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How to tackle damp and mould

Housing Association Magazine’s Joe Bradbury discusses how, as we move into the summer months, many housing professionals and landlords can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

After an unprecedentedly damp start to the year, the long-awaited sunshine offers a much-needed reprieve.

However, with the change in weather comes a critical opportunity for Housing Associations (HAs) to address the lingering issues caused by persistent moisture: damp and mould.

Tenants play a crucial role in managing damp within their homes so provide clear guidance

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of Housing Association magazine

The perils of a damp environment

The excessive moisture experienced in the first half of the year has created a breeding ground for mould and damp, posing significant risks to both tenants' health and the structural integrity of properties.

Damp can lead to severe problems, including peeling paint, rotting wood, and compromised insulation.

More worryingly, mould spores released into the air can cause respiratory issues, allergic reactions, and exacerbate conditions such as asthma.

Given these risks, it is imperative for HAs to be proactive in managing and mitigating damp and mould in their properties.

The current break in wet weather presents an ideal window for inspection and remedial work.

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has produced a free, practical guide to mould and damp prevention. :

Identifying problem areas

The first step for HAs is to conduct thorough inspections of their housing stock.

Properties that have shown signs of damp or have been reported by tenants should be prioritised. Common indicators of damp include:

  • Discolouration and staining on walls and ceilings
  • A musty odour
  • Peeling or bubbling paint
  • The presence of black or green mould spots

In addition to visual inspections, HAs should consider using moisture meters to detect damp levels in walls, floors, and ceilings.

This can help in identifying problem areas that might not yet show visible signs but are at risk of developing issues.

Remedial measures

Once problem areas are identified, it is crucial to take immediate remedial action. Here are some effective strategies:

  1. Improving Ventilation: Poor ventilation is a leading cause of damp and mould. Installing or upgrading extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms, ensuring windows can be easily opened, and considering mechanical ventilation systems can greatly improve airflow and reduce moisture levels.
  2. Repairing Leaks: Any leaks in the roof, walls, or plumbing should be repaired promptly. Even minor leaks can contribute to significant damp issues over time.
  3. Damp-Proofing: For properties with chronic damp problems, professional damp-proofing may be necessary. This can include the installation of a damp-proof course in walls or the application of damp-proof membranes in floors.
  4. Insulation: Proper insulation can help maintain an even temperature within properties, reducing the risk of condensation and damp. Ensure that lofts, walls, and floors are adequately insulated.
  5. Dehumidifiers: In areas with persistent moisture, the use of dehumidifiers can be a temporary solution to lower humidity levels until more permanent fixes are implemented.
  6. Effective heating: Ensuring that the buildings or even individual rooms aren’t left to chill during colder, damp spells will help as well. This is where heat pumps, which run at lower temperatures and are best left running for longer, can be so effective.

Educating tenants

Tenants play a crucial role in managing damp and mould within their homes. HAs should provide clear guidance on best practices for preventing damp, such as:

  • Regularly opening windows to improve ventilation
  • Using extractor fans when cooking or bathing
  • Avoiding drying clothes indoors without adequate ventilation
  • Reporting any signs of damp or mould promptly
  • Avoiding leaving any part of the home unheated, which can be difficult in a cost of living crisis, but which is where renewable heating programmes from the Housing Association can help

Providing tenants with this information can help prevent minor issues from escalating into significant problems.

Long-term strategies

Beyond immediate remedial work, HAs must also consider long-term strategies to combat damp and mould.

This includes incorporating moisture-resistant materials in new builds and renovations, investing in smart home technologies that monitor humidity levels, and developing a comprehensive maintenance schedule to regularly check for and address moisture issues.

It’s also where renewable heating such as air source heat pumps can play an important role. They have proved themselves more effective at keeping a whole house at the right temperature and, as we transition away from gas, they are becoming a viable option for more tenants.

Addressing damp and mould is not a task that HAs can handle alone. Collaboration with local authorities, health services, and environmental agencies can provide additional support and resources.

Additionally, seeking funding opportunities for large-scale damp-proofing and renewable upgrading projects can alleviate the financial burden on HAs.

In summary

The transition from a damp spring to a drier summer is a crucial period for HAs to address the pervasive issue of damp and mould.

Proactive inspections, timely remedial actions, tenant education, and long-term strategies are essential to ensure the health and well-being of tenants and the longevity of properties.

As the sun begins to shine, let it also illuminate the path toward healthier, safer, and more resilient housing.

Housing professionals and landlords have a unique opportunity to turn the tide against damp and mould, safeguarding their properties and providing tenants with the quality homes they deserve.

Joe Bradbury is digital editor of Housing Association magazine