How to banish damp

The high level of rainfall in many areas this summer has brought to the fore the home maintenance problems that can be caused by the presence of damp.

Outdoors, the worst effect of damp is to cause walls to become waterlogged and collapse, but before that it usually also causes plaster and paint to bubble, burst and flake off. Indoors, it will cause a musty smell to pervade cupboards, rooms or even the whole house, and in severe cases cause unsightly mold and falling tiles in showers, bathrooms, laundries and kitchens.

Indeed, says Martin Schultheiss, CEO of Harcourts Africa, damp needs to be taken seriously and treated properly, otherwise it will be a continuing source of discomfort and even illness to the homeowner - and a severe deterrent to potential tenants or buyers of the property.

“Serious rising damp from the foundations will of course require the services of damp proofing specialists, but homeowners can do much themselves to prevent damp from other sources getting a grip.

“They can, for example, ensure that there is no loose flashing on the roof and that the gutters aren’t clogged up or broken. Downpipes must be angled to direct water away from the house and runoff from the garden should also be channelled away.”

Homeowners should also check for ill-fitting windows and doorframes, plumbing leaks and damp patches around small cracks in the wall, all of which can be relatively easily repaired with insulation, filler and damp-proof paint.

“Indoors, however, the biggest problem is like to be condensation rather than water seeping in,” says Schultheiss, “and the best course is to achieve better ventilation, perhaps by unblocking airbricks or installing an extractor fan to get rid of steam in a bathroom or kitchen.

“In South Africa we are also very fortunate in that our homes are generally not sealed up against the weather as they are in Europe or many parts of the US, so we can still open doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate – and that is still one of the best ways to get rid of a musty smell and prevent mold from forming.”

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