Unwanted Moisture: The Enemy of a Healthy Home
One of the most costly issues facing homeowners and the construction industry today is water and moisture problems. Excess or unwanted moisture buildup leads to mold and mildew growth and can damage your home’s foundation and structural materials.
The cost of building or maintaining your home has the potential to increase if you do not have these issues in mind. Green home solutions and energy-efficient plans are simple enough to undertake, and understanding the root causes of potential problems is the first step.
You might think that excess moisture enters your home during times of excessive rain or flooding through the basement or your crawl spaces. While this can be true, moisture enters your home in many ways nearly every day. Activities like cooking, washing, and bathing bring extra moisture. Even breathing adds moisture to your air!
Common Signs of Moisture Problems
Identifying potential problems is the most important step. It takes time for mold to grow and structural damage to become evident, but by the time you and your family notice a funny smell or rusty pipes, the damage has already taken root. The earlier you can identify these issues, the more likely you will be to prevent damage and improve the health of your home.
Tell-tale signs of moisture damage include:
- Damp feeling and musty odors
- Mold and Mildew
- Peeling paint
- Shrinking, warping, or rotting of wood
- Doors or drawers that stick
- Sweating pipes
- Frost and ice dams in the winter
- Condensation on windows
- Discoloration, corrosion, oxidation, or rust of building materials
Causes of Moisture in Your Home
As we’ve said, moisture enters your home in various ways - both through everyday activities and uncommon surges. The most common ways your home develops excess moisture depend on your home’s construction, the environment you live in, and your family’s regular habits.
Improper Water Management
Even a small wall leak that allows rain, snow, or groundwater into a wall cavity can soak the materials in a matter of minutes, but you might not notice the damage right away. Drying out the damage is typically a very slow process. It takes days, weeks, even months for them dry out. This is the most common type of moisture that leads to moisture failure.
Indoor or Outdoor Humidity
Water vapor from air movement through your home is often exposed to humid indoor or outdoor conditions. This air contains moisture, and when it moves from one location to another, it carries moisture with it. When it hits a cold surface, it can condense, causing moisture damage.
Building materials can only dry by evaporation. This is a very slow process, which means that evaporation is not a very efficient way of building materials to dry out. We can either avoid the condensation by stopping the air movement, or by designing building assemblies to control the temperature of building surfaces.
Moisture in Your Soil
An extra wet weather spell combined with improper home irrigation means very wet soil conditions for the land around your home. Especially if the top of the soil is sloped towards your home, water is easily wicked towards its structure. Creating a concrete foundation is important and protects you from moisture in the soil surrounding your home. Building materials that are susceptible to moisture failures like wood beams or siding should be kept away from the soil near the building.
Leftover Moisture from Construction Materials
Moisture can accidentally find its way in your home if it originated from the building materials used during the construction process. This problem is hard to remedy, especially if your home’s assembly was not designed to support the added dampness. Just-in-time delivery of materials helps avoid this issue instead of stockpiling all the materials at once. Dry weather building conditions helps as well.
Underestimating Moisture Levels in Winter
Illinois winters can be famously merciless, though few Chicago residents many think of winter and automatically think of excess moisture. Your lips are chapped, your skin is dry, and the air is cold. During the winter, we close out homes off to the elements - blocking out the cold and retaining the heat. In doing this, we reduce ventilation and circulation of air in our home. At the same time, rain and melting snow can increase the amount of moisture entering your house. Because less moisture leaves the house, humidity levels inside can start to rise.
Heavy drapes or curtains over your windows also leads to more condensation, according to North Dakota State University Agricultural Engineer Ken Hellevang. “The drapes insulate the window, cooling the surface, but allow room air with moisture to reach it. Furniture and other objects near a wall can have the same effect.”
Parts of your house that are in direct contact with the cold outside air are cooler than the air inside. Examples are single glazed windows and walls with low insulation. The temperature difference with the warm, moist air inside can cause continuous condensation to occur on those cold surfaces - a perfect area for mold and mildew to develop.
How Excess Moisture Affects Your Health
Mold, bacteria, cockroaches and dust mites all thrive in wet conditions - all of which have been linked to allergy and asthma triggers. It can cause other respiratory issues as well, like coughing, sneezing, and wheezing, and the development of colds, infections, and the flu - which are especially dangerous in children and seniors. As the Illinois Department of Public Health reports, “Mold can grow in or on almost anything in your home, including paper, carpet, wood, drywall, insulation, mattresses, and shower curtains.”
The IDPH further explains, “Having high levels of lead in household dust can cause lead poisoning, the leading environmental illness in children. Exposure to lead in household dust can cause behavioral disorders, learning problems and slower growth in children.”
Clear the Air with a BrightLeaf Custom Home
When it comes to building a new construction home, BrightLeaf’s design-build process includes the materials, technology, and practices to build healthy, energy-efficient homes. Building codes in the Custom home building process often require water-resistive barriers and other construction compliance tasks, but we go above and beyond these assignments to give you an eco-friendly home construction plan.
A few of our health-positive, high-performance systems include:
WaterSense is a partnership program for water-efficient products and a resource for helping you save water in the future. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsors this program and our involvement is completely voluntary - though as we see it, very beneficial to our clients.
Our air cycler system improves indoor air quality by adding a measured amount of fresh, outside air into your home while releasing potentially contaminated air pollution. This helps control the humidity levels in your home year-round, keeping your indoor air quality high and your energy costs low.
Tankless Water Heater
More energy-efficient than a standard water heater, tankless water heaters take up less space and provide continuous hot water. Since they heat water on demand instead of storing hot water, your home will never run out of hot water and leaking issues are much less probable.
In any eco-friendly home, the basement should remain dry, comfortable, and protected from the elements. An advanced water protection system comes standard in each BrightLeaf home to prevent flooding and seepage.
We use rigid XPS foam in the foundation and basement walls of our new construction homes to fully insulate all sides. This increases comfort, reduces the potential for condensation.
Imagine a New Construction Home That Benefits not Just Your Lifestyle and Your Wallet, but Your Health
During the planning and construction process of your custom home, we combine the best of the Zero Energy Ready Homes and Indoor AirPLUS programs to build eco-friendly homes that promote healthy living in the Chicago Area. As a four-time Housing Innovation Award Winner, BrightLeaf customers can breathe easier knowing that the benefits of their custom home will continue far into the future.