The arrival of warm summer weather provides opportunity for fresh air through screened windows and doors. Summer breezes are refreshing. Remember to close windows and doors when outdoor humidity levels rise. Basement windows should remain closed as well to keep humid ambient air out and to prevent mold growth. Dehumidifiers and air conditioners should be evaluated for maintenance and repairs prior to operation.
Building Science Corporation is a credible resource with unbiased factual information.
BSI-027 is a fascinating examination of the prevalence of microbial growth in new buildings. This excerpt is interesting and the photographs included in the article are truly remarkable.
“Mold is pretty easy to understand. No water no mold. Any questions? Well, there are a few. For one we have more mold today, but we don’t have more water. What’s with that? We’ve always built outside out of wet stuff. Concrete comes in a big truck and we “pour it.” We put “mud” in the joints of gypsum board. That hasn’t changed. The problem is that the same amount of water we’ve always had to deal with is hanging around longer and longer in building materials that can’t take it. We have more insulation today and that reduces drying potentials because it reduces energy exchange. That is one reason we have more problems with mold today. The “more insulation” is responsible for the water “hanging around longer” part. But there is another reason—the building materials “that can’t take it” part. We used to build out of rocks and 1,000 year-old trees. Not any more and that is a big deal, as we will see.
From an engineering perspective all that mold needs is carbon—to boldly go where no mold has gone before and seek out and find carbon. But it wants the carbon in a very special form—it wants it in the form of sugar. So, all the mold wants is the carbon in sugar. Now, we don’t talk that way because we don’t want civilians to catch on. We say that mold wants the carbon in a glucose polymer called cellulose—it makes us sound smarter. So where is all the cellulose? It’s in the plant kingdom. So, all the mold wants is the carbon in the cellulose in the plant kingdom. Pretty easy so far. But there are certain rules that the mold has to follow—one of which is that the plant has to be dead first. So what do we build out of? Naturally, dead plants.1″
Commercial and residential buildings will benefit from early maintenance before summer weather arrives.
- Clean gutters and downspouts to be sure water flows freely away from building foundations.
- Reseal exterior woodwork- fences, pergolas, sheds, and trellises should be inspected and included in the process.
- Check for pest infestation and associated damage- small animals, e.g. mice and squirrels, as well as insects ants, termites, and wasps can present problems and cause damage.
- Roof inspection/repair and exterior painting will help to preserve building envelope integrity.
- Chimney inspection, as well as window and skylight inspection will help prevent leaks and water damage.
- Attics and basements shouldn’t be overlooked, particular attention should be paid to sump pumps and roof ventilation. Mold growth will flourish with elevated moisture.
- Sprinkler and irrigation systems should be inspected for necessary repairs/replacement.
- Dehumidifiers and AC systems will benefit from service and filter changes.
- Window and door screens should be inspected for replacement and repairs.
- Retaining walls, walks, and driveways may have been damaged through the winter months.
- Landscaping, particularly trees and shrubs, may require attention after harsh winter conditions.
Spring is on the way and soon spring cleaning will be underway. Duct inspection is sometimes overlooked in routine maintenance. There are unnoticed systems in every building that contribute to the quality of the indoor environment. Ducting is found in different applications- bathroom exhaust fans, clothes dryers and HVAC are some of the most common. The EPA publishes a lot of useful information that can be accessed here.
Temperatures are dropping and systems maintenance is fundamental in efficient operation. Seasonal properties should be winterized to prevent pipe breaks and winter water damage. Occupied properties will benefit from routine maintenance, filter changes as well as an examination of ducts, vents, and connections should be included. ENERGY.GOV offers tips on heat pump maintenance. Building Green also lists suggestions for winter heat pump operation.
Roof ventilation, in most instances, promotes air circulation throughout buildings contributing to healthy indoor environments and preventing material damage that can occur when warm, moist, air is trapped inside. Attic insulation is another component that creates comfort in controlling indoor conditions. More is not always better, more can be too much.
Recently, we have worked remediating building attics where excessive insulation has been installed in attic spaces, blocking attic ventilation, and preventing air circulation necessary for comfortable indoor living. Maine has had programs in place offering rebates and financial assistance for weatherization programs. The key, to making good use of the grants and low interest financing available, is hiring a reputable, qualified firm to complete improvements. Prior to hiring contractors to complete weatherization/winterization projects, ask for references, proof of insurance, proof of applicable certifications and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints. The following links provide basic information on attic ventilation published by energystar.gov and a reference manual published jointly by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.