Damp in Victorian terrace houses is not an isolated issue, unfortunately it’s a widespread issue across the UK, and it’s the worst!
If you’ve stumbled across this blog it’s likely that you are also sick of the damp and mould and want to discover just about anything that could prevent or cure it. You’re in the right place!
When we bought our Victorian terrace house, we specifically asked the surveyor to check if there was any damp, and there was a fair amount, but not necessarily visible. Fast forward to the winter, and we have a serious damp and mould issue…
Due to building styles back in the Victorian era, the houses just aren’t built like houses today, and without any new preventative measures you are in for a long winter of damp. But it doesn’t have to be like this.
In this article, I delve into damp in Victorian terrace houses, what you can do to actively prevent it, and cure any visible mould you already have in your property.
Damp In Victorian Terrace Houses – Why Do They Have Damp?
The biggest reason damp is a major issue in today’s era is because of how they were built. “During the Victorian period (1837-1901), solid walls were still being used which were prone to rain penetration and became damp and cold. Some were rendered externally which over the years becomes defective, allowing it to trap rain which penetrates the property“.
This comes down to one thing called ventilation, causing condensation, and the serious lack of ventilation in a Victorian terrace house.
What are you going to do with damp that has no ventilation? Moisture builds up, relative humidity goes up, your walls will start to get wet from the damp, mould spores will develop and if you have anywhere that features timber (such as basements), this could start rotting and even develop woodworm.
When ventilation, or lack of it becomes such a problem, unfortunately opening a window once a day is not going to do anything because for the house to start effectively drying out, you have to move a certain volume of air in, and out of the space.
Of course, there are hundreds of reasons why there may be damp in your property. But for large areas of damp that seem absolutely unexplained, the reason is usually because of ventilation, and you will generally find that in the height of the summer, you no longer have the issue.
In our Victorian terrace house, poor ventilation is the number 1 reason we have such bad damp in pretty much every room. The house has no tanking system (a method of preventing water on an internal wall), the roof is fine, we unblocked our gutters and there is no rising damp detected.
Our bathroom extension also only has a single skim, this means it’s by far the coldest room in the house and is the worst affected by damp.
Hot showers in a freezing room = a lot of condensation and ventilation issues.
By this point we knew it was serious and we couldn’t spend all winter wiping mould spores off the walls, so we started looking into how it was affecting our health, and how the hell we could get rid of it for good.
How Does Damp In My Victorian Terrace House Affect My Home, And My Health?
We all know that damp and mould spores in a home long term is not good for your health. But how does it affect your health?
According to the NHS, if you have damp or mould in your home, you’re more likely to develop respiratory conditions such as allergies, asthma and lung/chest infections, and it could even affect the immune system.
Inhaling or touching mould spores may cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and skin rash.
Ways To Prevent Damp In Your Victorian Terrace House
One of the best ways to prevent damp in your home that doesn’t involve structural works or tanking is investing in a dehumidifier.
Dehumidifiers work by taking the moisture that’s present in the air out of the home. This helps to reduce moisture levels, reduce potential development of mould spores on walls and furniture, and they can reduce dust too.
We’ve been using one since the start of winter and it has been the BEST thing we have tried yet. It obviously costs electric to run, but it far outweighs the health issues and ‘damp smell’ we had been experiencing.
It’s best to move the dehumidifier round from room to room, starting with the most badly affected. When you see how much water they draw off each day, it’s a little bit unbelievable.
We realise this isn’t a fix, but it will be a preventative measure whilst we are in this house. Last summer we had no issues, so we probably will use this through the summer until it physically can’t draw any moisture out of the air.
I’ve listed a mixed range of pice points for dehumidifiers below, including the one we use in our Victorian terrace house.
Coming in at the highest end of the spectrum, the Dyson purifier rather than just sucking the air in, also captures allergens including mould spores.
If you are looking for something that does everything and purifies the air in the process, this is definitely one worth considering.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Pro Breeze which is a compact dehumidifier, collecting up to 1500ml of water at one time.
If you want to give this route a try and don’t want a dehumidifier that takes up a lot of space, then this is a great alternative. It’s 4 star rated too on Amazon.
This is the dehumidifier we are currently using and which was kindly lent to us. We’ve been using this for around 6 weeks now and it has been amazing.
The walls are slowly starting to dry out and we haven’t seen any mould redevelop since using it. We are using it for the majority of the day though in different rooms at a time.
This brand of dehumidifier doesn’t seem to exist anymore, but I would 100% recommend checking Facebook marketplace and also Gumtree to pick up a relatively inexpensive, pre-used dehumidifier.
We found that one of the worst things for damp in a home is drying your washing indoors during the winter. My best advice?
DO NOT DRY WASHING INDOORS!
The existing mould will love it in your home, but you won’t.
A drying rack full of wet clothes means that the moisture particles on the washing dissipate into your walls, creating more moisture, and nowhere for that to escape. More moisture = more mould.
I know, without a tumble drier, and constant rain, I had no idea how I was going to get washing dry, but with the damp getting worse by the day in the house I had to find solutions.
I stumbled across the drying pod which is essentially a pod that holds your clothing inside and is heated by mains electric. These are a great solution to clothes not drying in the winter, they can be stored away not in use, they’re much cheaper to invest in than a tumble drier, and they roughly cost around half the price to run too.
There are lots of different drying pods on the market which vary in effectiveness, prices vary but around the £100 mark seems to be the average price for one currently.
We went for the Dry Soon Drying Pod from Lakeland, and it’s been a game changer. We get our washing dry within 1-2 hours, it’s affordable to run and it’s the perfect solution to just drying clothes inside.
Tanking is one route many homeowners choose to go down, mostly in properties that are experiencing rising damp from a basement. It can be one of the more costly routes, but doesn’t always guarantee your home will be free from damp.
“Tanking is a term used for creating a tank-like seal to protect walls against water penetration. The Building Regulations stipulate that tanking must be applied to all new build structures below ground, but tanking can also be applied to existing buildings, to prevent water penetration into basements and cellars, as well as helping to tackle rising damp”.
Tanking should help with the ventilation issue, with getting a better circulation of dry air coming in, and wet air going out.
This can be a solution but sometimes it can actually lead to trapping more air inside the walls, and move the damp elsewhere. It is also one of the most expensive routes, so you really need to investigate this before committing to something that could affect a very aged, Victorian property.
How To Kill Mould In Victorian Terrace Houses
Nothing will cure damp unless you identify the issue causing it and remove it, but there are a number of products and solutions that will help to cure active mould spores.
When you are cleaning mould, always wear gloves and a face mask to avoid the spores making contact with your face and airways.
There are some really good home remedies for mould that will help to kill mould, and they can be created with ingredients that you probably have lying around at home.
White Vinegar Solution
White vinegar is one of the most popular, at home remedies for killing mould. For this solution, simply mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and apply to the affected area. Allow it to sit for at least an hour before wiping away with a cloth.
Baking Soda Solution
This home remedy is an easy to make solution with items you may already have in the house. Simply mix baking soda with water, this will create a paste which you should apply to the mouldy surface. Leave it on the surface for a few minutes before wiping away with a damp cloth and drying.
You may need to repeat this process as and when mould starts developing again to keep on top of it.
Store Bought Damp Remover
We personally used a store bought damp remover called Cillit Bang Black Mould Remover, it’s one of the best solutions as it can be used on multi surfaces.
We had mould to remove from walls, and a pile of rattan lights and boxes.
We applied this with a warm, damp cloth (not wet) to remove the mould spores. This stuff really smells so DO wear a mask and gloves whilst doing so. This stuff is really strong but does the job at killing mould spores.
Note to self. Rattan and natural materials are the worst type of fabric in damp homes as they will easily accommodate mould…
Damp in Victorian terrace houses is a common issue, but there are solutions. Can you recommend any other preventative solutions to keeping damp and mould at bay in your home?
Before You Go…
Sick of the constant cycle of clothes not drying, and air drying clothes making the damp and mould even worse in your Victorian terrace house? I was too until I took the plunge and bought the dry soon drying pod. A total game changer for drying clothes in the winter, want to know more? I’d definitely recommend jumping over to the post below to see what happened when I put it to the test.