Why Is My House Damp? Part Two

Damp is possibly one of the most annoying issues a homeowner can face. It drives up your heating costs trying to keep it away, increases your cleaning requirements, and if left untreated it can lead to some serious health problems for everyone living in the house.

In the first part of this series, we talked about some of the reasons you might be experiencing rising damp. Unfortunately, the issue of dampness is much broader than just this one issue, which is why we decided to split it into two posts. If you want to read the first one, just click here.

Roof Leaks

Roofs and chimneys take the brunt of the abuse from the elements in your home, and if you live in the UK, you’ll know just how harsh and wet our winters can be. All of that weathering can cause roofs to degrade over time, and if they aren’t properly maintained then it can lead to leaks. And because of the way our houses are built, with uninhabitable roof spaces, leaks can go hidden and unnoticed for many years. Often the first sign that something’s wrong with your roof or chimney can be high levels of condensation, which residents chalk up to something else.

For example, if the mortar pointing in the chimney is damaged, or lead flashings slip or split, the chimney itself can become saturated. The water within the brickwork is then drawn out into the heated air inside the property, which then turns into condensation when it comes into contact with cold surfaces. This often happens before any other visible signs of dampness can be seen. Even damaged or slipped tiles, damaged valley gutters or degraded mortar pointing can cause similar issues. It’s one of the reasons we suggest that you ask a chartered building surveyor for advice if you have any issues with condensation.

The Parapet Problem

Before our modern Working at Height legislation was brought in, many Victorian properties were built with their party walls rising all the way through the roof to form a parapet. These parapets are quite complicated elements, with lots of small areas that are easily damage and can lead to excessive water ingress. When they were built, they could be relatively easy to repair. But now, the amount of scaffolding and other safe access methods required means those walls are expensive to maintain. Which also means they aren’t maintained properly most of the time, and homeowners only find out about the degradation when a building survey is done. And even when the issue is highlighted, the expense of doing the work can lead to it being ignored.

Plumbing Leaks

Of course, not all of the water within a property comes from our wonderful British climate! Instead, almost all properties will have some form of plumbing – hot and cold water, as well as waste pipes. These are just as susceptible to damage and degradation as the outside of your home, or can suffers from problems due to poor workmanship of the original installation.

The problem is, pipes are concealed inside areas of the building that generally aren’t easily accessible. They’re inside boxings, under the bath or even inside the walls. That’s convenient for you day to day, but it does mean that issues can sometimes go undetected until they cause damage somewhere else. Sometimes a building surveyor will be able to pinpoint the approximate location of a leak, but they’ll normally ask a plumber to complete the final diagnosis and fix the problem.

Another common plumbing issue we see is the failure of mastic sealants, especially around baths and shower trays. Over time, they can detach from sanitary ware or wall tiling, but it can be very tricky to spot. The problem is that once they are detached, these missing sealants can allow a lot of water through into the building, particularly around showers. Sometimes water can pour through the corners of shower screens without you noticing, which adds to the risk of damp.

Other Issues

Of course, there are many other issues that can contribute towards internal dampness. There are too many of them to list here, which is why a surveyor would want to inspect your property in person, and will not diagnose based on a few photographs. Being there in person means we can spot things like gaps between windows and walls, drill holes that have been left open, or even structural movement, and consider them when we inspect your property.


There’s another reason you should take a damp issue seriously – your insurance. Addressing dampness within buildings can be very expensive and disruptive, and in certain circumstances your insurer may be willing to help with the cost of the remedial work. But relying on insurance for this isn’t a substitute for good building maintenance, and if your insurer decides the damp is the result of wear and tear or poor maintenance, then they’re likely to refuse to pay out. The longer you leave a damp issue, the more it’s going to cost to fix, and the less likely your insurer is to help. So we recommend taking action as soon as you notice damp in your property. A chartered building surveyor like us can help guide you through this process.

If you’re a bit confused, or you have damp and aren’t sure what to do next, then we can help. Our team of expert building surveyors will be happy to assist in identifying the causes of your dampness, as well as setting out any necessary remedial work. We can even help oversee the work and recommend contractors. Just contact us on 023 8155 0051 to book a consultation today.

We also have a range of videos talking through various Surveying Topics. You can access them via our website or our YouTube channel

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Tim Clarke, Director at Harrison Clarke chartered surveyors.

About the author

Tim Clarke,


Tim set up Harrison Clarke Chartered Surveyors in July 2017 following a series of public and private sector surveying roles, having previously worked for the University of Cambridge, Rund Partnership, Goadsby, and CBRE. 

Tim has degrees in building surveying, construction project management, and business administration.