Tackling Damp and Mould in Social Housing: Ensuring Safe and Healthy Homes

Dampness and mould can be persistent issues in many homes, causing not only structural damage but also significant health concerns. For social housing organisations, maintaining homes that are safe and in good condition is a core function. Social housing tenants deserve homes that are safe and of a decent standard and rely on their landlords to look after homes effectively and meet requirements designed to protect them from harm. The tragic death of toddler Awaab Ishak in Rochdale, due to prolonged exposure to mould, underscores the very serious harm that can come from living with untreated damp and mould. This incident highlights the crucial importance of landlords delivering an effective response to complaints of damp and mould and addressing wider issues of poor housing conditions. 

While the picture is incomplete, our best estimate is that fewer than 0.2% of social homes have the most serious damp and mould problems, 1-2% have serious damp and mould problems, and a further 3-4% have notable damp and mould. Although the issue appears to be fairly well-managed, there are still lessons to be learned about tackling damp and mould effectively. This blog aims to provide social housing organisations with the necessary insights to further reduce the percentage of damp and mould issues in their housing stock. 

Types of Damp and Their Causes 

Dampness in homes typically falls into three categories: penetrating damp, rising damp, and condensation. Each type has distinct characteristics and underlying causes: 

  1. Penetrating Damp: This occurs when water seeps into a building through damaged roofing, blocked gutters, or defective plumbing. Common signs include damp patches on walls, ceilings, or floors, often accompanied by staining or mould growth. 
  1. Rising Damp: Rising damp occurs when moisture rises from the ground through porous building materials, leaving a tell-tale tide mark on affected walls. It can result from a lack of damp-proofing or faulty drainage systems. 
  1. Condensation: Condensation forms when warm, humid air comes into contact with cold surfaces, leading to water droplet formation. It commonly occurs in poorly ventilated areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, or rooms with minimal airflow, fostering mould growth and potential health hazards. 

Identifying and Addressing Damp Issues 

Recognising the signs of dampness early on is crucial for effective treatment and prevention. If you suspect your housing stock may be affected by penetrating or rising damp, it’s essential to act promptly to prevent further damage and health risks to tenants. 

Preventing Condensation and Mould Growth 

Supporting and encouraging tenants to take proactive measures to minimise moisture buildup is key to preventing condensation and mould growth: 

  • Ensure proper ventilation by keeping doors open, using extractor fans, and avoiding blocking air vents or chimneys. 
  • Practice efficient cooking and bathing habits, such as covering pans, using extractor fans, and opening windows to allow moisture to escape. 
  • Dry clothes outdoors whenever possible, and if drying indoors, ensure adequate ventilation and airflow to prevent moisture buildup. 
  • Maintain low, consistent heating throughout the day to reduce humidity levels and discourage condensation, understanding that some homes are more difficult to heat due to their energy efficiency or cost of living pressures, and landlords should consider what support they can provide or signpost tenants to. 

Treating Mould 

If mould does develop, it’s essential to address it promptly using appropriate methods: 

  • Clean affected areas with soapy water or a fungicidal wash, following manufacturer instructions carefully. 
  • Avoid brushing or vacuuming mouldy areas, as this can spread spores further. 
  • Ensure thorough drying of surfaces before applying fungicidal paint to prevent recurrence. 

The Role of Retrofitting in Damp and Mould Prevention 

If practical measures fail to eliminate damp and mould, it may be necessary to seek assistance from a professional and explore more comprehensive solutions such as retrofitting. Retrofitting homes can be instrumental in combating damp and condensation by enhancing insulation, ventilation, and overall building performance. 

Here are several ways retrofitting can help: 

  • Improved Insulation: Adding insulation to walls, floors, and roofs can help maintain a consistent indoor temperature, reducing the risk of condensation forming on cold surfaces and preventing heat loss. 
  • Enhanced Ventilation: Improved ventilation systems, such as mechanical ventilation systems alongside background ventilation, help regulate indoor humidity levels by expelling moist air and introducing fresh air from outside. 
  • Air Quality Management: Measures like installing air purifiers or addressing sources of indoor air pollutants help create a healthier indoor environment and minimise conditions conducive to damp and mould. 
  • Energy Efficiency Upgrades: Upgrading windows and doors or installing airtight seals can indirectly help prevent damp and condensation by reducing heat loss and improving thermal comfort. 

VOR’s Retrofit Solutions Approach 

As retrofit specialists, VOR take a holistic approach to building performance. We apply PAS 2035 standards in our retrofit projects for residential homes, ensuring a comprehensive approach to enhancing building health and efficiency, to create a more comfortable living environment. 

  • Building Assessment and Moisture Management: Our initial step involves a detailed assessment, identifying areas prone to moisture and implementing effective moisture management strategies crucial for mould prevention. 
  • Advanced Moisture and Thermal Modelling: Using tools like WUFI, we simulate the building’s thermal and moisture dynamics, ensuring our retrofit solutions target the root causes of mould growth. 
  • Ventilation and Airtightness: We install air barriers and vapour control layers to manage moisture levels, along with effective ventilation systems crucial for maintaining indoor air quality and preventing mould. 
  • PAS 2035 Compliance: Our approach aligns with PAS 2035 standards, focusing on energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality, thereby reducing the risk of mould. 


Maintaining homes that are safe and in good condition is a core function of all social landlords. Understanding the various types of damp, recognising early warning signs, and implementing practical strategies for prevention and treatment are key to maintaining a healthy and comfortable living environment. Additionally, retrofitting homes with damp and condensation prevention measures not only enhances comfort and indoor air quality but also safeguards the building structure from moisture-related damage, ensuring long-term benefits for tenants and landlords alike. 

If you would like to discuss how retrofitting can help address and support your damp and mould issues, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Our team is ready to discuss possible solutions tailored to your specific needs and concerns. 

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