A wall damaged due to rising damp in a house

What Happens If You Leave Rising Damp?

Key Takeaways

Nature of Rising Damp: Rising damp is a structural issue that starts from the foundation and ascends through walls, damaging paintwork, brickwork, plaster, and other components. It occurs due to factors like a damaged Damp-Proof Course (DPC), excessive ground moisture, or poor drainage.

Consequences of Untreated Rising Damp: Leaving rising damp untreated can lead to extensive damage both externally and internally in a house. It can cause paint flaking, wallpaper peeling, and erosion of internal woodwork, including skirting boards and doors. Rising damp creates conditions favourable for mould growth, posing health risks and emitting unpleasant odours. Structural elements like floor joists may degrade, and masonry integrity may be compromised.

Causes of Rising Damp: Rising damp is caused by capillary action, where moisture ascends through walls, and soluble salts from groundwater deposits on walls. The lack of a proper rising damp barrier, such as a damp-proof course, increases the likelihood of its manifestation.

Rising damp is one hell of a structural issue that causes damage to the house if not treated on time. It starts from the foundation of the house and rises all the way up via the walls, damaging the paintwork, brickwork, plaster, and other structural entities that are involved.

The reason behind a rising damp issue can be anything from a damaged Damp-Proof Course (DPC) to a higher amount of moisture present in the ground or a poor drainage system. Therefore, if your house is suffering from a rising damp problem, it is more important than ever to work on fixing the underlying cause first.

If left untreated, rising damp can potentially run wild in your house, damaging all the walls externally as well as internally. The extent of damage will keep on increasing until the whole house gets eaten away. So, it's essential to treat rising damp problems as quickly as possible. With that said, let's reflect more on the topic.

A damaged wall due to high moisture content and rising damp

First, Let's Talk About Rising Damp

Rising damp is a rare expression of moisture that has a significant influence on building structural integrity.

This phenomenon occurs when moisture ascends through the walls by capillary action, similar to a hydrodynamic excursion through microscopic conduits in the bricks that resemble a network of straws.

The aqueous fluid, packed with salts, flows through these channels, creating a suction force that pulls it higher. Concurrently, porous building materials in the vicinity, such as plasterwork and the lumber used for flooring, joists, and skirtings, quickly absorb this groundwater, potentially promoting the development of damp rot inside the timber.

A wall having a rising damp problem

The advent of increasing moisture is first noticeable in the visible damage caused by the edifice's internal and exterior walls. The consequences include the deterioration of plaster and paint, as well as the removal of wallpaper.

The appearance of a visible stain, similar to a tide mark, indicating the location at which groundwater has invaded is an obvious telling indicator.

Simultaneously, the inside surface may display salt blooming—an event inherently connected to rising damp—resulting in the detachment of paints and, in severe cases, plasterwork.

Externally, the mortar may disintegrate, accompanied by the formation of prominent white salt streaks on the walls.

Bubbling of plaster work due to moisture and rising damp in a wall

So, What if You Leave Rising Damp Untreated?

Rising damp, a dangerous threat to your home, has far-reaching consequences beyond aesthetic discomfort.

The negative impact on the internal environment of your home manifests itself not only in the unsightly consequences of paint flaking and wallpaper peeling but also in the hazardous erosion of the internal woodwork, precipitating the decay of foundational elements like skirting boards and the distortion or swelling of doors and their casings.

Furthermore, rising damp generates an atmosphere suitable for mould growth. This insidious mould growth, in addition to being physically disgusting, carries serious health risks and has a natural inclination to spread quickly across the entirety of your home.

Concurrently, the damp smell of the mould emits a persistent and malodourous odour that pervades the entire residential environment.

Bubbling of plasterwork due to rising damp issue

In addition to these inconveniences, the uncontrolled escalation of rising damp might have more severe consequences. Moisture entry into the structural strength of wood, particularly the floor joists, promotes the growth of black mould and rapid degradation, compromising the flooring's underlying stability.

The collateral devastation is not limited to timber materials; the structural integrity of masonry and mortar is also jeopardized by the hostile effects of water and salts, resulting in a noticeable decrease in robustness.

This sensitivity manifests itself in the form of compromised pointing, broken bricks, and spalling, all of which make the home even more vulnerable to moisture intrusion.

Exterior wall of a house affected by rising damp

What Causes Rising Damp? Is it the Eradication of Damp Proof Course?

To successfully address the issue of rising damp, it is necessary to know the deep complexity of its causes.

If your home lacks a robust defence in the form of a rising wet barrier, also known as a damp proof course, the likelihood of rising damp manifesting becomes a compelling reality.

The complexities reside in the method by which rising damp transpires, aided by capillary action that takes moisture from the earth.

This upward migration of moisture is limited to a fixed elevation, usually approximately one meter. Additional levels of intricacy develop when salt deposits grow higher on the wall, a consequence intimately tied to the use of paints, vinyl wallpapers, and the deployment of pumps.

Rising damp and salt ingration on a wall in a house

Groundwater invading your home through the porous channels of brickwork or masonry acts as a primary stimulant for the beginning of rising damp.

This entering groundwater contains soluble salts that deposit on both the interior walls and external walls of the property.

In a reciprocal interaction, these salts actively absorb moisture from the surrounding atmosphere, creating a pervasive and perpetually wet environment within the limits of the wall.

Rising damp issue on a wall of the house

Common Signs of Rising Damp

Recognizing the early indicators of rising damp is critical for avoiding potentially disastrous effects. Here are some common signs that indicate rising damp has made its way to your house:

Visible Salt Marks on Walls

The capillary action aids the upward transfer of moisture from the ground, transporting salt particles from the ground level the bricks to the plaster, giving the walls a wet sensation.

When water evaporates, observable salt residues appear, resulting in noticeable white deposits and a persistent damp and musty smell or stench within the wall.

The salt-laden plaster serves as a visible and common sign of the phenomenon known as rising damp, which often occurs in many architectural situations.

Tidal Marks on the Inner Walls of the House

Rising damp is often indicated by the appearance of a distinct "tide-mark" or damp stain located about one meter above the skirting boards on the wall.

This discolouration, caused by water evaporation from the brickwork, not only adds wetness but is usually accompanied by the presence of hygroscopic salts absorbed into the plaster.

When a tide mark is not visible, yellowish-brown moist spots may emerge along the skirting board. This appearance of tide marks is yet another indicator of the slow evaporation of moisture within the walls.

Damaged Wallpaper

Elevated moisture levels permeating the walls may cause wet or damp patches, and wallpaper separation, particularly along the skirting board or within a range of up to 1 meter from it.

Damp stains and flaking wallpaper may indicate a problem with condensation. Upon engagement with the wall, one may see the expression of the issue, as the wallpaper has a propensity to crack and crumble due to the removal of moisture-attracting salts hidden under its surface.

Rising damp moisture which cause black stains on a wall

Damaged Skirting Boards

When rising damp has persisted for an extended amount of time, the skirting boards may degrade as a result of continuous exposure to water.

Symptoms of this degradation include the breakdown of skirting boards, visible fractures within them, and the appearance of flaking or peeling paint.

Furthermore, be cautious of any exposed wood elements near the damaged region, as their exposure may lead to more severe consequences from both wet rot and dry rot if corrective actions are not taken immediately.

Mould Appearance

The development of black mould in your home might indicate rising damp, which is often caused by variable amounts of humidity and moisture.

This phenomenon is typically related to condensation problems. Notably, if the mould is concentrated along the edge of the skirting but has no effect on other portions of the property, it may indicate the existence of rising damp.

Rising damp patches and cracks on house wall

How Does the Treatment of Rising Damp Work?

To reduce the presence of capillary moisture, a standard solution is to apply an alternative damp-proof course (DPC) using a subtle procedure of damp-proof injection using specialist cream.

This complex method comprises infusing a hydrophobic material into painstakingly drilled pores inside the affected wall, resulting in a solid barrier to moisture infiltration when it dries.

This approach is notable for its universal praise in terms of effectiveness and financial sustainability. It is critical, however, to recognize the presence of alternate techniques.

The diagnostic phase, which comes before the careful construction of a remedial damp-proof course, is a critical component of the rising damp management phase.

Rising damp patches on a wall with damaged paint work

The damp surveyors engage in a detailed rising damp survey, which is essential for precisely identifying rising damp as the causal culprit.

A comprehensive evaluation by skilled surveyors is required to determine the trustworthy source of the problem, determining if it is caused by rising damp or other ailments such as condensation or penetrating damp.

It is worth noting that imposing a fresh DPC would be unsuccessful when confronted with humidity caused by condensation.

Furthermore, in some instances, the installation of a damp-proof membrane plays a part in the overall damp management.

This substance, defined by its waterproof nature, serves a dual aim of preventing moisture transmigration and providing an outstanding substrate for plasterwork adhesion, which is appropriate and compatible with the circumstances of the scenario.

Wall of a house affected by rising damp


Rising damp is a severe danger to a house's structural integrity, beginning with foundation concerns and ascending through walls, wreaking havoc on painting, brickwork, plaster, and other essential components.

The underlying reasons might range from a faulty Damp-Proof Course (DPC) to excessive ground moisture or poor drainage. When dealing with a rising damp issue, it is critical to address the underlying cause.

Failure to intervene swiftly permits this problem to worsen, inflicting significant external and interior harm.

If the unrelenting march of rising damp is not addressed, it can eventually lead to the progressive disintegration of the entire house. As a result, prompt and complete treatment is critical to ensuring the structure's durability and stability.

What happens if rising damp is left untreated?

If rising damp is left untreated, it can lead to various detrimental consequences for both the structure of the building and the health of its occupants. Over time, untreated rising damp can cause damage to the internal and external walls, as well as the foundation of the building. It may result in the deterioration of plaster and paint, the formation of mould and mildew, and even structural issues. Additionally, prolonged exposure to rising damp conditions can create an unhealthy indoor environment, promoting the growth of harmful microorganisms and potentially causing respiratory problems for the inhabitants.

Is it safe to live with rising damp?

While it is not immediately hazardous to live with rising damp, it can have long-term implications if left unaddressed. Continuous exposure to rising damp conditions may contribute to the degradation of the building materials, potentially affecting the structural integrity of the property. Moreover, the presence of mould and mildew can pose health risks, particularly for individuals with respiratory conditions or allergies.

What happens if you ignore rising damp?

Ignoring rising damp can exacerbate the issues associated with it. As the moisture continues to penetrate the walls, the damage can intensify, leading to more extensive and costly repairs. Mould growth may become more pronounced, posing more significant health risks. The structural integrity of the building may be compromised, and the aesthetic appeal of the affected areas can deteriorate further.

Does rising damp ever go away?

Rising damp typically does not go away on its own. The underlying cause of the rising damp needs to be identified and addressed to prevent its persistence. Implementing effective damp-proofing measures, such as installing a damp-proof course or improving ventilation, is essential to stop the upward movement of moisture in the walls. Ignoring rising damp or hoping it will resolve itself may lead to worsening conditions and increased repair costs over time.

Table of Contents

Sam Fitzgerald – CSRT Damp Surveyor

Sam Fitzgerald – CSRT Damp Surveyor

Author – CSRT Damp Surveyor
Sam is a highly qualified and seasoned damp surveyor with over ten years of specialised experience. With a strong academic foundation in building surveying and numerous professional certifications, Sam has established himself as an authority in the field of damp diagnosis and remediation.

At Damp Surveyors Ltd, Sam applies his extensive knowledge to help homeowners across the UK address and solve their damp issues effectively. His approach combines cutting-edge techniques with a commitment to honest, client-focused service, ensuring that every survey and recommendation is tailored to the specific needs of the property.

As a thought leader, Sam’s insights into damp prevention and treatment have been featured in industry publications, underscoring his role as a trusted expert dedicated to maintaining the integrity and comfort of your home.

Testing device for measuring dampness in a house


At Damp Surveyors Ltd, we stand out as your premier choice for damp survey services in the UK. Our commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction sets us apart. Here’s why you should choose us:

  • Exclusive 3 Free Quotes: We offer a one-of-a-kind optional service where you not only get our top-notch damp survey but also receive 3 free quotes from vetted local companies, giving you peace of mind by saving you thousands on getting the most competitive quotes, and also time researching and contacting other reputable companies.
  • Knowledge and Experience: We provide unmatched knowledge to every survey we conduct thanks to our team of seasoned professionals and years of industry experience. This guarantees accurate assessments and practical solutions.
  • Nationwide Coverage: Whether you’re in a bustling city or a rural area, our services extend across the UK, making us accessible wherever your property is located. Choose us for nationwide reliability and excellence.

Choose Damp Surveyors Ltd as your reliable partner for all-inclusive survey needs. Our top concerns are the health and safety of your property, and we are committed to providing outcomes you can trust.

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