Water and moisture are wonderful things. People spend millions of dollars annually on moisturizers and lotions to keep their skin looking young and youthful. An afternoon in the sun can turn from fun to dangerous if you aren’t drinking enough water. People travel from near and far to enjoy the water at theme parks, pools, lakes, rivers, and oceans. My favorite term for rain that I have ever heard is “liquid sunshine.” A nice soaking rain can produce tall trees, colorful gardens, and nutritious fruits and vegetables. As water is used in its intended capacity, it is life-giving, refreshing, and miraculous.
As wonderful as water is, it can be detrimental when it gets to places where it doesn’t belong, especially when that place is your home. Below we will discuss some of the problems that water can cause and ways to avoid water damage catastrophes in your area of dwelling and comfort.
Mold, Mildew, and Health Problems…Oh My!
According to the CDC website, “Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on products made with paper, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.” If you look in any given home, you will probably find many of those materials in it.
High humidity levels in a home will help make a great breeding ground for mold and mildew. Keep the humidity levels in your home between 30 and 50 percent.
It doesn’t take a huge disaster or flood for unwanted moisture to find its way into a house. Air can carry moisture and warm air can hold more moisture than cool air. When warm air mixes with cooler air, it dumps the moisture it can no longer carry. The released moisture can gather on all sorts of objects and materials.
If your home doesn’t have an airtight envelope, the air is passing freely between the outdoors and the indoors. This means moisture is being deposited within the walls of your own home. Traditional insulations such as fiberglass and cellulose are wonderful breeding grounds for mold and mildew to grow.
Once mold and mildew are present in a home, health problems can start arising. The CDC also said, “Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects…Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can lead to symptoms such as stuffy nose, wheezing, red or itchy eyes, or skin. Some people, such as those with allergies to mold or asthma, may have more intense reactions. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath.”
Moisture Can Cause Building Damage
If health problems weren’t enough, unwanted moisture could also cause damage to the structural integrity of your home. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published these negative effects moisture can have on building structures.
- The build-up of molds and wood-decaying mildew on building materials and HVAC systems
- Creating the perfect breeding ground for pests such as termites and carpenter ants
- Corrosion of “structural fasteners, wiring, metal roofing, and conditioning coils”
- The failing of the adhesives on flooring and roofing
- The warping, swelling, and/or rotting of wood materials
- Cracking brick and concrete due to freezing and melting
- Thermal insulation will lose it’s R-Value and become less effective once it has gotten wet
Water/Moisture Damage Costs A LOT of Money
According to a study done by Berkeley Labs, asthma problems related to moisture problems cost around 3.5 billion dollars in the United States. That doesn’t take into account the other medical issues that can arise from damp buildings, not to mention the time taken off work. Building repairs can also be very expensive.
How to Prevent Water/Moisture Damage
The good news is that water damage is preventable. Subsequently, it only happens when water gets someplace that it shouldn’t be. Here are some tips to help you prevent such damage in your home.
- Clean up a leak or spill ASAP. According to the EPA, “If wet or damp materials or areas are dried 24-48 hours after a leak or spill happens, in most cases, mold will not grow.”
- Check your roof and gutters regularly. Clean and repair them as needed.
- Make sure that there aren’t areas around your home where the ground slopes towards the foundation.
- Empty your AC drip pans.
- Make sure the humidity levels in your home are between 30 and 50 percent.
- Keep a close eye out for condensation. Condensation is a sign of humidity. If you see condensation, dry the surface and do your best to identify and mitigate the source of the moisture.
- Make sure you are ventilating properly in your home. This includes using a fan when you shower, turning on the exhaust fan when you cook and making sure your clothes dryer vents to the outside.
- Turn on the AC during the summer months. (If someone complains that running the AC will make your energy bill too high, let them know that you are preventing moisture problems that could lead to much more expensive fixes in the future.)
- Check your home’s insulation. Does it provide a vapor barrier? Does it create an airtight seal around your home? If not, look into insulations that can help. RetroFoam of the Carolinas is qualified and happy to help with this solution.
As overwhelming as it is to think about all of the ways that water can affect your home, take comfort in the fact that there are simple steps that you can take to prevent potential health and structural damage.