What Are The Signs of Rising Damp?

rising damp signs

Do you have a house in Adelaide with suspicious damp staining on the wall or musty smell that even air freshener cannot get rid of? You might have a rising damp problem issue. This page will give you all the information you need to gain a better understanding of this issue and help decide whether you will need a building inspection.

Rising damp occurs when moisture from the ground travels up through the walls or floors of the property. Porous masonry and soft mortar draw the water up from the ground using capillary action. The wall slowly becomes damp in the same way a sponge soaks up water. Ground water often contains salts, when the wall starts to dry out in our hot summers, the salt crystallises and appears as white dust on the surface. More worryingly, the creation of salt crystals degrades the structure of the walls. The presence of salt also attracts further moisture from the atmosphere which intensifies the problem. The installation of a high quality Damp Proof Course will help mitigate these issues.

Along with groundwater, salt (including chlorides, nitrates, and sulphates) also travels up the wall. The more salt there is in the water, the greater the absorption of moisture in the wall. The salt will remain in the wall when the water evaporates and appear as a white, fluffy powder. Therefore, even if there has been an attempt to combat rising dampness with damp proofing, these salts can cause the wall to remain damp.

What Are The Signs of Rising Damp?

It can be tricky to distinguish rising damp from other problems such as faulty plumbing, high ground levels, condensation, or penetrating damp. It is, therefore, critical to hire a professional building inspector to perform a full building inspection on the property, take appropriate action for the situation, and eliminate unnecessary treatment for what may not be rising damp. The following are some common signs of rising damp that you can look out for:

What Does Rising Damp do to the Building?

It is advisable to deal with rising damp as soon as possible to avoid its damaging effects on the aesthetic and structural integrity of a building and the health of its occupants. The following are problems that will undoubtedly occur when rising damp is left untreated.

Decaying skirting board

The excess moisture caused by the rising damp will stimulate the growth of fungi in the timber and make the skirting board rot. If you enter a building and see fungus growing on the skirting board, it could be a sign that rising damp has been affecting the structure for a long time.

Damaged wallpaper and paint

Rising damp can be easily identified by the damage it causes to the internal walls of a building. If the rising damp is not treated immediately, the level of moisture within the wall will increase and cause the wallpaper or paint to peel away. However, peeling wallpaper or paint can also indicate condensation or penetrating damp issues within the building. Therefore, it is important to get the right diagnosis to decide what appropriate action should be taken to solve the problem.


Black mould that occurs in the lower portion of the wall is a clear sign that the area is suffering from damp. A proper investigation is required to identify whether the mould is caused by condensation or rising damp. It is particularly important to resolve mould issues as quickly as possible due to the associated health risks to your family. Mould spores can trigger serious respiratory issues requiring hospitalisation even in normally healthy people including children. For more information about the risks of household mould, please visit the Government of South Australia Health Page.

Musty Smell

A Musty smell is one of the main signs of rising dampness. This smell is extremely unpleasant to live with and can be dangerous to your health. It also can worsen the conditions of those who have respiratory issues. Even if you cannot see the visible signs of the damp, you will still be able to smell it. However, all damp problems generally have the same smell. So, if you cannot spot any visible sign of the damp, it is still a good idea to call a licensed builder and damp-proof specialist to do a building inspection.

Heat Loss Dampness in porous building material will decrease the buildings ability to isolate heat, as air in the pores is replaced by water. This makes surfaces that have mould on them (caused by the damp) colder than their surroundings when humidity is high. This constant heat loss will sadly increase your heating costs during winter.

How to Treat Rising Damp in a House

Before attempting to repair your house or building, it is advisable to hire a professional building inspector to analyse exactly what type of damp problem your property is suffering from. They will decide on an appropriate way to solve the problem and minimize any unnecessary treatment.

The most cost-effective and time-saving course of action is the use a chemical damp-proofing injection cream. First, small holes are drilled into the wall, then the fluid or cream is injected. This forms a layer of waterproof material, without damaging the building, to prevent moisture from the ground from traveling up within the structure.

How Much Does It Cost to Fix Rising Damp?

Every job is different. Therefore, the cost of fixing issues caused by rising damp can vary depending on the severity of the problem in each building. Make sure to contact a licensed builder and a damp proof course specialist for further investigation and obtain a quote so that you can set your budget accordingly.

How We Can Help

Select Building Inspections will provide the right professional assistance to fix your rising damp problem in Adelaide. Our building inspectors will analyse the damp issue in your property and decide on the most cost-effective and efficient solution for your property’s problem. To book an inspector please contact us directly at 0475 555 039 to book a consultation.


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