Today’s new-build homes include many improvements and efficiencies, but they still need to be run-in gently to adjust to the rigours of occupation and the drying out period, normally nine to 12 months.
NHBC (National House-Building Council), the UK’s leading warranty provider and standards setting body for new-build homes, has some practical advice.
Stop moisture spreading: extractor fans and cooker hoods, where fitted, should be used whenever water vapour is being produced, i.e. cooking, washing clothes and bathing. Also ensure windows are opened regularly to purge excess moisture.
Reduce condensation: ensuring that trickle vents are open will reduce the likelihood of condensation. If it does occur on window glass, simply wipe it away. Allowed to persist, condensation can cause a lot of damage, and so may lead to unnecessary repair costs.
Keep a constant temperature to limit cracking: to minimise cracking, try to keep an even temperature in the house so that the structure warms up and dries out gradually. If you have central heating, use it sparingly at first (especially if you move in during winter), and make sure you don’t have the heating on too high.
Dealing with minor cracks: these should be left for a few months and then sealed after your new home has dried out. When you redecorate, use a good filler to make good any gaps and plaster cracks that may have arisen from normal drying-out and shrinkage.
Redecoration: the builder will probably have painted the walls with a light paint that lets moisture work itself out during the drying out period. Further coats of emulsion and oil-based paints or wallpaper can be used for later redecoration, after approximately nine-12 months.
Wardrobe ventilation: built-in wardrobe doors should be kept slightly ajar during the drying out period, especially if the wardrobe is on an external wall.
Loft care: examine the loft regularly for signs of condensation. The builder will have put permanent ventilation in the roof, usually at the eaves, to avoid condensation. These openings, which take the form of slots or holes should not be covered. Do not leave the loft hatch open because this will allow warm moist air into the loft, wasting heat and increasing the risk of condensation.
Further advice can be found in NHBC’s useful publication, A Guide to your new home – a practical guide to looking after your new home, freely available at www.nhbc.co.uk/homeowners.