Dampness and moisture are two unwelcome house guests that are frustratingly fairly common in New Zealand properties. Thankfully there are ways to fight back against invading dampness – and knowing where moisture is coming from in your home is a fantastic place to start.
Whether you own your home, or own a property that needs to comply with the Healthy Homes Bill (now Healthy Homes Guarantee Act), read on to learn how to identify and reduce moisture and keep your home as damp-free as possible.
What Causes Moisture In The Home?
Dampness is something a lot of homes have the potential to be afflicted with, so it’s important to know what causes this common issue. While it’s never going to be possible to banish all damp-causing factors from your home (after all, you still need to cook, clean and live there!), knowing what to keep an eye on to prevent dampness is the next best thing.
A damp home will likely be caused by one of two things, either water that is somehow getting into your house from outside, or moisture from inside your home that can’t escape. We’ll explain some possible culprits for both of these possibilities further below, but before you can figure out what’s causing dampness you have to know there’s an issue. Here are some common indicators your home may suffer with dampness.
Smell: A home afflicted by moisture will often smell musty and, well, damp. If you’re noticing a vast difference in the way your home smells compared to others or a noticeable change as you move from room to room, it could be a sign that dampness is creeping.
Touch: If areas of your home feel cold, damp or moist to the touch, this is not normal and a sign that your house may have a moisture issue. In properties plagued with dampness, the walls, floors and ceilings will often be a clue that something is amiss. When checking for dampness be sure to look in hidden spots such as wardrobes and cupboards, as well as behind furniture such as couches, beds and sets of drawers.
Sight: A damp home will often have telltale signs that could be evidence of other issues. Windows with excessive condensation and mould or mildew on the floors, walls or ceiling can be signs of dampness. Mould and mildew could take the form of a white, powdery substance (officially called efflorescence), or be black, green, brown and red. You should also look out for damp patches and stains or streaks on walls, as well as peeling wallpaper.
Where Does Moisture Come From In The Home?
Annoyingly, dampness can attack almost every area of your home just by virtue of it being inhabited by people. However, there are certain rooms that are usually more prone to it than others. Dampness is caused by excess moisture, so areas of your home that are exposed to more water and moisture should always be on your damp-detecting radar.
Inside the home, the bathroom is an obvious place that sees a lot of moisture, with showers and baths producing around 1.5 litres per person per day. Many New Zealanders will be familiar with corners of their bathroom sometimes being plagued with mould and mildew, especially those not fitted with an effective extractor fan.
The kitchen is another big area that produces moisture — up to 3 litres a day thanks to cooking and washing. And with that in mind, it makes sense that the laundry and rooms where clothes are dried are also big offenders — 5 litres of moisture is produced per load of laundry. However, it’s not just these rooms responsible for creating excess moisture, simply breathing or sweating is enough to do it as well. A four-person home can produce up to 11 litres of moisture in just 14 hours. Yikes!
It’s not just internal factors responsible for causing dampness at home, there are plenty of possible causes outside as well. Broken, blocked or leaky pipes and gutters, and poorly designed property drainage can both result in dampness due to water being unable to properly escape. Be sure to unblock any drains or vents that could be stoppered by plants, soil or other barriers. During the next downpour, check that your downpipes are properly connected to stormwater drains and look to see whether or not any water is flowing underneath your house.
And finally, structural issues in your home could also contribute to dampness. If you believe this could be an issue, leaks in the walls and roof could be the culprit. Additionally, plumbing near showers and baths should be checked over as it’s an area that’s often hidden and easy to forget.
If you suspect your home has any of these issues, we recommend consulting a professional.
Tips For Reducing Moisture In The Home
If you’ve found signs of dampness in your home, or you’re keen to avoid this problem from troubling you in the future, you’ll want to equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to best tackle the issue. Thankfully there are plenty of ways you can work towards a drier home.
A good way to ease the burden of dampness is to remove sources of moisture where possible. An easy method to help with this issue is to dry your clothing outdoors rather than inside. As mentioned, a load of washing can produce 5 litres of moisture, so timing your washing to coincide with a sunny day is an easy winner. Another simple trick is cooking with lids on pots and pans, this prevents steam and moisture escaping and helps save energy. And when showering and cooking, be sure to use any rangehoods or extractor fans to give the excess moisture an easy escape route. If your home doesn’t have extractors, open windows instead. Or HRV have an effective bathroom extracting solution.
As well as ventilating bathrooms and kitchens, it’s also important to ventilate your entire home. Installing a home ventilation system is an option to ensure continuous circulation of the air without having to open windows and doors – which is great from a safety perspective and at night time during those hot sticky summer evenings. In saying that, opening windows and doors when possible can also help circulate fresh air.
Mould removal is also something that’s important to keep on top of. To remove mould, scrub the mouldy patch with soapy water and a cloth or brush, then rinse with water and allow it to dry completely. Energywise recommends disinfecting the area by spraying or brushing on methylated spirits or isopropyl alcohol, waiting 30 minutes and re-applying again. Be sure to air all fumes from the room afterwards and keep your home ventilated to help prevent it making a return.
Dehumidifiers can also be useful in damp homes, especially when used in conjunction with a heater, such as a heat pump. While dehumidifiers may not be a long-term solution to dampness and mould growth, they can be useful — particularly during wet weather while you work on a more permanent solution.
In terms of fixes for the long-term, installing an extractor fan is a good solution to prevent dampness and mould in your home. For homes without rangehoods and extractor fans, installing these is a great way to help your home avoid dampness. Rangehoods are ideal in kitchens, however a good extractor fan will also work.
Get a home ventilation system installed
If you’ve addressed any big issues causing dampness inside your home, one way to reduce the ongoing chance of it recurring is with the installation of a home ventilation system. It’s important to note that a ventilation system won’t solve any external issues such as guttering and roofing, so address those as separate issues. A system like this works to draw and circulate filtered air into your home while allowing stale and moist air the chance to escape.
A home ventilation system carries numerous benefits for your home, the biggest being a drier house that’s easier to heat. By bringing in air from the roof cavity and pushing out the old, the system reduces dampness by lessening the chance of mould and mildew, as well as condensation build ups on windows (a common problem, even in homes with double glazing). It also helps to minimize odours, due to the constant replacing of air.
The exact cost of installing a home ventilation system in your home will be unique to you as it depends on a number of factors, including your home’s size, power supply and roof cavity access. Our professional installers also take into account factors such as your home’s layout, design preferences, location and environmental factors.
If you have concerns over moisture in your home, book a free assessment with HRV today and learn more about your options.