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towerblock dampness problems

Dampness, cold and mould!

towerblock condensation problems
towerblock moisture problems
towerblock insulation solutions

Can these increasing problems for living comfort and respiratory health be reliably solved?

In the Covid-19 era, the nation’s focus on respiratory health has never been greater, and the public is now starting to show concern of the clear link between domestic living conditions and the respiratory system. The NHS officially acknowledges that “if you have damp and mould in your home you’re more likely to have respiratory infections, allergies or asthma.
 
Damp and mould can also affect the immune system.”

So what practical, affordable and effective solutions are there to these problems, especially in the social housing sector and among fuel poverty sufferers?

The Problem

Tower blocks have suffered from ever-increasing damp, mould and condensation problems, and this has culminated with the present situation where reports that “at least 80% are suffering from mould and condensation” and it only gets worse the higher up the block you go. The problem is mainly on the outside skin walls at ceiling and skirting board level where airflow is low, and in the window reveals which can get very cold overnight.”

There are several factors which have contributed to the damp problems increasing over the years.
Poorly conceived past retro-fit projects, including plastic double glazed windows and unreliable modern fans, have made the problem worse, not better. Added to this is the changing demographic of the residents, with typically more people living in each flat, creating more moisture through increased cooking and washing activities, coupled with a reluctance to open the windows when they do so.

Residents regularly complain several times a month to estates management boards of cold and black spot mould, that their “walls were sweating”, that their clothes and furniture were becoming so damp that several items had to be thrown out.

Black mould is prevalent, but especially at ceiling and floor level and around the window reveals. Mould and Damp make for unhealthy living conditions and can lead to respiratory illness.


The Solution

An air movement survey confirmed that ventilation to these flats with new vents added should have been more than adequate. But still, the damp was present and the extent of the black mould continued to increase.
 
Thermal wall treatments were added to increase the temperature of the internal walls but which wouldn’t create other knock-on problems. Traditional Internal Wall Insulation (IWI) solutions were not appropriate as the room size would have been reduced to an unacceptable degree in such small flats (IWI solutions being typically at least 100mm deep).

Finally, traditional IWI also left the possibility of air gaps and cold bridges being left at the fixing points, seams and returns, leaving damp problems to recur, both on the surface and in interstitial layers.


Spray and Skim treatment

CorkSray cork granules with a breathable plaster overskim – seemed to have the potential to resolve all these dilemmas. The solution is only 8mm thick in total, meaning that the room size would be barely affected and the repositioning of fittings would not be needed. The solution gives a powerful thermal insulating performance for its slim size, and it eliminates any fears of cold bridging or air gaps, as it is sprayed on in a single seamless layer, including round window reveals and returns. Another key benefit of CorkSpray is that the material is highly breathable (vapour-open) meaning that any residual dampness in the walls can transpire away harmlessly over time. And... it has NO harmful VOC’s.

The granular Cork layer, spray-applied seamlessly including round the window reveal, ready to accept the final plaster skim.


The Long Term Impact

An affordable, effective solution.
CorkSpray carried out the work in four stages over two days. Firstly, clean down the mouldy walls with a specialist bleach wash. Then spray apply two coats of fine-grain Cork, each coat 3mm deep, ensuring an even and continuous coverage. Finally, the wall was given a standard 2mm skim of plaster, giving an 8mm overall depth.

In the 12 months since the project was completed, the tenant continues to be very happy with the solution. The days of the weekly complaints are long gone. The flat has remained totally clear of damp, condensation and mould, internal temperature is warmer and more stable, heating bills are reduced and the overall position means that living comfort is very significantly improved for the tenant.


Multiple benefits for landlords and tenants

Not only have the complaints reduced, but help to deliver this organisation’s vision by bringing about a “sustained improvement in the quality of life for residents”, and we know that the chances of Covid-related respiratory complications have now been significantly contained.

Now, with the confidence of a knowledge we have a solution which works reliably across all four seasons, we are planning to apply the same procedure in many of the other flats, starting with ripping out the failed polystyrene in those “horrendous” 60’s and 70’s flats!

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