As much as it pains many people to action the spring cleaning regime, it is an ideal time to do some thorough maintenance checks on your property’s externally facing surfaces – for seasonal damage. A lot of the time, external damage presents itself with internal ramifications – such as damp, mould, fungal growth and stains on paintwork, wallpaper or along the ceiling. So, rather than simply dealing with the problems internally, get to the root-cause of these problems externally and repair the leaking roof, clear debris that may be breaching the damp proof course and causing damp problems around the lower area of ground-floor rooms, and seal any masonry brickwork that has aged and weakened from more extreme exposure to autumnal and wintery high winds.
Google can frequently be a dangerous place for spring cleaning and home repair tasks, as whilst there can be extremely professional solutions available, too many forums and comment threads shout about “quick fixes” and “save money” remedies. Strong cleaning solutions will not rectify damp and condensation problems. Touching up the ceiling with a nice white emulsion will not block stains coming through again if the root-cause has not been fixed and the surrounding area is still building up moisture when it rains. If you are in any doubt about these fixes, add PDF to your search queries, as this will often return some product data-sheets in the search results, which manufacturers produce to show scientific results from its products’ testing and application regimes. Searching YouTube for tips allows you to see more accurate before and after results, too – where you can clearly determine whether the before scenario matches your own.
Don’t Let Damp Dampen Your Spirits
Out-of-sight problems can cause phenomenally problematic eyesores in your home, and post-winter a key one can be water-pipe damage. From contracting and expanding during freezing and thawing weather, regardless of whether they were insulated or not, aged or poorly installed water-pipes could have sprung a very small leak which, through capillary action, can ‘bleed’ water through to walls and ceilings. Burst water-pipes can cause massive damage to a property, but split, cracked or leaking pipes, over time, can cause great repair costs, too.
The romantic notion of snow on Christmas Day is soon bitterly looked back upon if that snow settles and pools when it thaws, but doesn’t drain away correctly. Flat roofs, pitched roofs, blocked guttering or downpipes, clogged drains, or too shallow a slope away from a property can see that pooled water seep into brick and masonry, even hibernating in warmer weather due to cool conditions in substrates. Over time, that water, again through capillary action, can cause mould, algae and fungal growth on walls and ceilings. The tricky thing about capillary action is that water rarely takes a direct route through substrate layers. From pooling in a blocked gutter, water can seep in through the roofing or aged brick/masonry, and begin to ‘crawl through’ gaps and hairline cracks. Quickly, an indirect route to the middle of the ceiling can be established, as water continues to ‘flow’ in during winter and spring, and if not repaired, continuously throughout the year.
On occasion, the root problem can be right in front of your eyes. Leaves or piled snow on windowsills act as a sponge, slowly letting water into your property around the edges of the window frames – if uPVC – or directly through aged/damaged wooden window frames. Often here, the quickest place the water hits and causes damp and mould is around and below windows. This may go unnoticed if there are chairs, tables, units or shelves directly under or in front of the window, and can be a surprise when the room is rearranged come warmer weather!
Keeping Water OUT of Your Property
Quick tips to keep ahead of the wintery weather this year and where to repair this spring clean, are:
- Aged and damaged wooden window frames and windowsills should be sanded back and primed to seal the wood. Any cracks or splits should be repaired with a waterproof filler, and a durable external wood paint applied.
- Be sure to seal around where the frame or windowsill meets brick or masonry work.
- Check that there are no blockages in guttering and downpipes, and that the drain is directly below the downpipe’s exit.
- Pour water into the far end of the guttering and look for leaks, dripping or unusual flow patterns.
- Ensure that there is no objects or structures that breach the damp proof course – usually noticeable as a horizontal line approx. 4-8” from ground level around brickwork. This damp course seal blocks moisture flowing up through brick, but any object adjacent to the wall could allow water and moisture to bypass it.
- This could be manually constructed steps, a garden trellis, a pet cage or kennel, etc.
- Soil and earth needs to slope away from a property, and if it doesn’t, rake and manually grade the ground so that it does. Concrete, paving and patio slabs also need to be graded so that they slope away from the property. If they don’t and have been incorrectly laid or installed, seek a contractor who can help rectify this.
- Have chimneys and fireplace flues annually checked and inspected for damage or blockages – as well as a regular clean prior to and post-winter.
- Trim back bushes and trees that overhang or meet your property – even if this only happens in windy weather.
- Avoid using metal or metal-edged spades or snow shovels that can damage concrete, tarmac or asphalt – creating means for water to enter and further damage a substrate.
- Replace any broken roof tiles, and ensure none are loose, too. Where possible, keep roofing clear of snow and debris on shallow slopes/gradients.
- Repair any cracks and openings in brickwork or wall masonry.
- Ensure your property is sufficiently insured against Mother Nature.