Controlling moisture in homes is important for several reasons. Excessive dampness and elevated relative humidity in your home can cause harm to the occupants’ health, damage to building materials, result in costly renovations or constant maintenance, and may even lead to fungal growth throughout your property. Steps should be taken by building occupants to reduce the amount of moisture in their homes to prevent any harmful or expensive problems in the future.
Consequences of Excessive Moisture in Homes
Water can enter your home by surface water, groundwater, sewer water, and by household and outdoor sources of relative humidity. Whether water is in its liquid or vaporous form, you want to limit the amount that you allow into your home because it will quickly cause damage to the building materials.
One major consequence of homes that experience moisture issues is the development of fungal growth. Mold only needs two things to grow: moisture and a nutrient source. Unfortunately, the nutrient source is the materials that make up your home. Building materials that are most vulnerable to mold growth include drywall, wood, paper or cellulose products, fabrics, paint, and dust. Mold exposure can cause serious health effects to humans including respirable issues, runny noses, wheezing, headaches, and drowsiness. Therefore, if a leak or flood does occur at your property, it is important to address it immediately before the mold has the chance to grow. We recommend drying out the affected areas within 24 hours of moisture exposure.
Other consequences of excessive moisture in homes would be the severe and expensive damage it causes. Water can swiftly cause the wood in your home to rot, decay or warp. It can cause metal components to corrode and rust which will decrease the effectiveness of the material. Water can also leave scars in your home with stainings, peeling paints, bubbling drywall, and cracked plaster. Excess moisture commonly promotes damage to bricks and cement blocks. When these materials are constantly exposed to water seepage, they leave behind salt crystals in a phenomenon called effloresce.
Ways to Control Relative Humidity
Before a problem arises, there are simple steps that can be taken to prevent water vapor from damaging your home or affecting your health. Areas of the home that are prone to elevated relative humidity are bathrooms, kitchens, basements, attics, and crawl spaces. The major issue with elevated relative humidity is the subsequent condensation it creates. If there is excessive moisture in the air, it will promote the water vapor to condensate on cold surfaces in your home which can lead to many problems.
To prevent high levels of household humidity, run an exhaust fan in bathrooms when showering. You may consider installing a “humidistat” that automatically turns on the exhaust fan when humidity is too high. These devices are also capable of turning off when relative humidity levels are at recommended levels. You should also run an exhaust fan in the kitchen when cooking. But watch out, many exhaust hoods above stoves aren’t actually exhaust fans because they just recirculate the air. Ensure the exhaust fan above your stove is truly exhausting the excess humidity outdoors. If you have a basement, you typically need to use a dehumidifier in our climate. The normal air condition system will likely have a hard time keeping the house comfortable and the basement dry without a dehumidifier.
Leaving a thermostat on the fan: ON position (rather than auto) can also lead to higher humidity levels. When the compressor isn’t running, the fan being on can circulate the moisture from a wet coil and drain pan. Different seasons throughout the year have different requirements to contain moisture. In the summer, run the air conditioning. Newer dual-speed air conditioners can remove the humidity even better because they run for longer. In the winter, humidifiers can add too much humidity. If you see condensation on the windows, turn them down.
Ways to Control Liquid Water
Water leaks can originate from roofs, windows, doors, walls, plumbing pipes, and many more sources. If your home is experiencing leaks of any kind, get them fixed immediately. The leaks may have originated from flashing problems on the roof, windows and doors. To prevent water from infiltrating in these vulnerable areas, ensure that the installation of the flashing was done properly and there is a tight seal. If water is entering your home through the walls, you may have an issue with the exterior cladding. Consider having an inspection to ensure the exterior cladding is effective enough to prevent water infiltration and if water does penetrate the exterior, that it has a pathway to drain. If the poor siding is the source of the leaking, you may want to have it repaired or replaced.
Malfunctioning and leaky plumbing pipes can cause a lot of damage to your home too. If you notice water staining, discolorations, damaged base sink cabinets, or bubbling paint or drywall, you may have a hidden plumbing leak. Have the plumbing leak repaired by a professional plumber as soon as possible to prevent further damage and possible mold growth. A small drip can cause massive damage.
Water may also be entering your home through other sources including surface water and groundwater. This may be occurring due to improper sloping of your home, cracks in your foundation, old or poorly constructed masonry at the foundation of your home, a defective sump pump, or ineffective drainage and gutter systems. If there is groundwater or aquifers below your home, intense rains may allow the water table to rise which would inevitably lead to a flooded basement. One way to prevent surface or groundwater from entering the base of your home is to have an effective foundation drainage system. The drainage system will promote surface water that percolates down to be drained away from the property and removes groundwater that may have risen up. It is important to ensure your sump pump is working properly too. Sump pumps raise the elevation of the water to allow the excess water to drain into a storm sewer or the backyard far away from the home’s foundation.
If your home has experienced past or recent water damage, call our offices at 312-920-9393 to schedule an assessment. We will be able to determine the source of the problem and any subsequent mold growth that may have occurred.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2013, December). Moisture Control Guidance for Building Design, Construction and Maintenance. Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/moisture-control-guidance-building-design-construction-and-maintenance.