Damp or condensation? What’s the difference and what to do about it

Are you concerned about damp and mould in your home? Some types of damp are more serious than others. Learn how to identify what type of damp you have and how to treat it with our easy-to-understand guide.

Are you concerned about damp and mould in your home? Some types of damp are more serious than others. Learn how to identify what type of damp you have and how to treat it with our easy-to-understand guide.

Chris King
From the Home team
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 18 OCTOBER 2019

Identifying different types of damp

People sometimes talk about damp and condensation as if they’re different things but, in fact, condensation is a type of damp. When dealing with damp and mould, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between damp caused by condensation, and other types of damp caused by things such as groundwater, leaks and plumbing problems.

While some types of damp can be wiped away, others could cause lasting damage to your home. Learn how to spot these different types of damp and find out how best to treat them.


Condensation is the most common type of damp. It’s caused by a combination of excess moisture in the air and poor ventilation. It could start from something simple, such as steam from the kettle, running the hot water or cooking pasta on the hob. If treated properly, condensation can be remedied without it causing lasting damage.

Spotting condensation 

The first sign of condensation is usually moisture drops on walls, mirrors or windows. These form when hot, moist air comes into contact with cold surfaces.

While these small droplets of water may not be troublesome right away, the effects of condensation can worsen over time, producing black mould and the beginnings of a damp smell.

Treating condensation

If caught early, condensation mould can be easily treated at home using a cloth dipped in soapy water, or with an antibacterial spray that will kill the fungus. Remember to dry the area after you’ve cleared the mould.

To prevent condensation reoccurring, you might want to invest in better ventilation systems, such as extractor fans or dehumidifiers in particularly damp rooms.

Does home insurance cover condensation?

Most home insurance policies don’t cover damp caused by condensation. However, condensation can be managed and prevented at home – if you do this, it shouldn’t cause lasting damage.

Rising damp

Rising damp can look a lot like condensation but it has a very different cause.

As the name suggests, rising damp starts at ground level and rises upwards, climbing your walls from the floor. It can cause more damage than condensation, so it’s important to be able to tell the difference between the two.

Spotting rising damp

Much like condensation, rising damp produces dark mould patches on your walls, but there are a few distinguishing features you can look out for too.

Peeling paint or wallpaper, along with damage to skirting boards and loose flooring, could all point to rising damp. You may also notice tide-like marks and a white powder on the walls.

Remember that rising damp originates from water under the ground, so can usually be found rising from the floors or skirting boards. You won’t find rising damp higher than a metre from the ground.

Treating rising damp

It’s normal for walls and floors to let in a little water, however you should have a damp-proof layer or membrane preventing this from causing damage.

Rising damp could have negative effects on plaster, wallpaper, floors and skirting boards. Fixing the problem will probably mean quite a bit of work – the damp will need to be treated and the affected area damp-proofed to prevent reoccurrence.

You may need to call in a damp surveyor to find out the exact cause of the problem before any work begins.

Does home insurance cover rising damp?

It’s worth checking, but most insurance policies will not cover you for damage caused by rising damp.

You should also know that if your home has rising damp, you’re obliged to tell your insurance provider about any damage to the property. Failing to do so could risk invalidating your home insurance in the future.

Chris King 

From the Home team

“Condensation might be the most common cause of damp, but it’s also the most treatable. Reducing the amount of moisture in your home is the best way to combat condensation before it becomes a problem.

Simple things like opening windows or using fans while cooking, keeping lids on pans or making sure tumble dryers aren’t clogged with dust, could help to eliminate damp and mould.”

Penetrating damp 

This is caused by water from the outside of a building leaking through the walls. The most common causes of penetrating damp are leaking pipes, aging brickwork and poor guttering.

Penetrating damp should be assessed and treated immediately to help minimise lasting or irreversible damage to your property.

Spotting penetrating damp

Signs of penetrating damp include dark patches on the walls that won’t go away – they might even grow or darken when it’s wet outside.

Cold rooms, a reoccurring black mould that grows over time and a noticeable damp smell may also indicate that you have penetrating damp.

From the outside, signs of leaks or cracks in your guttering or roof tiles may point to an issue. It’s important to stay on top of maintaining the outside of your property to save yourself from lasting structural damage.

Treating penetrating damp

You’ll need to identify how the water is getting into your property and fix the source of the problem. Otherwise, any repair work you do on the inside will only be a temporary fix.

If you can’t find the source of the leak yourself, you may need to hire in a builder or a plumber to help. Once the source of the problem is fixed you can begin to assess the damage on the inside.

The problem with penetrating damp is that a lot of the damage may be affecting the walls themselves and so might not be visible. It’s usually advised to get a qualified damp surveyor in to investigate any damage that might be out of sight.

Does home insurance cover penetrating damp?

Depending on the source, you may be able to claim for at least some damage in the case of penetrating damp.

For example, while deteriorated piping would be considered ‘wear and tear’, if the source of the leak that caused the damp was a defective boiler, you may find that you can claim at least for damage directly caused by the leak.

If you’ve identified penetrating damp, contact your insurance provider for more guidance. Remember, you’re obliged to tell your insurance provider about any issues relating to damp, whether your insurance covers you for the damage or not.

Compare home insurance

Get a quote in minutes and see if you can save

Get a quote
Get a quote in minutes and you could start saving Compare home insurance