How to stop condensation on walls and ceilings

Whether you are buying or selling a new home, you will want to ensure there are no signs of condensation. Those tiny water droplets that can appear on windows around your house are not only unattractive to look at but, if left untreated, can have nasty consequences too. However, condensation does not just appear on windows, it can appear on walls and ceilings too. In fact, it will happen anywhere that warm air hits a cold surface. The solution? Reduce the moisture in the air, ensure plentiful ventilation with your home, and then insulate the walls and ceilings. We look at the causes of condensation and discuss each of the solutions in detail.

What causes condensation?

Condensation occurs when there is excessive humidity in your home. When the warm, moist air collides with a cold surface, the warm air suddenly cools and forms water droplets on nearby surfaces such as walls, windows, and ceilings.

Modern life may enable homeowners to run a more efficient household compared with the past, but our washing machines, tumble dryers, ovens, showers, and coffee makers love to contribute moisture into the air when they are used.

We barely notice condensation in the summer as the walls, windows, and ceilings are the same temperatures as the air. Plus, we can dry our clothes and cook outside, so we are not using some of our appliances as often. On top of that, when the weather is nice and warm, we tend to open our windows and doors more, creating an escape route for moisture in the air.

Winter, however, is a different story. We tend to keep our windows and doors closed to trap heat in but, unfortunately, this locks moisture inside too. The first signs of condensation will be small drops of moisture on walls, ceilings, windows, or mirrors (the result of hot moist air encountering a cold surface). Whilst the droplets are not an issue to begin with, if left, the effects will worsen over time. This will result in mould growth. Condensation mould can lead to health problems as well as costly repairs, so it is best to remedy the situation before lasting damage sets in.

What does condensation mould look like?

Mould often occurs because of condensation. It can be recognised as clusters of little black spots, usually on the side surfaces of external walls, in corners, and in poorly vented areas (e.g. behind cupboards and wardrobes).

How to stop condensation on walls and ceilings

As we mentioned in our opening paragraph, putting a stop to condensations means reducing the amount of moisture within the air of your home, ventilating the house, and then ensuring good insulation:

Reduce. Ventilate. Insulate.

Ways of reducing the moisture you create at home

As climate change continues to demand our urgent attention, homeowners are prioritising the long-term thermal efficiency of their homes. However, investing in window upgrades and better insulation without also pursuing better ventilation runs the risk of inviting condensation to form. Therefore, it is important to ensure plentiful ventilation, so any moisture in the air can easily escape from your house.

It is best practice to ensure the following measures are incorporated into your home:

  • Pull wardrobes and furniture away from walls and keep tops of wardrobes clear to allow air to circulate.
  • Close doors and open windows when cooking to allow steam and warm air to escape and keep lids on saucepans to contain steam.
  • Keep bathroom doors closed when showering or relaxing in the tub, and open windows slightly afterwards (or use an extractor fan). Keeping the bathroom door shut means the steam and humidity will be contained to that room only rather than spreading round the house.
  • Avoid drying clothes indoors. Wet clothes can hold a couple of pints of water that will slowly vaporise. If you cannot avoid this scenario, invest in a heated drying rack, or heat pump tumble dryer. At the very least, ensure the window is partially open to vent the room.
  • Use a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier works by extracting moisture from the air and is a great solution for bedroom condensation. As we spend half our days asleep in this room, it is important to create a healthy environment. A dehumidifier will keep the airflow circulating without excess vapour lurking around in it.
  • Install window trickle vents.
  • Extractor fans – make sure they are kept clean and are unblocked.

Insulation

Only when your home is adequately ventilated should you think about increasing insulation efforts at home. Without good ventilation, extra insulation could make the condensation worse as your house will be even warmer! However, if you find the correct balance between adequate ventilation and insulation, then warming up a home’s ceilings and walls will mean that warm, humid air will not have cold walls to collide with and, therefore, condensation will not form. Remember, if you are replacing singled glazed windows with new double or triple glazed units, make sure trickle vents are installed.

If you do suffer with condensation at home, evaluating your day-to-day activities to determine the cause of all the extra moisture and the effectiveness of your home’s ventilation and insulation measures will help you to make a few useful changes. You can combat condensation before mould sets in. After all, nobody wants to buy or sell a house with mould lurking on walls and ceilings!