Water may be essential to life, but, as a destructive force, water can diminish the value of your home. Homes can suffer water damage that results in increased maintenance costs, a decrease in the value of the property, and a decline in indoor air quality. The best way to protect against this potential loss is to ensure that the building components which enclose the structure, known as the building envelope, are water-resistant. Also make sure that the plumbing and ventilation systems operate efficiently and are well-maintained. This article provides some basic steps for identifying and eliminating potentially damaging excess moisture.
Identify and Repair All Leaks and Cracks
Water intrusion can contribute to water damage. The following are common building-related sources of water intrusion:
- windows and doors: Check for leaks around your windows and doors. These may be more visible during or immediately after a rain storm.
- roof: Improper drainage systems and roof sloping reduce roof life and become a primary source of moisture intrusion. Leaks are also common around vents for exhaust or plumbing, rooftop air-conditioning units, or other specialized equipment.
- foundation and exterior walls: Seal any cracks and holes in exterior walls, joints and foundations. These often develop as a naturally occurring byproduct of differential soil settlement.
- plumbing: Check for leaking plumbing fixtures, dripping pipes, and clogged drains (both interior and exterior).
- ventilation, heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Numerous types, some very sophisticated, are a crucial component to maintaining a healthy, comfortable living environment. An improperly operating HVAC system will not perform this function, and may result in condensation or moisture buildup.
Prevent Water Intrusion Through Good Inspection and Maintenance Programs
Have your home professionally inspected for the following elements to ensure they remain in good condition:
- flashings and sealants: Flashing, which is typically a thin metal strip found around doors, windows and roofs, is designed to prevent water intrusion in spaces where two building materials come together. Sealants and caulking are specifically applied to prevent moisture intrusion at building joints. Both must be maintained and in good condition.
- vents: All vents should have appropriate hoods, exhaust to the exterior, and be in good working order.
- HVAC systems should be checked for leakage in water handling components. Drain lines should be clean and clear of obstructions. Ductwork should be insulated to prevent condensation on exterior surfaces.
- humidity: The relative humidity in your building should be between 30% and 60%. Condensation on windows, wet stains on walls and ceilings, and musty smells are signs that relative humidity may be high. If you are concerned about the humidity level in your building, consult with a professional to determine if your HVAC system is properly sized and in good working order.
- damp areas: Regularly clean off, then dry all surfaces where moisture frequently collects. Common areas are bathrooms, basements, and sometimes kitchens. Unheated enclosed porches and sunrooms are also prone to condensation.
Protection From Water Damage
- interior finish materials: After fixing the source of the problem, replace drywall, plaster, carpet and stained or water-damaged ceiling tiles. These are not only good evidence of a moisture intrusion problem, but can lead to deterioration of the building, if they remain over time.
- exterior walls: Exterior walls are generally comprised of several materials combined into a wall assembly. When properly designed and constructed, the assembly is the first line of defense between water and the interior of your home. It is essential that they be maintained properly (including regular refinishing and/or resealing with the correct materials).
- storage areas: Storage areas should be kept clean. Allow air to circulate to prevent potential moisture accumulation.
Act Quickly if Water Intrusion Occurs
Label shut-off valves so that the water supply can be easily closed in the event of a plumbing leak. If water intrusion does occur, you can minimize water damage by addressing the problem quickly and thoroughly. Immediately remove standing water and all damp materials and consult with a building professional. Should your building become damaged by a catastrophic event such as fire, flood, or storm, take appropriate action to prevent further water damage, once it is safe to do so. This may include boarding up damaged windows, covering a damaged roof with plastic sheeting, and/or removing wet materials and supplies. Fast action on your part will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.
You can find the original version of this article on the InterNACHI website here.