When I pull back the curtains in winter I know what’s there: a wet, damp, film of condensation. 

Some mornings it’s like living in a rain forest!

Until the weather turns warmer, there’s not much I can do about it. 

I live in a well insulated home and condensation is the price I pay. 

I have double-glazed windows, the vents are open and yet every morning  after a cold winter night water materialises on the windows inside my home.

It appears in my living room, bedroom, kitchen – and even in unoccupied rooms. 

condensation on window and frame

Some mornings the windows are as wet as the inside of a shower cubicle!

When cold air outside the windows hits the warmer air inside it combines with whatever moisture is present to create condensation.

Steam from the kettle, drying wet clothes indoors, cooking and breathing all combine to create internal moisture in the air.

At best, it is a cluster of water bubbles gathering in the lower corners of the window frame. At worst, the window is a fully opaque screen; a wet and moist layer between the room, the glass and the view outside.

For many of us condensation is a winter ritual and a constant battle.  

In cold weather I keep a towel and squeegee on hand to mop it all away. If not,  condensation could lead to mould, pervasive dampness, clammy air, foul smells and spores.  

Dealing with condensation becomes a routine task; it is an everyday part of my life. I stay on top of it otherwise it could be one step along the road to dereliction, and personal ill health. 

condensation on window

You don’t want condensation in your home. 

We want our homes to express our wealth, taste, comfort and style. When condensation appears it reminds us we are not masters of our own domain. 

Breathing, cooking and heating… it’s what we do at home.

Being human in an inanimate man-made space pits us against nature.  If you don’t watch what nature is doing ( by stealth) to your home ultimately, it will reclaim the space. 

Condensation is a very common problem. But we don’t tend to talk much about  it.

Insurance and building companies issue warnings and advice but it isn’t always feasible to buy a dehumidifier, leave the windows open in winter  or the heating on low at all times. 

Condensation isn’t something that features in the glossy interior design magazines.

When buying a house, an estate agent is never going to draw attention to it –  though, a surveyor would.

The house of your dreams involves heart and head, but there may be warning signs – if you know what to look for.

It is only when you occupy a home that you discover if condensation is a problem you have to learn to live with.

Keeping nature at bay.

Architecture is constantly pitted against a force of nature; a force that can rot, break, shake and destroy a building – slowly, or quickly. 

nearly opaque glass from condensation

Mould thrives in dank, damp spaces.  

In winter, if you cannot afford to heat your home, nature could make it uninhabitable.

Extreme condensation and high levels of damp suggests poverty and neglect. However, it may also come down to bad design and poor building materials.

When a building is not designed to accommodate the way people live  –  that is bad architecture.

If condensation is allowed to settle it attacks finishes and paintwork and then rot will set in causing corrosion and decay. 

This is something we see in the homes of elderly people whose focus may have shifted away from maintaining their home, to focusing on their own health.

condensation droplets

There is no such thing as the perfect home. 

Every home has its problems. However, when the building fabric is being attacked by mould and mildew something needs to be done. 

Because mould can kill.

In 2020 Aawab Ishak (aged 2) died as a direct result of a respiratory condition caused by mould and damp from living in sub-standard rented housing. His death drew attention to the impact of mould and damp in sub-standard rented housing.

From the subsequent consultation the UK Government Guidance ” Understanding and addressing the health risks of damp and mould in the home”( 7/9/2024) recognises that certain people are more at risk. That is: people with health conditions, compromised immune system, pregnant mothers, young children, people who are bed-bound/house-bound, children, older people or people with mental health problems.  A broad cross-section of our society young and old who are made vulnerable just by being at home. 

The guidance recognises living with mould and damp is not just about the physical problems but also the mental health effect  due to:

  • unpleasant living conditions
  • destruction of property and belongings
  • anxiety related to physical health impacts and/or looking after a relative suffering from damp and mould-related illnesses
  • frustration with poor advice and/or being blamed for damp and mould
  • social isolation as a result of not wanting visitors in the home
  • delays in response or repairs following reporting of damp and mould and/or poor quality of repairs

Significantly, it addresses how people living in inadequate rented accommodation find themselves putting on a front, developing feelings of shame, culpability, and being disregarded.

When it’s not their fault.

The introduction of Awaab’s Law in the UK now requires landlords to promptly address and fix  damp and mould issues. 

And about time too!

condensation on edge of window frame

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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