Damp is a problem most home owners have to deal with at least once in their lifetime.

84 million Europeans live in homes that are too damp, causing respiratory illnesses such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), according to new research from the German institute Fraunhofer IBP.

The study also reveals that for those who live in damp or mouldy dwellings, it increases their risk of having respiratory diseases and life-long allergies by 40%. 

“We are convinced that the development of respiratory illnesses as a result of damp buildings can be reduced, and it is now clearer than ever that the legal framework for buildings needs to support healthy indoor climates in new and existing buildings," says Grant Sneddon, Product Manager, VELUX® GBI.

"This way, human lives could be improved, and it is also good for the economy too."

[Read more: 7 simple things to make a house feel like a home]

Prevent damp becoming a problem in your home with these top tips from leading building diagnostics expert Michael Parrett

1. Leaking high-level gutters and/or rainwater pipes 

These are a common cause of low dampness in walls, especially in solid external walls. Gutters and rainwater pipes can get blocked with falling leaves and other debris and should be cleaned out and checked for defects from time to time. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) has a useful guide to guttering maintenance - for all types of building.

2. High abutting external ground levels

Either at or above the line of the original damp proof course (DPC), or at or above the level of the internal floor. As a guide, ground levels externally should be a minimum of 15cm below the DPC.

3. Blocked external vents to ground floors 

The void underneath a suspended floor must be ventilated to prevent a build-up of moisture, as excessive moisture can lead to low-level dampness in the walls and will eventually decay a suspended wooden floor. If you have a suspended floor, check that the air bricks providing ventilation aren't blocked, obstructed or missing.

[Read more: Cavity wall insulation: can it make my home warm and how can I tell if my walls are suitable?]

4. Chimneys and fire hearths 

Open chimney pots can allow rainwater to penetrate into the chimney cavity and permeate right down through the building. Also, due to the construction of some buildings, usually pre-Edwardian ones, dampness can be drawn up from the ground below into the chimney breast and reveal walls.

5. General defects 

Lots of common defects in buildings can result in internal dampness, including poor or defective mortar courses in external walls, defective sealant around windows and doors, poorly maintained wooden windows and doors, and broken, cracked or defective stone window sills.

Share your tips for dealing with damp in the home in the Comments box below.