Tell-tale signs there's damp in your walls

It may not be a very glamourous subject, but many old properties suffer with damp walls and ceilings. And for lots of homeowners this is just part and parcel of living in an old house. However, it can be just as much of an issue in modern homes. Whether your house is new or old, damp walls can cause further problems if left unchecked.

Not only do damp walls look unsightly, rooms can feel cold and unwelcoming too. Damp can also lead to an unhealthy living environment, which can be especially harmful for children and elderly residents as well as anyone with health issues. Plus, damp walls and ceilings can cause all kinds of structural issues and problems with the very fabric of the building.

In this post, we look at 5 tell-tale signs there’s damp in your walls (and how to tackle it!)

A musty smell

Rooms that suffer from damp usually have an unmistakable, musty smell caused by mould and mildew. This unpleasant odour can be a giveaway sign that there’s damp in your walls, even if you can’t always see it.

Peeling flaking paint image detail

Bubbling or peeling paint

Older properties were usually built using traditional, moisture permeable materials that let the walls ‘breathe’. When non-breathable building materials are used (such as modern plaster or vinyl paints), any moisture in the walls becomes trapped, as it has nowhere to escape to. This causes paint to bubble or flake. In modern homes, bubbling or peeling paint caused by damp is especially common in steamy areas with poor ventilation such as kitchens or bathrooms.


Black spots or discolouration


Condensation is caused by the lack of balance between heating and ventilation. If your room has an uneven balance, condensation can occur, causing mould spores and black spots to grow on walls. Not just an eye-sore, if left to spread black mould growth can exacerbate certain health issues and contribute to an unhealthy home.

Peeling flaking paint image

Cold walls

You might not be able to see the damp in your walls, especially if it’s covered by wallpaper, but one tell-tale sign is if areas of the wall feels unusually cold to touch. Walls usually feel colder by windows, doorways and chimneys, but these areas are also usually the first to show damp.


A high damp reading


If you’re still in doubt as to whether your property has damp in the walls and ceilings, one sure way to know for certain is to test the walls using a damp meter. You could call in a professional, or you can now easily buy damp meters online.

So once you’ve checked the signs, what should you do if there’s damp in your home? There are a number of simple solutions you can do yourself before getting help from the experts:

Ensure you have good ventilation

This is vital prevent condensation. Open windows and use extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens or anywhere that becomes steamy such as laundry rooms.

Use the right materials for the age of your home

Older properties were designed to breathe! So materials like lime plaster and breathable Claypaint should be used instead of non-breathable coverings that trap moisture. We’ve written more on that in this blogpost.

Insulate your home

Pipes, floorboards and loft spaces benefit from good insulation. You can get breathable insulation too, which won’t cause condensation.

Maintain your property

Checking and maintaining both the outside and inside of your home is vital for prevention and treatment of damp walls. For example, blown bricks and crumbling mortar can cause water ingress as can cracked render, broken guttering or leaking pipes, so should be checked regularly.

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