Home property maintenance is primarily about preventing problems with the structure of your house, and one of the most annoying problems is condensation.
The amount of moisture that air can hold depends on its temperature. Air at 15 degrees Celsius, for example, can hold about twice as much moisture as air at 5 degrees. So if moist air in your house cools, then it has to shed some of that moisture, and the coldest surfaces are those that will attract that moisture.
If condensation forms on the inside surfaces of your walls or windows then temperature fluctuation, combined with damp air, is the likely cause. How, then, can you prevent this from happening?
Before we can answer this, consider these four factors.
1. The thermal insulation of your walls and windows.
2. The amount of heat you produce in your house (especially the kitchen and the bathroom).
3. The amount of ventilation you have in your house.
4. The amount of moisture you produce, e.g. by cooking or having a shower.
Now we’re getting closer to finding the cause of your condensation. What most people tend to forget is that when you evaporate water, whether by boiling it when cooking food, by drying clothes in front of the gas fire, or by whatever other means, it doesn’t just disappear. It goes somewhere.
And it’s worse because in the meantime it’s invisible. At least it is until it manifests itself in the form of condensation on your walls or windows.
So you can see that maintaining your home property properly depends in large part on recognising this and dealing with it.
How can you do that? Here’s a quick checklist.
1. Prevent falls in temperature of the air in your house while it remains in the house. Only by becoming colder will the air start to release some of the water vapour locked up inside it. Of course, this may be too expensive, in winter at least, so perhaps you should consider the next point.
2. Increase ventilation in the area or room affected. If you can “ship out” the damp air while it is still warm enough to retain its moisture then you won’t get condensation. Even if the air that replaces it is cooler it will also be drier so it won’t cause a problem.
3. Increase the thermal insulation of the walls and windows. Double glazing your windows will normally solve the problem as far as the windows themselves are concerned. The inside glass surface is not so affected by the outside temperature, and so it is warmer and less prone to having water vapour deposited on it. Do watch out, though, for damp on the metal frames. Walls, however, can only be properly insulated by being covered with something like wood panelling (not very popular these days) or skilfully applied wallpaper.
Sometimes, especially where the house is empty and unheated during the day and heated up during the evening, you get a “cold patch” on a wall, where condensation forms for no apparent reason. It may be where a lintel is set at the top of a window or door.
Here usually the only thing you can do is to apply a lightweight lining onto the surface. This will warm up and cool down much faster than the wall itself, and thereby prevent water droplets from condensing there.
This is, however, a short term solution, and, as with many problems involving dampness, you may be best advised to call in a builder to assist with your home property maintenance in this area.