Dampness in walls: Types, causes and prevention

dampness in walls

Dampness in walls is a prevalent issue faced by numerous homeowners, particularly during the monsoon season. Taking proactive measures to address this concern before the onset of monsoons is crucial. Failure to prevent dampness can lead to the formation of seepages in the walls, causing a cascade of problems such as leakages, peeling paint, and the development of cracks.

Beyond the visible damage, dampness poses health risks as the molds and fungi it fosters can have adverse effects on one’s well-being. Additionally, the structural integrity of the house is compromised when dampness is left unattended. Therefore, it is imperative to implement preventive measures to avoid the detrimental consequences associated with dampness.

Types of dampness

There exist three main types of dampness that can affect walls:

1. Penetrating Dampness:

This type of dampness occurs when external water infiltrates the walls. Common causes include leaks in roofs, defective gutters, or cracks in the walls. Penetrating dampness often manifests as damp patches on walls, especially during heavy rainfall.

2. Rising Dampness:

Rising dampness originates from the ground and ascends through the walls. It is caused by the capillary action of moisture moving upward in porous materials, such as bricks and mortar. This type of dampness is typically visible as a rising tide-like stain on the lower sections of walls.

3. Condensation Dampness:

Condensation dampness results from the accumulation of water vapor in the air that condenses on cool surfaces, such as walls. It is common in areas with poor ventilation, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. Signs of condensation dampness include water droplets, mold growth, and sometimes a musty odor.

Each type of dampness requires specific identification and targeted solutions for effective treatment and prevention. To get more information you can check PropChk Home Inspection for Seepage and Dampness. 

Penetrating dampness

Penetrating dampness occurs when water seeps through the walls, and various factors can contribute to this issue.

S.NoProblemCauses Solutions
1Leaking PipesPipes that are leaking can contribute to water seepage into the walls.Address any leaks in pipes to prevent water seepage.
2Broken or Missing Roof TilesDamaged or absent roof tiles can expose the roof structure to water infiltration.
Address any missing or damaged roof tiles to prevent water entry.
Patching up Wall Dings and Frame Fissures:  
3Crack in Windows and Doors Cracks in the external walls provide openings for water to penetrate.Repair any imperfections in the walls and frames of doors and windows to seal potential entry points.
4Weathering of BricksBricks can deteriorate over time, becoming increasingly porous and prone to water infiltration due to weather exposure.Substitute porous bricks with water-repellent materials or apply a water-resistant coating.
5Broken or Clogged Rain GuttersDamage or blockage in the rain gutters on your roof can lead to water penetration into the walls.Ensure gutters are in good condition and free from blockages.

Rising dampness


Rising dampness occurs when water from the ground ascends into the house due to capillary action, often stemming from structural issues in the building, specifically related to the damp-proof course or membrane. The damp-proof course, a waterproof layer typically made of plastic or bitumen felt, is installed within a building’s wall close to the ground to prevent rising dampness. It is a horizontal strip positioned at least 15 cm above ground level. Additionally, a damp-proof membrane, a waterproof sheet beneath the concrete floor, is employed to shield the home from rising groundwater. Rising dampness occurs when these protective measures fail, possibly due to the absence or malfunction of the damp-proof course or membrane. Check PropChk Home Inspection for Seepage and Dampness for detailed information. 


Addressing rising dampness usually requires professional assistance. To remedy the situation:

1. Verify the presence of a Damp-proof membrane or course:

   Consult with an expert to determine whether your home has a damp-proof membrane or course.

2. Assess ground level:

   A high ground level can contribute to water seeping into walls. Ensure the damp-proof course is positioned at least 15 cm above ground level. If the ground level is too high, excavation around the damp wall’s exterior may be necessary to bring it below the course level.

3. Seal with asphalt:

   To further protect the wall from moisture, consider sealing it with asphalt.

In dealing with rising dampness, professional evaluation and intervention are crucial, and specific measures may include ensuring the presence of protective layers and addressing issues related to ground level and wall sealing.

Condensation dampness


Condensation dampness occurs when moisture in the air condenses on walls, typically resulting from the contact of warm, moist air with cold surfaces. When this happens, the air can no longer hold the moisture, leading to the formation of water droplets and the growth of mold on walls.

Contributing factors to condensation dampness include a lack of ventilation, cold surfaces, and inadequate central heating. These conditions create an environment where warm, moisture-laden air interacts with colder surfaces, causing condensation issues.


Managing condensation can be achieved through various measures:

1. Double glazing:

   Installing double glazing, though relatively expensive, can be an effective way to reduce condensation by providing an additional layer of insulation.

2. Dehumidifier usage:

   Employing a dehumidifier helps in extracting excess moisture from the air, reducing the likelihood of condensation on walls.

3. Improving ventilation:

   Enhance ventilation by opening windows and installing air vents and fans. Improved airflow helps disperse moisture and mitigates condensation issues.

4. Temperature adjustment:

   Increasing the indoor temperature, especially during colder periods, can minimize the temperature difference between warm air and cold surfaces, thus reducing condensation.

5. Regular cleaning:

   Wipe down windows and affected areas with a cloth to clear accumulated moisture and prevent the growth of mold.

By implementing these measures, individuals can effectively manage condensation dampness and create a more comfortable and moisture-controlled indoor environment.

What causes wall dampness

Numerous factors contribute to the occurrence of dampness in walls. Let’s closely examine some primary factors categorized as External and Internal for the reader’s benefit.

External factors:

1. Infiltration of rainwater:

In regions with frequent heavy rainfall, water infiltration through ceilings and walls can become a concern. While minor water penetration is typical, excessive moisture can pose a significant threat to the integrity of your home.

2. Groundwater seepage and flooding:

Homes situated at lower levels may experience water seepage from the ground, leading to potential flooding. This is particularly prevalent in houses with basements or those constructed on lower ground lacking a proper foundation.

3. Condensation due to temperature fluctuations:

Fluctuating temperatures, including heavy rains or snow, can result in water droplets accumulating within wall pockets. These droplets subsequently evaporate and migrate through the walls on warmer days. Regions near large water bodies may experience heightened humidity, resulting in wall dampness during winters.

Internal factors:

1. Plumbing leaks or pipe bursts:

The bursting of faulty or aging pipes can cause water inundation in homes. If the pipes carry non-potable water, the impact can be more severe, necessitating immediate intervention to prevent not only damp walls but also more significant issues.

2. Inadequate ventilation:

Moisture levels in the air rise during monsoons and winters, even in arid regions. Insufficient ventilation, such as the absence of windows, prevents proper airflow and sunlight, leading to dampness as trapped moisture has no outlet to evaporate into the atmosphere. Poorly ventilated kitchens and bathrooms are particularly susceptible to causing dampness on internal walls.

3. Moisture-producing activities:

Activities like cooking and showering generate moisture, contributing to damp wall issues. In the absence of proper ventilation and drainage, these activities can lead to condensation dampness on internal walls, posing potential long-term harm.

 Methods to check wall dampness

Here are several indicators to help you determine whether your walls are damp. If you notice any of the following issues, it could suggest the presence of dampness:

1. Press your palm flat against a wall. If the wall feels cold and slightly moist to the touch, it indicates dampness.

2. The presence of fungal growth or mold, particularly in the form of black speckled dots on materials like woodwork, wallpaper, and similar surfaces, signals a longstanding dampness issue.

3. Flaking paint on ceilings and walls is another clear sign of dampness.

4. Brown stain marks, patches, and discoloration on walls and ceilings are indicative of dampness-related problems.

5. Dampness often gives rise to a musty and unpleasant smell, resembling the odor found in areas like garages, basements, or storerooms.

 Treatment of wall dampness

Dealing with damp walls is a significant concern, but fortunately, it is both preventable and treatable. Let’s explore the steps you should take for effective damp wall treatment:

1. Identify the source of dampness:

   Before initiating any treatment, pinpoint the cause of dampness. Treatment methods vary based on the root cause, with areas like bathrooms and kitchens potentially requiring different approaches. Regularly monitor walls to detect dampness early and prevent the issue from worsening.

2. Repairing external causes:

   Address external factors like high groundwater levels and improper foundations with the assistance of professionals.

3. Fixing leaks or cracks:

   Attend to cracks, holes, and leaks promptly using crack-fill putty. Ensure thorough filling and uniformity by painting over the putty. Address these issues before the onset of the monsoon season.

4. Improving drainage systems:

   Prevent flooding by installing appropriate drainage pipes and cleaning them regularly. Address municipal drainage issues promptly by contacting the relevant authorities.

5. Repairing internal causes:

   Treat internal causes with the following tips:

   a. Fixing plumbing issues:

      Resolve internal plumbing problems, such as improper drainage and broken pipes, to prevent water damage. Use durable pipes and consult with a plumber for effective solutions.

   b. Enhancing ventilation and airflow

      Improve room ventilation by keeping windows and doors open, using fans, and maximizing sunlight exposure. Install exhaust fans or room heaters if necessary.

   c. Install waterproof tiles

      After repairing cracks and ensuring wall dryness, consider installing wall tiles to create an impermeable surface, preventing moisture seepage.

   d. Drying and restoring affected walls:

      Restore affected walls using crack-filling putty for minor damage, and consult experts for major repairs.

   e. Removing damaged materials

      Discard damaged items like wallpapers, paint, doors, and wooden accessories. Treat items that cannot be discarded with anti-mould products and sunlight exposure.

   f. Applying appropriate treatments:

      Apply anti-mould products to organic items and coat walls with sealants to prevent water damage.

In conclusion, damp walls can be troublesome, especially during the monsoon season. However, following these simple tips and tricks can help you effectively address damp wall problems promptly.

Can damp walls cause health problems?

Certainly, the presence of damp walls can lead to a range of health issues such as allergies, respiratory problems, asthma exacerbation, and potential impacts on both the immune system and mental well-being. It is crucial to identify the root causes of dampness and address them promptly to prevent further harm. This discussion will provide insights into the reasons behind damp walls and offer guidance on effective prevention measures.

Ways to prevent walls from dampness

1. Sealing wall cracks:

   Over time, cracks may develop in your home’s walls, often near door and window frames. These cracks can allow moisture to permeate the building structure, leading to damp spots and wall seepages. An effective solution is to fill these cracks with wall crack filler, ensuring that loose plaster is removed before application. Repainting the walls is recommended after filling gaps and cracks, ideally before the onset of the monsoon season.

2. Waterproof surface treatments:

   Many exterior paints used on buildings are porous, enabling water to penetrate interior walls. Applying exterior waterproofing coats can create a barrier, preventing water from infiltrating walls. This waterproof coating acts as insulation, safeguarding walls against rain and moisture. Additionally, treating dampness in interior walls can be achieved by waterproofing the roof, particularly given the harsh weather conditions roofs endure. A waterproof coating serves as a sealant, preventing water seepage on roofs.

3. Integral damp proof systems:

   Wet spots near the lower part of walls, close to the skirting, may indicate groundwater penetration. To counteract this, installing a damp-proof course is crucial. This preventive barrier, typically constructed 150 mm above ground level with an impervious material, prevents moisture from rising through walls. While damp-proof courses are usually integrated during building construction, replacement may be necessary if damp patches emerge. This intricate task should be handled by a specialist to assess and, if needed, replace the damp-proof course.

   During the season, ensure proper home ventilation and promptly address any mold or fungus resulting from rain, as their presence can lead to respiratory problems. If excessive moisture or significant cracks are detected, consult a specialist promptly to prevent damp walls.

4. Guniting:

   Guniting involves applying a thin layer of concrete mixture to pipes and walls for waterproofing. Distinct from shotcreting, guniting, or high-pressure concrete mixture spraying, is known for its longer-lasting effects.

5. Pressure grouting:

   Pressure grouting entails injecting cement and sand into crevices, cracks, or fissures in a structure. This process not only prevents dampness in walls but also contributes to strengthening and stabilizing the structure.


What leads to dampness in walls ?

Dampness in walls can result from various factors, including water seepage due to poor construction materials or inadequate waterproofing. Leaks in sewage lines, faulty plumbing, and ground moisture rising up can contribute. Additionally, lacking proper drainage, leakage in bathroom tiles, and deficient window frames can lead to dampness, affecting the walls.

Is water seepage the same as wall dampness?

Water seepage and wall dampness are related but distinct issues. Water seepage refers to water penetrating through cracks or porous materials, causing infiltration. Wall dampness results when this seepage or other factors lead to moisture accumulation within the walls, causing dampness, which can manifest as stains, mold, or a generally wet appearance.

Does opening the window reduce dampness?

Opening windows can help reduce dampness by promoting better ventilation. Improved airflow aids in moisture evaporation, preventing the buildup that leads to damp conditions. However, this method may be less effective in extremely humid or rainy conditions, where additional measures like using dehumidifiers or addressing underlying issues may be necessary.

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