Damp Issues in Turkey
Perhaps when you bought your Turkish dream home in the warm months you noticed the faint dusky aroma of damp in one or two rooms, maybe your agent pointed out a faded damp patch and told you that it could easily be rectified. Now however with winter setting in that damp smell will be getting stronger and dull black patches may start to appear in the unlikeliest of places.
How serious a matter is damp in Turkish builds? The answer is that the problem
occurs frequently and usually results in a growing problem, which needs immediate professional attention. Damp can affect any home be it an old Turkish house from the turn of the century or a brand new modern apartment. It can affect your health by irritating respiratory problems and encouraging mites and mould. It devalues your property and raises concerns about comfort. If your property is used as a holiday home and damp is left to fester over the winter season, the effect on your return may leave you cold.
In Turkey, damp is often caused by poor construction and maintenance and because Turkish builders don’t use damp proof materials. It is worsened by the cold, wet winters. It is usually found on exterior walls, floors, windows, doors, pipe work and in basements. If you can see a damp patch in your home, the root of the problem is usually outside e.g. from a leaking pipe or lack of damp proof course.
Types of Damp
Damp can be categorized into various groups each with their own reason for occurring. Rising damp crops up when water is soaked up through absorbent material and spreads into the walls and floors. It affects exterior walls and seldom rises above one metre high and is common in houses without a damp proof course. In Turkey most houses were built without this protection including many new builds and many houses here are built on inclines, which cause earth from the garden to lean directly onto external walls trapping moisture. Houses with rising damp will have walls, which are cold and damp to the touch. There may also be dark marks almost like fingerprints on the inside walls and in severe cases the plaster may have started to come loose.
Problems with plumbing, which allow water to infiltrate the property cause penetrating damp. This problem may not stem from a simple leaky tap, but from problems in the laying of pipe work to the property or in the construction of the roof and guttering. In this instance the damp will be most noticeable when it rains. Signs of penetrating damp include watermarks to roofs, walls and ceilings as well as crumbling plaster. Sometimes it is difficult to locate the source of penetrating damp and you may need an expert to do this.
Condensation only occurs in inhabited properties and is not often regarded as a damp problem, but the effects can be just as devastating. It is caused when excessive moisture cannot run out of a property - usually when there is insufficient ventilation. Sometimes the increase in moisture in the air is caused by using portable gas heaters or drying washing on radiators. If you don't open your windows regularly then condensation will occur and you can notice it by the buildup of water on the glass panes. Condensation can lead to musty smells and mould appearing on ceilings, furniture, walls and window dressings.
Tackling Damp Problems
If your damp problem is limited to condensation, then you need to assess if the heating system is right for your property and most importantly ventilate the house daily either by opening windows or by adding ventilation bricks. You can also buy a portable dehumidifier to soak up the moisture in the air. If it is limited to single damp patches the likelihood is that you have a problem with penetrating damp and this may be easy to resolve once you have located the source, you may need to invest in a damp metre to do this but money spent on this may save you in the long run. However, if your damp problem results from underground pipe work or is rising damp, you will need to engage professionals to tackle this and the cost could be high.
Rising damp caused by earth leaning on the wall can be solved by digging a French trench around the property (see our article on Drainage in our homes and Garden section). If the problem is severe and the French trench fails to fix the issue, you may have no choice but to install a damp proof course or use injections of chemicals into cavity walls.
If the problem stems from your roof, causing penetrating damp, you may need to refit new roofing felt or replace old tiles.
If mildew has formed in your property you can remove this once you have tackled the source of the problem by scrubbing the mildewed surface with a mix of bleach and hot water. It needs to be left for a few minutes and then cleaned off with a neutral colored towel or sponge.
In the UK most houses have a damp proof course, which is a waterproof covering made of a bituminous material or slate. You can also damp proof your house by injecting chemicals between the cavity walls if they exist - in many Turkish builds they do not! You do this by drilling around 10 mm in diameter that slope downward to around 150 mm below floor level. You may have to do this on both the inside and outside of the wall. The chemical is injected into these holes and then you must ensure that they are correctly sealed with plastic plugs or mortar. If you do not have cavity walls you need to cut out the mortar two bricks above the ground and insert a damp proof membrane available from builder's merchants and again ensure that the wall is well sealed when you finish.