walls, you may discover damp and mould behind them.

The bottom line on condensation is lack of adequate ventilation.  Some of the most common advice is to open a window whenever possible. Just breathing is a major cause of condensation, so try to allow fresh air into the rooms you use most often at least some of the time. Besides, stuffy air may cause headaches and nausea.

If you are not sure that the problem is condensation, perhaps you suspect it could be rising damp or leaking guttering, then get in touch with your managing agent and ask for it to be checked.  Only an experienced surveyor will be able to tell the crucial difference between the symptoms of dampness caused by condensation and the potentially more serious rising or penetrating dampness.

FP219-2018

 The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only. The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information.