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How to spot damp in a new home

How to spot damp in a new home

Your clothes won’t dry properly, there’s a constant musty smell and your breathing isn’t as easy as usual; welcome to your new damp home.

Buyer beware

If you’re thinking of buying a property it’s crucial to check if it has any current or previous damp problems.

Damp can not only make a home extremely difficult to sell, it can even affect your health (the writer has personal experience, having had asthma symptoms brought on by living in a damp flat!).

And if you move in before you’re aware there’s a problem, there’s very little you can do to seek compensation.

What is ‘damp’?

Damp is essentially moisture and water being present where it shouldn’t be – usually inside walls or rising from the floor.

Causes often include porous brick and stonework, leaking pipes, rising moisture from soil, and broken roof tiles. If left, it can become much worse and cost thousands to correct.

But if a home you’re interested in does have damp problems, don’t necessarily be put off; it’s often fixable, and can be a bargaining tool when negotiating on price.

What are the tell-tale signs?

Damp is not as easy to spot as you might imagine. When you’re viewing a potential new home, here are a number of key indicators that should ring alarm bells:

• Changes in plaster up to 1 metre above floor height.

• A musty odour

• Discolouration of walls and ceilings (especially at, or near, floor level and joists)

• Surfaces of walls, ceilings or floors that feel very cold or damp.

• Excessive levels of condensation on windows.

• Wallpaper that’s ‘lifting’.

• A generally chilly or damp feeling.

• Mould build-up and other fungal growths.

• Damp floor tiles.

• If you’ve loft access, check the underside of insulation.

• Algae and mould on external walls

Ask the professionals

Whether you’ve spotted any damp yourself or not, a decent survey (often organised by your mortgage provider), should indicate any issues. Find a registered surveyor here.

If it’s clearly obvious there’s damp, before paying for a survey you should get an expert to assess how much it might cost to fix.

What can be done?

Damp itself is merely the symptom, not the cause. A leaking pipe or cracked roof tile is, of course, fixable, but if the damp source is natural (e.g. garden soil, or water from a nearby stream) it could re-occur if the treatment isn’t sufficient.

External remedies such as excavating soil then laying paving slabs, or fixing guttering and pipework, is generally less expensive than internal fixes, when materials such as silicone or asphalt might be involved.

Policy Expert

Whether you want assistance in finding the right home insurance policy or even handling a claim, we make sure it’s all handled by experts. For more information, you can call our experts on 0330 0600 600 or visit for more ways to reach us.


Published 23 February 2012