The 70s sitcom Rising Damp might have been hilarious, but damp in your house is not.

Smells, stains and mould on floors and walls isn't just unpleasant, it can exacerbate health problems for people with respiratory problems, allergies and asthma. And at this time of year, it can be rife.

[Read more: How to get rid of condensation in your home]

Berwyn Evans, UK Product Manager at Rentokil Property Care comments: “Damp is a word that not only describes the UK’s climate, but can also send shivers down a property owner’s spine. The presence of unwanted moisture can undermine the structural integrity of a property, inflict serious cosmetic damage to its interior, and can even pose a health risk to inhabitants with underlying health issues.”

Signs of damp

The best way to deal with damp is to get on top of it as soon as you find it. So what should you look out for?

“Damp is usually accompanied by an unmistakably musty smell," Berwyn advises.

"It can leave stains, dark patches and discolouration on walls and can sometimes lead to mould forming. Damaged or rotting skirting boards or plaster within properties are also often a sign of damp and there may even be visible wet patches.”

Types of damp

There are three main types of damp to look out for: rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation.

Rising damp

Berwyn explains that rising damp is the result of moisture being drawn upwards through the mortar and masonry of a building. Porous building materials such as bricks and sandstone are most likely to be affected. Modern buildings in the UK include a damp-proof course that acts as a barrier to water rising.

Penetrating damp

This type of damp is mainly caused by strong, prevailing winds, which drives rain into the masonry and is most often seen on buildings with solid walls rather than cavity walls.

“Property defects such as gaps around windows, leaking roofs or even plants growing on the building can all lead to moisture entering the building. The most effective way to protect a property from penetrating damp is to rectify such defects and apply a weather protect coating to the exterior of the property,” he advises.

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Condensation

Condensation affects one in five homes, and happens when moist warm air comes into contact with a cold surface. This can be caused by everyday activities like boiling the kettle, cooking, having a shower, or drying clothes inside.

Berwyn explains: “Condensation is usually most problematic during the winter months when windows tend to be kept closed to keep out the cold and the heating is on. Ventilation is the key to defeating condensation. Homeowners with double glazing should keep the trickle vents open while extractor fans should be used in the kitchen and bathroom to combat moisture.”

Tips to prevent damp in your property

• Ensure that external ground levels are a minimum 150mm below the building’s current damp proof course.
• Regularly check drains and downpipes to ensure there are no blockages or leaks.
• Inspect flashing on your property’s roof and around windows to ensure it prevents water from entering the building.
• Apply a weather protective coating to the building’s exterior.
• Keep your property ventilated, especially during colder months when the heating is on and windows are less likely to be opened.

Berwyn adds: “There are solutions to all kinds of damp. However, it is essential that it is dealt with early before it causes lasting damage to the property. Keep an eye out for damp patches, interior discolorations and that signature musty smell, and if in doubt call in the professionals.”