June 24, 2009

How Important is it to Damp Proof your Home?

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Damp-proofing your house is essential for any property that is at risk of perpetual dampness, which is basically any house that has never been damp-proofed. Damp infiltrates the foundation of the building and it can begin to disintegrate, grow mold, or infest mites, which can lead to various types of illness. Fortunately, several levels of recourse exist to help homeowners deal with the damp, which is especially prevalent among older houses that may have never received any type of damp-proofing, or newer homes that had the damp-proofing installed initially but haven’t had any updates or service checks in several years.

Will waterproofing the house protect from damp? Waterproofing is certainly an essential aspect of effective damp-proofing, but much of the moisture that collects is caused by water being directly absorbed into the foundation materials rather than becoming wet from an external source. Dampness requires its own particular set of treatments aside from standard waterproofing.

Damp can be caused in a variety of ways, most notably through a natural phenomenon known as capillary action, during which water from the earth is pulled up towards the ground level through porous surfaces, such as bricks. This is called rising damp, and can be identified by a salty white deposit on brickwork, most commonly in the basement or old buildings. Condensation, or moisture in the air, can cause damp, especially in the cold weather months. The excess moisture from condensation will cause mold to grow – check the corners of rooms, window panes, and in dark places, such as behind cabinets or dressers. In the case of mold, the mold spores themselves much be handled first, which involves washing the affected areas with anti-fungal solution or bleach. Leaks, especially leaky gutters, pipes, or roof are another leading cause of damp, which you can tell by the ring stains left on the wall. Maintaining efficient gutters is key; if your gutters become blocked by leaves, birds’ nests, or other debris, or if they have leaks or cracks, your gutters will probably leak, which can affect the interior walls. Be certain to clear the gutters every so often and patch up any holes that water may be dripping through.

Home damp can be dealt with through a variety of treatments. The simplest measures ought to be taken to prevent excess moisture in the house, for example, be sure to have an external vent hooked up to your dryer to allow the wetness to escape outside. Also, hang laundry on an outdoor line to dry, cover your pots and pans when cooking, and remove the teapot from the flame as soon as it reaches the boiling point. Leaving it on to boil will release steam into the air. Try to keep a small space between your furniture and the outdoor walls to eliminate moisture gathering in that area, causing mold spores.

As for treatment, rising damp is best treated by inserting a horizontal waterproof damp-proof course, called DPC, into the walls a few inches above the ground level, which will prevent the damp from rising into the house foundation. Then a vertical damp-proof course is placed between walls to block the water from flowing around the DPC. Because the DPC is a solid material, this particular method is best reserved for new buildings while in construction, being as it is virtually impossible to insert into the wall after the house already stands.

Chemical damp-proof, on the other hand, is quite a bit less invasive that with the DPC. The chemical matter is injected into the wall mortar close to the base and forms a liquid repellant, blocking the water from rising.

Another option is to insert porous damp-proof tubes made of clay into drilled-out holes in the base of the wall. This is the less expensive, though less reliable method of damp-proofing. Electro-osmotic damp-proof course uses electrical charges to counteract the rising damp and send the water back into the ground, while a solid floor damp-proof membrane is essential for newer homes with inexpensive concrete floors (rather than floating wooden floors, as in older houses). The damp can rise through the porous cement, so needs the damp-proof membrane to act as a barrier underneath, blocking the moisture.

One down side of damp-proofing your home is that it may possibly need to be updated every now and then. As your house settles into its foundation more and more over time, small cracks begin to form and the damp-proofing becomes faulted, allowing water to seep up and around the damp-proof material. This is where waterproofing is important, as having a good waterproof barrier already in place will cut down on the amount of unwanted moisture in your home. Waterproofing is also much more likely to survive slight shifts in the structure of the house, so, although the cost might be higher for waterproofing, in the end it is a worthwhile investment as it will last. Damp-proofing protects against certain types of seeping moisture, however, should your house be located in a flood-prone zone or an area that receives heavy rainfall, the standing water collecting around the house’s foundation may not be kept out by damp-proofing along, in which case waterproofing is essential.

If cost is what concerns you and complicates the choice between waterproofing or damp-proofing, consider having professionals install or update your damp-proofing, and purchase the waterproofing materials at the hardware store to protect your home against infiltrating water yourself. Also, keep a close eye on the tell-tale signs of excess moisture – mold, leak rings, and salt rims – to try and catch any leaks or dripping water before it becomes a huge problem. You will save money, and in the end know that your home is sufficiently guarded against unwanted moisture, water, and dampness.

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