Traumatic damp treatment, causes and symptoms
Penetrating damp, rising damp and damp caused by condensation are well recognised and documented within the building industry. The government guidance on damp and mould brought another form of dampness to light – one that is well-known but not often thought about in its own category.
This new term for dampness caused by a leak or environmental flooding is ‘traumatic damp’.
What is traumatic damp?
Traumatic damp can be defined as dampness caused by a building defect that is letting moisture into the home.
The Government Guidance lists a wide range of causes, including:
- Overflowing baths or sinks
- Waste and heating pipe leaks
- Water storage vessel leaks
- Environmental flooding or flooding from neighbouring properties
Although the guidance states that traumatic damp can occur from some outside sources, it is important not to confuse traumatic damp with penetrating damp.
Penetrating damp is when external moisture like rain, gets in through walls, roofs, windows or floors. It often (but not always) accumulates over time. In comparison, traumatic damp occurs due to severe and often sudden housing damage. In other words, if penetrating damp is a long-term severe illness, traumatic damp is an immediately life-threatening emergency.
How to spot traumatic damp
Due to its often extreme nature, traumatic damp is relatively easy to diagnose in comparison to other forms of dampness. However, there is one cause of traumatic damp that can pass under the radar.
Copper piping is common in heating systems in older and newer homes. Pinhole leaks in copper water pipes can go undetected for long periods of time. These miniscule holes can be caused by corrosion over time or from exposure to steel rebar and concrete. Pipes over 20 years old are more susceptible to this kind of damage.
Only a tiny amount of water escapes from a pinhole leak, which means it can take a long time for one to become a noticeable damp problem. Consistently damp areas can rot floorboards.
Your home’s plumbing system should be checked regularly, at least once a year, to help detect corroded pipework before it becomes a problem. Always engage a qualified plumber to carry out checks and maintenance.
Other traumatic damp warning signs
Keep an eye on your water bill. If it seems higher than usual, there could be a leak somewhere on your property. The sound of dripping water behind walls, under floorboards and inside kitchen cabinets may also give away the location of a leak. As with all types of dampness in the home, traumatic damp can cause musty smells and black mould growth.
If your home floods, make sure all excess water and saturated belongings are fully removed, and all wet surfaces are fully dried out so as not to cause a long-term damp problem. Saturated gypsum or cement plasters should be replaced with a suitable damp-resistant plaster.
Assess the home for:
- Defects in seals
- Cracks in walls, windows and doorframes
- Unprotected porous masonry
- Vents and airbricks at water entry level
- Party walls
- Ground seepage
No matter the flood risk, every home should be prepared for environmental flooding. Our free-to-download Flood Remediation Guidance includes flood resilience and flood resistance systems to keep homes dry should the worst happen.
Protect home and health
Damp means moisture, and excessive moisture in the house isn’t good news for anybody. Like any kind of damp, traumatic damp can create a host of issues for home and health.
As already mentioned, black mould can take root on walls and ceilings. Plasterboard, grout, wallpaper, painted surfaces and silicone seals are very common breeding grounds for black mould growth when moisture levels are high enough.
But other types of fungal growth like dry rot and wet rot thrive in warm and damp environments. Traumatic damp over a long period of time on floorboards or roof battens is the perfect environment for rot.
Wood-decaying fungi like wet and dry rot digest wood, causing widespread structural damage. They circulate outside, and can be brought in unknowingly on clothing and objects. When the spores settle on a suitably damp and warm surface, they start to grow. As the growth progresses, the fruiting body of the fungus produces spores which spread around the environment to spread it to a wider area.
By ensuring there are no damp areas around your home, these spores are unable to grow. A timber treatment like SoluGuard Woodworm & Rot can also prevent wood-decaying fungi growth. In combination with the removal of rotten timber, SoluGuard can also be used as a curative treatment. Probor Wood Preservatives can also be used to prevent and treat wood rot, although they can only be used by a qualified wood preservation professional.
The NHS recognises damp and mould as a health hazard. Mouldy conditions are linked closely to poor respiratory health. They can worsen asthma, trigger allergic reactions and are especially harmful for:
- Babies and younger children
- People with respiratory conditions
- People with a weakened immune system
- Older people
Four steps to treat traumatic damp
The nature of traumatic damp means that it can be unavoidable. When the worst happens, be prepared. Once the leak has been fixed and the excess water drained away, here are four steps to get your home back to a dry state and mitigate any future damage:
- Dry out internal walls: To dry out any damp walls once the core problem has been rectified, ensure the affected rooms are kept at a consistent warm temperature in combination with ventilation. This will stop condensation from forming on damp walls and floors. Dehumidifiers can also help dry out damp rooms, further reducing the risk of mould and mildew growth.
- Waterproof external walls: To prevent damp from damaging structures from the outside, you can apply breathable waterproofing masonry cream like Stormdry Masonry Protection Cream on the outer walls. This will repel water from the brickwork but also line, rather than block, the masonry’s pores, allowing any moisture to escape and the damp external wall to dry out.
- Replaster: Damp gypsum or cement plaster must be replaced. Environmental flooding can contaminate plaster with groundwater salts, causing unsightly tidemarks and damp spots on the wall that stay even once the rest of the house is dry. When repairing a flood-damaged property, apply a damp and salt-resistant plaster from the Dryzone Renovation Plasters range. Damp-resistant plaster can be applied in the same way as traditional plasters and aid the drying-out of damp walls.
- Paint: Finally, finish the job with a mould-resistant emulsion paint from the Dryzone range. They contain a mould-killing barrier that protects against mould growth for up to five years, even in areas of consistently high condensation.
Keep in mind, these tips are general. Every home is different and no two incidences of traumatic damp are the same. Always engage professional advice before taking the steps outlined above. But don’t worry — we can help! The Safeguard Technical Team is always on hand to offer advice about damp prevention and remediation. Call or email us at the link below.