Why Your Internal Walls Get Wet During Rain, Summer & Winter


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Have you noticed mould or yellow streaks along or appearing on the corners of your walls above a few meters from the ground floor? That, is as a result of moisture soaked up in your wall; damps, structural deformities caused by a number of factors. Damps can attack both your internal and external walls rendering them often wet for a number of reasons. However, relating to the internal walls…

They can be caused by bad or broken plumbing fixtures which eventually leak water into your walls. Others are penetrating damps, where moisture from your walls outside somehow manages to sneak into your inner walls. Then there is the rising damp; where moisture crawls up your wall from beneath the floor. A crack in your wall can also cause wetness in your wall allowing the entry of moisture or liquid from an external environment.

Maybe you have noticed, or perhaps you haven’t, small droplets of water that appear on cold surfaces like your windows, walls during the winter, is also another cause of wetness in your wall.

They creep into the walls through cracks at joints of the window material to the wall material.

We’d be explaining some of the common causes of the wetness in your wall, how they formed and how to rid them off completely.

Causes of Dampness in Your Internal and External Walls

1. Condensation

You probably have heard this word or its verbal form “condense”. It is when heated/ humid air meets or comes in contact with a colder surface. This in turn forms water droplets that sit on that cold surface.

Condensations in walls are in many ways similar to that. If you have ever wondered while after a hot bath during the winter or an ordinarily cool day there is always moisture on your walls whether it is tiled from the floor up or not, it’s condensation.

If your walls are waterproofed, they shouldn’t linger for too long. But if there is a structural damage to your wall, or no damp proof was put in place during your home’s construction you may just be dealing with dampness from condensation.

Tips on Dealing with Condensation in Your Wall

You can’t eliminate all the floating moist air in your home. But you can control it as excess of it can lead to condensation buildup.

Tip #1

Keep your home properly ventilated by opening your windows daily. This will help combat condensation if there are signs of its buildup somewhere.

Tip #2

Cooking releases hot air into the atmosphere of your room. This will cause hot air to accumulate in turn, leading to condensation when it meets cold surfaces like your walls. Once this happens, damp will form on your walls.

To salvage this problem before it becomes full blown, if your kitchen has an extractor fan, turn it on to the highest power. Leave it for a little longer even after cooking.

Tip #3

Wet clothes over time can cause wetness in your wall. This is another way condensation can happen especially if your home is warmer than the temperature outside.

Try to open your windows if you are going to be hanging your clothes indoors. If you prefer tumble drying them, it is very important you have your ventilation pipes on the outside of your home.

Tip #4

During winter sessions, ensure the air within internal rooms and spaces are quite balanced. Unless this, your walls will be wet all winter or rainy periods. This is as a result of the external cold air colliding with the warm air your home in turn releasing water.

Tip #5

Condensation can happen due to damaged plumbing fixtures. Blocked or damaged drain pipes can cause wastewater to leak into your walls. This is typically common with external walls. Ensure gutters around your house or walls are not blocked and wastewater or rainwater is drained away freely.

Tip #6

Having your home furniture too close to the wall will create enough static heat between your wall and the furniture. When cold air comes in in a flush and hits those spots, moisture is form. If left unchecked, mould will begin to appear. To remedy or prevent this, leave enough space between your walls and your furniture. At least an inch.

2. Cracks Caused by Rainfall

Poor design and construction of houses will often lead to cracks formed within the internal and the external walls. Cracks wide enough to allow the entry of air and moisture into the internal vacuum of the walls.

Condensation may occur within that vacuum or should rainfall occur; it seeps into the walls and causes damps.

How to Deal with Damps from Wall Cracks

Wall cracks are no joke; seeing signs of major cracks on your wall especially if they seem wide and vertical. Calling the right authorities is advised as you risk the hazard of having the house collapse.

However, if tests are made with realizations that the cracks are not harmful or you choose to manage the building as it is; here are temporary fixes to the problem of having cracks on your walls;

Tip #1

Re-plastering of crack regions on wall surface should repair damage and reduce entry of moisture. Mistakes from structural designs cannot be fixed cheaply however to fix the issue of dampness from cracks. Covering the cracked area with cement plasters should serve as a proper temporary fix to the problem.it may as well end up being a permanent fix if properly done with a bit of luck.

Tip #2

Applying waterproof paints on the walls after re-plastering can serve as an extra measure as concrete also tends to absorb moisture. Water proof paints exist in different forms and textures hence; there are good chances of finding the ideal type for your walls so it can blend in nicely.

3. Rising Damp

Although condensation is one of the common causes of damp or wetness in walls, rising damp is also a threatening common cause of wetness in walls. Both are caused by moisture.

Does it mean they are the same?

Not really. Both happen because of moisture present in walls. However, they differ in the ways they attack home walls.

Rising damp from its name is moisture that rises through walls. It happens when water from the ground level of a house rises through the bricks, blocks or masonry of a building. This upward movement is possible because of capillary action.

Did you ever notice when you dropped some of your dry clothes in a basin filled with little water and after a few minutes some of them are soaked up?

This is because water from the basin rose through the fabric–that is capillary action at work. It goes against gravity. In the same vein, this is how your wall is attacked. Unlike condensation which happens when warm water collides with a cold surface, rising damp starts from the ground level.

How does water manage to rise?

Water will rise enough to cause wetness in your wall if there is no damp-proof or protector between your masonry and the ground level. Other times, it can happen if the damp proof is damaged.

One of the punctuating signs of a rising damp is a “tide-mark”. This is more like a stain in the wall.

You may be thinking how can moisture rise upward through bricks? Or even your block masonry. This is possible because of the narrow spaces or pore within the bricks or blocks.

Normally, when water rises through capillary action it seeks a means of escape usually by evaporation.  The moisture will continue to rise seeking a way out. Eventually, if there is none, gravity takes over and pulls it downward. The rising height is usually around 1.20metres. The large mark that appears on your wall is caused by deposits of salts hidden higher up in internal or external walls. Those salts are driven there when your walls are plastered or covered with materials that are not breathable i.e. they do not allow the passage of air. Thus, leaves the strange and bizarre mark you are looking at on your wall.

Other symptoms of rising damp are musty odour, rotting of wooden materials embedded to the floor, crumbling wall plaster etc.

How to Prevent Rising Damp

Wetness caused by rising damp is a little more stubborn to get rid off than condensation. They require a greater deal of attention and special materials unlike the basic tips offered earlier and latter at the end of this article for condensation.

Rising damp occurs in home where there are no damp-proof (often in the form of an impregnable plastic membrane) or the one installed was broken or has failed.

  • To salvage the situation, treat rising damps using flammable or corrosive fluids. These fluids are injected under pressure to block the pores of the blocks, bricks and masonry rendering them impenetrable by moisture.
  • Another way to arrest rising damp is to use a certified and tested damp-proofing rod. These rods are usually inserted into the walls.
  • Dry-rod damp-proofing rods are good options. They have been tested by the British Board of Agreement, the University of Portsmouth and Safeguard Europe.
  • In addition, walls containing salt from rising damps leave your walls looking ugly. They can be re-plastered after treating the rising dam.

4. Penetrating Damp

Wetness in walls can also be as a result of a penetrating damp. Similar to the issues of cracks in walls and unlike other causes of wetness in walls, especially rising damp penetrating damp is a tad different in ways they sneak in to attack your walls.

Penetrating damp otherwise called lateral damp or water ingress is the movement of moisture from your external walls into your internal walls. This happens due to water entering the inner walls of a building through a defect in the building’s structure or when external bricks, blocks have degraded. Degraded in this instance is when the bricks or blocks can no longer shore up the building from water penetration. Often times this happens in older buildings.

What Causes Penetrating Damps?

Penetrating damps can be caused by a number of things. Some of these sources are

Building defects: Building defects like poorly done plumbing or ignored failing plumbing systems like leaking pipes, failed or blocked drains etc. Some other defects that still count as solid sources of penetrating damps are poorly installed windows, missing roof tiles etc.

Porous walls: Bricks that have aged over time struggle to keep off water.  Cracks in external walls too can leak moisture into the property.

Damaged brickwork or brick masonry can also cause water ingress. Water ingress is the penetration of excess water into a property.

How to Identify a Penetrating Damp

Funnily, unlike rising damps which starts attacking from the ground level of a house, penetrating damp can attack from anywhere in a house, including the roofs.

Some of the commons signs of penetrating damps are drips from the roof or ceiling, puddles around corners of the home, damp stains on ceilings and external walls, crumbling plasters, growth of black mould etc.

How to Prevent a Penetrating Damp

Penetrating damp is harmful to your property especially if you drag solving them for too long. They can cause dry rot, wet rot, increase heat loss, ruin your wall’s plasterwork, musty smells etc.

Dry rot, an attack on anything made of or containing timber, by fungal growth. It degrades timber. It can also cause decay affecting the structural integrity of the timber. Wet rot and dry rot affect timber. However, the later needs more moisture than the other to damage structures made of timber and inflicts more structural damage.

Some of the common ways of solving or preventing penetrating damps are;

  • Clearing blocked gutterings and unclogging downpipes
  • Replaced damaged or broken windows. If drip grooves of windows are blocked, have them clean thoroughly.
  • If you have a damage or leaking roof have them replaced or repaired if you can DIY.
  • Damage bricks or aged blocks should be replaced, repaired or removed. Apply a water-proof solution to these bricks or masonry.

5. Damage to Embedded Plumbing Fixtures

Faulty plumbing pipes and the likes create leakages that affect the walls they are embedded in; traces of dampness are then formed which may in turn weaken structure if it lasts long enough. Maybe even cause a collapse of structure; partly or completely.

How to Resolve Plumbing Fixture Damages

Simply resolving the issues of leaked or damage pipes would require that you contact a plumber, or look up the issues if they can be done by you. Besides this, deflecting the issue would likely lead to further detriments

Is Dampness Only Common During Winter or Wet Weather?

As-a-matter-of-fact wetness or dampness is not only common during wet weathers or rainy periods.

Against the general assumption that wetness of walls only occurs during rainy period when everywhere is soggy and water is pooled here and there, dampness happens during SUMMERS too.

Shocking right? Must have been why you have been scratching your head and wondering how you got a wet wall or a damp on your external walls when everywhere is warm.

Well, that’s the real element that spurs dampness in walls–Humidity. Warm air.

High levels of humidity in the atmosphere lead to condensation and rising damps which in turn causes wetness in walls.

Normally, when there’s water somewhere around, then it is very likely your walls will absorb some.

But since the rains are over why are you still seeing symptoms of rising damp or condensation?

Typically, this dampness you see on your wall is caused by natural chemicals from the soil. These chemicals are deposited there when moisture after rising, has no way of evaporating.

Your walls begin to show “tide-mark” because these chemicals absorb moist air from the surrounding atmosphere.

High level of humidity in the summer has also been known to cause the growth of mould in cupboards that have been locked for a long period of time. Since cupboards or wardrobes do not have open doors, they then to absorb more heat when the humidity levels are high. Signs of dampness is the growth of mold on handbags, shoes, corners of the cupboards/wardrobes etc.

To End

In conclusion, sources of dampness or wetness in walls are failed or damaged plumbing like pipe leaks, blocked gutterings etc. Others are penetrating damp, condensation, and rising damp. Wet walls are not only common during rainy periods. Damp in walls are prevalent in summers. This is due to the high humidity levels in summers.

Damp walls if left untreated can lead to a lot of threatening health issues such as bronchitis and asthma. Some damps are tough to remove and handle. Rising and penetrating damps are good example. Finally, ensure to call the expertise of a damp expert immediately when you begin to notice damp in your walls.

 

Joe Taylor

Over 2 decades of remodeling experience, Joe is an expert in home improvement. He is now the Managing Editor of PlumbJoe where he writes guides for homeowners. His hobbies include climbing, running and playing the piano.

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