When was the last time you checked your attic space for leaks that haven’t appeared in your living space yet?
Moisture intrusion can be the cause of building defects and health ailments for the building’s occupants. Do you know what the common moisture-related problems are for a building?
- Structural wood decay
- High indoor humidity and resulting condensation
- Expansive soil, which may crack the foundation through changes in volume, or softened soil, which loses its ability to support an overlying structure
- Undermined foundations
- Metal corrosion
- Ice dams
- Mold growth, which can only grow in the presence of high levels of moisture. People who suffer from the following conditions can be seriously (even fatally) harmed if exposed to elevated levels of airborne mold spores:
- Lung disease
- Compromised immune systems
Check for Roof Leaks
Roof leaks may lead to the growth of visible mold colonies in the attic that can grow unnoticed. Roof penetrations increase the likelihood of water leaks due to failed gaskets, sealants and flashing. The number of roof penetrations may be reduced by a variety of areas to limit possible moisture intrusion by:
- Consolidation of vent stacks below the roof
- Exhaust fan caps routed through walls instead of the roof
- High-efficiency combustion appliances, which can be sidewall-vented
- Electrically powered HVAC equipment and hot water heaters that do not require flue
- Adequate flashing. Oftentimes are installed incorrectly or have corroded flashing pipes
Plumbing can be a cause for concern by:
- Distribution pipes and plumbing fixtures can be the source of large amounts of moisture intrusion. If the wall is moist and/or discolored, then moisture damage is already in progress. Most plumbing is hidden in the walls, so serious problems can begin unnoticed.
- One of the most important means of moisture management in the bathroom is the exhaust fan. A non-functioning exhaust fan overloads the bathroom with damp air. If the exhaust fan doesn’t turn on automatically when the bathroom is in use, consider recommending switching the wiring or switch. The lack of an exhaust fan should be called out in the inspection report. The fan should vent into the exterior, not into the attic.
- The bathroom sink, in particular, is a common source of moisture intrusion and damage. Although overflow drains can prevent the spillage of water onto the floor, they can become corroded and allow water to enter the cabinet.
- Use a moisture meter to check for elevated moisture levels in the sub-floor around the toilet and tub.
- Bathroom windows need to perform properly in a wide range of humidity and temperature conditions. Check to see if there are any obvious breaks in the weather-stripping and seals. Are there are stains or flaking on the painted surfaces?
- Check showers and bathtubs. Is the caulking is cracked, stiff or loose in spots? Are there cracked tiles or missing grout that may channel water to vulnerable areas? If some water remains in the bathtub after draining, it may be a warning sign of possible structural weakening and settlement in the floor beneath the tub.
Your Utility Room is another source of concern:
- The water heater tank should be clean and rust-free.
- The area around the water softener tank should be clean and dry.
- Check that all through-the-wall penetrations for fuel lines, ducts, and electrical systems of heating system are well-sealed. All ducts should be clean and dust-free. Inspect the air supply registers in the house for dust accumulation.
- Filters, supply lines, exterior wall penetrations, vents, ductwork and drainage of the cooling system must all be in good working order to avoid moisture problems.
There are many signs in the Attic:
- Look for stains or discolorations at all roof penetrations. Chimneys, plumbing vents and skylight wells are common places where moisture may pass through the roof. Any such locations must be inspected for wetness, a musty smell and/or visible signs of mold.
- Are there areas of the insulation that appear unusually thin?
- Rust or corrosion around recessed lights are signs of a potential electrical hazard.