Top causes of damp in UK homes

Damp is a common problem in UK homes. It can cause a variety of problems, including cosmetic damage, structural problems, and health concerns for homeowners. This helpful guide will explore the main causes of damp and look at how best to treat the problem.

In this guide

  1. Signs of damp in your home
  2. Why do UK homes suffer from damp?
  3. Top causes of damp in UK homes and recommended solutions
  4. Damp FAQs:
  5. Conclusion

    Signs of damp in your home

    Some signs of damp will be obvious, others will be more subtle. Some of the most common signs of damp in your home include:


    • Windows may have condensation on them, especially first thing in the morning.
    • Black mould may be visible around the window frames.

    Damp walls

    • Walls may feel cold or damp to touch.
    • Mould or fungus may be visible, especially in corners or on external walls.
    • Wallpaper may be peeling.
    • Damp paint flaking off.
    • Bubbled plaster may become visible under paint or wallpaper.

    Kitchens and bathrooms

    Black mould may be visible on bathroom sealant, on ceilings or around windows.

    Other signs of damp

    Other signs of damp can include a musty smell in a property, difficulty warming the home in colder months, and clothes feeling cold or damp when you first get them out of your wardrobe.

    Why do UK homes suffer from damp?

    There are several factors that make UK properties particularly susceptible to damp. These include:

    Wet weather

    The UK has relatively high levels of rainfall each year. Climate change also means we’re beginning to experience more extreme downpours, with more rain falling over a shorter period of time. If drainage systems struggle to keep up, the ground and properties can get saturated.

    Older properties

    The UK has a large stock of historic properties, many of them of solid wall construction. As our lifestyles have changed over time, many of these older properties have been retro-fitted with more modern additions. If the correct, historically sympathetic materials are not used, additions such as double glazing and insulation can mean the building is unable to ‘breathe’ as intended. This can lead to significant damp problems.

    Signs of damp will be similar in older and more modern properties, but the solutions are likely to be quite different. If you have an older property, it’s important to seek advice from someone with experience with historic homes.

    You can read more about tackling damp in older properties here.

    Rising utility bills

    Heating and ventilation are key to avoiding damp in UK homes, but with higher utility bill costs, few homeowners are keen to open windows in the winter or have their heating on longer than absolutely necessary. As a result, more households have been struggling with damp over the last year or two.

    Top causes of damp in UK homes and recommended solutions


    Condensation is a common cause of damp in UK homes. An average family of 4 can produce around 14 litres of moisture a day, just from simple activities such as showering, drying clothes, cooking and breathing. Without adequate ventilation, that moisture has no way of escaping.

    Signs of condensation in your home

    If you have condensation in your home there will be a few telltale signs. You might see moisture collecting on your windows, clothing may feel moist, and walls may feel cold or damp, especially behind furniture where air is less free to circulate. You may also see wallpaper beginning to lift, paint beginning to peel, or signs of mould in corners of rooms or around the edge of the ceiling. Seals around windows may also start to display black mould growth.

    How to treat condensation in your home

    The key to tackling condensation in your home is ventilation. Depending on how severe your condensation problem is, you can try different solutions.

    If you’re just starting to notice some condensation build up in your home, you can try opening the windows in the house for an hour each morning. You should also ensure you have adequate ventilation in high-moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens. Extractor fans should be installed in both areas.

    If your condensation problem is more severe, eg. mould appearing on walls or on furniture, you might want to look into more robust measures such as dehumidifiers or a Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) system.

    Penetrating damp

    Penetrating damp is caused by water entering the property from the outside. This can be a result of failing render or pointing, bricks in poor condition, damage to roofing or chimney, a leaking pipe, or poorly maintained guttering.

    Signs of penetrating damp in your home

    Penetrating damp usually creates quite obvious visual signs. These may include damp spots on external walls, damp stains on internal walls or ceilings, soggy and crumbling plaster, mould confined to one small area, or a visible drip or pooling of water.

    How to treat penetrating damp in your home

    Treating penetrating damp means getting to the root of the problem. Where and how is the water getting into the property? You’ll then need to get the root problem fixed.

    Rising damp

    Rising damp occurs when moisture at ground level finds a route to travel up into the walls of your property.

    Signs of rising damp in your home

    The first signs of rising damp are often tide or water marks on skirting boards, and bubbling or flaking of paint and plaster just above the skirting boards.

    How to treat rising damp in your home

    Most properties will have some sort of damp proof course. This is a water-resistant barrier, put in place at a low level to prevent ground level moisture traveling up your walls.

    Rising damp often signifies a damaged or failing damp proof course. There may also be something ‘bridging’ the damp proof course, allowing moisture to bypass it. This may be render or plaster that overlaps the damp proof course, the external ground level being built-up higher than the damp proof course, incorrect insulating materials used in properties with cavity walls, or debris in the cavity wall or subfloor.

    In order to treat rising damp, you will need to ascertain the root cause of the moisture. If your damp proof course is being bridged, you’ll need to address and rectify it. If your damp proof course is failing, you’ll need to look at replacing it. Injected damp proof courses have become increasingly popular in recent years, but it won’t be an appropriate course of action for every home and other options should be considered first.

    If you live in an older property that does not have a damp proof course (this is common in many historic properties), it’s important to gain tailored advice from a heritage specialist.

    Damp FAQs:

    Does home insurance cover damp?

    Unfortunately, most home insurance policies will not cover any damage caused by damp.

    How common is damp in houses?

    Recent research estimates that more than a fifth of UK homes have issues with damp, condensation or mould.

    Are woodlice a sign of damp?

    Woodlice like damp environments, so they can be a sign that you have excess moisture in your property. If you find you have a sudden influx of them in your home, it’s advisable to look out for signs of damp in your property.

    Is woodworm a sign of damp?

    High levels of moisture in woodwork can make it more vulnerable to woodworm. So, whilst discovering woodworm doesn’t guarantee that you have a damp problem, making your home warmer and drier will be a natural deterrent to them.

    What’s the best way to remove mould caused by damp?

    The most important factor in getting rid of mould from your property is to treat the root course, otherwise it will just keep coming back.

    In the meantime, you can buy a number of cleaning products that will help to remove the visible mould.

    If you’re concerned about harsh chemicals in your home, you can use a more natural solution of vinegar. Simply spray vinegar onto the affected area and leave it for an hour before scrubbing the area with a brush. Wipe the area down and leave it to dry completely.

    Vinegar should not be used on stone or wooden surfaces as it can damage them.

    I have damp in my home – who should I contact?

    If you’re struggling to find the root cause of the damp in your home, you might want to consider getting a full damp survey carried out.

    If you live in a home built before the 1930s, you will need to make sure the damp surveyor is experienced with historic properties.

    Can I sell a house with damp?

    Ideally, you would treat any damp issues before selling your property. Damp is, however, a common problem in UK homes, so it may be that you’re not aware of a problem until a prospective buyer has a survey carried out at your property.

    If a buyer survey detects a problem, it’s important to be flexible and try to work with the buyer to find an agreeable way forward. This may mean agreeing to have work carried out to address the problem before the sale completes or reducing the price of the property to reflect the work required.

    Some buyers will become very nervous at the idea of damp in the property and pull out of the sale, which is why it is always best to address any problems you become aware of as soon as possible.

    Should I buy a house if the property survey mentions damp?

    If you suspect a property you are interested in buying has damp or your property survey highlights an issue, it’s important to get as much information as you can. Your survey may suggest causes of damp and possible solutions, or it may advise a more in-depth damp survey with a specialist company.

    Whether or not you should proceed with the purchase will depend on how big a project you think the property is, how difficult and expensive the problem will be to fix, and how much you want the property. You may also find that your mortgage lender puts certain conditions on the purchase. In extreme cases, your mortgage provider may refuse to lend on the property.


    Damp is a problem that many UK homeowners face. When addressing the issue, it’s important to look at the main causes of damp and use a process of elimination to decipher which may apply to your property.

    If you’re struggling to find the root cause of the problem, or you’re struggling to treat the damp effectively, it is wise to get a full damp survey completed by a professional.

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