Monday, 30 November -0001

Condensation vs Cats

Condensation is a challenge but cats can help, says Sam Taylor

Written by Sam Taylor
Anyone who was born before the warm embrace of central heating will remember the strange childhood joy of waking in the morning and being able to ‘see’ your breath. In the winter months, my mother would have to put the oven on to warm the kitchen for our breakfasts. Much store was set by the speediness by which we could dress (often under the covers) and get to the table without spending too much time in the subarctic temperatures that prevailed in the rest of the house.

The edge was taken off by coal fires and paraffin heaters. Although they had an effect on the temperature gauge, these wobbly contraptions with their flickering wicks were prone to fall over and catch alight and, because they were unvented, they caused chronic condensation. The warm, moist air they gave out hit the freezing cold walls and windows and left them running with water. Keeping a window open helped (and also defeated the object) but ultimately condensation was seen as the price to be paid for not having chilblains.

Ironically, the wondrous arrival of gas central heating did little to rid us of this runny problem and it is one that still vexes householders and scientists alike. Despite its obvious charms, central heating can increase condensation levels as the moisture in the air reaches ‘saturation point’, turning it back into water – what is technically referred to as the ‘dew point’. Or the point at which your wallpaper can start growing mould.


Like many old properties, Rock House had inbuilt ventilation in the form of open fires and poorly fitting windows and doors. However, the rising costs of heating and the increased calls for climate change awareness have us all automatically plugging these gaps, myself included.

Keen to stave off the drips, I was heartened by the recent advice from the nice people at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings that there are lots of little things we can do.

Close kitchen and bathroom doors when in use, for instance, and don’t insulate these windows. Dry your clothes outside – hanging them by the radiator is asking for trouble, apparently. Put lids on pans and, yes, open a window. But the best advice comes from a neighbour who says that her tabby’s cat flap works wonders as an informal ventilation aid. So, cats one, condensation nil.

Next week: Crunchy flooring

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