Mould in SFA/SSFA
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There are two underlying reasons why mould might appear in a house - structural reasons and condensation.
Structural issues are related to the fabric of the building which means water or moisture is getting into the property. Examples of the types of problems that occur include:
- Water leaks from windows, roof, downspouts, guttering, internal plumbing and flooding
- Penetrating damp through walls
- Rising damp – usually caused by non-existent or defective damp proof courses
- Wet or damp basements or crawl spaces
Condensation is caused by something happening inside the house, such as:
- High relative humidity in the air
- Too much water vapour or steam being generated, through cooking, washing, showering and clothes drying
- Inadequate ventilation or not using the extractor fans, vents and windows that are available
- Inadequate heating or too much heat
- Inadequate cleaning and drying after major water leaks and bursts or floods
So, how do you tell whether the mould in your home is caused by a structural issue or from excessive condensation? Mould due to structural issues tends to appear in the following places:
In the house
- Walls under the bottom corners of windows
- Floors around toilets and under dishwashers
- Walls around un-insulated cold-water pipes
- Around the chimney in the attic
- Near damaged or blocked downspouts
- Basement - Bottom of walls, corners and floors
- Bottoms of walls - bridged or earth covered damp proof courses
In the basement
- Damp walls or floors
- Under boxes or carpets
- Cracks and holes
- Efflorescence (a harmless, white powdery deposit on the surface of the wall which is a sign of moisture within the home)
Mould from condensation tends to be seen in the following areas:
- On ceilings over the bath or shower
- Window glass, sills and frames
- Under or behind the toilet and cistern
- Exterior walls and tiled surfaces
- Windows, in the bottom corners, sides or on the glass
- Behind dressers and wardrobes on exterior walls
- Particularly on the top corners of the bedroom walls which are the furthest from any heating source
In the basement
- Areas where a dry wall is attached to an exterior wall
In Britain, condensation is mainly a winter problem when warm moist air is generated in areas like kitchens and bathrooms and then travels to colder parts of the house.
The moisture in the air comes from a number of sources within the house. Water vapour is produced in relatively large quantities from normal day to day activities - a 5 person household generates about 10 kg of water into the air every day (before any heating) from:
- Breathing (asleep) 0.3 kg
- Breathing (awake) 0.85 kg
- Cooking 3 kg
- Personal washing 1.0 kg
- Washing and drying clothes 5.5 kg
- Heating - every carbon fuel produces some amount of water from combustion.
Condensation issues can often be effectively dealt with by the family. DIO/MHS have produced a very good fact sheet, Combating Condensation, which shows what you can do to reduce condensation and tackle mould in the home.
However, in cases where mould is caused by structural or ventilation issues (such as insufficient extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens), families should contact the MHS Customer Helpdesk as these causes will need to be dealt with by MHS.
Whatever the cause of the mould, the first time you notice it call the MHS Customer Helpdesk (0800 707 6000) and ask for someone to come and look at it. This is a new initiative from MHS where a Technical Officer (TO) will attend with a damp meter to assess whether the mould is caused by structural or general condensation issues. Following the assessment, there are three possible actions:
- The TO will confirm there are no structural issues causing the mould and provide some advice on different ways you could tackle the problem
- The TO may identify some aspects within the house that MHS can address that may help the situation, such as clearing or fitting trickle vents, clearing airbricks etc. The TO will also provide advice on how to prevent the mould from returning
- If the mould is believed to be caused by structural issues, the TO will request a further survey to produce a report detailing potential works and costs involved for DIO approval. In the meantime, the TO will provide advice on what you can do to alleviate the problem.
There is a lot that you can do as a family to reduce condensation and mould however, if you have an on-going situation with mould and you feel that it has not been addressed properly up until now (e.g. the area has been treated and painted over but it keeps coming back), please call the MHS Customer Helpdesk and ask for a TO visit to reassess the situation for you. You should also call the Helpdesk whenever you see the mould re-appearing so they can build up a record of the incidence of mould in your home. It would also really help MHS to know if this is a common problem on the street/estate as this could indicate a wider issue.
AFF would like to know the addresses of ALL SFA and SSFA which area affected by mould – please click on the link below to register your SFA/SSFA on our database.
For many years during the winter period, families have approached AFF about mould in their SFA and the way it is dealt with by DIO and MHS. Last year AFF decided to launch its Mould database in order to gather as much information about how many SFA experience mould and damp problems. The residents of Elm Hill enthusiastically got behind this project and 10 houses were recorded on our database. AFF approached DIO with these numbers and it became apparent that the information provided by the families didn’t match the amount of calls reporting mould to the MHS Help Desk. Despite the lack of supporting information from MHS, DIO agreed to carry out intrusive structural checks on sample properties to ascertain the condition of the properties and to see if remedial works were required.
The investigations revealed that the properties were suffering from water ingress through poor roofs and cold bridging, resulting in damp and mould in upstairs rooms; so not a “lifestyle” issue after all! Although patch repair has been carried out on a few properties, the investigations have shown that a considerable amount of work is needed to prevent future damp and mould issues.
As a result of the investigations, regional DIO staff were successful in bidding for funding to resolve the roofing problems (which will hopefully cure the mould issues which families in these houses have put up with for many years) and permission was granted for the houses in Elm Hill to be re-roofed. As an added bonus funding was also found to improve other aspects of what are very tired houses so not only should these families be mould free but they will see a marked improvement in some internal aspects of their houses such as new kitchens or bathrooms and new boilers.
Complaints about the standard of housing form the bulk of our enquiries and AFF regards the announcement of this project as a huge success for families – a demonstration that DIO and MHS listened to AFF and the families concerned and actioned all our concerns.
We urge all families to continue to report incidences of mould and damp through the MHS Helpline. Without this information DIO are unable to accurately assess the level of problem with mould in their SFA. Families should also utilise the AFF Mould database so that by families, AFF, MHS and DIO working together we will allow DIO to understand the condition of the SFA and also bid for upgrade money to enhance the SFA and improve our time living on the MOD estate.
Thankfully the majority of Service homes don’t suffer problems from problems with mould or damp, and are warm and comfortable. However, DIO Service Delivery Accommodation recognises that some of the housing stock in the UK was built before the latest standards and energy efficiency expectations, and invests millions every year to improve Service Family Accommodation (SFA). As well as the usual thousands of ongoing improvements in this financial year, DIO is specifically targeting investment to solve damp/mould related issues for Service families.
This work has been made possible by a combination of a very welcome injection of money in the 2012 budget for improving SFA, and a great deal of work undertaken by the DIO Service Delivery Accommodation Estates Services team to get Green Deal funding to improve the energy efficiency of SFA. This means that measures such as external wall insulation, new roofs and new doors and windows will be installed by March 2014 at sites that have been targeted for the programme.
In addition, DIO and MODern Housing Solutions (MHS) has agreed a revised process for responding to reports of mould and damp. The new process means that a report of serious damp or mould will be inspected by both an MHS and DIO representative, who will have access to damp meters and other technology for establishing the cause of the issue. Based on the results of this, a workable solution will be developed to address the cause.
Further guidance - Whilst this work aims to tackle problems caused by the fabric of the building, guidance has also been updated to help families who may have issues, such as condensation, that can often be resolved by taking simple steps such as improving ventilation. The revised guidance is on the SFA website.