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Mould in dry bedroom

(22 Posts)
1charlie1 Wed 23-Oct-13 17:18:52

Hi all. DH and I rent a one bed, top floor flat. The interior of the flat is ok, but the exterior structure is pretty dire, and very unmaintained by the landlord.

Late last year, we had water entering our bedroom from outside - rivers running down two corners of the room, soaking into the carpet and widely staining the surrounding wall - and it took the landlord 8 months to respond to our initial contact about this problem. Someone was finally sent to fix it (damaged drainpipes and no protective flashing on the exterior), about 6 months ago. The workman at the time mentioned that the bedroom wall was freezing to the touch, and that there was no insulation in the wall, just plain brick. This helped explain to DH and I why our bedroom is always very cold, and completely impervious to the radiator!

Fastforward to the last few weeks, and mould is growing at a rapid rate, particularly along the lengths of the corners where the water had 'rivered'. The humidity in the room is normal (low end of normal, between 30-35%), as checked with a hygrometer. I'm having to wipe it every few days, and was horrified yesterday to see it growing in our built in wardrobe (on the same uninsulated wall, which forms part of the cupboard. The other two 'interior' walls in the cupboard are fine. Sadly, many of my clothes now have a hideous mouldy smell, and the washing machine is working overtime...)

The agent sent a bloke around today to have a look, and he said the problem is the unusually cold wall combined with a relatively warm room. His only solution was that a vent would have to be put in the wall. I asked if this meant that the cold room was not going to be even colder over winter, and he said, 'Sadly, yes. But that's all I can do.' Seriously?? Does anyone have any other suggestions - special paint or ANYTHING else? We already have those pop-up vents in our double-glazed window -and they're always kept 'popped up' to keep the air circulating.

It seems as though the bedroom is currently uninhabitable due to mould, but the alternative is to render it uninhabitable due to extreme cold. Or should I just accept that it will be extra blankets and coats on the bed until our lease is up?

1charlie1 Wed 23-Oct-13 17:21:24

Argh, wish there was an edit function: 'I asked if this meant that the cold room was now going to be even colder over winter, and he said, 'Sadly, yes...'

HelpfulChap Wed 23-Oct-13 17:30:04

The only other alternative i can think of is a dehumidifier which will suck excess moisture out of the air. You may be able to buy specialist paint that helps. Or, just occurred to me, you can by those crystals/granules that also absorb moisture & can be out under beds/behind furniture. They have them on Amazon & all DIY stores.

Mould loves it if you have furtniture up against a cold outside wall but for most of us, there really isn't a viable alternative.

nancy75 Wed 23-Oct-13 17:41:14

don't bother with crystals, get a dehumidifier. you need anti fungal wash to clean the mould that is on the wall and then use a dehumidifier to keep the air in the room dry, and never dry your washing on a radiator!

Toffi Wed 23-Oct-13 17:51:09

not sure if this will be helpful but you can get paint additives for mould control it would mean washing the mould off with strong bleach (be aware mould spores spread through air so disturbance can make it spread) then mixing a mould additive to paint prob better off using bathroom or kitchen paint as its more protective again but once you have cleaned the area it needs to be dried using dehumidifier before repainting or you can ask your landlord to reboard/dryline the problem walls

1charlie1 Wed 23-Oct-13 17:52:00

Thanks for your rapid replies! The only thing is - the air in our flat is very dry. Humidity in a house should be between 30 - 50%, to keep a house and its inhabitants 'healthy.' We bought a hygrometer to check our flat - it barely gets above 30%. There is no excess damp in the air - the mould is only on the ONE wall in the entire property where freezing brick meets 'warm' interior. The problem is the lack of insulation in the wall, but the landlord would never consent to serious structural alterations, even though it's obvious that the poor quality of the building is causing the problem.

It's not your conventional scenario, where the tenant is cooking, showering and drying clothes in a sealed environment- resulting in high air humidity. Those activities only manage to raise our humidity to 35% at best! Our flat is dry... Will definitely get anti-fungal wash, have been using antiseptic wipes because I'm pregnant and trying to avoid too many chemicals. Will get DH to do it!

1charlie1 Wed 23-Oct-13 17:57:18

Thanks, Toffi, that's helpful stuff. The workman didn't even suggest repainting, so I will gather information into an email and send it to the agent. The paint on the walls here isn't even proper paint - it's undercoat. Even in the kitchen. An accidental splash of the wall as you pop the teabag in the bin means brown stains forevermore... Counting the days before our lease expires!

nancy75 Wed 23-Oct-13 20:25:00

op if you are pregnant get your dh to wash the mould off and tell him to wear a mask.
Don't wash it with bleach, you need anti fungicidal wash, good decorating suppliers sell it for about £8 per bottle - you will only need 1 bottle.
We have tried the additive in the paint, it doesn't really work.

I know you have said you checked humidity but unless the water is coming in through the wall your only solution is to use a dehumidifier or keep your windows open.

Most buildings have a cold wall, it is the side of the house that the sun hits late in the day.
We have had massive damp problems in our house. Ours is mainly in our bedroom - like you we don't dry washing upstairs or do anything that would cause excess moisture (or so I thought!) Since last year we have been using a dehumidifier - i am amazed at the amount of water it collects.

1charlie1 Thu 24-Oct-13 20:33:17

Thanks for that info, Nancy. Right, we will try the wash, and then the dehumidifier before we try anything else. And DH will be doing the wash!

nancy75 Thu 24-Oct-13 21:32:12

1charlie1, when you buy the stuff to wash it make your dh buy a packet of face masks, they are only cheap and again a good decorating shop will sell them (just disposable ones are fine) when you wash the mould it releases the spores into the air and can cause infections if you breathe it in. when he has finished wash all the clothes he was wearing on a hot wash. Throw away the cloths he uses to wash it too and he needs rubber gloves!

3xM Thu 24-Oct-13 21:41:27

Your landlord has an obligation to keep the property in a habitable condition. If he is not doing this (which is what it sounds like) then I would advise you to contact your local authority's private sector rented team for advice.

GrandPoohBah Thu 24-Oct-13 23:02:33

Mould is a lifestyle issue. Quite often poor/badly thought out build quality is an issue, but it is down to lifestyle (unlike the water coming in problems). The problem with the wall is that it's providing somewhere suitable for the natural moisture produced by 'life' to condense. I suspect that an airbrick wouldn't make much difference to the temperature of the room, but it would help. Do you have trickle vents in your windows? Also, pull all furniture at least an inch away from the walls, it allows for better airflow.

CallMeNancy Thu 24-Oct-13 23:09:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GrandPoohBah Thu 24-Oct-13 23:13:11

As long as it's not a maintenance issue (flashing, pointing, gutters, down pipes), the Mgt Co won't be able to do anything. If your LL wants to put in an airbrick then they'll need to apply for a Letter License for the alteration.

1charlie1 Sat 26-Oct-13 11:39:30

Hi all, thanks again for your advice, it's really helpful. GrandPoohBah, this mould is definitely not a lifestyle issue. It is caused by a meeting of uninsulated external wall with relatively warm interior (I say 'relatively' because the bedroom is 5 degrees colder than the rest of the house because of the poor insulation, it's bloody freezing in there!) The mould is limited to one wall, which is not obstructed by furniture, and has 'sprouted' where there was water running down the interior wall due to broken guttering and absent flashing outside. The water just ran into our bedroom after rainfall, and the landlord had to be pressured to even send someone to look at it. It took 8 months of complaints for him to take action. I have said before, the air in the flat is extremely dry - the humidity barely reaches normal levels (I would suspect this is a further consequence of the poor structure of the building overall.)

He owns all the properties along our side of the street, and it's no surprise that they are all in poor structural condition! As I've said, the wall is just brick, with no cavity/ insulation. We are just hanging in until the end of our lease, but want to stay safe until we can get out of here, and some other poor person signs a contract to live here...

PigletJohn Sat 26-Oct-13 14:25:47

A built-in wardrobe on an external wall ijn a bedroom is very liable to condensation, even where the wall was not already damp due to the earlier leak. The closed wardrobe will prevent enough warm air getting inside to warm it, but moist air will diffuse in.

A vent will allow cold dry air from outside to lower the moisture content of the air in the wardrobe, especially if you keep it closed to prevent air leakage in and out of the room.

Your low Relative Humidity reading is only accurate at warm room temperatures. As the temperature drops, the same water content in the air gives a higher RH.

I suspect the wall is already too wet. Putting a room fan to blow air onto a wet wall usually helps it dry out, but that would have worked in summer, not now that you have condensation. If you don't want a vent, a low power electric heater (nothing with a red-hot element like a convector or fan heater, but you could use a Pipe heater or a very small oil-filled rad set a low setting) would warm the inside of the wardrobe and its dry heat will help the wall surface to be slightly less cold, hence less prone to condensation. Oil filled radiators of 500W power can be bought for about £20 and will cost 7p per hour to run, although if you turn its thermostat down it will not run continuously. Try it at full for a couple of days and then gradually reduce it until its drying effect fades. A long, low heater is best.

If you expect to move out soon, you could also line the wall inside the wardrobe with polystyrene, Kingspan or Celotex insulation slabs, at least an inch thick. You have to totally cover the wall with no air gaps where moist room air can contact the wall. You can get these slabs at DIY sheds or builders merchants. You may be able to carry slabs 600mm x 2400mm but they will break if you put them on a roof rack. You can cut them with a breadkife. Covering the wall will prevent it drying out when summer comes, and mould may grow behind them, so take them down and clean the wall before your leaving inspection.

TheLeftovermonster Mon 28-Oct-13 11:22:05

Looks like the plaster is damp and that is causing the mould. Not sure you can dry it out sufficiently with an electric heater.
Can you persuade the landlord to re-plaster?

PigletJohn Mon 28-Oct-13 11:30:52

It sounds to me more like the brickwork is wet, so putting on new plaster (which is wet) will not help. A 9" brick wall takes about 9 months to dry. a cavity wall will dry faster.

1charlie1 Mon 28-Oct-13 20:16:20

Thank you PigletJohn, we're going to get a little radiator to help things along as you suggested. I really do appreciate all the help I've been given on this thread, I'm much less depressed about it now! And I think you're right that the bricks are wet - the paint on the exterior is very puckered, and the brick itself looks damaged and crumbly in places.

PigletJohn Mon 28-Oct-13 20:35:58

try to remember to post back in a month and say if/how it worked.

If not, my next suggestion would be a small dehumidifier in the wardrobe, which I think would be rather more expensive and noisy.

1charlie1 Thu 21-Nov-13 19:25:24

Hi all. I wanted to update this thread, as I was very grateful for all your suggestions when I originally posted. Sadly, nothing has improved as it appears that water is once again entering the bedroom from the exterior. There's wide water staining in the corner Iintermittent, and worse when it rains), all the way from ceiling to floor, just like last time. It doesn't seem to be 'flowing' i.e. we used to be able to stick our fingers in the corner and have the water stream around our finger, but it's properly wet to the touch. As you can imagine, the room is freezing.

So given the complete lack of interest from the agent, there's no point in doing anything other than moving out, which we're doing in less than a month, thank god. We've obviously taken photos and sent them off - as we usually do - and received no response from the agent/ landlord - as is also usual. There are new tenants moving in as soon as we leave, and I do feel bad for them... and to add insult to injury, the rent has been increased by £30 per month for the new tenants... yay for the property boom.

Anyway, sorry I couldn't update with more satisfying news, but thank you very much for your suggestions.

NappyValleyMum Mon 24-Mar-14 15:47:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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