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Archive for January, 2018|Monthly archive page

Interior Condensation Problems / Copper Sulfate for Tree Roots in Sewer Line

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Q:

The lower 2-feet of a wall on the northwest corner of the bedroom develops heavy condensation, especially during the cold weather. The wall is wallpapered, however, even when the paper is removed, the condensation still forms. We are presently using a small fan to dry the area.

This bedroom, which is approximately 10’ x 12’ has only one heat register, which is on the north side. The roof has a 3’ overhang and there is a downspout on that corner and the water flows freely.

Do you have any suggestions on how we can correct this condition?

A:

Your problem is not unique; as a matter of fact, it is very common. As you’ve no doubt read in my column, “hot goes to cold”. It’s a fact of physics. Picture a glass of ice-cold lemonade on a kitchen table on a hot, humid summer day. (Sounds good right about now doesn’t it?) As you visualize the glass, note condensation dripping down the outside and pooling on the table. The glass isn’t cracked or leaking. Glass doesn’t sweat like people, so where is the moisture coming from? Answer: the hot humid air in the house collects on the cold glass and condenses.

In your case, that northwest corner is colder than the rest of the room and wall areas. Many people find the problem occurring on a back wall of an unheated closet. It’s often found on the wall behind furniture or up near the top of a wall near the ceiling. That’s because all those areas are colder than others. For example, the unheated closet has a colder outside wall. The top of the wall may have a problem because the insulation has settled. Behind the furniture, where there is either very little or no air circulation, the wall is colder.

The humidity in the air in your house gravitates and collects on those surfaces. Eventually mold starts growing on those surfaces and you know that can’t be good.

You need to add insulation to the exterior walls, at least in some areas. You also need to turn down your furnace humidifier. Ideally the relative humidity in your house should be between 35 and 45%. If you do not have, or are not using kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans that vent to the exterior of the house, you need to install and use them.

Finally, there are several good companies that do thermo-graphic imaging of houses. They can show you exactly where you are losing heat and how to correct the problem. It’s not as expensive as you would imagine. As a matter of fact, the cost is quite reasonable especially in light of what they can save you in cost energy dollars.

A couple of those companies that I am familiar with are:

Testing Engineers & Consultants- 248-588-6200

www.testingengineers.com

Infravision- 248-254-6474

www.infravisionllc.com

Q:

I just uncovered an old maintenance article of yours that recommended putting 3 teaspoons of copper sulfate down the drain each month. Do you still recommend that procedure or do you suggest a better method?

A:

As my grandmother used to say, “It couldn’t hurt”. Keep this in mind, if tree roots have already penetrated the sewer line, you are postponing the inevitable and that costs serious money.

You can learn about the condition of your sewer line if you are buying a house. That’s important if there are a lot of trees or even just one large tree on the property. You should call a plumbing company that is equipped with a camera that they run through the system. It will tell you the exact condition inside the pipe and if you will be facing a major expense and replacement.

If you currently have sewer problems, they will be able to show you exactly where the line is breached, how bad and how much. It’s better than digging up and replacing the entire yard. Speaking of that, if you are purchasing a house and if it has sewer problems, add the cost of some replacement landscaping onto the cost of the job. Companies charge between $100.00 and $250.00 to run a camera through the sewers. Call several for estimates.

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Ice Dams

In Winter Tips For Your Home on January 9, 2018 at 10:05 am

Remember these two words “Ice Dams”.

In the coming months there’s a good chance you’ll be cursing them because of the damage they could cause.

The melting of the snow on your roof causes ice dams. As the snow melts, it gets to the cold overhangs, eaves and gutters. The snow freezes and starts accumulating a large ice block or “dam”.

As more snow melts, the cold ice water runs down the roof toward the dam. The water refreezes as the sun goes down and that ice starts backing up. As you might imagine, shingles are not waterproof. They are designed to shed water so the accumulating ice is now backing up beneath the shingles.

As the ice melts, it rots the roof structure, ruins ceilings, walls and furnishings and causes mold to flourish.

Your best defense against ice dams is increasing the amount of insulation and ventilation in your attic as well as installing ice shields.

The heat that is melting the snow is heat you’ve paid for. It is lost through your attic because you do not have enough insulation.

There are a few things you can do to reduce ice dams and eliminate any damage they can cause to your house. You should bring the level of insulation up to R-49 or higher. Doing so will save you money on heating and cooling costs and it will make your house more comfortable in the summer as well as the winter. The added insulation reduces or stops the heat from escaping into the attic and keeps it where you want it, in the living space of the house. Go to www.technihouseinspections.com and click on “Insulation- Packing it In” to find out how much insulation you need and how to do it yourself or hire-it-done.

Adding adequate ventilation to your attic cools the attic area above the insulation, which also helps to reduce ice dams, prolong the life of your shingles and also saves on cooling costs. But Michigan has severe winters and ice dams are inevitable. The only way to eliminate damage from backing up of the ice is to install “ice shields” under your shingles.

When re-roofing, you should remove the shingles and install ice dam membranes. In our area, code requires at least “two layers of underlayment cemented together or a self-adhering polymer modified bitumen sheet shall be used in lieu of normal underlayment and extend from the lowest edges of all roof surfaces to a point at least 24-inches (610mm) inside the exterior wall line of a building.”

The only exceptions are detached structures such as sheds or garages that do not have a heating and/or cooling system.

That code is from the 2006 Michigan Residential Code but remember that is the minimum code. In reality, you should go 6 to 9-feet depending on the slope of your roof. Lower slope roofs should have more ice dam membranes. You should also install the membranes in and all the way up all valleys and around all skylights.

By the way, if you don’t think heat you’re paying for is causing the ice dams, go through old photos. Better yet, try and remember what the roof looked like a couple days after a snowfall. You’ll see snow on the garage and porch roofs. You’ll see snow along the overhangs of the house, but the snow over living spaces is gone or melting. If the sun alone were causing the snow to melt, it would be melting evenly all over the roof.

Many people use de-icing cables on their roofs to reduce and melt the ice accumulation. Oftentimes it is successful. But remember, heat loss, along with freezing weather are causing the ice dams. I have on occasion seen where those electric de-icing cables caused secondary ice dams farther up the roof. While many people swear by them, I do not feel they are all that effective.

They can be expensive to operate if left on for long periods of time. Every inch of them needs to be inspected annually to verify they have not become brittle or cracked.

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