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Q&A: How to deal with moisture in your home

Rain, Rain, Rain.

We sure have had quite a bit lately!

But here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor, we are even more concerned about the trapped moisture inside your home than we are with what’s going on outside.

It‘s a Catch 22, the more rain on the outside, often means that we bring in wet clothes, boots and animals into our homes, which could be vented out but it’s raining too hard to open the windows to let out the trapped moisture! The thought makes our glasses steam-up.

Perhaps moisture doesn’t sound very menacing to you, but over the years we have inspected and directed the rehabilitation of hundreds of moisture-damaged homes. From the foundation to the roof, our inspections overwhelmingly identify improper ventilation as the main culprit leading to expensive problems in the homes in this county.

So, for just a little more insight into our concerns about trapped moisture, we’re re-presenting some Q and A’s from the past on this subject.

Q. With the humidity so high outside this time of year it seems like the humidity inside is greater, too. What can I do to keep the house drier on the inside?

A. When the air gets saturated so is the soil. The number one thing to do is to lay 6 plastic on top of the bare soil under your house. This alone will stop a tremendous amount of moisture from entering your home through the floor.

Other suggestions are to keep wet stuff, like umbrellas and rain gear, outside under cover to dry off and leave your vented bath and kitchen fans on longer after baths, showers and steamy cooking.

If you don’t have fans, get them and be sure to vent them to the exterior of the house. Also, be certain your dryer vent is vented outside the exterior wall of the house and the piping is leak-free; insulate your house and weather-seal all windows and doors; check your attic and foundation for the proper amount of vents.

Installing a ductless heat pump helps keep you more comfortable by removing moisture from the indoor air!

Q: Often the outsides of our toilet will get a light film of water on it – like it’s sweating. Is this a concern? If so, how should we fix it?

A. The film of moisture can turn into beads of sweat or puddles on the floor depending on how moist the air in the bathroom is. The source of the moisture is usually from bathing or showering.

The moist air wants to stick on all the cooler surfaces in the room, but is best seen on a mirror, any chrome surface and certainly a toilet tank full of cold water. Check to see if your toilet is running after it fills. The constant resourcing of cold water into the tank will create an ideal condition for sweating.

On the harder-to-see areas, such as wall or ceiling surfaces, it may show up as mold or mildew.

The best cure is to install a bath fan on a timer. Then, vent it to the exterior of the home using (preferably) smooth metal piping into a vent with a flapper in it.

Using a squeegee on the walls of the tub or shower after a bath sends all that water into the drain not into the air.

Whenever possible, leave the fan on for a half an hour after the baths or showers are done. This should remove all of the remaining moisture in the room. Newer homes are required to have fans on whole day timers, cycling on and off.

One caution on fans - avoid venting them into the attic cavity without conveying the moisture-rich air all the way to the exterior. When that’s the case, this only moves the moisture problem into an area that will cost you big bucks to fix.

Q. When I use my dryer, I notice that the windows often fog up on the inside and the whole room seems a little muggy. Should I be concerned?

A. You should be very concerned about any condition that creates moisture inside your home. This is one of the worst because it takes all the water in your clothes coming out of the washer, turns it into steam and sends into every part of the house!

In this situation, you will find lots of lint, too. The dryer is either not properly vented to the exterior, has a blocked vent, has holes in the vent pipe at the back of the dryer or the pipe is not connected.

The fix will be simple and cheap in any event. Pull out the dryer, turn it on and find out where the air is entering into the room. Check all the connections and clamps.

Even a pinhole type leak in the exhaust hose is a problem that should be eliminated.

Use as short, smooth and straight a metal pipe as possible, with a flapper vent through the wall. Never vent the dryer just under the house. This will create very expensive foundation rot problems. Seal all joints with metal heat tape – it’s cheap and works well.

Q. I have a bathroom floor that needs replacing. As I put the insulation under the floor, which direction should I put the “paper-side” of the insulation?

A. Remember this – the paper-side of the insulation should face the heated room. To cover the insulation in your basement, either install drywall or staple up a woven material like landscape cloth or Tyvek, but avoid plastic sheeting.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County. Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen

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