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Go with the Flow: Ventilation

25/01/21Go with the Flow: Ventilation

One of the many common defects to look out for, especially in older properties, is adequate ventilation. Newer builds tend to have ventilation measures incorporated into their designs. In older builds, there simply wasn’t the technology available, nor awareness of such issues. Technology, such as showers, that generate a great deal of heat, steam and condensation, hadn’t been invented and the awareness of the impact condensation and damp had on properties’ wellbeing and integrity were not fully understood.

Letting off steam

There are two rooms that every dwelling features that are affected by ventilation – bathrooms and kitchens. The former has to deal with the steam and condensation caused by baths and showers, while the latter has to deal with steam and condensation from food preparation, but also the smells associated with cooking. Adequate ventilation in such circumstances is essential, to ensure that damp marks and mould are not allowed build up. Extractor fans and other air circulators can ensure that this is mitigated, and they can be fitted retrospectively into older properties too. A common trait these days is converting bathrooms into walk-in shower rooms. This has become particularly popular in holiday accommodation, but the fact that the entire room is engulfed in steam makes adequate ventilation absolutely essential.

Adequate airflow

When it comes to minimum requirements for kitchen and bathroom ventilation, a qualified surveyor will know what to look out for. If you are refurbishing a kitchen or bathroom, you will need to ensure that any existing extraction ventilation is retained or replaced. There are two main types of house ventilation. Purge ventilation – which is when you open a window to allow ventilation – and trickle ventilation – which can be incorporated into the frames of windows, for example. These can be spotted as small adjustable vents in the heads or jambs of window frames. Fan-type vents can also be added to glass panes, to allow ventilation if older windows, sashes for example, have been painted shut over the years. For roof ventilation, you can also add vents at eaves level, which allow airflow to circulate under the roof felt, or into fascia and soffit areas.

Underground, overground

Sub-floor ventilation to timber ground floors can be easily visible on external floors. On older properties this can be noticed as an ‘air brick’, which is a brick that is porous to allow air to pass through it. This kind of ventilation is often included at foundation level, for cellars and other underground areas. A common fault of such openings is the inadvertent obstruction of the vents. A good example would be builders’ rubble and other debris being left under floorboards blocking ventilation, and rubbish or earth being piled against an external wall. Not only can piled soil block vents, it can also bridge damp proof courses, which can lead to the transfer of damp up from ground level.

Most modern properties have a variety of ventilation provision already built-in, as part of modern-era Building Regulations. ‘Part F – Ventilation’ of current Building Regs covers everything you need to know about air quality and preventing condensation in a domestic or non-domestic structure. Spotting poor ventilation, gathering damp or the potential for problems with condensation and lack of circulated air will be invaluable when inspecting older properties.


Talk to our experts and find out if your property’s ventilation is up-to-date for your needs. Don’t forget, a Home Buyer’s report will identify potential issues with a property you are considering buying or selling too. Talk to our experts in our Shropshire or Staffordshire offices about our RICS home buyers’ reports.

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