Let’s talk about the rain, melting snow, humidity, mildew and the effects they have on your house!
By Mitch Kuffa
Did you know that a house sitting on the plain, has a longer life expectancy than one sitting in the woods? And why is that? It’s very simple. It is due to all of the above. A house that has the wind blowing through the shingles has the sunlight giving it a tan and is allowed to breathe in the wind will be a healthier dwelling. A house sitting in the forest stays wet, allows the construction materials to become saturated, encourages infestation and if not maintained properly will have a shorter life expectancy.
In general, homeowners love wooded subdivisions and are willing to pay for the shade. I am an ardent supporter of all trees, but from an inspection standpoint, if the vegetation is allowed to run rampant, there is always more potential for deterioration, condensation, and infiltration. It is very common to find crawl space problems, wet basements, attic condensation, leaks, mold/mildew problems and premature aging of houses that live in shaded environments.
So what do you do if your house is sitting in the woods OR if you just have some moisture problems?
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Unless you want your house to rot and float away, here are some recommendations:
- Cut back the trees
- Thin out the shrubbery
- Let the sunshine in
- Let the wind blow through your property
You can live in harmony with the vegetation, but left unattended they will ‘eat” your house. Remember, no shrub or plant should be touching your house. They scratch the paint, encourage dampness and create little traffic patterns for insects. Let the air get between your house and the bushes. Bugs and rodents like damp, dark, protected areas. Don’t create this type of environment for them.
VENTING, VENTING, VENTING!
This is especially important if you have a highly insulated house. Make sure that there are no signs of condensation in the attic (rusty nail points, penetrating the roof sheathing from the shingles, black stains on the bottom edge of the roof overhangs, etc.).
If you have a crawl space, open all the vents in the warm weather and close them in the cold. Stick your head in the crawl space and look around. Do you see anything dripping, seeping or leaking water? If you have to, put a fan in the crawl space and let it run to create air movement. If you have heat ducts running through your crawl space install a register in that area and let it “bleed” both heat and air movement throughout this space in the cold months.
DOES YOUR CRAWL SPACE DIRT FLOOR HAVE A PLASTIC VISQUEEN VAPOR BARRIER OVER IT?
This simple sheet of plastic helps hold the moisture down in the ground and minimizes musty smells that come from these areas. It discourages any type of vegetation growth and/or pests.
INSTALL A WELL THOUGHT OUT PLAN FOR GUTTERS & DOWNSPOUTS.
You should have one downspout for approx. every 30 lineal feet of gutter. If possible, install gutter screens (to help keep them from getting plugged up). All downspouts should have at least 3 ft. extensions at the end and preferably splash blocks (to get the roof water to discharge approx. 5’ from the house and foundation).
MAKE SURE THAT THE GROUNDWATER RUNS AWAY FROM YOUR HOUSE.
There should be no low spots around the perimeter and nothing that blocks the natural flow of water away from the building. Also, check under your wood deck and front porch to make sure that they are not settled and therefore holding water close to the building. As I have said before, the rule is that the 8’ perimeter around your house should pitch away approx. 1” per ft. (in other words, there should be 8” of fall in 8’) or other provisions made to control the water (such as an underground drain, swale or ditch, etc.).
MAKE SURE THAT YOUR FLOWER BEDS DO NOT HAVE LANDSCAPE TIES OR LAWN EDGING THAT ARE HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO TRAP WATER NEAR THE HOUSE.
This is where it is especially important to make sure that all downspouts are extended beyond such flowerbeds. Either lower the landscape ties or edging down into the ground (so water can flow over them), provide holes between them (so water can run through) or remove them. It is very common to find interior moisture due to water being trapped near the building. In addition, many times these flowerbeds are raised higher than the waterproofing applied to the outside of the foundation.
Well, that’s it. It’s actually simple to live in harmony with nature, but it takes some sweat equity and you cannot simply ignore your environment. Trees, bushes, and bugs grow and it will rain sooner or later.