Living in a Victorian House

The Victorian house is actually no different to any other house in it's need for heating and ventilation. As building technology has moved over the decades we have benefitted from better heating and insulation. We have excluded draughts and resisted damp. Problems arise however from not understanding how our particular house was built and also how it has been modified down the years. Without this knowledge we are at risk of damp attacks, mould growth and wasted energy through not living in the house correctly.


Water or moisture is your enemy. Whenever building materials are damp or wet they become at risk from a range of pests waiting to take over. The moisture allows these pests to live and grow and the food they use is often the materials that hold your house up such as timber and plasterboard.

The main pest is mould or fungus. You will see this as black spots on ceilings and walls. Left unchecked the problem will continue until it covers whole ceilings and walls. It will also get worse by spreading into masonry and in extreme cases can push walls over.

The thing to get right is to avoid high moisture inside your house and definitely to prevent it reaching your vulnerable materials such as timber in all its forms.

Diagnosis is the key. If you can work out the real reason why you have a damp house you can start to make some good decisions on how to make things better.

The place to start is condensation.
This is the easiest to diagnose and fix.
Look around the room and answer these questions.
Are there black marks or stains on the walls and or ceiling?
Are they above cupboards?
Are they away from radiators or other heat sources?
Are water droplets visible on the ceiling?
Do you have condensation running down windows and forming puddles on window cills?

All these are signs of too much water in the atmosphere coupled with cold surfaces where the moisture will condense.

Stop the cause and stop the effect.

The cause is excess moisture in the atmosphere.
To stop or at least cut this down requires some fairly simple actions.
Do not dry your washing in the house!
- dry washing at the laundrette or
- use a tumble dryer or washer/dryer or
- dry in one room only
- close the door and open a window in the drying room

In the kitchen
- keep lids on pots and pans
- use a pressure cooker instead of open pots
- open a window or use an extract fan when cooking

In the bathroom
- keep the door closed
- open a window after a bath or shower, not wide open, just say 20mm gap, you want to keep the heat in.
- use an extract fan as well as an open window if you have one

The effect is condensation on surfaces. Having cut the amount of moisture in the air it is also important to avoid cold surfaces.
- keep the house warm. In cold weather keep the heating on constant low heat. This is more economical than a heat/cool cycle.
- insulate walls and roof space. Grants may be available for this. Change windows to double glazed with trickle vent if funds permit.
- ventilate but keep the heat. We are only looking to change the air on a regular cycle. This can be achieved with open trickle vents on modern windows. Older windows can be opened, preferably at a high level. Again a small gap is adequate. Think about security and ensure windows can be locked.
- kill the mould. Use 1:3 household bleach : water. Dab this on the area. Avoid spreading the spores. Wear rubber gloves etc

Taking these simple actions will transform your experience of living in your home.
However this is only one aspect of damp in the home. You also need to look up at the rain and keep this out of the house and down at the ground and stop water rising.

The well built modern home wlll have a long list of built in features to keep the moisture out. Lack of maintenance will see these features deteriorate over time thereby allowing moisture to enter the home past the waterproof barriers.
Start with the roof and work down. You will need to get a roofer to fix the roof but before you get him in you should take a good look at the roof and work out what could be wrong with it. Then you can talk with confidence with your roofer.
But get three quotes. Better still get a survey report from a building surveyor. or chartered builder.

This is just a quick overview of the main issues in living in a Victorian House.