This article is a guide to cold spots in properties and we will help to explain what they are, how you can locate them, what might cause them and what to do if you find them.
Cold spots tend to be more of a concern in the UK in winter months when temperatures outside are lower, meaning that issues within the property (of which there could be various different things) manifest themselves as colder spots on surfaces. These then have the potential to cause other issues, in particular damp condensation and mould as we will explain later.
What is a Cold Spot in a House?
Cold spots in a house are areas where the surface temperature is considerably lower than other comparable temperatures and close proximity. They are most commonly found on walls and ceilings, but can be seen in other areas such as floors too.
That tends to be more concern over cold spots in winter months of the year, for a number of reasons which we will explain further in this article. We will also explain some of the potential causes and what risks they can possibly bring to your property too.
Risks of Cold Spots
The risks off cold spots in your home or business can be split into primary issues and secondary issues are caused as a result of this. like many things when it comes to property damage management, something like colder spots can vary according to a number of factors relevant to that particular property, including the age, construction, condition, layout and other factors.
An example of a primary issue related to cold spots is that it can have a detrimental effect on the warmth in a room, in that it is letting call external temperatures ingress into the internal environment. Similarly in reverse, it is also possibly allowing the warm air internally to leave the property. Interestingly, when people are carrying out thermography home inspections with thermal imaging cameras, this is something that can be evidenced.
This process is sometimes referred to as ‘cold bridging’, which in turn can be caused by structural or design issues or another factor (such as poor insulation) causing it. This then compromises the thermal envelope of the property.
When it comes to secondary issues relative cold spots, predominantly we are referring to issues with condensation damp and mould, we will explore this further in the next section. Of course, other than these, moisture collecting on a surface can also potential compromise structural integrity over time, especially with wood and plasterboard.
Cold Spots – Condensation, Damp and Mould
Colder spots can be linked to issues with condensation, damp and mould (which are commonly related to each other, with one causing the other oftentimes). For more information on this, here are a few articles which help to explain this phenomenon further:
That last article in particular, which references our Dew Point Calculator gives an excellent explanation as to how condensation forms on cold services, and how in turn, it can cause issues with damp and mould. However, here is a simpler explanation in 10 quick stages:
- Water has three ‘states’ of being – solid ice, liquid water and vapour / steam
- Moisture exists in the air as relative humidity in the air (water vapour)
- This is caused by a number of factors adding water to the indoor air
- This is especially the case for humans breathing, bathing, cooking etc
- Water vapour in the air, when hitting a cold surface turns back to water
- This is if the surface is below a given temperature (known as dew point)
- If a cold spot on a wall is at or below that temperature moisture will gather
- This can then absorb into the material (e.g. plasterboard) causing damp
- This can be a fertile breeding ground for mould to grow (which needs moisture)
- In some instances the colder spots can be from water leaks (not just insulation issues)
You can see why cold spots might be more prevalent in certain areas, and related to that, why things like condensation and mould are often seen close to or around windows, and especially black mould in bathrooms.
On the topic in number 10 of water leaks shown above, remember that we are leak detection experts and can help with things such as a shower leaking through ceilings or any associated Ceiling Water Damage for example.
Finding Cold Spots
In order to find cold spots in a property there are a number of methods that can be used and we’ll explain three of them, varying from professional methods down to simple ones:
- Using a thermal imaging camera to scan across surfaces to identify cold spot areas which will show up in a different colour on the colour spectrum of the camera. Particular focus should be given to areas where the temperature is at or below dew point. Some modern thermal imaging cameras have settings to automatically indicate these areas.
- A cheaper way to achieve similar results, all be it not as simply, it’s through the use of a laser / infrared thermometer. this is more challenging as, numerous individual readings will need to be taken across the surface area to compare. Effectively the process is the same As for the thermal imaging camera but less visual and intuitive.
- The cheapest but least effective method (and possibly impractical in many cases) is to touch your hand on various different services and comparing the temperature to the touch. We wouldn’t recommend this as it’s inaccurate, less effective and perhaps not safe (on a ceiling for example).
In order to help with either of the first two methods mentioned above, we recommend initially focusing on areas that you suspect are problematic. For example, an area where you know there is a damp patch (which can be demonstrated with a damp meter and damp meter readings) or area of mould. The other thing that will help here, will be the device that you use, as both thermal imaging cameras and infrared thermometers often have indicators of the dew point.
What to do about Cold Spots
The obvious next question is what should you do about cold spots on walls and ceilings? The simple answer is that it depends on what the cause of the cold spot is. For example, you might have an area where there is a gap in insulation on your walls or in your loft. in that instance, assuming it is practical to do so, you can improve the insulation in that area which will reduce the risk of a cold spot.
On the subject of lofts, we have a related article about condensation in loft spaces.
Remember that, in almost all properties, there will be variances in surface temperatures and locations which are better insulated than other. and so a cold spot, may not be problematic. This is especially the case if the surface temperature is above dew point. Most homes or businesses will have cooler areas on their wall but not all will suffer from damp, condensation and mould. Similarly, at some times of the year (especially summer) they are less likely to be an issue.
Even when there is an issue, other actions can be taken to help reduce humidity levels which makes call spots less of a concern, and mould less likely to grow. We discussed this in our article about PIV Units and a similar article about Bathroom Extractor Fans.
Even if you know what the issue is and have remedied it, you may need to dry affected areas through the use of drying equipment such as desiccant dehumidifiers or other drying equipment. This is another area we can assist with too.
If you have an issue with water leaks, damp, condensation or mould contact us for help today.
Why do I have cold spots in my house?
Cold spots in your house, which tend to be more visible in winter months in thy UK, can be caused by a wide number of factors which will depend on the location and type of cold spot. In some instances a cold spot can be caused by issues with insulation (or cold bridging) causing cold air to transfer through poor insulation or structural issues. They can in some instances be caused by other factors such as water leaks in walls.
What can I do about cold spots in my house?
Once you have located the exact location cold spots in your house (often seen on walls and floors in particular), this will help you to understand what factors in that area could be contributing to them. For example, sometimes when you have a cold spot in a ceiling, you may be able to see where insulation is missing, for example using a thermal camera.