Hidden Causes of Water Damage in the Home
In addition to causing destruction, water damage also has an adverse affect to the indoor air quality of your home. Damage from water can cause wood rot, insect infestation and mold .
Obvious and Hidden Causes Of Water Damage
The obvious causes of water damage are leaking roofs, windows, doors, foundation cracks and visible plumbing leaks. These are fairly easy to detect, enabling a quick repair before maximum damage occurs.
The not-so-obvious culprits are moisture behind finished basement walls that are insulated with fiberglass, poor grading around foundation walls and air leaks that occur between the living space and attic
Water Damage From Insulation
Insulating finished basement walls with fiberglass is not a good idea.
Fiberglass will absorb water and not allow it to travel through the wall, preventing a drying effect.
Some people think installing a plastic barrier in the wall is the answer, but this approach only traps moisture. A better way is to use rigid insulation (also known as blue board).
This insulation is semi-permeable and allows moisture to travel through the wall, allowing it to dry. Water can also enter the basement if the grade of the land is pitched toward the house.
Grading the soil away from the house and adding rain gutters will guide rainwater away from the house.
Water Damage From The Attic
Openings from the house to the attic and poor ceiling insulation in houses located in colder climates can lead to ice dams that cause water to back up into the house.
Air leakage from the house to the attic will carry moisture in the form of humidity into the attic that can form water on the underside of the roof leading to rotting and mold.
Typical leakage points between the house and attic are:
- Leaky attic hatches
- Holes drilled for plumbing pipes and electrical wires that penetrate the attic and are usually not sealed
- Recessed light fixtures that are not the airtight type
- Exhaust fans that vent directly into the attic.
Water Damage From Air Conditioning
For those who live in warmer climates, water damage can occur within your walls because of poorly designed air conditioning systems.
Systems that are over sized (a larger capacity than necessary)will not remove enough humidity which leads to high moisture levels that condense on cooler surfaces.
Duct systems that are imbalanced can draw outside humidity through walls that can produce water in the walls.
Repairing Water Damage
Mitigating these problems requires a professional.
Repairing the attic water problems listed above may seem simple enough, but trying to do it yourself doesn't guarantee you really fixed the problem and can sometimes lead to other problems.
Hiring an insulation expert who specializes in building science (also known as a building performance specialist) will ensure the job is done properly and safely.
These specialists come equipped with tools such as blower doors, pressure gauges, etc. to quantify the measures taken for the repairs.
The same goes for the air conditioning specialist, he should have duct diagnostic tools to test your ductwork to be sure it is properly designed and performing efficiently. If you are unable to find someone in your area, go to www.energyconservatory.com.
They are manufacturers of the required testing instruments and they will have contractors in their database they can recommend.
In addition to taking care of the water damage, your home will be more comfortable, you'll save money on your energy bills and improve your indoor air quality.
Ed Bishop is founder and president of Enhanced Living Inc., a Troy, NY-based design-consulting and contracting company. A pioneer in residential contracting, Ed is a thirty-year industry veteran trained in the "House Is A System" approach to HVAC design. He was formerly a building analyst instructor, providing certification training for New York's Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program.
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