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02 Oct 2009 04:10:39

Problems with mould and some solutions

Apart from spoiling the look of a place, mould can also bring serious health problems if it is left to thrive. In most instances, the causes can be dealt with to prevent any mould in the future, without resorting to mould treatment.

Usually, the problem can be completely cured by dealing with the following culprits:
Poor ventilation
Cold bridging
Water ingress

Poor ventilation can be caused by a number of factors, the most common are: a lack of physical vents to allow for air flow (e.g. windows without trickle vents, vents blocked up to keep the heat in) and furniture placed too close to walls.

Make sure that the air inlets are not blocked, especially in bathrooms, kitchens and toilets. If ventilation is still poor then you might need new vents or an extractor. Bear in mind though that much excess condensation can be prevented by simply opening the windows for a while after showering or while cooking.

Ventilation does not necessarily mean major heat loss, though. There are now heat exchange extractors that use the warm outgoing moist air to pre-heat the incoming air, thus giving you a way of maintaining energy efficiency and removing the issue of excessive moisture. There are issues here though as you really need to fit the unit on the leeward side of your house to stop interference with wind blowing the extract shut.

Cold bridge:
If the mould only occurs at specific locations, it could be due to a cold bridge – a physical direct connection between the outdoors and the indoors that is markedly less thermally efficient. For example where the cavity wall is breached by wall ties covered in waste mortar. Without insulation or other heat barriers, a cold patch appears on the indoor side of the wall, encouraging condensation and mould to take place locally.

Areas around windows are also prone to mould because the windows are generally less thermally efficient than the wall so the edges get colder and hence attract condensation and mould.

Good insulation or removal of the cold bridge are really the only answers here to permanently solve the problem. The sticky plaster approach can be to use insulating paint additives as these will keep the surface warmer and hence reduce condensation or the use of natural alkaline paints, like that from Auro.

Water ingress:
The mould problem may be caused by water sipping in from the outside and through the fabric of the roof or/and walls. The main culprits are: blocked gutters, leaking downpipes, cracked render, rising damp, poor damp-proofing in older houses, leaky internal pipework and damaged roofs. Be aware though that the water may have travelled a circulative route so the actual leak might be some way away from the damp patch.

The cures depend on the problem, but water ingress can be a dangerous problem as untreated it can cause major structural damage.

A great way to spot if you have damp is to decorate using claypaints, as these are hygroscopic (attract and release moisture) and change hue when damp so it becomes very obvious a. where you have damp and b. when you have cured it. See www.earthbornpaints.co.uk

For more advice on home renovation and natural decorating and building products visit www.ecohomecentre.co.uk This is a community based resource in Cardiff that is dedicated to sustainable building in Wales.

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