sps inspections complete guide to moisture intrusion in the home

The Complete Guide to Moisture Intrusion in the Home

What is moisture intrusion? Why does your house leak? What are the mechanisms of water intrusion through the external building envelope and what? Read on to learn about moisture intrusion solutions, water damage, and what that means for you as a homeowner!

Don’t Allow Moisture Intrusion to Get the Better of You

Conducting an inspection for moisture intrusion in a home can allow for possible moisture-related issues to be recognized before they end up being expensive repairs. A thorough assessment of the home’s structure, foundation, and building envelope can help reveal to you areas where water damage is frequently overlooked within a structure.

It is important to note that moisture issues affect both residential and commercial buildings, site-built and manufactured homes in much the same ways. This means there are many commonalities in what we will find, and how we should go about remediating the situation.

Many Times, Water Intrusion Issues in a Home can be Directly Attributable to the Following 4 Situations

  1. maintenance not being performed by the building occupants for long periods of time,
  2. a poor drainage system on or around the exterior of the home,
  3. a roof leak, and
  4. plumbing leaks

Types Of Moisture Problems in the Home

Whenever a home inspection is ordered for an evaluation of any locations where moisture intrusion is seen to be present, the proper methods and tools should be utilized to understand and determine the needs of, and extent of remedial action required.

If only a small location is impacted, restricted removal may be possible. The degree of extraction needs should be identified by a licensed individual with experience working on issues such as these.

How can you dry excess moisture inside your home? By using the best dehumidifiers! Whether they produce results through chemical or mechanical means is, for the most part, only a matter of personal choice. Even still, yes, there will exist situations in which it would be better to use chemical dehumidification methods rather than mechanical, and vice-versa.

What Should the Humidity be in my House

Often, many homeowners don’t fully understand what humidity is and what causes humidity to elevate inside the home.

When you own a home, you must understand the different types of conditions that can exist within your home and the types of issues that can come up when certain conditions are left alone for too long.

One such important condition that should be monitored in any home is the humidity level. When levels of humidity rise too high in a home, it can lead to condensation on the insides of windows and walls and moisture damage to anything and everything that is exposed in the home.

But what causes high humidity in a house? And what happens if you have too much humidity in your house? Is high humidity in my house dangerous?

These are all great questions deserving to be answered in full (If you would like to learn more about indoor humidity, please check out this page for more information), but a long-form answer is a bit out of the scope of this article. I will say this; high humidity inside a home can lead to moisture damage and deterioration of the interior of the home (think paint, drywall, metal fixtures, condensation near electrical elements, etc.).

Myy personal opinion is based on years of exposure, experience, research, education, and critical thought, but the environment inside the home should be kept to an ideal indoor humidity of 40% throughout the year.

Some professionals and others will tell you that a humidity level of 60% is good enough to keep the home from sustaining moisture damage, but I find homes that keep a higher humidity level throughout the year (such as 60% rather than the max of 40%) end up experiencing more problematic conditions over time as this extra 20% humidity inside the home is touching and affecting literally everything inside your home.

It is for this reason that I recommend homeowners to keep their indoor humidity level to 40% or less, for the protection and safeguarding of everything else inside the home from being exposed to higher concentrations of water vapor, which typically result in water leaking or another water intrusion problem.

Moisture Intrusion Through the Building Envelope

The Complete Guide to Moisture Intrusion in the Home -

This issue will generally begin around the outer building envelope of the structure. This type of moisture intrusion is typically found in dealing with a building’s walls when some element of the wall’s structural components has actually stopped working.

Water will move through the wall over time from the outside to the interior surface area where paint damage will typically result. Water caught behind the paint, wallpaper, or products connected to the wall can cause the development of mold and other bacteria.

Understanding Moisture Flow and it’s Effects on Your Home

Capillary action and building materials

Click the button below to be taken to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy at energy.gov where you will find an introduction to building sciences and a more in-depth overview of what moisture flow, or moisture intrusion is, and what can be done to affect significant change or protect your home!

Plumbing Pipe Breaks and Related Moisture Issues

Figure out the kind of pipeline and the area of the break. Make a suitable home inspection demand to the Treatment Plant or the proper County or State Department. The level of removal is based upon a variety of aspects consisting of the contents of the pipe that broke and the length of time that passed from the real pipeline break until its discovery.

Moisture intrusion can be the reason for serious structural problems, in addition to health conditions for the home’s residents. Inspectors must have at least a fundamental understanding of how moisture might enter into a structure, what locations, and where issues frequently take place.

The Complete Guide to Moisture Intrusion in the Home -

If it is not possible to satisfactorily repair a break in your pipes, it is important to have that run of piping replaced as soon as possible to lower the odds of excessive moisture intrusion and/or damage.

Any permeable product that has actually entered contact with sewage-tainted water is treated as though it were polluted and should be removed and/or disposed of immediately. This consists of carpet, drywall, and ceiling tiles along with other products such as books and paper items.

Is Thermal Imaging Useful in Assessing Issues of Moisture Intrusion

Absolutely. A good quality thermal imaging camera or device can be incredibly helpful when trying to determine the extent or location of a leak or other moisture intrusion.

When water enters a home via whatever pathway, that water 9.9 times out of 10 will be a different temperature than the surrounding home and environment, typically this water is cooler than its surroundings.

So rather than using the physical detection of water, as a moisture meter does, a thermal imaging camera detects and shows the different temperature fluctuations in the environment.

Thermal Camera Attachment for Android Phone

Thermal Camera Attachment for iPhone

What to do About Roofing System Leaks and Roof Decking Condensation

Water invasion of this type generally leads to water-damaged ceiling tiles. The primary step in dealing with the concern is to figure out the source of the water issue. Remediation efforts demand repair requests be made to the County or State water authority or the proper department for corrective action of serious water intrusion issues as quickly as an item is found.

These issues need to be separately evaluated so that proper corrective action can be taken. Consistently removing the defective or damaged paint and repainting the interior surface areas do not do anything to remedy the issue.

Non-porous products can generally be cleaned up and sterilized.

The Complete Guide to Moisture Intrusion in the Home -
A bad case of moss on this roof, makes me think they could very well have some issues with excess moisture on the underside of the roof in the attic as well.

Water harmed ceiling tiles require to be changed as quickly as possible. Damaged ceiling tiles must not be left in location due to the high likelihood of mold development at the site of the damage. In most cases, mold development will take place on the backside of the tile well before it shows up on the front side.

Drain, Waste, and Vent System Drain Line Back-ups and Clogs

Locations impacted by a sewage system line back-up requirement to have limited tenancy up until the issue is attended to and the site cleaned up. Demands for a home inspection must be made to the Treatment Plant or the suitable department for instant restorative action.

Typically speaking, any water-damaged ceiling tiles will need to be changed. Water harmed drywall will need to be examined and perhaps changed.

If the carpet has been damp for less than 48 hours and it is damp due to classification 1 water, you should be able to save the carpet if you can completely dry it up as quickly as possible. This will help prevent moisture from remaining in the carpet, adding to the overall moisture content of the indoor air. However, this choice is made on a case by case basis.

Water Intrusion Caused by Flooding From Outside of the Building

Periodically, water will get in structures from the exterior due to improper drainage or especially heavy rains and lousy grading of the land surrounding the home. Water entering the house due to flooding is thought to have the very same classification as sewage-tainted water. Thus, the exact same suggestions for remediation should be used.

The Complete Guide to Moisture Intrusion in the Home -

Flooding is a hugely disastrous method of moisture intrusion in the home, where once it is done, all you can do is dry everything out as completely as possible that was affected by the flood in your home.

Once the clog has been cleared, and you have been notified by the city the issue has been remedied, it should be fine to begin clean-up of the affected areas.

Moisture Intrusion can Have Disastrous Consequences for Housing Materials

If moisture intrusion damage is found on a wall in the home, the building material or product connected to that wall needs to be disposed of. Furnishings and other products ought to not be positioned directly up against a problem wall if you do not want them to get contaminated.

EH&S should be called to evaluate the afflicted location and to identify the level of removal that is required.

Moisture Intrusion Through the Attic and Ceiling

Ceiling tiles should never be painted over to conceal water discolorations or other kinds of damages. Every once-in-a-while, you will run into what is called a “painted pig.” A painted pig is a rundown property that has had a decent coat of paint slapped on to look worthy of selling for more profit.

The Complete Guide to Moisture Intrusion in the Home -

A small leak from this attic had eaten away at the insulation and attic decking to finally allow water to make its way into the conditioned living area of the home by breaking through the drywall ceiling. If this leak had been caught much earlier, this could have been prevented from happening, but the homeowner had no idea there was a leak until it made it all the way inside the living area of the home and could be seen by the occupants.

If ceiling tiles are found to currently be covered in mold, or have a moist, musty smell to them, they should be removed immediately. Remediation needs to be done when the afflicted location is empty. The mold-infested tile ought to be gotten rid of with a minimum amount of disruption and disposed of in a sealed bag to avoid the circulation of any spores in your home.

If large quantities of musty, moldy ceiling tiles are present in the home, a remediation expert should be called to evaluate the circumstances. Remember to make sure this has been done before beginning any type of remediation yourself!

One other type of ceiling texture or material exists that can become a big problem if left unchecked with moisture problems; stucco. Homes with stucco siding covering the exterior walls or ceiling can become structurally unstable over time if moisture intrusion is not remediated

If your home is covered anywhere with stucco and you believe moisture intrusion to be an issue, we highly recommend having a professional assess the extent of and safety of the problem or damage, as well as a mold test – click this link to view a quality home depot mold test you can use to find out whether the mold is an issue in your home.

Moisture Meters: Detecting Water Intrusion in the Home

One of the critical tools a home inspector will use while performing an inspection for excess moisture in the home is a moisture meter.

A moisture meter is an electronic device that helps in finding different levels of moisture content around a home. Some moisture meters will only work properly on one type of substrate, or building material, such as wood or lumber.

Other moisture meters, such as the General Brand MM Series Moisture Meter which I use in my home inspection business, are able to be set to the specific substrate type you want to be measured.

If money is an issue, there are definitely many affordable moisture meters out there, but the issue is that with the lower-priced models, you tend to only have the choice of pin or pinless moisture meters. As a home inspector, I personally prefer to use combination moisture meters as I find them to be much more versatile and handy.

But, if money is an issue for you, I would definitely suggest the Ryobi E49MM01 Combination Digital Moisture Meter. Ryobi is a solid brand that you can typically trust and rely on to make good, durable products, not to mention it is a multi-substrate combination meter for the price of a single-substrate pin OR pinless moisture meter.