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What are the Signs of Rising Damp?

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Key Takeaways:

  • Wet Patches Indicate Rising Damp: Wet or damp patches on walls, particularly at the ground level, serve as a clear sign of rising damp. 

  • Tidemarks and Stains as Visible Clues: Rising damp often manifests as tidal markings on walls, resulting from damp evaporation and salt migration. Tidemarks are visible up to about one meter above the floor.

  • Peeling Paint and Wallpaper: The visible peeling of wallpaper or paint is a prominent indicator of increasing moisture within internal walls.


Rising damp is such an unwelcome issue that damages homes in the United Kingdom. It creeps up the walls until the paintwork is destroyed, the bubbling of plaster appears, and the whole surface area gets messy and full of damp spots. In other words, it’s a total discomfort to see that happening.

And, it’s not just the appearance of it – the feeling of living in a damaged house makes things more uneasy for the house owners. But what can be done now? Things have been destroyed – there are meagre chances of getting the rising damp problem resolved. Well, that’s not exactly what the case is.

If the house owners are aware of what rising damp exactly is, how it occurs, and what the early signs of it are, then surely they can get rid of it without damaging their house in the first place.

So, today, we will focus on the signs of rising dampness and look into them in detail so that you can steer clear of this problem in its preliminary stages. Let’s get started, then!

A damp surveyor investigating the kitchen for dampness

What are Signs of Rising Damp?

Yes, damp comes all of a sudden, but it’s also true that it warns you first with some signs that it shows. When we say “all of a sudden”, it doesn’t mean that it happens overnight, but still, it occurs very fast, and most homeowners do not notice it.

To make sure you don’t miss it, there are some signs that can let you know if moisture or damp is actually happening in your house. So, let’s see what these signs are:

Wet Patches on the Walls

If your house has damp or wet patches on its walls, particularly on the ground level, increasing moisture is likely to be the cause. It occurs when moisture from the ground rises through the brick or masonry of your property’s walls by capillary action.

The lack of an efficient damp-proof course at the base of the wall increases the vulnerability to rising damp signs and moisture. It is critical to remember that rising damp is limited to the bottom floor and cannot develop on any other level of the home. If wetness appears on a floor higher than the ground level, it is likely that another damp issue, such as penetrating damp or condensation.

Therefore, wet, damp patches on any wall of the ground floor of the house, especially of bottom part, can be a sign of rising damp.

A damp surveyor greeting the house owner

Tidemarks or Stains on Walls

Rising damp is commonly visible as apparent tidal markings on walls, which arise from damp evaporation and salt migration from the bottom, increasing up to around one meter above the floor.

If the tide markings on external walls are still not clearly visible, another significant clue is recognising damp stains on the walls, which often have a brown or dark yellow tinge. Again, these stains are visible from the lowest portion of the wall to one meter above the floor, similar to tidal markings.

Notably, if the wetness exceeds one meter, it may indicate the existence of profound rising damp treatment process here. It is critical to use caution during the diagnostic process since rising damp and penetrating damp might coexist on the same area.

Peeling of Paintwork and Eradication of Wallpaper

The visible occurrence of peeling wallpaper or paint is one of the most visible symptoms of growing moisture in internal walls of the house. This occurrence is a direct result of the ongoing damp-related concerns, which lead to an increase in the overall moisture content of the walls.

The increased moisture levels, in turn, cause wallpaper or paint to separate from the wall surface. This separation is most noticeable around the skirting board or the lowest areas of the wall. Notably, the wallpaper also gets loose and starts peeling off slightly above the skirting board, with the edges bending away from the wall.

However, it is critical to realise that peeling wallpaper or paint is not always symptomatic of rising damp; it may also indicate the existence of condensation or penetrating damp concerns within the house. As a result, an accurate and complete diagnosis is required to determine the precise nature of the problem and, later, implement an appropriate repair specification to properly fix the underlying issue.

A damp expert investigating a room for dampness

Visible Salt-Like Powder Substance on the Walls

Capillary action, a mechanism that allows moisture to migrate upward through masonry, transfers salts from the ground delicately as it ascends the wall structure. These hygroscopic salts have the unique capacity to attract moisture from the surrounding environment, worsening damp-related issues in the walls.

The resulting impression includes the compromise of plaster. Further, when the moisture present on the wall dries, the salts emerge as a visible white coating on the surface. Therefore left untreated, rising damp not only causes wetness but also adds the complicated element of hygroscopic salts, demanding extensive remedial actions to correct.

Bubbling of Plasterwork

If you notice flaky or bubbling plaster, crumbling plaster, or the presence of powdery deposits on the walls adjacent to the ground floor of your prsoperty, it is possible that you have a damp problem, which could be characterised as rising damp.

The entry of moisture associated with rising damp has the potential to have a negative influence on the plaster decorating your walls, causing in significant damage and weakening, and occasionally dislodgement from the wall surface.

That, in turn, causes apparent visual damage to your house’s plastered exterior walls, potentially resulting in significant financial investment for property owners if corrective actions are not done promptly.

A damp surveyor checking mould and fungus in a room

Musty Smells in the House

Identifying evidence of rising damp within a house may be aided by olfactory signs, with one of the most apparent markers being the detectable smell of damp. Even when visible signs of wetness are not immediately obvious, the sense of smell is typically capable of detecting it.

The odour associated with wetness is typically described as an unpleasant combination of muskiness and moisture. However, if there are no apparent physical sign of damp in the house, determining the type of damp affecting the house becomes difficult, demanding the need for trained a damp specialist or surveyor.

Rotting in the House

If the problem of increasing moisture in your home goes unaddressed for an extended period of time, the potential consequences might include the rotting of skirting boards and flooring. This degradation is caused by an abundance of moisture, which promotes the commencement of a fungal attack on the underlying timber structures.

Rising damp, like other types of damp, has the potential to cause rotting in the timber it comes into touch with. House owners must be on the lookout for signs such as the appearance of cracks or the damage of timbers. Furthermore, visible fungal growth on skirting boards or flooring timbers may be a visual manifestation of rising damp in the house.

A damp surveyor taking dampness reading in a room

Appearance of Black Mould

The visible presence of black mould in the lower sections of your wall unmistakably indicates the presence of wetness. When there is visible black mould, it suggests the presence of a condensation problem.

However, if this problem reveals itself primarily on the lower section of the ground floor walls, it might be suggestive of a more significant issue, such as rising damp, needing a complete and comprehensive investigation.

A damp expert testing dampness in the house

Damaged Brickwork and Crumbling Mortar

Rising damp has a destructive effect on both the the interior walls and exterior sides of ground floor walls, where the breakdown of bricks and mortar can result in significant budgetary repercussions for repairing the things.

The loosening or disintegration of bricks and mortar caused by the harmful effects of rising damp creates pores, allowing more moisture to enter through the masonry. That, in turn, causes more damage to the inner walls. Fortunately, crumbling bricks or mortar may be identified through a process known popularly as fretting.

Also, a thorough examination of the cement joints is required when inspecting the exterior brickwork or masonry. The appearance of crumbling or powdery mortar, along with the collapse of the brick surface, is a vital sign that the brickwork is fretting, a condition caused by the infiltration of moisture and salt deposits. In its latter stages, the mortar within the joints may be eradicated, approaching a condition of absence.

A damp surveyor surveying dampness in a house

Rusting Iron or Steel

Prolonged and increased exposure to high moisture levels can cause rust to form in exposed iron and steel components. Corrosion of iron and steel fasteners may result in a significant deterioration of their structural integrity, lowering the overall security of the property.

The rusting of fasteners within the property, such as cavity wall ties, might result in a decline in their efficacy, aggravating the possible impact on the structural integrity of the entire structure. Therefore, if there’s something like this happening in your house, it might point towards the presence of rising damp.

Black mould stains and cracks on a wall due to damp

The Case of Misdiagnosing Rising Damp

It is critical for people to understand that signs of rising damp only appear on the ground level of houses that lack a practical damp proofing course. It is due to the upward rise of moisture from the exterior ground surface, which permeates the walls and causes damp-related difficulties in the structural integrity of the house.

If one has damp-related concerns on levels above the ground level, it is likely that they are dealing with penetrating damp, plumbing leaks, or a condensation problem.

Detecting the presence of rising damp can be difficult, especially for individuals without specialist knowledge. Untrained observers are prone to misinterpreting many damp indications, incorrectly tagging them as key rising damp signs, rather than detecting other damp types.

Before reaching a conclusion or investigating your house for rising damp, it is critical to carefully consider the following questions:

      • Is your plumbing faulty?

      • Is your Damp-Proof Course less than 20 years old?

      • Do your guttering and downpipes leak or have faults?

      • Are your gutters clean and free from blockages?

      • Is the brickwork or stonework damaged?

      • Do you see signs such as wet patches, stains, black mould, etc., in the house?

      • Is it a condensation issue?

    What’s Next?

    If you suspect that there is a rising damp issue going on in your house, call in for a damp surveyor immediately. Before beginning any restoration, a damp surveyor will do a thorough investigation of the affected area.

    This sophisticated method allows for a thorough diagnosis of the specific nature of the damp problem present in your house, allowing for the creation of a personalised plan for efficiently treating the issue.

    Advanced Damp Ltd. has skilled damp surveying specialists. We can perform a thorough damp survey of any property and the necessary repairing operations in a timely and cost-effective way.

    Rising damp restoration treatments are chosen based on the individual characteristics of the property and the current conditions. Depending on the scenario, this may include the delicate process of stripping wall fabric, repairing the existing damp-proof course (DPC), or even installing a new DPC.

    So, if your house has a potential rising damp issue going on in it, call Advanced Damp Ltd. right away.

    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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