I’m a big fan of water. Really, its just fantastic stuff. However, if our homes could talk they would likely feel otherwise. The truth is that the majority of issues that can crop up in our homes are somehow related to water. What are some of the ways that water can threaten the integrity of the house we live in, and how can you protect yourself? Read on to find out the answers.
When you think about the various ways that a building envelope can be attacked by water, it can be rather alarming. Rain pours down on our roofs but is also blown at angles towards the siding. Surface water must be carefully directed away from our homes. A subterranean assault must also be endured, as water inside the very ground attempts to leech into our foundations. And perhaps most sinister of all, the water vapor in the air around us, if left unchecked, can materialize in places where we are least aware of it. If that wasn’t challenging enough, we also insist on purposely bring water into our homes for the purposes of drinking, washing and eliminating waste. If only we didn’t all have to be such divas!
So how can you protect yourself? First of all, it helps to understand a basic principle of sound wood-frame construction. There is a two-pronged approach to dealing with water penetration: Minimize the amount of water getting where it doesn’t belong and provide a means of eliminating it when it does. Notice that the strategy is not to create a 100% waterproof structure. This would not be practical or even possible and, even if it was, would create problems in other ways. This means that from time to time, water WILL get into your home. Most building materials can handle a limited amount of water, as long as that water is evaporated or shed within a certain amount of time. What this means for you is that you need to be on the lookout for places where a significant amount of water is entering your home and/or sitting there for a prolonged period of time. In other words, if you are simply paying attention, water damage will not sneak up on you. That takes a bit of pressure off.
Here are some practical ways to keep your eyes open for water infiltration:
-Stick your head in your attic space from time to time and look for obvious signs of water entry or damage. Look for deflated patches of insulation or discoloration of any wood, especially around roof penetrations.
-Ensure that rainwater is being properly directed to your eavestroughs and downspouts and that the ground around your home is properly graded to then allow that water to flow away from it.
-Examine the interior finishes of your home from time to time, particularly in trouble spots, such as around showers or windows. Do not ignore that brown, lumpy spot appearing in your ceiling!
-If your basement is unfinished, examine it for signs of standing water, especially after heavy rains. It might be hiding under things you have stored down there. Ensure that water can flow to the drains, and if you have a sump pump, test that it is working. White, salty residue is an indication of water entry.
-Here is an easy one: Turn on your bathroom fan when you shower and leave it on for 20 minutes afterwards. Use your hood fan when you cook. There is a significant amount of moisture created by everyday activities such as these. Leave your central ventilation fan on for several hours each day. This allows your whole house to “breathe”.
So as you can see, with just a little vigilance you can protect your home from much bigger problems. I hope that these tips will help!