If you are planning on buying a new property, there are a number of things that you need to be aware of when viewing the prospective property before putting an offer in to buy. Many flats or houses may look sound from the preview pictures and from quick glances on a house viewing, but it is important to undergo a thorough inspection of the property if you are seriously considering making an offer. Underlying problems that may not be easy to spot can be things such as damp and mould which can lead to irreparable damage if not recognised and resolved quickly.


There are a number of things to look for when checking a potential property for damp, and if you do enough research it is not too difficult to be able to spot many signs, however for a more detailed analysis of the full property you can always arrange for a professional surveyor to analyse the property and make their assessment. However some common ways to recognise damp in a home are worth remembering, as they can also be applied regularly to your new home to ensure that your property foundations remain safe and stable.


If you notice plaster walls that are crumbling, skirting boards that seem to be decaying, or excessively peeling paint and wallpaper, this may be an example of rising damp. Rising damp is water taken from the ground that enters a property or building through capillary action. This can introduce salts into the walls that contaminate the walls and affects plaster coats, which is where you will see crumbling plaster.

If you see crumbling plaster that may have been caused by rising damp, a deeper inspection is definitely recommended, as the plaster may need to be removed and replaced, or a chemical damp proof course may need to be installed.

Dark Patches on Walls

Damp or dark patches appearing on walls; ceilings or floors are a dangerous sign and can be as a result of penetrating damp. These can be darker or larger after particularly heavy periods of rain or bad weather.

Penetrating damp is a result of weak foundations or problems with the fabric of the building, which allows the outside elements, rain, sleet or otherwise, to leak into the interior of the building and cause problems. Often penetrating damp requires expert help, as this may require the replacement of entire ceilings or walls that have been contaminated by damp.


Condensation occurs in humid environments where warm air comes into contact with cold surfaces, causing water to be deposited. Common signs of condensation are running water on windows and walls, the appearance of mould in the corners of rooms and windows and walls having the appearance that they are ‘sweating’.

Condensation is generally more of a problem in the winter than in the summer, because the air conditioning collides with the cold air outside and causes condensation. Generally condensation is a problem often solved by increasing the air flow throughout the house. However if there seems to be a dangerous amount of condensation, it may be better to call a specialist.

Mike James is an entrepreneur and has a passion for renovating properties for the buy-to-let market. He writes about his exploits for Bradley Mason, a Chartered Building Surveying practice based in Harrogate.