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SPS Inspections Complete Guide to Moisture Intrusion in Your Home

By JDFerris | Home Inspection

Aug 04

Conducting an inspection for moisture intrusion in a home can allow for possible 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.

Types Of Water Intrusion Problems

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 not be possible. The degree of extraction needs should be identified by a certificated individual with experience working on issues such as these.

Moisture Intrusion through the Building Envelope

moisture intrusion at the exterior wall graphic

This issue will generally begin around the outer 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 mold development.

Pipeline Breaks

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 department. The level of removal is based upon a variety of aspects consisting of the contents of the pipeline 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.

Pipeline breaks are a common cause of water or moisture intrusion within a 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.

Roofing System Leaks and 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 Treatment Plant or the proper department for corrective action 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.

Excess roof moisture can allow for moss and mold to grow and thrive not only on the outside of the roof, but the inside as well.
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 for 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 Line Back-ups

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.

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.

 Moisture intrusion caused by flooding 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 Can Have Disastrous Consequences for Housing Materials, Which is Why SPS Inspections Takes the Following Stance Concerning Moisture in the Home:

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.

Over time, a leak in this attic caused the ceiling to become waterlogged.
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!

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 which 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.

Some typical moisture-related issues consist of:

  1. structural wood decay;
  2. high indoor humidity and the resulting condensation;
  3. extensive soil, which might split the structure through modifications in volume, or softened soil, which might lose its capability to support an overlying structure;
  4. weakened structures;
  5. metal deterioration;
  6. ice dams; and
    Mold can just grow in the existence of high levels of moisture. Individuals who suffer from the list below conditions can be seriously (even fatally) damaged if exposed to raised levels of airborne mold spores:
    a. asthma;
    b. Allergic reactions;
    c. Lung illness; and/or
    d. Jeopardized body immune systems.
    Keep in mind: People who do not experience these disorders might still be hurt by raised levels of airborne mold spores.

How does moisture enter your house? Moisture or water vapor moves into a home in the following methods:

Environment Zones

In the northern U.S., moisture intrusion is driven mostly by relatively high indoor humidity levels. When integrated with low outside temperature levels throughout the winter season, moisture intrusion typically occurs. In the southern U.S., the issue is driven by high, outdoor humidity and low indoor temperature throughout the summer months.

  1. Air motion accounts for more than 98% of all water vapor movement in a structure’s cavities. Air naturally moves from high-pressure locations to lower ones by the most straightforward course possible, such as a hole or fracture in the structure envelope. Moisture transfer by air currents is rapid and efficient(in the variety of many hundred cubic feet of air per minute).
  2. by diffusion through structural materials. The majority of structural products reduce or help to prevent water diffusion to a significant degree, although they never ever stop it entirely;
  3. leakages from penetrations or defects in the roofing;
  4. pipe leakages;
  5. flooding, which can be brought on by seepage from an overflow or increasing groundwater. Can be seasonal or disastrous; and
  6. human activities, consisting of bathing, cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning clothing. Indoor plants, too, are possibly a significant source of high levels of humidity in the home.

Vapor Barriers

The term “vapor barrier” is typically utilized in the home inspection and real estate industry; however, “vapor-diffusion retarder” is most likely more precise, because “barrier” indicates that the product will stop all moisture transfer. However, this is not the case. Any vapor-diffusion retarder product will permit the passage of a minimum amount, or a slight degree of water vapor.

The ability of an offered product to withstand the diffusion of water vapor is determined by systems called “perms,” which measure the materials, or product’s permeability. A perm at 73.4 ° F (23 ° C) is a quantitative measurement of the variety of grains of water vapor going through a square foot of product per hour at a differential vapor pressure equivalent to 1 inch of mercury (1-inch water column). Any product with a perm rating of less than one is thought of like a vapor retarder.

So What is a Vapor Barrier, and Where Can I Get One?

Vapor barriers are a vital part of moisture control for interiors. A vapor barrier is a product, generally a plastic or foil sheet, which withstands the diffusion of moisture through the ceiling, flooring and wall assemblies of a structure, making it a fundamentally different type of product than a vapor-diffusion retarder. Vapor-diffusion retarders are likewise reliable for managing moisture in basements, crawlspaces, and slab-on-grade structures.

You can typically find a myriad of different brands, thicknesses, colors, styles, and what have you else. But for the most part, you should be able to find something at your local Home Improvement Store. Or you can check out the Amazon online searches below by cliking on either of the two links!

Click here to look at “Vapor Barriers” available for purchase at Amazon!

Click here to browse the different “Vapor Retarders” Amazon has available online!

Home inspectors can look for moisture intrusion in the following locations

Roofings

A roofing system leakage might cause the development of noticeable mold nests in the attic that can grow undetected. Roofing penetrations increase the probability of water leakages due to stopped working gaskets, sealants, and flashing. The variety of roofing penetrations might be decreased by a range of innovations and methods, consisting of:

  1. debt consolidation of vent stacks listed below the roofing;
  2. exhaust fan caps routed through walls instead of the roofing system;
  3. high-efficiency combustion home appliances, which can be sidewall-vented;
  4. electrically powered HVAC devices and warm water heating systems that do not need flue; and
  5. sufficient flashing. Usually, inspectors find missing out on, improperly set up or worn away flashing pipelines.

Furnace Room

  1. The hot water heater tank ought to be tidy and rust-free.
  2. The location around the water heater tank ought to be orderly and dry. At least a 6-inch clearance is required around the water heater vent pipe to any combustible materials.
  3. Inspect all through-the-wall penetrations for fuel lines, ducts, and assure all electrical systems or heating systems are well-sealed.
  4. To prevent moisture-related issues in a cooling system, filters, wall penetrations, and ductwork need to remain in excellent working order. Examine the air supply for signs of dust build-up within the home.
Water heater, or furnace unit located in the garage
Having your furnace located in the garage is a great way of placing it somewhere it will have the least impact on the rest of the systems and occupants of a home if something catastrophic were to happen.

Attic

  1. Chimneys, pipes, vents, and skylight wells are typical locations where moisture might pass through the roofing. Any such areas need to be examined for moisture, a moldy odor and/or noticeable indications of mold or dampness on the surface of the underside of the roof decking.
  2. Are there any locations of the insulation that appear abnormally thin?
  3. Rust or deterioration around recessed lights are indications of possible electrical danger.

Pipes

Circulation plumbing lines and a pipe’s components can be the source of significant quantities of moisture intrusion. If the wall is damp and/or tarnished, water damage is likely to be current and/or in currently in development.
One of the most crucial ways of moisture management in the restroom is the exhaust fan. A non-functioning exhaust fan strains the bathroom with wet air. The absence of an exhaust fan must be called out in the inspection report.

Pipe wrenches around a broken pipe

4 Steps to Inspecting Your Bathroom for Moisture Intrusion, or Moisture Damage

  1. The restroom sink, in specific, is a common source of moisture intrusion and damage. Overflow drains can avoid the spillage of water onto the flooring, but over time they can begin to rust and permit water to go into the cabinet.
  2. Utilize a moisture meter to look for raised moisture levels in the sub-floor around the toilet and tub.
  3. Restroom windows are required to help regulate a large variety of humidity and temperature level conditions. Are there spots or flaking on the painted surface areas?
  4. Are there split tiles or missing tile grout that may transport water to susceptible locations? If some water stays in the tub after draining through the plumbing, it might be an indication the flooring below your bathtub may be settling and causing structural weakness.

Structures

It is common for building and design regulations to require damp-proofing of a structure’s walls and foundation. The damp-proofing will be used to extend from the top of the footing to the completed grade. Parging of structure walls ought to be damp-proofed using the following methods:

Damp-proofing of your foundations is very important in protecting your foundation, crawlspace, and/or basement from moisture intrusion
Even something as innocuous as having too short of downspouts on your gutters can create a situation where your foundation is constantly assaulted by water, making damp-proofing a hugely valuable process to protect your home
  1. bituminous finishing;
  2. 3 pounds per square backyard of acrylic customized cement;
  3. 1/8-inch coat of surface-bonding cement; or
  4. any product allowed for damp-proofing with a high resiliency to moisture intrusion.

Summary

In summary, moisture can get into a structure in a variety of different methods. High levels of humidity can trigger structural problems in your home and health conditions in your body. New construction homes are being sealed tighter and tighter anymore these days. This is in direct contrast when compared with older homes. Dealing with moisture intrusion in a home has become a much more critical endeavor than ever before. In these new construction homes, once water gets inside the building envelope, water has no way of getting back outside. This can include spills in the home, humidifiers, leaky pipes, and more. Even if it’s “just” water, make sure to clean any spills that happen inside the home immediately and thoroughly.

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