Humidity Gone Rogue

Frozen attic condensation can cause a frost like appearance on the inside of your attic

Rogue : a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel.

Seems funny to apply the word “rogue” to humidity. But during midwest winters it fits. Here’s why:

Every winter is bound to have a couple days to a couple weeks of below zero weather. When temperatures start to rise, homeowners start to notice brown spots on their ceiling that resemble roof leaks. This could be a sign of a roof leak it could also be a sign that your home’s humidity was too high during the cold temperatures causing frozen attic condensation.

Furnace humidifiers are often forgotten to be adjusted during winters and create too much humidity. This moisture freezes when it hits your attic
Furnace humidifiers are often forgotten to be adjusted during winters and create too much humidity. This moisture freezes when it hits your attic

Many homes have humidifiers on their furnaces. Almost all new homes have this or homes with real wood floors. It’s a great thing to have but homeowners need to be mindful of appropriate humidity levels. If the humidity is set higher than it should be during negative temperatures, the moisture rises up to the attic and before it can escape, it hits the bottom of the snow covered roof and freezes. Sometimes icicles even form off the nails! Once the weather warms up and one of the first things to thaw is attic condensation. Depending on high the humidity has been set on your house, this can be a decent amount of moisture coming down – thus causing brown spots on ceilings. It looks identical to spots from roof leaks.

What is the appropriate level of humidity for your home?

If the outside weather is…

  • 20 to 40 degrees, humidity should be less than 40%
  • 10 to 20 degrees, humidity should be less than 35%
  • 0 to 10 degrees, humidity should be less than 30%
  • -10 to 0 degrees, humidity should be less than 25%
  • -20 to -10 degrees, humidity should be less than 20%
  • below -20 degrees, humidity should be less than 15%

This will prevent attic condensation, mold, or any other issues caused by overly humid and warm air.

What about you?

These guidelines are the optimal levels to make your home comfortable, but what about the people living in it? Dryer air is not always the best for us to live in but there are ways to keep both you happy and your home comfortable. Instead of using whole house humidifiers use individual ones when you are using the room. Use programmable timers to turn on and off humidifiers. Buy indoor humidity sensors – these range from $5-$50. Click here to see the “indoor hygrometers” on Amazon.com

 

It’s so easy to forget to monitor or change your humidity. Many people don’t even realize this is what’s going on until it’s too late – brown spots appear! If this happens to you, don’t  panic but it’s still good practice to have a trusted roofer inspect to confirm no roof leaks.

 

Water Management

Rotten OSB and moldy insulation from water running behind siding and house wrap

Uncontrolled water is the biggest threat to homeowners. It’s a slow and silent killer. Here are the most common issues we see on homes.

Lack of Kick-Out Flashings. Even if your gutters are pitched correctly and don’t leak, they may appear to be leaking where the gutter butts up the wall. Or it might look like nothing is wrong at all. Overtime, water constantly slipping between the wall and gutter will find its way behind any house wrap or moisture barrier you have in place. Read more about kick-out flashings

siding and underlayment rotted from water running down the wall
Without a kick-out flashing, water is free to run down your siding and can creep behind your house wrap.
Rotten OSB and moldy insulation from water running behind siding and house wrap
Once you remove the house wrap you can see all the damage that the un-controlled water did behind the house wrap.

No Downspout Extensions. Often times homeowners remove these extensions out of aggravation. These extensions might seem like a trip hazard, a pain to mow around, or get trampled easily. – but don’t get rid of them! Your home and your foundation need these extensions to route water away from you home. You can add hinges to these extensions to eliminate all the hassle they cause. Click here to read more about downspout hinges.

downspout extension laying down and then in the up position
Left: Downspout is fully extended for proper water flow Right: Downspout has been lifted up to allow for mowing

Inadequate or No House Wrap. Depending on when your home was built and the history of your city’s building codes, your home might not have any house wrap or moisture barrier. For example, the City of Bloomington, IL did not start requiring any form of house wrap until the late 70’s. Practically all houses built before the early 70’s (in Bloomington, IL) are without house wrap. Siding, bricks, shakes or any other exterior cladding are not intended to protect your home from water intrusion. If your home does have house wrap, it might be done incorrectly: applied in small pieces, too many mechanical fasteners, or taped incorrectly. There are alternative moisture barriers to house wrap at similar expenses- Read about EnviroDri.

cedar siding on chimney. Underneath chimney is rotted usb
Cedar siding doesn’t always protect your home

Bad Pipe Flashings. Pipe flashing have a shorter lifespan than your roof and will need replaced a few times before you need a new roof. It’s a simple fix but if the flashing is cut too large, water will still get in. Watch Nick Coyle replace a pipe flashing.

cracked pipe boot flashing
Cracked pipe boot flashing causes leaks

 

If you are unsure about any of these, call a local, trustworthy contractor to give you a free inspection.

The Importance of Kick-out Flashing

Spring showers bring leaky gutters- Wait no, that’s not right! We’ve recently had a fair amount of homeowners call because they are tired of leaking gutters. It’s usually the lack of kick out flashing which gives the appearance of a leaky gutter but often has hidden disasters associated with it.

 

What is a kickout flashing?

A Kick out flashing is a tiny but valuable piece of metal that diverts water into the gutter. It’s installed along the wall that the gutter end terminates into. The image below shows a correct kickoff flashing. It’s important to make sure the kickout overhangs a decent amount into the gutter to ensure no water runs along the side wall behind the gutter endcap.

kickout-flashing
Proper Kickout Flashing

Why is a kickout flashing necessary?

Kick out flashings are needed to direct water into the gutter- in these specific areas, siding is often times notched to fit around the roof section and has the possibility of letting water slip behind the siding and run down the interior wall. Beyond the obvious trouble of improper water control, if your house doesn’t have any housewrap or housewrap failure, the sheeting underneath will often be moldy or rotting without a proper kickout flashing.

Bad Kickout Flashing
Kickout flashing is too short- Water is still likely to run against wall

The images below are of a home in Bloomington, IL that had a powerful combo of the housewrap installed incorrectly and no kickout flashing. Every place the gutter butted up against a side wall, the OSB underneath was completely rotted- our Carlson Exteriors guy was able to push his hand through the OSB easily.

 

Watch this video of to see how easily a kickoff flashing is installed!

 

Leaking Roof? Could Be an Easy Fix

Have you noticed a wet or tea-stained ceiling? It could be from a bad or old pipe flashings. The usual life span of a pipe flashing is 10-15 years but depends on your region’s weather conditions. If you keep an eye on all of your pipe flashings it could save you hundreds of dollars repairing any interior damage that can occur from a leak. Look for any signs of extreme age, deterioration, or cracking. Watch the video to see how easy it is to replace your own pipe flashing!