Damp Smells Explanation
Firstly - happy new year to all you damp geeks and property people. Secondly - 'It smells damp'...What does this actually mean? If I take a house brick and put it in a bucket of water for a week, and then remove it and then smell it, what will it smell of? Earthy bouquet - hint of vanilla? No, in reality it is not going to smell of anything.
So what do we mean when we speak about a damp and typically musty smell?
A 'damp' smell is not the moisture itself because clearly, the introduction of moisture to inorganic materials like bricks and mortar, produces no discernible odour.
It is the introduction of sufficient moisture to ORGANIC materials which results in a musty smell, via a process we all know of as DECAY or DECOMPOSITION.
What do I mean? Consider what happens when the leaves fall from the trees in Autumn each year. What happens? Do those leaves build-up year on year, do we have to physically remove each and every leaf which falls from the trees throughout the land?
No, if left on the ground they are wet and rot/decompose away. A primary decomposer is fungi.
It is the circle of life :)
Anyway, it's a natural process and when we expose organic materials to sufficient moisture, the mould (fungi) spores which are ubiquitous and in the air all around us right now, the right conditions can be created for germination and off it goes.
IT IS THIS WHICH CREATES THAT MUSTY SMELL, which we've all heard of and very likely experienced!
FYI - fungi needs a number of conditions to be met before it can germinate. There must be:
- A spore
- Moisture (sufficient in quantity)
- Suitable pH
- Food source (organic material).
Really, the only thing that we can all influence within property, is the source of moisture.
Buildings will always contain organic material such as timber, or plasterboard which has paper facing, and even paints can support fungal growth.
One other thing to understand is that the source of the moisture does not have to be a wet substrate - a wet wall for example - fungi can germinate where there is sufficient VAPOUR present within the air.
This means that mould can grow for example, on clothes within wardrobes, where there is no physical contact with damp substrates.
Simplistically, identify the source of the moisture, address it and the fungi cannot germinate and grow, and that 'damp smell' should also be addressed.
Hope that helps - James