The Distressing Problem Of Damp - And What To Do About It

A freelance contribution from Gemma Hunt

The thing about water pipes is that they carry water. And the thing about broken water pipes is that they spill a whole load of water all over your house. Damp is one of the most common problems (if not THE most common) that comes as a side effect of broken plumbing, and it can be very distressing for any homeowner or tenant. However, there is no need to panic. With a little know-how and a lot of patience, any damp remaining after the plumber has been and fixed the problem can and will be dealt with.

Getting On Top Of The Issue

Perhaps the very best way of making sure that you don’t have problems with damp is catching and fixing the leak as soon as possible. Obviously this isn’t always an option—some leaks are particularly insidious, and may drip away quietly for weeks or months before the smell of mold or damp patches on the carpet or ceiling alert you to the problem. In these cases, you need to make a comprehensive check in order to ascertain the scale of the damage. Water not only acts as an erosive force, it also makes you property a deeply attractive habitat for some nasty smelling and nasty acting varieties of fungus. Check the stability of any affected floors and walls – and don’t panic if you find damage that seems beyond your scope. Everything is fixable, and problems often look a lot worse than they actually are. It’s not uncommon for people to peer into a damp cavity and find wood liberally furred with mold. It looks dreadful but—once the mold is killed and removed - the structure is very often perfectly intact!

Be Prepared

The best protection against the potential for water and mold to cause damage to your property’s structure and its contents, is to insure your home adequately. While it’s often easier than it seems to fix, flood damage may need the professional touch, which can be expensive. Furthermore, if any electrical items like televisions or laptops have been water-damaged, they will almost certainly need replacing. If you have contents cover, then this could save you a lot of money in the event that happens or if water gets into and irrevocably damages soft furnishings, paintings, books, and so forth. DO NOT attempt to fix any electrical circuits or items yourself—if water has got into your house’s electrical sockets or circuits, switch off the power at the mains and call an electrician immediately.  With electrical items, switch them off, dry them out, and either take them to the repair shop or replace them. 

Dry Out Your Home

Drying out your home is actually not as difficult as it sounds, and, while it may all seem dreadful at the time, you’ll often find that a lot of your structural assets will be as right as rain once they’re dry. Wood may swell while it’s wet, but it subsides into its normal formation again as soon as it’s dry. Plaster is a bit more tricky and can be loosened by water damage—but plaster damage is not usually a threat to the structure itself, and can be easily rectified through the attentions of a plasterer. However, you can worry about repairing the damage later. In the immediate aftermath of a flood, the important thing is to dry out the property. Doing so is all about getting air currents to flow effectively. Turning up the heat and opening windows will help water both to evaporate from a damp structure, and to escape into the atmosphere outside. If you do not have any windows open while your heating is up, the damp will evaporate, but the drying of the property will take a lot longer as it will continually condense within the structure itself.

Air The Property

You can help to make sure that your damp property is getting a good airing by doing things like lifting carpets and opening cupboard doors. If your carpet is damp, it may be a good idea to go over it with some carpet cleaning equipment, which usually have a water-removal system attached. This will at least speed the process. Lifting the carpet will allow air (and therefore water) to circulate around damp floorboards and reduce the chances of mold growing in carpeting felt etc. Opening cupboard doors similarly improves the flow of air through the property, allowing damp to evaporate and dissipate more effectively. Should you have water trapped in ceilings or walls, it is imperative to remove this through the drilling of ventilation holes—but if you are not comfortable doing this, it is probably best left to a professional!

Don't Panic!

Above all, do not worry. Your home will probably smell a bit damp for a while—but, once the drying is completed, the smell does go away! Any structural damage can be mended and so long as the original problem is fixed, everything should be right as rain (probably a poor choice of phrase…) in no time!