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How to Treat Rising Damp in an Old House?

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Key Takeaways:

  • DIY Methods for Treating Rising Damp: Addressing rising damp in an old house can be tackled through various DIY methods. These include installing a moisture barrier by sealing cracks in exterior walls, enhancing drainage around the house, using dehumidifiers or air purifiers, and applying waterproofing paint or sealant to walls.
  • Professional Treatment Options for Rising Damp: If DIY approaches prove insufficient, professional treatments are available. Chemical injection involves injecting substances like sodium bentonite or potassium silicate into affected walls to create a waterproof barrier. Electro-osmosis uses metal rods to draw moisture out of masonry through an electric current.
  • Comprehensive Approach and Professional Evaluation: Rising damp often results from a combination of factors, and a combination of treatments may provide the most effective solution. It is crucial to have a reputable specialist evaluate the unique situation of the old house and recommend the right approach.

So you’ve finally bought that charming old house you’ve always dreamed of. The architectural details, the mature trees in the garden, the sense of history – everything is perfect.

Well, it’s almost perfect. There’s that worrying damp patch in the basement that won’t go away. Rising damp is the bane of old houses, and yours seems to have a bad case of it.

Don’t panic just yet, though. Rising damp is a common problem and one that can be solved with some time and patience.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps to diagnose the cause of your rising damp, how to fix it at the source, and ways to remove any remaining moisture from your walls.

With some effort and elbow grease, you’ll get your old house warm and cosy for many years to come. So grab your toolbox, and let’s get started – your dream home is worth fighting for!

See related: Damp Proofing.

DIY Methods to Treat Rising Damp

Treating rising damp in an old house can seem overwhelming, but the good news is there are several DIY methods you can try before calling in the pros.

First, install a moisture barrier. This means sealing any cracks in exterior walls, especially where pipes or wires enter the building.

You’ll also want to improve drainage around the outside of the house to direct water away from the foundation. Digging a trench around the perimeter and filling it with gravel can help.

If moisture has already built up inside walls, try using a dehumidifier or air purifier with a HEPA filter to remove excess water from the air.

Run it continuously in problem areas until walls are dry. You should also ventilate and circulate the air as much as possible by opening windows.

To treat existing damp spots, you can apply a waterproofing paint or sealant to walls. An epoxy or latex-based paint works well for sealing out moisture. For heavy stains or water damage, a waterproofing sealant or membrane may be needed before painting.

As a last resort, you may need to install a pump to physically remove water from inside walls.

A sump pump can collect and discharge excess groundwater to help lower the water table beneath the house. Perimeter drains may also need to be installed to channel water away.

Rising damp is often caused by a combination of factors, so you may need to try several of these methods to entirely eliminate the problem.

But with some patience and persistence, you can win the battle against rising damp and keep your home safe, dry and comfortable.

Professional Treatment Options for Rising Damp

rising damp treatment

If the DIY approaches aren’t cutting it, it’s time to call in the pros to treat your rising damp problem. Here are a few options:

Professional chemical injection – Chemicals like sodium bentonite or potassium silicate are injected into holes drilled in the affected walls.

These chemicals react to form a waterproof barrier. This method is very effective but can be pricey, costing between £400 to £4,000 depending on the job size.

Electro-osmosis – Metal rods are placed in holes in the wall, which conduct an electric current to draw moisture out of the masonry.

Again, holes must be drilled in walls, and the equipment requires installation. This method typically costs £1,600 to £8,000.

Damp proof course (DPC) injection – A special waterproofing chemical or membrane material is injected below ground level to form a barrier.

Holes are drilled at intervals along the wall, the DPC material is pumped in, and the holes are sealed. This approach avoids major upheaval but may not solve severe damp problems. The cost is usually £2,400 to £6,400.

Tanking – For serious cases of rising damp, tanking, which entails removing plaster from walls and applying a waterproof cement render, may be required.

A waterproof membrane is also installed below ground level. This comprehensive approach eliminates £8,000 to £24,000.

A combination of treatments may often provide the most effective solution. The key is to have a reputable specialist evaluate your unique situation and recommend the right approach.

While it may hurt the wallet, fixing rising damp for good will add value, comfort, and health to your historic home.

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Preventing Rising Damp From Returning

Once you’ve treated the rising damp in your old house, it’s important to prevent it from returning. Water is persistent and will find the path of least resistance. Follow these tips to keep your walls dry for good.

Improve Ventilation

Increasing air circulation and ventilation in the affected area will help speed up drying and prevent moisture buildup.

Run fans to keep air moving, especially in rooms below ground level like basements. Open windows when possible to improve cross-ventilation. Ventilate and insulate crawl spaces under the house as well.

Direct water away from foundations

Make sure rainwater, gutters, and downspouts all direct water away from the foundation of your house. Install gutter guards or leaf shields to prevent clogs.

Extend downspouts at least 5 to 6 feet away from the foundation. Re-grade the soil around your home so it slopes away from the walls. These steps will prevent excess moisture from accumulating in the ground surrounding and under your house.

Seal cracks and crevices

Cracks, crevices, gaps, and holes in foundations, basements, and crawl spaces provide an easy entry point for moisture. Seal them to eliminate access.

Fill larger cracks in foundations, basements and crawl spaces with waterproof concrete sealant or epoxy filler.

Use caulk, weatherstripping, door sweeps, or repair damaged screens for minor cracks. Cover sump pumps with a sealed lid and ensure discharge hoses direct water away from the foundation.

Moisture barriers

As a last line of defence, you may need to install a moisture barrier like polyethene sheeting. Place barriers between damp walls and the ground, especially in crawl spaces.

Secure barriers to walls and the floor, sealing edges and seams with waterproof tape to prevent moisture from getting in behind the barrier.

For persistent rising damp, you may need to excavate outside the foundation walls to install an exterior moisture barrier.

By improving ventilation, controlling excess water, sealing up cracks, and using moisture barriers, you can effectively prevent rising damp from coming back and damaging your home again.

Be diligent and regularly inspect for new signs of moisture or water damage, especially after heavy rains. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so take steps now to keep your old house high and dry for generations to come.


Rising damp is a common problem in old houses, but the good news is there are effective solutions if you’re willing to put in the work.

The keys are identifying the source of the moisture, eliminating access points, and ensuring the area is properly sealed and ventilated going forward.

Following through on the appropriate solutions will help you win the battle against rising damp.

Your house has stood for this long – now make sure it’s there for generations to come by keeping it dry, maintained, and protected from damage. Take action today to preserve your home for the future.

Jake Fitzgerald - Damp Surveyor

Jake Fitzgerald - Damp Surveyor

Surveyor of Timber & Dampness in Buildings (CSTDB) & ( MRICS ) Chartered Quantity Surveyor

Jake is a qualified chartered quantity surveyor and experienced damp specialist with a unique skill set in thermal imaging. With a focus on effective solutions, Jake combines his expertise in quantity surveying and thermal imaging to accurately assess and address damp-related issues. He utilises advanced technology to identify hidden moisture sources and develop targeted strategies, ensuring comprehensive and cost-effective solutions for his clients. With a commitment to open communication and client satisfaction, Jake delivers cutting-edge solutions that tackle damp challenges head-on.

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