Condensation

13th October 2017  |  12:00am

Condensation

Condensation in residential property can be a recurring problem, particularly where warm moist air is generated in areas like kitchens and bathrooms, which then penetrates to colder parts of the building. When air becomes cold it cannot hold on to all the extra moisture produced by everyday activities and so some of this moisture appears as small droplets of water, most noticeable on windows or where there is little movement of air. If not properly dealt with this extra 'dampness' can lead to mould growth on walls, furniture, window frames and even clothing.

 

Condensation and mould is a common problem, older properties tend to suffer more than newer built homes and rental properties are particularly prone. The problem is often a matter of degree; from a small patch of mould or discoloured wallpaper behind the wardrobe in the very top corner of a bedroom; to serious amounts of mould growth across walls and ceilings, inside wardrobes, on fabrics, clothing, furnishings, carpets and in basements.

 

Causes of mould growth from straightforward building defects are without doubt the landlord’s responsibility in a residential property, however by far the most common cause of mould growth is condensation.  The true cause of condensation based mould growth is often complex and a combination of several contributing factors.  It is sometimes caused by inadequacies in the building but very often the main cause of mould growth is the lifestyle of the tenant and the other occupants.

 

In a worst case scenario a property can experience damaged ceilings and walls, especially in kitchens and bathrooms, where the whole ceiling is blackened with large flaking patches if the tenant does not adequately control the level of condensation.

 

The average tenant produces condensation through cooking, washing, internal drying, etc.  Condensation can lead to mould, which is a serious problem because of the health risks associated with mould spores. The mould fungi have been identified as the source of many health issues, including infections, asthma, allergies and sinusitis. Mould produces allergens, irritants and in some cases toxins that may cause reactions.

 

All our tenants need to be aware of the potential problems which damp, excessive condensation and mould growth can cause and take the necessary steps to minimise the risks.

 

We appreciate it is unlikely that rented accommodation can be completely condensation free, even in a newly built property, however by tenants keeping the property maintained and thinking about their lifestyles it should be relatively easy to control condensation to acceptable levels.

 

 

How to identify condensation

 

Condensation is not the only cause of damp. It can also come from:

  • Leaking pipes, wastes or overflows.
  • Rain seeping through the roof where a tile or slate is missing, spilling from a blocked gutter, penetrating around window frames, or leaking through a cracked pipe.
  • Rising damp due to a defective damp-course or because there is no damp-course.
  • If the property is newly built it may be damp as the plaster is still drying out.

 

These causes of damp often leave a 'tidemark' and you should inform us immediately so we can have the necessary repairs carried out to remove the source of damp.

 

If the property is damp for any of these reasons it may take weeks of heating and ventilating to dry out and hiring a dehumidifier will help.

 

If you do not think the damp comes from any of these cause, it is probably condensation.

 

How to avoid condensation

 

Damp can cause mould on walls and furniture and cause window frames to rot. Damp cold housing encourages the growth of mould and mites, as mites feed on moulds and can increase the risk of respiratory illness in some people. Some damp is caused by condensation.

 

These tips will help you to keep condensation to a minimum and reduce the risk of dampness and mould growth in the property.

 

  • Treat any existing mould in the property by wiping down walls, ceilings, windows and surfaces with a fungicidal wash. Ensure the product you select carries a Health and Safety Executives 'approval number' and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Dry-clean any mildewed fabrics and clothing and shampoo all carpets, (disturbing mould by brushing or vacuum cleaning can increase the risk of respiratory problems). If any areas of the property require re-painting you will need to obtain written confirmation from your landlord to decorate with a good quality fungicidal paint to help prevent the mould reoccurring.
  • Dry all windows, sills and any other surfaces which may become wet on a daily basis. Ensure you wring out the cloth thoroughly after use and never dry this on a radiator.
  • Keep the interior temperature of the property at a reasonably constant level at all times, even when the property is unoccupied.
  • Check the entire property regularly for any leaking pipes, wastes or overflows, rain seeping through the roof where a tile or slate may be missing or dislodged, spilling from external pipes or guttering, water penetrating around window and door frames or any suspected signs of rising damp. Advise us immediately of any necessary repairs.
  • Always hang your laundry outside, if this is not possible you could hang it in the bathroom with the door closed and window slightly open or the extractor fan switched on for ventilation. Never dry laundry on radiators as this will add to the moisture already in the air. If you use a tumble dryer, ensure this is well ventilated to the outside or that it is a new condensing type.
  • Whilst cooking always cover pots and pans with lids and ventilate the kitchen when in use, either by opening a window slightly or by using the extractor fan.
  • Allow adequate space for air to circulate in and around your furniture. Open doors to ventilate cupboards and wardrobes. Always close kitchen and bathroom doors when these rooms are in use. Never block permanent ventilators, chimneys or windows.
  • Keep a small window ajar or trickle ventilator open at all times. Ventilate both kitchens and bathrooms for at least twenty minutes after every use and if you have an extractor fan make sure you use it. Advise us immediately if the fan is faulty.
  • If the property is prone to condensation then daily use of a dehumidifier unit can be very beneficial.Dehumidifier units come in all shapes and sizes, cost very little to run and draw out the excess moisture from the air helping to keep condensation under control.
  • Avoid using paraffin or flueless bottled gas heaters, as one gallon of gas or paraffin produces about a gallon of water.
  • Condensation channels and sponge strips may be purchased at DIY shops. They can be fitted to windows to collect condensation and help prevent window frames from rotting, and avoid damp forming under sills. Care must be taken to fit these devices correctly.