Retrofitting bathrooms: A vital strategy for damp & mould control

Jamie Sandilands of Grant Westfield delves into the benefits of utilising panels in damp and mould prone areas, alongside the legal responsibilities of landlords under the Safety Act to ensure tenant safety

Damp and mould pose significant challenges in maintaining a safe and healthy living environment, especially in areas prone to moisture build-up and humidity such as bathrooms. Retrofitting bathrooms with moisture-resistant wall panels presents a proactive approach to addressing these issues, regardless of the specific product used.

The Threat of Damp and Mould

Damp and mould thrive in environments with high humidity levels and poor ventilation, making bathrooms particularly vulnerable. The accumulation of moisture from showers and baths, coupled with inadequate ventilation, creates ideal conditions for mould growth. Left unchecked, damp and mould not only jeopardise the structural integrity of the property but also pose health risks to occupants, leading to respiratory problems and allergies.

Landlords’ Legal Obligations

Under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, landlords are legally obligated to provide habitable living conditions for their tenants. This includes addressing issues of damp and mould in a timely and effective manner. Failure to do so not only can endanger a tenant’s health and safety but also exposes landlords to potential legal liabilities. Retrofitting bathrooms with moisture-resistant solutions is a proactive measure that landlords can take to fulfil their duty of care and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Campaigners have also demanded social housing reforms after the tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who died from mould exposure in his Rochdale home in 2020. As a result, Awaab’s Law was introduced as a component of the Social Housing Regulation Act 2023 and makes up the biggest government reforms affecting social housing in a decade. Awaab’s Law requires landlords to promptly address and fix reported health hazards within specified timeframes.

The Role of Wall Panels

Wall panels offer a versatile and effective solution for combating damp and mould in bathrooms. Unlike traditional tiling, which is susceptible to grout deterioration and water seepage, panels provide a seamless and waterproof barrier that prevents moisture ingress and inhibits mould growth. This not only safeguards the structural integrity of the property but also reduces the need for frequent maintenance and repairs.

There is also the added benefit that the installation process for wall panels is relatively straightforward, minimising disruption and downtime. Whether it’s retrofitting existing bathrooms or incorporating panels into new construction, the versatility and ease of installation make panels a practical choice for addressing damp and mould concerns.

For some landlords, especially in a time of increasing costs, any loss of rental occurred during a renovation project can be financially challenging. However, wall panels offer a time- and cost-effective solution. If a bathroom already has tiles in place, wall panels can be installed directly on top of almost any sound surface whilst maintaining their watertight integrity, saving time, effort and scarce resources. Unlike tiled surfaces, newly panelled bathrooms will be ready to use in just 24 hours, and on average, fitting wall panels saves on average 15 hours of installation time compared to the equivalent area being tiled.

As wall panels are so easy to fit, it eliminates snagging issues that can be both costly and time consuming to fix. By choosing waterproof wall panels instead of traditional tiles, it eliminates the problem of water leakage due to improper tile installation and grouting in a bathroom. Tiles should also be re-sealed every year and grouting re-touched every eight years as it loses its colour and mould builds up. There is also the associated cost saving at the time of installation – by as much as £30 per m2.

In addition to their functional benefits, wall panels also offer aesthetic advantages, enhancing the visual appeal of bathroom spaces. With a wide range of design options available, including contemporary finishes and classic motifs, panels allow landlords to elevate the overall look and feel of their properties while simultaneously addressing practical concerns.

Beyond the installation of wall panels, landlords can further mitigate damp and mould risks by implementing effective ventilation solutions. Adequate ventilation helps regulate humidity levels and promote air circulation, reducing the likelihood of moisture accumulation and mould growth. Simple measures such as installing extractor fans or improving natural ventilation can significantly enhance bathroom airflow and minimise damp-related issues.

Educating tenants about proper bathroom maintenance and ventilation practices is also essential in preventing damp and mould problems. By fostering awareness and responsibility, landlords can empower tenants to take proactive steps in safeguarding their living environment and maintaining a healthy home.

In conclusion, retrofitting bathrooms with moisture-resistant wall panels is a proactive and effective strategy for controlling damp and mould in rental properties. By addressing these issues comprehensively and promoting tenant awareness, landlords can fulfil their legal obligations under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and ensure a safe and healthy living environment for their tenants.

Jamie Sandilands is specification director at Grant Westfield