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Andrew Granger & Co explains how buildings don’t breathe; people do.

Wed 9 December 2020

 

Andrew Robinson, BSc (Hons) FRICS MARLA ICIOB Chartered Surveyor, RICS Registered Valuer and Director at Andrew Granger & Co was recently invited to write an article for Almshouse magazine offering advice during the winter months on how we can help to combat condensation in older properties and we thought it was worth sharing to help others.

 

It is said that humans emit just under a litre of water vapour a day. This coupled with all the processes of modern life that involve water being used in the home means that as the dark nights and cooler temperatures arrive, condensation in buildings, particularly older ones can become an increasing problem.

 

The issues arise when warm moist air hits a cold surface, perhaps a cold window or cold wall. Kitchens, bathrooms and north facing walls are often at risk. Well insulated buildings such as ‘new-build’ properties suffer less with condensation as the warm air inside is kept well away from the colder external wall of the building by a well-insulated cavity.

 

Many buildings are a lot older - sometimes 100’s of years older than their new counterparts and don’t have cavities or for that matter, insulation, and the battle against condensation is often hard fought and not always won.

 

Without getting too technical, the steeper the temperature gradient through a wall the harder it will be to win against condensation. Ultimately the answer is a combination of better ventilation and insulation but there are a few quick wins that are worth a try.

 

Raising the temperature of the surface of the inside face of the walls may help so, simply leave the heating on longer. Cracking open a window when washing up or showering can work wonders too but remember to close the window again when you are finished to keep the heat in.

 

Extractor fans should be used in line with why they are installed. So often we will find them switched off “to save electricity”. Make sure your tumble dryers are well vented to the outside, or that drip tanks on condensing dryers are emptied regularly. Wet washing left to dry indoors is a complete no, no I’m afraid!

 

I have seen some surprising successes with devices that raise air pressure slightly within buildings to encourage moist air to leave the building via gaps and cracks rather than enter the building but these can be an expensive solution.

 

Dehumidifiers are worth a try for a temporary or urgent problem but here you are tackling symptoms rather than causes.

 

People should be wary of anyone selling a remedy that professes to allow buildings to breathe. In 30 years, I have never yet seen a building breathe! What they mean is evaporate. If a building has moisture evaporating out of its fabric, then that moisture must be going somewhere - and that needs dealing with properly.

 

Keeping a building warm and dry is still the best remedy in preventing condensation.

 

Andrew Granger & Co’s professional department is available to help with a range of services including all types of property surveys and valuations, property and estate management, development appraisals and compulsory purchase, and you can find out more at https://www.andrewgranger.co.uk/pages/professional or by calling the team on 0116 242 9933.