How to Deal with Condensation

Damp and condensation are tow of the greatest nuisances of winter. Wet patches appear on ceilings and walls, ruining decorations, while moisture runs down windows to form puddles on sills, eventually breaking up the paintwork and causing the wood to rot. Damp and condensation are entirely different things though their effect is basically the same. Before remedial action can be taken, you have to establish which of the tow is causing the trouble.

Condensation is caused by warm, moist air contacting a cool surface. Moisture on kitchen and bathroom widows or beds of water on ceramic wall tiles are the more obvious signs. Damp patches on living room walls are another tell-tale sign. The air is moistened by such things as steam from cooking, washing, burning paraffin heaters – even breathing. These combine to raise the room temperature and load the air with water vapor. When this moist air contacts a cool surface, the water vapor condenses on it. So on a cold day, streaming windows and damp patches on walls indicate condensation. To combat condensation, four things can be done. Keep room warm, dispose of steam and water vapor, provide ventilation, and avoid cold surface.

Condensation How to Deal with Condensation

The kitchen and bathroom should be the main place to watch as most of the troubles spring from there. An extractor fan fitted in a window will help to remove water-laden air. The manufacturers of the fan will tell you the recommended thickness of glass needed to support a fan. When cutting circular hole for the fan with a glass-cutter use a pre-made template as a guide. Make tow concentric circles – the largest being the required size for the fan. Score a series of criss-cross lines inside the smaller circle before tapping out the small squares formed, starting from the center. Repeat the process on the larger circle until this glass is all tapped out. If you have to fit new glass, ask your supplier to cut the hole for you. Most fans are easily fitted in tow or three stages. Follow individual makers’ instructions closely. Very cold bathroom walls can be kept warm by fitting a black tubular heater that operates at 60 watts per foot.

CEILINGS

Line the ceilings with expanded polystyrene tiles. These give good insulation value and resist condensation forming. Use flame-retardant types in kitchens or in any room where fire is a risk.

Fix flame retardant polystyrene ceiling tiles to bathroom and kitchen ceilings to reduce condensation forming. Cut the tiles with a Stanley-type knife, held against a straight-edge. Press down firmly on the knife to make a clean cut. Spread the special adhesive all over the back of each tile before fixing in place.

FIREPLACES

It is fashionable to block off fireplaces nowadays. The fireplaces used to provide ventilation; by blocking them in, ventilation is reduced or cut-off completely. Always allow for an air-brick when bricking up a fireplace. No flow of air in the chimney can cause damp patches on living room walls, especially on chimney breasts. Paraffin or oil heaters contribute towards condensation problems. Radiators, electric convectors or radiant fire – any dry-heat types in fact should be used. Even with these, however, correct ventilation is needed. An open window or a ventilator that can be controlled will enable you to allow the correct amount of air into the room according to seriousness of the condensation problem.

WALLS

The simplest way to insulate walls against condensation is to line them with sheet expanded polystyrene which is sold in rolls at decorating shops. Wallpaper can be applied over the polystyrene in the normal way. Cavity wall insulation is another method of wall insulation.

FLOORS

Less of a problem, usually, is condensation on solid floors. Many people imagine that damp patches are a sign of rising damp. There is a mile way to find out if they are. Fix a small piece of glass to the floor with putty all round its edges so that air is trapped in the space between the glass and the floor. If moisture forms on the bottom of the glass (after a short while) the problem is rising damp. If the moisture appears on the top of the glass, then you are up against condensation. A good underlay beneath a carpet will help, as will a build-in foam underlay on any sheet material. Under linoleum or vinyl, fit a cork underlay or a reflective-faced building paper.

A blocked off chimney means it is no longer ventilated. Eventually damp patches will appear on the breast. An air brick or grill must be fitted in every room. Mould, mildew or fungus on walls means having to strip off the wallpaper. Wash the wall with a fungicide before repapering, and use a paste containing a fungicide. Walls affected by condensation should be lined with sheet expanded polystyrene. This is bought in rolls and can be papered over in the normal way.

Strip off the old wall covering and hang the first length of polystyrene. Your supplier will advise you on the special adhesive needed to stick it to the wall. Use a roller to sharp Stanley-type knife at the skirting and ceiling line. Press down hard with the knife to cut the material cleanly. Carefully butt the edges of successive lengths.

WINDOWS

Double glazing will help against, though may not always cure, condensation. Anyone with double glazing already installed who still gets condensation will find that some silica gel crystals (available from chemists) placed between the panes of glass will help. These absorb all the moisture, but they eventually become saturated and have to be dried out in an oven before re-use.

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