If winter has your home feeling damp or worse, wet, firstly – don’t panic. Secondly, know you’re not alone. Sadly moisture is a common problem in older New Zealand homes. So if you’ve got dampness to tackle, we’re here to help. There are a number of things you can do to improve the situation.

Read on for some handy tips, and look forward to your driest, healthiest winter yet.

First, find the source…

In order to properly fix any dampness in your home, you need to find the source of it. There’s a couple of ways to work out the source of your dampness issue. The best places to start are the naturally wet rooms in the house – the bathroom, kitchen and laundry, where water and steam are regular occurrences.

Are your walls or ceiling or floor wet to touch after cooking or showering? Are there areas which smell damp/musty, or feel cold? Often this will be in areas which don’t get any sun, so be sure to check cupboards and wardrobes and behind furniture, too.

Signs of moisture can also be visible, in the form of condensation on windows, mould or mildew on window frames or in the bathroom, or pee-ling, bubbling or cracking paint on interior surfaces.

Then, work out the cause…

The causes of dampness in homes occur in one of two ways – water get-ting into your home from outside (e.g. window frames which aren’t water-tight) or water from inside your home not being able to get out (e.g. lack of ventilation).

Regular activities, such as cooking, dishwashing, bathing, and even breathing produce moisture inside your home. Other sources can include plants, stored firewood, plumbing leaks, or unvented gas appliances.

In addition to checking window frame seals, other sources of moisture getting into your home can include poorly designed property drainage or faulty, broken leaky pipes and gutters. Insufficient ventilation and/or a lack of moisture barrier underneath your home can also lead to dampness issues.

The cause may also be structural – so it pays to have your roof and walls checked for any leaks, along with plumbing near showers and baths.

So what can you do about it?

There are a number of fixes you can arrange which will require a professional trades person. Check and repair, or install, ventilation systems in wet areas, such as the kitchen and bathroom. These are a key tool in extracting moisture from your home. Ensure these are ducted to the exterior of the home and not simply into your ceiling space.

Speaking of ducting, ensure your dryer is ducted to the exterior also, and that your laundry is well-ventilated.

Check for structural issues, as well as gutters, spouting and underground water pipes. You could also consider adding a whole house ventilation system. If that isn’t an option, we recommend using a dehumidifier on damp days. You could also install a shower dome to help contain moisture.

You should also check for ceiling and underfloor insulation as these are key first steps to reducing moisture. If you need insulation installed, many regional councils offer discounts or payment schedules for this, so it’s worth doing a bit of research.

There are also a number of simple, mostly free, things you can do to reduce moisture in your home. Air your house out regularly; pop a lid on your pots and pans when cooking to prevent excessive steam; dry your clothing outside if possible; use a squeegee to clean your shower walls down after use, and ensure you open windows when cooking or bathing.

Specifically in winter, shift your furniture away from walls and open windows a little for a short time to allow warm moist air to leave the home and allow cold, dry air to come in. We recommend using energy efficient, low emissions heaters, and avoid using unflued or portable gas heaters. And finally, if using a room, you should heat it to at least 18°C.

If you require any structural changes to your home, contact an NZCB builder, use the Find A Builder search function on www.nzcb.nz