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Please help:( - don't know where to start with damp problem

(34 Posts)
ThereMustAndShallBeTea Wed 31-Dec-14 17:59:10

We live in a 60s (probably) ex council red brick semi. Our bedroom is upstairs, furthest from the party wall and the shorter external wall has horrific mould all over it. Most of the wall is covered with a massive Ikea wardrobe, there is also a small constantly damp window. Other walls are fine.

The house was flooded for a while before we moved in and damp course people did mention damp might be an issue but on completely different ground floor wall (which is fine, although we didn't get damp course put in).

Haven't been outside to check whether gutter is leaking but damp is only in our room. Similarly, there was a pipe running along the bottom of the affected wall to an outside loo (now demolished) but would expect this to leak down rather than up.

DH thinks it's just condensation from us breathing at night that's condensing on the wall. He's put some foam camping mats behind the wardrobe to partly fill the gap and thinks it's fine. I don't think he realises how much mould there is and feel as though it's being left to me to worry about/sort out and am feeling completely overwhelmed. I don't even know where to start. Also, we're broke. Any suggestions, please?

MeAndMySpoon Wed 31-Dec-14 18:42:29

I would first of all, try and move that huge wardrobe. We have similar problems with large slabs of furniture up against exterior walls (we live in a 20's house, not suitable for cavity insulation, but your house almost certainly will be). DS1's Ikea bed has a big solid end (it's the mid-sleeper one) which is up against the exterior wall and I have to remember to move it every so often and swab anti-mildew spray behind it. sad Luckily nobody here has asthma. If you have large bits of furniture up against cold walls, you WILL get condensation trapped because of lack of air flow. Stuffing camping mattresses won't do anything whatsoever apart from get mildew on your mattresses too. (can you bung them under the double bed? Ours are in the shed - it's a PITA having to store them flat and unrolled, isn't it? grin)

We also had/have a problem with an upper floor room and damp wall - it's another exterior wall and there were problems with next-door's guttering and drainpipe hopper being full of silt. The council came and drained it out and I really hope that changes things. I think water was cascading down the side of our house and penetrating the stucco.

Also, make sure your windows are cracked open even in cold weather, to allow condensation to escape, and if you have those little slidey vents in the windows, make sure they're open. A little draft is a pain, but it really helps with damp.

Get a dehumidifier? I'm about to buy one, not sure which sort yet...

MeAndMySpoon Wed 31-Dec-14 18:44:01

Was going to say, check if there are any grants you can get, either from government or private companies, to get cavity wall insulation. It might make a lot of difference.

Lifesalemon Wed 31-Dec-14 18:45:20

My partner regularly gets asked similar questions in his line of work and he says if the damp is only behind the wardrobe it is usually caused by air not being able to circulate and would advise pulling the wardrobe further away from the wall to allow more air to get behind it. If the mould is already quite extensive you may also need to treat the wall with a mould killer and give it a coat or two of anti mould paint to get rid of it first and then move the wardrobe further away from the wall to prevent it returning in the future.

Fairylea Wed 31-Dec-14 18:57:44

We have similar problems in our house. Never lived in a house like it and doing everything we should be doing! We have now given up having any wardrobes against certain walls and have even taken to removing the backs off a couple to allow the air to circulate more - we have nailed some planks of wood across the back instead for strength. In the dcs rooms we have plastic craft type sets of drawers otherwise they just go mouldy.

We open windows everyday, have a dehumidifier, re did the roof thinking that would solve it (£3k worth of work that made no difference whatsoever).

Absolutely hate this house and will be selling it in the next year or so. All our paint is peeling off upstairs and we don't even dry washing indoors!

Awful. I hate condensation.

ThereMustAndShallBeTea Wed 31-Dec-14 20:01:46

Thanks so much for the replies, even if I don't like the answers! Glad to hear so many MNers are having as exciting a NYE as me wink

Moving the wardrobe on a regular basis is going to be impossible - it's a massive Pax thing, huge and weighs a ton. The foam camping mattresses were actually an attempt to fill in the gap behind it so that damp couldn't get trapped in there - is this not going to work even if we redo it a little less half-arsedly?

Only other reasonable option is to rearrange the room completely so that the wardrobe is against an internal wall, and put the bed plus couple of bedside table against the external walls - presume that that wont be such an issue as much smaller pieces of furniture?

Will look into the cavity insulation thing too, thanks.

Thank you very much, feeling a little less despondent now.

MeAndMySpoon Wed 31-Dec-14 21:44:36

OP, I'd definitely just move the wardrobe so it's no longer against the cold wall. Ideally, you wouldn't have anything against the cold exterior wall at all, including your bed (brrr). (horrible memories of my slightly damp and non-cavity walled student house, where my bed was up against the exterior wall and the duvet would get damp.) But it is impossible to have a liveable room that doesn't have furniture against one wall, isn't it? DS1's room has two external walls and it does my head in.

Nope, definitely don't fill in the gap with anything except air! grin As another poster said upthread, air needs to circulate in order to reduce condensation that just stays there. The more you stuff in there, the worse the damp and mildew will get. Try it and see. :-/

We have most of our clothes on a hanging rail in DS2's bedroom because this daft house has no built-in wardrobes or cupboards and after only 4 years in the house hmm we still haven't had the rail converted into a fitted wardrobe thing. Main reason being skint and rubbish at doing stuff that the damp patch makes me very nervous of boxing it in with my clothes. As it is, we have to make sure the clothes are a good foot off that wall, otherwise we get wet wall and mildew. Honestly, you do not want to bung stuff up against your cold damp wall.

ThereMustAndShallBeTea Wed 31-Dec-14 23:09:04

Wow, British Gas may well give us cavity and loft insulation for free :D I've gone from down in the dumps to positively upbeat!

Abra1d Wed 31-Dec-14 23:22:43

Not sure cavity and loft insulation are always the best solution to damp.

Abra1d Wed 31-Dec-14 23:28:46

Sorry, pushed post too soon.

We had new double glazing installed last year. We are more insulated as a result, but have to be even more vigilant about damp. Windows opened every day, regardless of temperature. We always sleep with slightly opened windows, even in freezing weather. No wet clothes drying in the house. Extractor fans running for ages. But I am about to throw out 30 books that were stored by some north-facing windows and have mildew. They are books I rely on for research for my work, but I cannot risk them triggering asthma in my daughter, who is very sensitive to moulds.

I am not convinced that insulating the loft and walls would not create even more problems.

ThereMustAndShallBeTea Thu 01-Jan-15 12:10:21

Yikes! Really interesting site, thanks for sharing.

PigletJohn Thu 01-Jan-15 13:29:47

That's a rather poor article.

Insulation, and increased temperatures, do not generate extra water.

However, cavity wall insulation means that the inside surface of walls is warmer. The first effect will be that all the water that soaked into the walls from condensation on the cold surface in the past will now start to dry out, and may lead to steamy windows and other signs of increased humidity. The remedy is to increase ventilation to let that water vapour out. Also, with the inside walls being warmer, instead of the water vapour condensing on the walls, and soaking in, where you might not have noticed it, it will find another cold surface to condense on, often windows or in the cold loft. Invariably, the way to get rid of excess water vapour at low cost, is to increase ventilation (there are also high-cost alternatives).

The two things that will increase humidity when you improve your insulation and draughtproofing, are (1) careless installation of loft insulation which blocks the eaves and prevents airflow and (2) sealing windows to prevent draughts (=airflow=ventilation) which previously let cold dry air in, and took warm moist air out. Additionally, some homes have defective brickwork, render or pointing allowing rainwater into the cavity. Insulation companies can be forced to remove, at their own expense, cavity fill they have installed in defective walls, so they are now mostly very reluctant to take the risk, unless the defects are fixed first.

Old wooden windows, especially sliding sash, and fireplaces with open chimneys, are wonderful in an open house. They do however cause enormous draughts, which ventilate your house and keep it tolerably dry, and intolerably cold. If you cure the draughts, you have to provide a replacement source of ventilation. This can best be provided at source of moisture, so a powerful extractor in the bathroom, especially, and in the kitchen, and use of windows or vents in bedrooms, are required in homes that are draughtproofed to modern standards. Unfortunately there are some people who have an aversion to ventilation, and refuse to open windows or turn on extractors. Very sadly, trickle vents on replacement windows are not obligatory.

PigletJohn Thu 01-Jan-15 13:36:18

the author also repeatedly refers to "Cavity walls full of fluffy paper or cotton" which is simply untrue.

I have no idea if "Email us here for more information on Humidity Contol Equipment." conceals a commercial arrangement.

HopeClearwater Thu 01-Jan-15 13:54:28

I would move the wardrobe away from the damp wall. I lost a pile of clothes to mould and mildew this way. They were on the bottom of the wardrobe, next to the damp corner of the room. The back on the wardrobe did not protect them. I now use a dehumidifier daily - this has made a massive difference to the damp problems (I also use a hygrometer from Amazon to keep an eye on the humidity level) and open windows every day to ventilate the house.

TheLeftovermonster Thu 01-Jan-15 17:10:57

There are ways to insulate a wall internally, maybe that will help?

Abra1d Thu 01-Jan-15 19:16:15

I wish we had more powerful bathroom extractors. We have upgraded one. Re the wooden windows--they are better at letting in drafts, but once you get moisture trickling down a window pane onto the wood, they can get very rotten. It used to take me a good half an hour a morning to wipe them clean. And that's in a house with open chimneys and windows open at late.

Jeff Howell (in the article) is a Telegraph home improvements journalist. He's been around donkey's years.

PigletJohn Thu 01-Jan-15 19:55:35

if you can access a space above the bathroom ceiling, you can use a ducted inline fan, which can be about three times as powerful, and quieter, than an ordinary 100mm fan.

As they are relatively large and unsightly, they can also be concealed in an airing cupboard or other space, if there is no usable loft.

Bellejessleo Thu 01-Jan-15 20:39:24

Could you look at having a radiator put on the cold wall? That may solve the problem. We had similar issues with exterior walls and wardbrobes, damp and mould are so depressing!

ThereMustAndShallBeTea Thu 01-Jan-15 22:15:07

We had all the plumbing etc redone when we bought the place three years ago so don't fancy moving a radiator now.

Have realised that the damp wall is north facing.

Going to swap the room around so there's little against the affected wall (including stripping all the paper off it and redecorating, as it has camping mattresses glued to it as well as the mould!) and try to leave the windows open and see if that helps.

InsertUsernameHere Thu 01-Jan-15 22:40:16

In addition to all the really good advice from piglet, I note you said you hadn't been outside. Do go outside and look. My parents had a nasty damp patch that was caused by a loose piece of wire that was causing water to run down it (and bypassing the gutter) and run straight into the brick work. I was amazed at the amount of damage a stray old aerial cable could do.

EleanorRugby Sat 03-Jan-15 19:09:44

We had this problem when we had wardrobes up against an exterior wall in our Victorian end of terrace. The room and things in thwe wardrobe used to stink of mildew. We re-arranged the furniture and bought new wardrobes (IKEA pax ones) which we placed against an interior wall and there has been no new damp/condensation. I feel your pain at the thought of moving a pax wardrobe, they are really heavy and bulky!

EleanorRugby Sat 03-Jan-15 19:14:10

I should also add that as you are suggesting to do, we now have our bed and bedside tables up against the offending external wall. (only place they could go). We have left a good few inches gap and all seems ok.

crapcrapcrapcrap Sat 03-Jan-15 19:17:40

Had this problem due to a blocked gutter. Cleared it out, moved the furniture, made sure windows were vented and bought a dehumidifier.

Now the windows are wiped down every morning to remove the water, then opened for half an hour. In the evenings I run the dehumidifier. No more mould smile

crapcrapcrapcrap Sat 03-Jan-15 19:19:05

Also don't put any furniture hard against the wall - leave a gap of an inch or two at least.

ThereMustAndShallBeTea Sun 04-Jan-15 17:31:25

Thanks all. Have had a look outside and can't see anything amiss. Have realised it's a north facing wall that never gets any sun so probably colder than the rest of the house too.

Am keeping the heating on low all week as an experiment so hopefully that will help dry it out a bit and have been opening both the windows too. Operation shifting enormous furniture is weekend after next ...

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