Presence of moisture in the air is inevitable. Indoor air too will always contain some amount of moisture depending on the season and the climatic condition of a particular place but it is not this moisture that poses a threat to the health of a house; it is when extra moisture is added to indoor air (Read: How does moisture get into the house?), the humidity level of the house increases raising the alarm over a possible damp attack. So, the first thing you need to do to stop damp from taking control of your home and mental peace is to check the moisture intrusion into your home. You must identify the main points of entry of moisture in the building and seal those points immediately.
Having said that, on a regular course, we do not really realize when we breach the line of ‘acceptable humidity level’ until the first signs of damp start appearing in our house. By that time, in all probability, the damage is already done and we’re just a few steps away from spending a fortune on extensive repair and/or damp-proofing.
There are two ways to monitor the rising humidity of your home:
- Visual monitoring: Constantly keep a tab on moisture intrusion. The moment one of the points of moisture intrusion becomes open or starts malfunctioning, you must close it for good. Repair, replace, seal it or go for remedial waterproofing or damp-proof depending on the part of the building/ apartment where the pathway has been created (or noticed).
- By using a moisture meter: Keep a digital moisture meter handy to check the moisture content of your home from time to time. When you see the level has risen to the maximum or showing a red signal, seek the help of a home inspection team. They will perform a thorough damp assessment using more advanced tools like thermal imaging scanner and tell you exactly which areas have already become damp. They will also help you identify hidden pathways of moisture intrusion if any leading to its source and advice on the best repair method.
Where to look for moisture intrusion in your home?
In a house in India, where the average annual percentage of humidity1 is 49% (New Delhi), moisture is almost ubiquitous. Still, following are the prime areas which you must be doubly careful about for checking moisture intrusion at regular intervals.
How moisture enters through the roof?
Household appliances, especially geyser, refrigerator, and kitchen chimney, generate a lot of hot air inside the house. This hot air, when rises up, comes in contact with the ceiling. During monsoon or winter, the rooftop becomes cold at a faster rate thereby cooling the ceiling surfaces below the normal room temperature. The hot air condenses against these cold surfaces and gets transformed into moisture. This moisture enters the roofing system through capillary action and remains trapped there. If the building is old and lacks proper ventilation this trapped moisture never gets to escape or dry up. Over time, it corrodes the building material from inside leading to severe damp.
Cracks in the roofing system can also let moisture/water into the house. Any of the following conditions is responsible for that kind of a leakage:
- Faulty waterproofing
- Poor maintenance
- Improper roof slope resulting in water stagnation
- Clogged outlets on the roof
- Crack at parapet wall
A leaky roof is a common sight in old properties in India. Just one heavy shower on a random day and water starts dripping from the ceiling.
How to stop it?
Apart from DIY cleaning, you can also do the following things to stop water from entering your house from the roof.
- Applying a waterproof coating on the roof.
- By improving the ventilation of the house.
- Repair the cracks at parapet wall.
- Keep maintaining and cleaning the rainwater outlet to avoid blockage. Make sure there is no stagnant water at roof.
Any repair job of the roofing system is an elaborate and expensive proposition. So, you must get a proper damp/ moisture assessment of the done before deciding to go for it.
Moisture intrusion through Window frames and doorways
Poorly installed doors and windows2 manifest themselves in several ways but the most common and obvious of these is a visible gap between the frame and the sill. These gaps don’t just allow air into your home but also allow water to drip through. The water may be rainwater or water from a leaky pipe installed near the window. If you don’t seal the gaps or reinstall the frames properly, water will continue to drip damaging the adjoining walls. Gaps visible between two panes when the window is closed or due to weather-strip damage can also lead to water intrusion in home.
How does moisture get in?
Walls are very prone to moisture problems. There are many reasons why they are so. Defective roofing is one major cause of water entering the walls. Then, there are porous bricks, cavities left inside the concrete fabric of the building during construction, low-quality paint having poor block resistance, and improper grouting on the inner wall tiles. All these problems lead to a situation where water from multiple external sources enters through the walls causing widespread damp.
How to stop it?
Depending on the source of moisture and how it is getting inside the walls, any of the following solutions can be adopted.
- Check for broken water pipes and pinhole cracks and repair them right away.
- Apply paint with waterproofing solution.
- Ensure proper air circulation around your home.
- Check the condition of external wall paint. Usually, a good quality paint has a life of over 10 years for external surface.
Common plumbing problems that lead to moisture intrusion into a home are:
- Clogged drains: Empty sachets of shampoo, soap scum, tangled accumulated hair, and other personal care products often clog the drainage outlets causing water to drain slowly. Such drain pipes also get damaged faster. Call your plumber and ask him to look into the matter or unclog the drains yourself using a drain-cleaning powder or homemade baking soda-vinegar solution.
Additionally, check the condition of grouting around the drain, if deteriorated can affect the lower floor.
- Bathrooms with multiple leaky fittings: Bathroom is a real breeding ground of moisture. A large amount of it is generated on a daily basis through washing, cleaning, and bathing. Besides, if there is a loose faucet, broken valve or malfunctioning float in the WC, the problem increases manifold. You must fix the problems of your running bathrooms immediately to stop it from affecting the rest of the house. Also, service your geyser at least once in a year and install an exhaust fan to get rid of the excess moisture.
- Leakage in the water pipe: Leakage appears in old and corroded plumbing pipes. Left unnoticed these leakages can lead to large-scale damages.
Plumbing failures may appear in any pipe material and fixtures that have exceeded their serviceable lifespan or if a defective repair/installation has been done earlier somewhere in the system. Get the plumbing system inspected professionally to get an idea of where the damage exactly exists and how best to fix it.
Moisture intrusion and its remedy
Rainwater and groundwater are the two outside sources of moisture that tries to make it through the foundation of a building. In the case of rising damp, the groundwater tends to rise up the masonry and causes damage to the walls. Such a damp problem is more common in older homes having a level of the ground floor and the outside road at nearly the same or less than 1 metre where the damp proof course has deteriorated. For these cases, advisable to contact professional home inspection services for the suggestion of solution.
One must also check for other issues like clogged drains and leakage in the underground water piping system to strike out any possibility of plumbing error.
Moisture intrusion through the foundation is no laughing matter. You must resolve it fast to avoid any damage to the structural integrity of your home. A proper home inspection with trained professionals can help you find the actual cause of moisture intrusion in your foundation. Only after knowing why and from where the moisture is entering your home you can find its actual remedy.
Excess moisture is a terrible thing to live with. It not only expedites the ageing process of your home but also silently harms your family’s health. If you notice any sign of moisture intrusion in your home, immediately try to find out its source. If you are unable to detect it yourself take the help of a home inspector; he will unravel the source for you. Once detected, seal the source if possible or resort to the next best solution to prevent any further moisture intrusion. Be a proactive homeowner. It pays in the long run.