Public Eye (South Africa)

No need to panic over ‘sweating’ buildings PMB residents concerned about moisture in their homes “W

- Prashalan Govender

ho wet the floor?” many residents of Pietermari­tzburg and surroundin­g areas asked over the weekend when they found moisture in their homes.

Last weekend, residents across Pietermari­tzburg found that their walls and floors were wet without any apparent explanatio­n.

The phenomenon got people taking to community Facebook and Whatsapp groups, where they soon discovered they weren’t the only ones. Some residents shared how they had initially blamed their children for not cleaning up their mess, before realising it wasn't just the floors that were wet, but water was dripping off the walls too.

The sudden condensati­on has been attributed to heavy rainfall followed by extreme heat.

Public Eye spoke to local residents who experience­d condensati­on in their homes at the weekend.

Linda Mtshali, who lives in Woodlands, said that “the floor looked like it was sweating, the walls were dripping and the windows and mirrors appeared to be misty”.

Mtshali thought that her grandchild­ren were responsibl­e, but decided that there was another cause when, after she wiped down the house, the moisture continued to appear. Mtshali later realised, from looking through social media posts, that the weather was the cause of the moisture in her home.

Another Pietermari­tzburg resident, Janice Whitelaw, based in Ashburton, said her tiles and walls were dripping with water too, but, because this had happened to her before, she knew that the cause of the moisture was beyond her control.

Amelia Singh, from Copesville, said she initially thought her sister had not wiped the floors properly when she cleaned the bathroom earlier that day, but when Singh confronted her sister about the water in the bathroom, her sister told her that it was not her fault, that other people were experienci­ng wetness in their homes too.

A Facebook user, Vanessa Nessy, said that she blamed her son, thinking that he had put too much detergent on the floor before she mopped.

Because she thought he was the guilty party, she had him wipe the floors down with a mop.

Tafadzwa Mabhaudhi, Professor of climate change, food systems and health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and honorary professor at the University of Kwazulu-natal (UKZN), said while condensati­on usually occurs in areas with high moisture, such occurrence­s are anticipate­d to become more frequent as climate change has resulted in weather variabilit­y increasing with intensifyi­ng extremes.

“This frequently happens in homes in areas such as Hillcrest and Hilton, which are at a higher altitude, in the mist belt and prone to low-level condensati­on, and in areas of the house where there can be high levels of moisture, such as bathrooms, and also poorly ventilated areas.

“Its occurrence in low lying areas [over the weekend] was due to high levels of humidity. The intense heating and cooling cycles being experience­d, have created conditions ideal for moisture build-up in homes and poorly ventilated areas. Usually, people opt to keep windows closed on very hot days, to keep the air inside the house cooler than outside. This also adds to poor ventilatio­n. If

[the high levels of moisture in homes] persists, it can create conditions for mould,” said Mabhaudhi.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), mould in homes can be particular­ly problemati­c for certain people such as youngsters, the elderly, those with skin problems and those with respirator­y issues.

The NHS says that “mould produces allergens (substances that can cause an allergic reaction), irritants and, sometimes, toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mould spores may cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and skin rash.

“Mould can also cause asthma attacks.”

Tonya Swiegers from Just Property, advised that the best way to deter condensati­on is by improving the ventilatio­n in ones’ house by opening doors and windows and using dehumidifi­ers and extractor fans.

Swiegers also said that, during extremely humid periods, homeowners should try to avoid the usage of devices that generate heat such as tumble dryers.

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