Sick to death of cold & condensation!

8 Jan 2009
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United Kingdom
Apologies this is so long but I want to give as much info as possible so please bare with me!

Can anyone please please help save me from my condensation, mould, damp nightmare!!
I bought a ground floor maisonette 3 years ago, it’s about as big as a shoebox which I thought being small would mean it would be cheap to heat and I’d be cosy! Boy was I wrong!
I’ve got gas-fired central heating to radiators with TRV’s powered by a combi boiler; I can only have the heating running for an hour max before it gets too hot to breathe. I have thermometers in the living room & my bedroom, with the heating on the rooms get to a nice 21 degrees but within half an hour of the heating going off the rooms will have dropped to 18 degrees and within an hour they are down to 15 degrees & continue falling.

Despite doing everything I can to reduce the amount of moisture produced I am still living with a condensation nightmare and the delightful black mould! I have got 3 large moisture traps, 1 in each of the worst affected corners & 1 in the alcove I use as a wardrobe, I also have 2 smaller ones, 1 on the window sill in my bedroom & 1 in front of the French doors yet despite constantly emptying them and replacing the crystals my windows are still covered in condensation every morning.

I do not dry clothes indoors because I don’t want anything blocking the heat from the rads, I have a tumble dryer which is properly vented through the wall to the outside, I have an extractor fan in the bathroom on a humidistat and timer, after having a shower I leave the bathroom door closed, the fan continues to run & I leave the window open to make sure the bathroom dries. I don’t drink tea or coffee so rarely boil the kettle and I don’t do a lot of cooking so no pans of water boiling veg or pasta.

I like to let some fresh air in each day so crack the windows open for an hour or so when I get up (unless its pouring down with rain!) I had UPVC double-glazing fitted over a year ago, the windows sound draughty but I can’t feel any draughts, I didn’t have trickle vents fitted at the time because the fitter said “why have nice new windows fitted to block outside noise and keep warm and then go & drill a hole in them!” This made sense at the time but having read page after page of stuff on condensation I decided to look into fitting trickle vents, in the mean time I left the windows locked on the latch but other than creating cold draughts & letting outside noise in it had no affect what-so-ever on the condensation! I live alone and have tried giving up breathing but it’s rather addictive and no one has developed a patch or chewing gum yet!

I decorated everywhere in the summer, I washed all the walls down with mould & mildew killer and painted all of the walls with a fungicidal wash, prior to painting with Therma-coat and then mid sheen emulsion and despite all this I’ve just had to clean black mould off the walls again. My wardrobe is an alcove with a hanging rail and I did have a thin muslin curtain acting as a door, I had a mass clear out in the summer and compared to before there is very little in there yet despite this my clothes feel damp and are going mouldy, I bought a pair of shoes for a wedding, wore them once, stood them in the wardrobe and without noticing not 3 weeks later they were covered in mould and ruined. I have a chest of drawers on the opposite side of my bedroom and the clothes, bed linen and towels in there are all affected by damp & mould too. I’ve tried to keep as much furniture away from the walls as possible but unfortunately this place isn’t much bigger than a shoe box and even where I have left a gap for air flow I’m still getting mould!

The construction of the maisonette is brick & breeze block with a cavity, I am end of terrace and have 3 exterior walls which I am sure doesn’t help. To add to this the leaseholder in the property upstairs has completely removed his central heating system and has not replaced it and the leaseholder of the property next door downstairs does not have any central heating as it broke down and she prefers to get in bed with her electric blanket than get it fixed! Because I’m always cold I looked into having cavity wall insulation but the investigations found that the walls had already been filled but are patchy, even non-existent in places however I’m having no success in getting this rectified because:
1) Being a maisonette both my property and the one upstairs has to be done but I can’t get anyone to even give me a quote.
2) Because it has been done before there may or may not be a guarantee in place for it to be redone as remedial work but there were no details about the cavity wall insulation included with my purchase paperwork and the Freeholder is not being forthcoming; in fact they are outright ignoring me!

I have a suspended wooden floor constructed from 22mm boards; I have laid 6mm Depron (extruded polystyrene) insulation, overlaid with 6mm ply and a quality vinyl. There are plenty of air bricks none of which are blocked, I’ve checked the gutters and downpipe, the ground level outside is below the DPC and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of damp on the walls outside but I’m still considering paint the walls with a water sealer to be sure. I’ve also checked that none of the radiators or pipes are leaking under the floor.

When I decorated I replaced all the skirting boards and despite fixing every hole, gap and crack I could find there are still random draughts coming from who-knows where! I even had some condensation during the summer! I dry the windows every morning and sorely wish I had shares in kitchen roll and moisture crystal companies! I bought a dehumidifier last year, I followed all the instructions and had it running at its maximum setting but barely got a dribble out of it and ended up sending it back. From memory the highest moisture level it read was 62%.

I am sick to death of being cold and I’m at my wits end! Quite frankly if I could sell up & move I would but in the current climate it’s just not an option. I don’t know what else I can do or who / if anyone to call in, can anyone PLEASE help end this living nightmare?
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sounds like your doing everything right although open the window perhaps 2 or 3 inches for an hour or so when the heating is off during the day and also in the room whilst you are sleeping!!

what did the survey say when you bought the place!!

have you had any damp people round!!
Put a jumper on :evil:
I've got the thickest fleece on I can find! 2 pairs of sports socks, a pair of 2.3 tog thermal socks, slippers & a fleece blanket over my feet & they are still like ice!
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sounds like your doing everything right although open the window perhaps 2 or 3 inches for an hour or so when the heating is off during the day and also in the room whilst you are sleeping!!

what did the survey say when you bought the place!!

have you had any damp people round!!
I only open the top opener to air the rooms & like you say only a couple of inches for an hour or so. I'm ground floor so don't sleep with the window open but have tried leaving it locked on the latch during the night but I get so cold it wakes me up and whilst everything under the duvet is warm my nose is like ice and I can't sleep with my head under the duvet, I have tried!

Only had a valuation survey! :oops: And yes I do regret it!

I've tried calling damp proof people but they have all said they charge a fee to come out because too many people get them round, find out what the problem is & then do the work DIY and they will still charge if it is condensation & they can't do anything!
I had a Loss Adjuster come round (can't remember why exactly) & he checked all round outside, the air bricks and the walls inside & said it was condensation not rising damp and gave me an info sheet. He didn't check the walls with a damp meter or anything though.

I've run out of idea's now, no matter what I do the problem won't go away, I'm forking out a fortune on gas and I'm sick of being cold & having damp, mouldy clothes and I'm sure its having an impact on my health.
You probably could benefit from a decent amount (100mm) of insulation between the floor joists. Also try opening a window at the opposite end of the building whenever you run your extractor fans, to encourage a through flow, and thus a regular change of air.

Is the ceiling above you insulated? If not then consider that the person upstairs does not need any central heating as all your heat is going up into their property. Maybe you could install some rockwool in the ceiling void, tell them it's for fireproofing purposes if they ask, otherwise they might get arsey about the works (which technically comes under the party wall act) if they find out that their free lunch is about to end.
Those thermo valves on the rads should hold the air temp. in the room steady - and allow you to run the heating at a low level for most of the day time :idea: Are you in " the armpit of Sussex" ie. H******s ;) Lot of dodgy flats there :cry:
you shouldn't be switching the heating on and off like an electric fire. Set the TRVs to a comforatable temp and leave them. Set the room stat to a comfortable temp and leave it. If you haven't got a room stat, get one.

And increase ventilation to reduce condensation.
. Do any of the other maisonettes suffer with your damp problem? Could try buying a dehumidifier

A previous contributor suggested that you were doing everything right; in actual fact you are not. For instance you mention leaving a bathroom window open whilst running the extractor fan... this is a common and fatal mistake. Leaving a window open in a room with an extractor fan running short circuits the extraction process. Essentially the fan pulls in fresh air from the window then blows it out again but never actually removes any condensation. We have a condensation season which obviously runs through the colder months of the year. Given that we know warm air holds far more moisture than cold air; can you see how it might be counter productive to open windows to deal with condensation? I would also make the point that we live in times of fuel poverty which is another reason why telling residents to open windows to the elements is actually not very smart. In fact it's bad advice that is frequently given out and can actually make the problem worse. Those doling out advice commonly fail to recognise that high vapour pressures force condensation into rooms beyond where the moisture was generated; they also fail to recognise that lowering the air temperature will immediately cause the previously warm air to give up moisture in the form of condensation. Ventilation is important but it must be carefully managed by judicious use of extractor fans and trickle vents. Rooms running an extractor should have neither trickle vents or windows open; essentially fans should be pulling air from other rooms.
Condensation damp is caused by a host of factors, occupation issues, heating, ventilation and the buildings insulation values should all be considered with equal weighting and often more than one of these issues needs addressing to resolve the problem. I've written a comprehensive leaflet on dealing with condensation damp which has been used successfully for a couple of years now; if you'd like to e-mail me I'll happily send you a copy.
joe if you care to look at my several simmilar post you will see i only mention opening a window in a bathroom or kitcken if there is no extraction
and i do agree the air will take the shortest route :D :D ;)

indeed i suggested john d put his excelent post about condensation in the wiki as he myself and others where often repeating the same advice :D

personaly i dont know how "it looks like you are doing everything right" can be misconstrewed as "bad advice" thats assuming you are talking about my ramblings :D :D ;)
Just a small point - don't know if it may help.

In terms of heating and ventilation efficiency, I have read that it is more effective to open a couple of windows wide for 10 mins or so than leave a window cracked open all the time.

The thinking behind this is that the short period of opening big windows will remove the humid air quickly but won't cool down the structure whereas the continual cold draught for a partially opened window will do so to the detriment of your comfort.
Is it worth investigating the heating (lack of?) controls further, with the aim of maintaining a steady temperature rather than allowing cycles of overheating then cooling?

Do you have a room thermostat, or are the TRVs your only controls?

How does the heating behave with the TRVs turned down to a lower setting?

The room stat or TRVs should just be set to your target room temperatures. Increasing the temperature setting doesn't alter the warm-up time significantly, but it does stop the place overheating, and doesn't get you started on a 'yo-yo' cycle of heating and cooling, which is probably only warming the air in the room, leaving the building fabric and furniture relatively cool. That would encourage water vapour to condense.

Heating to a lower temperature for longer should bring all of the building fabric and your furnishings closer to your desired room temperature, which should help cut down condensation. They will then re-radiate some heat when the heating is off, extending the time it takes for the temperatures to drop.

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