Mould and damp might not seem like a big deal, but they can actually make you very ill especially if you have a breathing condition such as asthma or a mould allergy.
Unfortunately, because rental properties are sometimes sat empty for long periods of time, they can develop damp and mould quite easily.
Here is a list of places you should be checking and what you should be looking for when trying to spot the signs of damp and mould as you view a potential new home.
Window frames are prone to having damp and mould grow on them or near them because the glass from the window collects condensation which materials around it like wood and plaster can absorb and hold on to. As mould likes to grow in moist environments these are ideal conditions for them to grow.
The first place to check is the corners of the windows and along any edges, you’ll be looking for patches of furry mould that could be either black, blue, white or brown.
If the window frame is wooden, you should look for signs that the frame has warped (twisted or become misshapen) or swollen; its worth noting that this can just happen over time or because of heat so to further check you can look for dark patches in the wood and feel the frame to see if the wood feels wet. If the frame is wooden but painted then look for bubbling, peeling, flaking or crumbling paint this is a sign that there’s moisture underneath it.
You should also look for damp on the wall under the window as well, as most damp is caused by trapped moisture then the walls closest to where the moisture is getting in are usually the worst affected.
Look for dark patches, peeling or bubbling paint, peeling wallpaper, crumbling plaster and signs that the skirting board might be warped or is coming away from the wall.
Mostly you’ll be looking for damp and mould around the front and back doors rather than the interior doors though mould does tend to grow in corners and edges so you could check those too if you like.
Checking for signs of damp around doors is very similar to looking for it around windows, check the corners and edges first and look for patches of damp and mould as well as bubbling, peeling paint or peeling wallpaper.
Look for signs that the door frame has warped or swollen and check the walls surrounding the door for peeling/bubbling paint and wallpaper that’s peeling or lifting.
One of the first things you should do when being shown around a house is look up. In every room check the top edges of the walls where the wall meets the ceiling and look for any patches of mould especially in kitchens and bathrooms, these rooms are prone to mould and damp because they fill with steam quite often. Pay special attention to the corners of the room as moisture collects there and mould loves moisture. Mould and damp tend to occur more on external walls because those tend to be colder and wetter.
In rooms on the top floor look for dark patches of damp and mould on the ceiling itself, look for crumbling plaster or a bowing ceiling, this is a sign that moisture is getting through the roof usually from missing or broken roof tiles.
Guttering can also lead to damp on external walls. If your gutters are full and blocked, then rain water will collect in them and run down the wall which means it will likely get inside the wall and lead to damp forming inside your house.
Keep an eye on your gutters if they look blocked, plants are growing out of them, you can see water pouring down the outside of the wall or algae is forming on the wall below them then inform your landlord they need clearing, clearing gutters isn’t a big job and it’s in both of your best interest.
Technically you’re not looking at the floor for damp you’re looking at the walls next to the floor, look for dark patches of mould, peeling paint/wallpaper and skirting boards that looked warped or as if they’re coming away from the wall. This is called rising damp it’s caused by moisture getting into the walls from the ground.
Check under the sink in the kitchen and around the shower, sink, toilet and bath in the bathroom, pipes collect condensation, so mould and damp usually grow near them.
Bathrooms deal with a lot of moisture so it makes sense that damp and mould would be the worst in this room. Look around the edges of baths and showers, under the bath if you can and around the toilet for patches of damp or mould, most bathrooms are tiled so pay attention to anywhere that isn’t and look for crumbling plaster and peeling paint.
Don’t just use your eyes.
Smell the room if it smells musty then that’s usually because it’s been sitting empty but if it smells mouldy then that’s not a good sign.
Feel the walls, do they feel moist?
Does the air in the room feel damp?
Take a deep breath, does your chest hurt?
Is it hard to breath?
Is your throat dry?
Are you wheezing?
If you spot any signs of damp or mould or have any concerns raise them with the person that is showing you around or if you’ve already moved in raise them with your landlord, there’s lots of ways of tackling mould and damp.
If you see mould and your landlord tells you that it’s old or inactive you can check this by taking a picture of the mould, draw a pencil line around it (avoid this if you have breathing conditions or an allergy to penicillin, ciclesonide or fluticasone or any other mould or fungus based medicines, try and get somebody to do this for you) if after a few weeks the mould is outside the line then this means it is still active take a picture of this and show both to your landlord. You can feel if mould is wet but make sure to be careful and wash your hands afterwards or you could bleach it off and see if it comes back.
You can get anti mould paint but there has been speculation that this doesn’t work or traps moisture in the wall so if you choose this option, it might be worth doing some research first.