Damp: How to detect it before you move in?

The process of buying a house can be daunting. There are so many steps individuals need to take to successfully complete the homebuying process and thus being allowed to move into your desired property. However, for the uninitiated, damp can be a problem based on a failure of comprehension.

Damp is a structural problem which can be fixed. Nonetheless, one needs to identify this issue before agreeing to purchase, or even let, the property in question. This article will outline a series of approaches a first-time buyer can take to better protect themselves when detecting damp in their dream home!

Damp has serious negative connotations. Buyers view damp as a serious problem. The statistics on buyers pulling out due to damp illustrate the seriousness of the damp problem for both homeowners and homebuyers. Which? found that 61% of property purchases fall through due to damp – which leads to homebuyers losing, on average, £2,899 due to the sale collapse. A lot, therefore, rides on homebuyers to detect damp before starting the formal procedures – a survey is the costliest way of discovering damp. All homebuyers should have a full property survey conducted. However, there are ‘tell-tale’ signs of damp that homebuyers can identify when they first start to look at new homes.

There are four ‘types’ of damp a homebuyer must look out for:

Rising Damp – This is perhaps the most worrisome form of damp and the one with the worst reputation. However, there are ways of identifying it without a full survey – helping you to save money. By using visual and tactile forms of investigation, a buyer can identify rising damp within a property. For example, on ground floor walls, if you can see a ‘tidal mark’, like water marks on a harbour wall during a low tide, you can physically see the residual impact of rising damp. The other way is to touch the affected area – if the plasterwork is damp or discoloured you can feel the rising damp within the structure. In terms of smell, you will notice a musty, damp somewhat mouldy smell which will linger.

Lateral Damp – this ‘type’ of damp is less well known but signs of this damp should not be overlooked. You should look at the walls – especially interior main walls for inward infected damp from key points of access like broken gutters, roof tiles or chimneys. This type of damp can appear in any location due to the source of the damp in question. Identifying this type of damp is about looking for ‘tell-tale’ signs of damage – like wet plaster, mildew and damp patches on ceilings/wall points. You will be able to smell the musty mildew damp in advance – yet it will be different that rising damp.

Penetrating Damp – This is an exterior form of damp that affects the outer structure of the property. This damp can be physically viewed by looking at brickwork and seeing signs of damp on exposed brickwork/mortar. This type of damp can lead to the interior forms of damp and affects the physical attributes of the exterior – like doors, windows and other decorations. Hence, repairing penetrating damp can be incredibly costly.

Condensation – this is an often-overlooked form of dampness. It is usually overlooked because houses suffer condensation due to the activities within certain locations within the property – like kitchens, bathrooms etc. – which mean buyers are used to seeing condensation in these areas. However, when exploring a property to purchase you need to look past this and look at water vapour in an objective way. ‘Tell-tale’ signs like black mould is a visual cue that the property has poor ventilation and that such mould can cause health issues for younger and older people.

By taking the time to evaluate these different contextual experiences, property buyers can leverage against any nasty surprises once the results of the survey are concluded. By looking for these basic signs, you could save thousands later. So, always look for the ‘tell-tale’ signs of lateral, penetrative, and rising damp whilst also evaluating the ventilation to counter condensation within your future dream home.