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Why does my home suffer from condensation?

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Why does my home suffer from condensation?

Condensation can cause misery for homeowners, particularly in winter when doors and windows remain closed and central heating systems are turned up to their maximum levels.

We ask Tim Cork, founder of independent window broker You Choose Windows, for his advice on how to prevent condensation in your home.

Although windows are usually the place you first notice condensation because glass has the lowest temperature of any of the interior surfaces in the house, faulty windows do not cause condensation.

Condensation occurs when humidity in the air encounters cold surfaces such as windows, walls and pipes and turns into water. The air in your home is naturally humid and may also come from the evaporation of the moisture in building materials used in new construction.

If there is too much moisture inside the home, you will find evidence during both the cold and warm seasons. Moisture spots on the ceiling or walls, peeling paint, rotting wood or delaminating plywood, moisture on exterior walls, fungus, mould or mildew growth are signs of a more serious moisture problem. Left unattended, this can be a potential health hazard.

Condensation in older properties

There are more than 4 million Edwardian and Victorian properties still in use in the UK, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

While estate agents in Fulham, Wimbledon and other areas of London that were developed between 1850 and 1910 report that period properties often command higher prices than new-build homes, many of these houses are prone to condensation.

This is because many suffer from poor ventilation – essential for reducing moisture in the air – and the absence of lagging on pipes.

Condensation in newer properties

But it is not only homes built during the Edwardian or Victorian eras that may suffer from problems of condensation.

Moisture that is present in building materials may contribute to the overall level of condensation in new homes, warns the National House Building Council.

Condensation can be a problem in old and new homes because the amount of washing, bathing, showering and cooking that takes place in modern households produces a lot of water vapour in the air.

This vapour turns back into water when it hits a cold surface, such as a window pane. If it finds a cold surface deep inside the construction of a wall then it deposits the water there, which can cause hidden decay.

The way to remove steam or water vapour is by keeping rooms well-ventilated and surfaces just warm enough to prevent the vapour condensing into drops of water.

How to prevent a build-up of condensation

The NHBC suggests a number of measures you might take in a home of any age in order to control condensation – something much easier to stop in the first place rather than attempting to remedy at a later stage.

  • Ventilation is the key, so make sure to keep all vents and air blocks free from obstruction. Modern windows have truckle vents to aid ventilation, but in older properties you may want to ensure that they are opened on a regular basis.
  • An open window is especially important when cooking in the kitchen, in addition to an extractor fan and lids on the saucepans to help prevent steam from escaping.
  • Always use an extractor fan when taking a bath or shower.
  • During cold weather, heating needs to be kept on – at a constant lower temperature if you are out – in order to prevent windows, walls and pipes becoming especially cold surfaces.
  • The water from clothes left to dry indoors is a major cause of condensation in winter. Try to hang your wet washing outdoors, or in a garage.
  • If condensation does form on your windows, help the drying process by wiping them down with a cloth.

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