Is Rising Damp Real

Is Rising Damp Real?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding Rising Damp: Rising damp is a concerning issue that can affect building walls, especially older structures, causing damage to internal walls, plaster, flooring, and decor. It occurs when water from the ground moves up through walls due to capillary action, carrying salts that seep into bricks.
  • Causes of Rising Damp: Elevated ground levels, damaged damp-proof membranes, debris accumulation, water infiltration from heavy rainfall or malfunctioning gutters, unsuitable insulation, and rising groundwater are common causes of rising damp.
  • Reality of Rising Damp: Despite debates and claims of it being a myth, rising damp is a real issue rooted in capillary action principles. While some argue that it was popularized in the 1960s for commercial purposes, scientific reasoning supports its existence.

As a homeowner, wall dampness might be one of the major concerns to bother you. While there are multiple types of it, rising damp emerges as the most controversial one.

Wondering why? Well, it’s a relatively rare phenomenon that can cause severe damage to a building’s internal walls, plaster, flooring, and decor. However, many people consider rising damp nothing more than a myth. So, what’s the truth behind it?

Well, there isn’t any need to further scratch your mind! In this article, we will explore whether the rising damp is real or just a mere misconception, along with some solid ways to treat and prevent it.

So let’s get started!

What is a Rising Damp?

Rising damp, though relatively rare, is a concerning issue that can plague the walls of buildings, particularly older structures. This form of dampness occurs when water in the ground moves up through the wall due to capillary action.

The water also contains a variety of salts, including nitrate, chlorate, and sulphate, that seep into the bricks. This saltiness is then absorbed through tiny openings like gaps or holes in the wall, and as a result, you’ll notice damp patches and mould stains on the walls.

Common Signs of Rising Damp

Rising damp doesn’t just solely target older constructions but any property that lacks a physical damp-proof course. Being able to identify this early is crucial for preventing extensive property damage and costly repairs.

In order to figure this out, you can look out for these rising damp signs:

Tide Marks: One of the most common indications of rising damp is a noticeable tide mark on internal and external walls. Typically, such marks emerge at a height of about one metre from the ground.

Damp Patches: As the moisture rises, it carries sulphate salts and contaminants from the ground, which get soaked into the wall’s material. This leaves behind visible crusty patches on the surface, manifesting as the most common sign of rising damp.

Decaying Skirting Boards: Since skirting boards are typically located at the base of walls, they are more susceptible to wet rot. Therefore, they might decay over time with constant exposure to moisture.

Musty Smell: Damp walls offer a favourable environment for the growth of mould and mildew. They give off an unpleasant odour, which is also a possible indication of moisture-related issues in your home.

Bubbly Plaster: Rising moisture saturates the wall materials, causing the plaster to become wet and eventually lose its adhesion. As a result, bubbles might form on the surface. Bubbling of plaster is often accompanied by wallpaper peeling and paint blistering due to detaching from the damp substrate.

Major Causes of a Rising Damp

damp external brick wall

If you have spotted the above-mentioned signs in your home, it’s most likely to be rising damp. Here is why it happens:

  • Elevated ground levels or nearby structures in close proximity to your residence
  • Damaged or improperly installed damp-proof membrane 
  • Accumulation of debris and soil within the cavity of walls 
  • Excessive water infiltration as a result of heavy rainfall, malfunctioning gutters, ground seepage, and fissures in the masonry 
  • Use of unsuitable cavity wall insulation material  
  • Having solid floors that don’t let moisture go away 
  • Rising groundwater penetrating masonry via capillaries (more prevalent in buildings aged over a century with defective or absent moisture-resistant barrier) 

Rising Damp Is a Myth – Uncovering the Truth Behind It

The question ‘Is rising damp myth?’ has sparked a lot of debate and confusion on online forums. According to a few experts, this phenomenon does not really exist and is havoc created by people in the damp-proofing industry to sell their services.

If we talk about the emergence of rising damp, it got attention during the 1960s when companies started selling specific products to fix the issue. This has led to rumours that some professionals misdiagnose rising damp using a moisture metre, which may result in expensive and unnecessary treatments.

However, despite these claims, it’s a real issue backed by scientific reasoning. Basically, this entire phenomenon is rooted in fundamental principles of capillary action, the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces in opposition to external forces like gravity.

Thus, when groundwater finds a porous material like masonry in any building’s foundation, it is drawn upward, leading to rising dampness. Additionally, rising damp has been identified and documented as an issue with many historic buildings for centuries. This eventually rejects all the claims explaining the rising damp myth.

Rising Damp on Internal Walls

Mould and rising damp on an internal wall

Internal rising damp is relatively more common in ground-floor rooms or basements, where the walls are in direct contact with the floor. It occurs when groundwater moves up through the bricks and mortars in your walls.

Typically, the moisture’s height does not exceed 1 metre on internal walls, but due to certain factors, it can reach up to 1.5 metres or even more.

Simply put, if the brick pillar and mortar have lots of tiny holes, they can absorb and hold onto water for longer periods. This results in a slower evaporation rate, allowing the moisture to travel upward through the wall to higher levels.

Rising Damp on External Wall

The damage caused by rising dampness is not just limited to the internal barriers; it can even spread out to the external wall. Besides looking for tide marks, you can identify this problem by spotting crumbling mortar between bricks or stonework.

This happens with constant exposure to moisture that leads to mortar’s disintegration over time. Therefore, it’s crucial to address the issue earlier, as rising damp on the external wall can compromise the structural integrity of the walls. 

Is Rising Damp a Serious Issue?

Rising damp is a serious issue that, if not treated on time, can lead to several unfavourable consequences like:

Structural Damage

The moisture from rising damp can cause bricks and mortar to deteriorate, which might result in weakened walls and potential instability. Similarly, the integrity of timber components like joists and floorboards can also be affected by this. All these damages pose major safety concerns for the occupants of the building.

Health Concerns

As discussed earlier, rising damp allows the growth of mould and mildew. The spores from these microorganisms can become airborne, which in turn adversely affects your indoor air quality. This may cause respiratory problems, allergies, and other health concerns to the residents.

Property Devaluation

In case of rising damp, the market value of your home can experience a huge decline. The devaluation of a house occurs because the potential buyers can get deterred by the presence of rising damp and the challenges associated with it. 

Top 3 Ways to Treat a Rising Damp

Treating rising damp as soon as you spot its occurrence is crucial for maintaining the structural integrity of your home. The only way out is to hire a professional from damp proofing companies, who first figure out the root cause behind the rising damp and then suggest the treatment method accordingly.

Here are the three most common ways used to get rid of rising damp problems from properties:

1. Insert a Damp Course

Whether the DPC is missing from your home or needs to be replaced from scratch, injecting a damp-proof cream by drilling holes in the wall can be a potential solution. A builder or a damp specialist typically performs this task. However, that’s not the only way to treat a rising damp.

As an alternative approach, they can cut lines into the bricks of your home’s wall and insert a new DPC material instead of the cream. But most homeowners usually avoid this because of the challenges that might arise while hiding the cut marks. 

3. Inspect Exterior Ground Level

If the DPC inside your home is in good condition, the rising damp issue could be attributed to an exterior ground that’s built above this barrier. Typically, the damp-proof courses should be 15 cm above the ground to avoid dampness from creeping up to the walls. 

Here’s a quick way to fix it: dig away the extra soil from outside of the wall until it’s lower than the damp-proof course. This task can be a bit tricky, so we recommend you to hire an expert to perform it for the best results.

3. Tank Walls and Floors with a Damp-Proof Material

Tanking is a term used in construction that refers to shielding walls and floors to keep them safe from dampness. It is usually done to the already wet areas by coating the affected surface in asphalt or any other suitable thick liquid.

If you are tanking walls, the coated material goes under the plaster. While for floors, it’s underneath the concrete to prevent rising damp. However, there’s a catch with this treatment method, i.e., costliness and disruption associated with it.

Therefore, it’s better to consult a professional and get their opinions before opting for this way.

Common Ways to Prevent Rising Damp

Rising damp exists and can be treated easily, but the repairs are a bit costly. You can avoid this scenario by following a few easy preventive measures like: 

1. Ensure Adequate Ventilation

The foundation of any successful rising damp prevention plan is to keep your home well-ventilated. To achieve this, it’s essential to regularly open windows, allowing fresh air to circulate indoors.

Additionally, consider installing dehumidifiers or exhaust fans in moisture-prone areas like bathrooms and kitchens. This way, you can minimise humidity and eventually reduce the risk of rising damp.

2. Effective Drainage Systems

Effective water management around your home is paramount in preventing rising damp. Start by ensuring the ground slopes are away from your house’s foundation, encouraging proper rainwater runoff.

For a more comprehensive approach, consider the professional installation of French Drains or extend your gutter system to redirect water away from vulnerable areas.

3. Maintain a Vigilante Plumbing System

Regularly inspect your plumbing system for leaks, regardless of their size. This proactive approach ensures that any dripping faucets, pipe leaks, or signs of water damage are promptly addressed.

The result? Prevention of water from infiltrating your walls and causing rising dampness.

Replastering after Rising Damp Treatment

 Replastering a wall

After the rising damp issue is addressed, replastering is crucial to prevent moisture from returning to the wall. Additionally, it also helps mask the damp patches left behind by rising damp, playing an important role in aesthetic improvement.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • The treated wall is allowed to dry completely before a damp-proof membrane is applied and sealed properly to keep dampness away from the new plaster
  • Afterwards, you need to prepare the plaster mixture, which typically involves mixing plaster powder with water until a smooth consistency is achieved 
  • Now comes the turn to apply all the plaster base coat evenly on the wall using a suitable trowel
  • After the first layer dries, you can spread the finishing coat, which should be smoother and thinner 
  • Finally, it’s time to level the surface using the trowel. It’s better to hand over this task to a professional as it requires precise skills to attempt 

Is Rising Damp Covered By Insurance?

Home insurance papers for damp

The bad news is that no insurance company agrees to cover the rising damp problem, and there’s a solid explanation behind this. When you are applying for home insurance, one of the conditions that you need to agree with is that your home is in good condition.

The presence of rising damp just invalidates it, and you are considered ineligible for the insurance claim. Also, home insurance typically covers sudden and accidental damage to your property, like the water damage caused by a burst pipe.

Contrarily, rising damp is considered a gradual and predictable problem that can be prevented by regular maintenance of your property.

Thus, all the finances related to the treatment of rising damp is entirely on you, which can cost around $300 to $30K. Generally, the rates can vary depending on the type and extent of the damp, the property’s size, and the treatment method that’s being used.

Advance Damp – Experts in Providing Damp Proofing Services

Facing rising damp issues in your home? Advanced Damp can be your trusted partner in addressing this problem. With 30 years of experience in the industry, we specialise in offering damp-proofing, internal insulation, and waterproofing solutions.

Our dedicated team of experts is well-equipped to tackle all major aspects of rising damp, from conducting damp surveys to implementing effective treatment methods. Choosing Advanced Damp Services will provide you with a 20-year guarantee on new installations, full insurance coverage, Quality Mark accreditations, and other such perks.

Contact us now for a free quote, and let us safeguard your home from the challenges associated with rising damp. If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for help at customerservice@advanceddamp.co.uk. Also, you can call us at 0208 629 1517 (active Monday to Friday from 9 am to 5 pm).

Frequently Asked Questions – (FAQs)

What does rising damp look like?

Rising or penetrating damp appears as wet patches, stains, or tide marks on the walls, usually 1 metre above the floor. Sometimes, it might also lead to peeled wallpaper or flaking plaster.

Also, you can touch the walls to inspect rising damp. If they appear wet and cold, it’s likely rising damp that needs to be fixed promptly before it compromises your home’s structural integrity.

What does rising damp smell like?

Since moisture is favourable for the growth of mould and mildew, these organisms often end up inhabiting the walls affected by rising damp. As a result, a musty and unpleasant odour is produced, indicating the presence of both moisture and mould growth.

Who treats rising damp?

To stop rising damp problems, you need to hire professional experts who specialise in damp-proofing and building maintenance. They can be damp specialists, structural engineers, damp-proofing contractors, or plumbers.

Picture of 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.

Connect with him on Linkedin...

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