Social Housing: Mould Problems & Solutions

By Chris Heaton
Date 14/04/2023
social housing mould problems & solutions

Mould is nobody’s idea of fun. But it’s a harsh reality faced in an estimated 4% of social housing. Mould growth can lead to a few different problems, including furniture damage and health risks. Thankfully, it’s not something tenants or housing providers have to put up with.

Read on as we discuss the ins and outs of social housing mould, and how to solve the various problems as a tenant, council or housing association.

Mould: a multi-faceted problem

The first and most obvious problem with mould is that it’s an eyesore. Nobody wants to see mould day in, day out. At the very least, it creates an unpleasant environment for people to live in. People with mould in their house are unlikely to have friends and family round, for example, or may even avoid time at home themselves. But in fact, that’s the least of tenants’ worries.

Mould can eventually spread from walls, floors or ceilings to furniture and furnishings. As well as worsening the eyesore, that can cause irreparable damage such as stains on curtains, sofas or wooden furniture. If a wardrobe or chest of drawers becomes mouldy, it could even spread to the clothes inside.

Then there’s the most serious impact of all. Mould can release allergens and toxins, which worsen existing health problems, such as:

  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Allergies

It can even cause new ones altogether, such as:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Breathing difficulties
  • A weakened immune system

Mould solutions in social housing

Short-term mould removal

Most problems have a solution. Thankfully, mould isn’t an exception to that rule. Short-term, it needs to be cleaned away safely. A simple mixture of four parts hot water and one part bleach will clean away the mould and kill the fungus.

The following protective equipment is recommended:

  • A face mask that covers your mouth and nose.
  • Goggles to protect your eyes.
  • Rubber gloves to protect your hands from the bleach.

Then, simply wipe mould off the wall using a cloth. Use a separate, dry cloth to dry the wall afterwards. Open a window to ventilate the space, but keep doors closed to avoid mould spores spreading around the house.

Long-term mould prevention

If mould is cleaned off walls with no further action, it will invariably come back within weeks, months or years. Why? Because nothing has been done to tackle the root cause. That could be any of the following four things:

  • Rising damp – moisture rising through your walls from the ground.
  • Water ingress – moisture penetrating your roof or walls.
  • Leaking appliance – if water is leaking from a refrigerator, washing machine or dryer, this can also cause damp and mould.
  • High humidity – this refers to a high-level of moisture in the air.

If it’s any of the first three, the solution is relatively simple:

  • Repair or replace the damp-proof course to prevent rising damp.
  • Identify the source of water ingress, then repair the roof or walls’ pointing or rendering.
  • Have the leaking appliance repaired or replaced.

Here’s what to do about the fourth…

Preventing mould from high humidity

High humidity is caused when lots of moisture is released with nowhere to go. In other words, when ventilation is poor in social-rented accommodation. This moisture doesn’t stay in the air. It can settle in cold places like walls and ceilings, where it turns into condensation, damp and eventually mould.

Moisture is released day-to-day by everything from breathing and talking to cooking and washing up. Obviously, some activities release more moisture than others, including drying clothes and taking a shower. But above all else, generating moisture is unavoidable.

In most cases, however, poor ventilation is avoidable – by both tenants and housing providers:

  • Housing providers can ensure that working extractor fans are fitted in the bathroom and kitchen, as well as installing windows with trickle vents, or even mechanical ventilation systems.
  • Tenants can ensure they use extractor fans and ventilate periodically by opening windows.

What if that’s not enough?

Improving ventilation isn’t always enough to stop social housing mould coming back. Another tip is to keep the space warm. Because moisture is drawn to cold surfaces, maintaining a comfortable temperature of at least 18°C will prevent or minimise mould growth.

Of course, with energy prices continuing to rise, this isn’t something that will be possible for all social housing tenants. As such, councils and housing authorities can ensure their housing stock is well insulated to lessen the risk of mould developing. This includes:

  • Loft or roof insulation
  • Wall insulation
  • Floor insulation
  • Thermally efficient windows and doors

Still not enough?

We’ll be honest – some social housing just isn’t well ventilated by design. That was the case for Shearsmith House – a social housing block in East London. Constructed in the late 1960s, it had suffered from an increasing mould problem, one which got worse as you went higher up the 26 storeys.

While ventilation and insulation was improved, the housing association also needed to treat the walls to stop mould forming. They used a damp-resistant internal wall coating to stop mould forming.

SprayCork was applied to the walls and window reveals to create a continuous protective layer. The final coating is just 8mm thick, with the added benefit of thermal insulation – effectively killing two birds with one stone.

Want to prevent mould in social housing?

If mould is a concern for your council or housing association, CorkSol can help. We have a network of contractors across the UK, who are fully trained in the application of SprayCork for mould prevention.

Whether it’s a block of flats, terraced houses or semi and fully detached homes, you can eliminate mould for good. That all helps to improve housing stock, protect tenants and make sure your housing organisation is fulfilling its primary purpose.

Contact us today on 01484 442 420 to arrange a quote or find out more about our SprayCork coating.


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