Understanding rising damp and its causes

Rising damp is a common and serious problem in many homes. It occurs when groundwater rises through the walls and floors of buildings, leading to dampness and potentially damaging structural issues. In this article, we will discuss the causes of rising damp, how to identify it, and the necessary steps for treatment and prevention.

What Causes Rising Damp?

Rising damp is caused by the upward capillary movement of groundwater through porous building materials such as bricks, concrete, and mortar. This rise of moisture can occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Lack of damp proof course: A damp proof course is designed to create a barrier between the ground and the building. Without a proper damp proof course, moisture can easily transfer from the ground to the wall, causing rising damp.
  • Broken or damaged damp proof course: Even if a damp proof course is present, it can become damaged over time, allowing moisture to penetrate the walls and floors.
  • High ground levels: If the ground directly surrounding a building is higher than the damp proof course, groundwater may bypass the damp proof course, leading to rising damp.
  • Poor drainage: If the building has poor drainage, water may accumulate around the foundation, causing the groundwater to rise and penetrate the walls.

How to Identify Rising Damp

Identifying rising damp can be tricky, as the symptoms can be similar to those of other types of dampness. However, some common signs of rising damp include:

  • A visible damp or tide mark on walls or floors.
  • Peeling wallpaper or flaking paint.
  • Musty or damp odors.
  • A feeling of dampness or clamminess in the air.
  • The appearance of salt crystals on walls or floors.

If you suspect that rising damp is affecting your home, it is best to consult a professional for advice.

Treatment and Prevention of Rising Damp

There are several different methods that can be used to treat rising damp, depending on the severity of the issue. Some of the most common treatment methods include:

  • Chemical Damp Proof Course: This method involves injecting a chemical damp proof course into the wall to create a barrier against moisture.
  • Electro Osmotic Damp Proof Course: This involves the installation of an electrical system in the wall that redirects the flow of moisture, preventing it from rising up the wall.
  • Physical Damp Proof Course: This involves the installation of a physical barrier (such as a layer of plastic or bentonite) to prevent moisture from rising up the wall.

In addition to treatment methods, there are also several measures that can be taken to prevent rising damp from occurring in the first place. These include:

  • Ensuring that all drainage systems are functioning properly.
  • Avoiding the installation of new landscaping that may increase the ground level.
  • Regularly inspecting and maintaining the damp proof course of the building.
  • Ensuring that any new construction work includes a damp proof course.


Can rising damp cause structural problems?

Yes, rising damp can lead to a range of structural issues, including rot, decay, and even the collapse of load-bearing walls.

Can rising damp cause health problems?

While rising damp itself is not a direct health hazard, it can create conditions that are favorable to the growth of mold and other harmful organisms. As such, it is important to address any issues with rising damp as soon as possible to prevent such issues from developing.

Is it possible to prevent rising damp in older buildings?

Yes, it is possible to prevent rising damp in older buildings by ensuring that they have a proper damp proof course and regularly maintaining the condition of this course.


Rising damp can be a serious issue for homeowners, but it is a problem that can be treated and prevented. By understanding the causes and symptoms of rising damp, as well as the treatment and prevention methods available, you can take steps to protect your home and ensure that it stays dry and free of moisture-related issues. So if you suspect that rising damp is affecting your home, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice and take action as soon as possible.

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