“Every breath you take”…Is It A Red Flag?

 

“Every breath you take”…Is It A Red Flag?

 

laundry rack

No “Every breath you take” is the songs’ refrain (POLICE/Sting).

Every breath you expel does add humidity to your homes interior, but that’s normal, no red flags for that.  But…

Seeing a laundry drying rack like the one in the photo Is a big RED FLAG to any inspector.

Why?, Well the modern home is equipped with several exhaust systems located in specific rooms to remove excessive moisture at the source before it can be allowed to spread to places where it will do damage.  These would be laundry rooms, kitchens and bathrooms. Exhaust fans of the same type are sometimes found in powder rooms, but are not required for humidity unless there is a shower or bath installed too.

Laundry racks like this or basement clothes lines have no means of collecting and removing the excess humidity they cause to be introduced. So once observed the inspector is alerted for humidity damage in the cold zones and surfaces.

Typically damage occurs in window components, electrical components in exterior walls and framing wood at concrete basement walls. Humidity that is drawn into or bleeds though to attics can build up as frost and come back in as damaging ‘leaks’. But there will be damage in hidden areas that can’t be visually examined. Any weakness, imperfection or damage that exists in the vapor barrier system is at risk.

Not all houses have perfect vapour barriers. Over time there has been a wide variety in the methods and materials used for these systems. Add to that the normal variations in skills, procedures and execution of construction and you have a wide range in the quality of vapour barrier systems in homes that are otherwise similarly finished and appointed.

Knowing this it is much better to remove extra humidity right at the source when it is being produced. Remember we are not concerned about mirrors fogging up, but if you allow that humidity to disperse then it’s going to show up in other places, hidden places, as damage, rust or rot.

So we recommend (1) setting up the laundry exhaust properly, and (2) using the kitchen range exhaust when cooking and not just for odours. When you’re having a bath or a shower (3) run the fan with the door closed while you are using it and for up to an hour after you are finished.

Operation of theses systems does have an energy cost, but it is far outweighed by the cost of damage repair required if they are not used. Consider providing timer switches for fans so they can be set and left.

For rental property it is a good practice to wire bathroom fans directly with the light switch. Most renters are less aware of maintenance than property owners.

And finally if you must dry clothes on a rack or line, set it up like these people in a room that has an exhaust fan, close the door and run the fan, at least for the first few hours.

 

 

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

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Why is this bag of water hanging in the attic and should you have one?

Why is this bag of water hanging in the attic and should you have one?

Short answer: No. The attic space is outside the heated area of the home and such water will freeze, eventually break the plastic and soak the building materials and leak into the home interior. So why is it here?

Here’s the bigger picture;… it’s a real effort to do it the wrong way.

full view

The blue arrows (1 & 2) are the start and direction of the exhausts from two bathrooms. Instead of going straight up and out through the roof, the ducts are bent downward to exit (arrows 3 & 4) at the soffits. That is the basic error.

Amateurs often are uninformed about correct methods to open and flash an exit through the roofing, so like here, they get quite inventive and do a lot of work to ‘solve’ their problem without cutting the roof. ‘Duct tape’ is not a building product any more than it is a car repair product so it’s presence is a dead give away.

This ‘thinker’ must have heard about condensation but does not understand the use of vapour barrier. Only incomming ducts are insulated. Exhaust ducts are not and vapour barrier on the cold side of insulation is wrong and in this case is what gave us the ‘bag ‘ of water.

Note the water colour. Not the pristine clear colour of condensed water is it. This is an indicator of another condition as is the photo below; … stains and ‘lint’ on the ceiling grills are problem indicators. Yes we’re talking mold in the ducts.

mold indication water sign

Duct runs going latterally or horizontally just allow condenation to collect and along with all the house dust (skin cells etc.). Once the weather warms up you’ll have an explosion of mold growth because you’ve provided water, food and now heat.

The imperfections in the ceiling of the last photo is water damage. So if our ‘bag is holding water, is there a roof leak?

water route mold stain at soffit.

No, not a roof leak, just your old bath water back to haunt you.

Look at the circled areas in the last photo, and also in the second photo (an oval). This is mold stain on the roof sheathing from humidity that actually made it all the way outdoors but was then pulled back into the attic to do damage. Why does that happen?

Because the warm moist air is being released right into the intake grills of the roof venting (cooling) system, aka ‘the soffits’. Not much point in trying to get rid of it if you are only going to pull it back in again.

So all bathroom exhaust ducts that enter the attic must exit directly vertically and through the roof to the exterior. No latteral or horizontal runs. Insulation or vapour barrier has no place on attic ducts. You just want to blast the humidity out above the roof where it can do no harm. Exiting at the soffits is worse than useless.

So a bag of water in the attic is the sword of Damocles hanging overhead.

No thanks.

 

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post

“We Won’t Fix Anything Unless It’s A Code Violation”

The photos themselves tell the story. This article, as well as highlighting some new construction deficiencies, also illustrates the problems inherent with extended and horizontal exhaust duct systems.

This is a reprint of an article by one of my associates, Jay Markanich (VA), and should you wish to comment on his article please click through the links and do so directly on his blog.

For anyone wanting answers about this and similar problems for a home or property in the Montreal area please contact me Robert Butler at any of the numbers listed below.

More new construction fun!  And guess who it’s with … again?  And the same tricks – late afternoon phone call, the inspection needed to be done the next day, enormous amounts of insurance information – same old, same old.

The buyer called me in a panic.  We had previously corresponded many times, but she did had not been told the requirements the builder has pertaining to inspectors and inspections not realizing things were far enough along to have the inspection.  Even though I had warned her, she did not believe me (they seldom do).  I told her to call the lady in the office back (we’re buds) and to say that “Jay” was doing the inspection, she would have her information overnight and we would be there at 7am the next morning.

My office buddy offered a new wrinkle, “We won’t fix anything unless it’s a code violation.”

YEAH, RIGHT!  Why do they keep trying to pull this, um, this stuff?

May I offer two of the things they fixed the very afternoon of our inspection?  Were they against the code?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

#1 – This little beauty is a vent that starts in the powder room on the first level, passes through two floors to exit through the wall above one third-level bedroom, to travel another 25′ or so to the left of this photo to exit through the roof.

Can a powder room fan push air up and that far?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

How far is that air pushed?  I calculate 50’+.  What size fan is needed to handle that distance?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

Does the code cover the size of a fan and how far a vent tube can extend before it exits through a roof?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

Worse, just a couple of feet to the left of this photo is the little anomaly seen below.

Gee, ain’t it perty?

The insulation around that very solid vent tubing is missing just a bit.

Won’t that create condensation inside the tubing?  Why yes, yes I think it just might!

Where will that condensation collect?  I’m going to guess it will collect in that little hitch in the get along, seen above.  I pushed on the bottom of that little, teensy downward bulge and, heaven to Betsy, it was already full of water!  Why I bet the cover on the roof wasn’t there the whole time!

THAT’S WHAT MADE THAT EXCELLENT TAPE JOB TO THE RIGHT COME LOOSE AND EXPOSE THE VENT TUBE AS IT STRETCHED FROM THE WATER WEIGHT!

Hey, eventually won’t that tube fill with enough water to prevent air from passing through that improvised trap above?  Why, yes, yes I think it just might!

Does the code DEMAND that the builder fix this interesting arrangement?  I HAVE NO IDEA!  But they did…

#2 – While they were at it, they also fixed this little beauty above the master bathroom!

If you are going to do something in life, BE CONSISTENT!

And these vent guys are nothing, nothing I tell you, if they are not CONSISTENT!

Were these two vents the only thing the builder fixed following my inspection?  You already know the answer to that!

Were all the things they fixed because of the code?  I HAVE NO IDEA!

But I do know those things were schmuck work and that’s why they got fixed!

And my little bud in the office knows that if they don’t fix them, that information might just get out into the public…

My recommendation:  when the builders play their games, don’t participate!  And when they say they won’t fix things unless they are code violations, don’t buy that either!  Why?  Schmuck work is schmuck work, and they won’t want it attached to them in public.

And my office buddy is probably thinking that I am the only home inspector in the area!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia

www.jaymarinspect.com

 

Original blog post on ActiveRain: Link to Blog Post