Controlling the moisture levels in your home is an important factor in creating a healthy indoor air environment. Whether it’s keeping the AC at the right level in the heat of summer or heating your home during the cold months of winter; finding the right balance is key to controlling condensation, which can lead to microbial growth. The recommended humidity level inside the home is between 30 to 40 percent. Dehumidifiers can help in particularly humid climates, but just being aware of the signs can help you adjust you HVAC system to do some of the work for you. Some signs to watch for:
- Condensation on pipes or windows
- Visible water leaks/stains (floors, ceilings, walls)
- Musty odors
- Rusting metal (shower rods, faucets, pipes)
- Bowed or buckled wooden structures (flooring, doors, furniture)
Condensation should be dried quickly and monitored. See if adjusting the thermostat takes care of the problem. When moisture encounters the dust and debris that collects on the windowsill, it creates a prime recipe for microbial growth. Also, maintaining the caulk/weather stripping around windows can help alleviate the issue as well. During the cooler months of the year, pipes under sinks and other visible spaces should be monitored for condensation. Keeping them insulated can help when the temperature drops to extremes, along with keeping the air in the home warm enough to dry out the moisture in the air.
Water leaks or stains on walls, floors or ceilings should be investigated and repaired as soon as they are noticed. Again, anytime there is excess moisture, there is the possibility of microbial growth. So, clean up water leaks or puddles immediately.
If you notice a musty odor in your home, have it checked out. Mold is not always visible. There can be leaks inside of walls that may not reveal water damage until there is already extensive microbial growth inside a wall. A mold test can reveal an issue that can be treated or remediated, so don’t ignore those musty smells just because you can’t see or feel moisture.
Rusting metal and warped wood can be a sign that the humidity level is too high in your home. It may be a situation, as in a bathroom or kitchen area, where the exhaust fan needs to be run or a window opened while showering or cooking, to increase ventilation. Exhaust fans should always be vented to the outdoors, not the attic. Proper ventilation in a home helps keep the air flow healthy.
Moisture can also be caused by sources outside the home, so it’s important to inspect the outside of your home for possible water intrusion. Some of these areas can include:
- Roofing materials
- Gutters and downspouts
- Foundation and exterior coverings (siding, mortar, stucco)
- Crawl space or basement flooring
- Ground grading, landscaping and sprinkler system
Roofs and fascia should be inspected and maintained year round. Repairing broken roofing materials or damaged or rotting fascia can stop a roof leak before it starts. It is particularly important to check your roof after storm season or before winter season (hurricane/tornado season or areas that experience harsh winters).
Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned several times a year and inspected for leaks or deterioration. Make sure downspouts direct water away from the foundation and do not allow water to puddle excessively.
Inspect the foundation and exterior of your home yearly to look for cracks or damage that could allow water intrusion. Do the repairs yourself or have them professionally corrected to avoid more expensive repairs after further damage is incurred. Foundation cracks may need professional inspection, so note the growth or expansion of cracks year to year.
Ensure your crawl space or basement has adequate ventilation to the outside. Also, put a vapor barrier of some type over dirt floors. Floor drains or sump pumps should be installed as necessary, to ensure proper drainage.
Maintain the landscaping around your foundation to ensure that is doesn’t encourage water to puddle. Having a professional check the grading around the foundation to ensure it is directed away from and allows proper water-shed is crucial. The same can be said for your sprinkler system; check to make sure it is not overwatering areas near the foundation of your home.
These items may seem overwhelming, but if you check each area once or twice a year, it can go a long way to ensuring that you can control possible excess moisture from entering your home. Maintaining a comfortable temperature inside your home all year long (not allowing drastic temperature changes) can help alleviate moisture issues.