6/25/2015

Improving Moisture Control in Buildings

Proper moisture control in buildings is imperative to maintaining the building structure and protecting the health of occupants. Whether moisture levels are too low or too high, the levels can cause building occupants to suffer from adverse health effects and may even cause chronic conditions. High moisture levels can also cause mold and mildew to develop, which can begin to deteriorate the building materials and cause allergic reactions in occupants.

Identifying Signs of Poor Moisture Control

One of the most common signs of poor moisture control is moisture on the windows. Moisture collects on windows and other cool objects when humidistats are set too high or there is not enough ventilation to remove moisture caused by household activities. Water damage, mold and mildew formation, and declining respiratory health of building occupants may also indicate poor moisture control. A humidity indicator can be used to measure the relative humidity inside of buildings.

Poor Moisture Control Effects

When moisture levels are not controlled, paint, wallpaper, molding, and flooring inside of a building may all be susceptible to damage. Occupants’ belongings, inventory in commercial buildings, and any other sensitive materials may also be susceptible to damage and rot. If moisture control is ignored for a long period of time, the moisture can seep into building materials and cause the materials to decay, eventually compromising the stability and safety of the home.

Poor moisture control can also adversely affect building occupant health, causing complications such as:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Sore throat and throat issues
  • Nasal issues
  • Shortness of breath
  • Development of asthma
  • Respiratory illnesses

Moisture Control Techniques

Ventilation, air sealing, and insulation within a building are all important to control moisture. This is because moisture moves in and out of buildings with air currents, heat transfers, and diffusion through materials. Air sealing and insulation efforts will help to control all three of these. Ventilation will help to control heat transfer and air currents, essentially fine-tuning moisture control strategies once other controls are in place. Drainage should also be considered in moisture control efforts.

Air Sealing and Insulation

Air sealing and building insulation are most easily addressed during building construction but can be improved during renovation phases. The roof, windows, doors, and building materials may all have an impact on the tightness of the building envelop, so these should be selected and installed with moisture control in mind. Exterior wall insulation can also be upgraded by a professional to provide a better barrier between outdoor and indoor temperatures and humidity levels.

Ventilation and Air Conditioning

Installing a properly sized air conditioner can help to prevent issues with moisture control and can save costs while preventing complications. Installing a high-quality ventilation system such as an ERV or HRV can also help to control humidity by filtering out humid air. If outdoor humidity levels are very high, a dehumidifier may provide further assistance with moisture control.

Drainage and Construction

Buildings should be designed to direct water away from the building and keep warmth away from cold areas as much as possible to reduce condensation and optimize drainage. The best way to achieve these goals may vary widely depending on the climate. Experts may be able to alter elements of a building’s design for optimum airflow around the building.