In continued celebration of National Home Improvement Month, let’s talk about common home problems and some ways to tackle fixing them. Problem #1: Mold. Water leaks and high humidity lead to mold growth. Water may come into your home through a roof or foundation leak, or though gaps between windows and doors. Daily activities such […]
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Problem #1: Mold. Water leaks and high humidity lead to mold growth. Water may come into your home through a roof or foundation leak, or though gaps between windows and doors. Daily activities such as showering and cooking can increase the humidity levels and encourage mold growth. Improperly sized or installed air conditioners can contribute to high humidity conditions. Humidity levels inside a home should stay between 30% and 50%, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Identify the source of the mold. If it starts as a spot on the wall or ceiling, it’s most likely attributed to a water leak. If it’s covers a large area such as an entire wall, it may be caused by humidity. Eliminate sources of water such as plumbing or roof leaks and replace weather stripping around windows. Monitor the humidity in your home with a hygrometer. Cover crawlspaces with plastic to prevent moisture from the soil from increasing the humidity levels. Install and use ventilation fans in kitchens and baths. Hire an air conditioning contractor to ensure the air conditioner is sized properly and working correctly. The contractor can also check the duct work for leaks. Consult the EPA’s Brief Guide to Mold in your home
for more about mold remediation. If the mold causes extensive damage hire a contractor specializing in mold remediation to remove the infestation.
Problem #2: Wet Basements. A damp basement is usually caused by moisture coming through the foundation. When the moisture evaporates it increases indoor humidity, resulting in mold growth. The humidity may also cause peeling paint, rotting wood or other structural damage. Water can seep into the home through a foundation leak or between gaps around windows and doors. The mold growth can be caused by plumbing leaks. Another cause is condensation buildup on concrete walls and floors.
Solution #2:Identify where the problem occurs. Again, a small area usually means a water leak while a larger area points to a humidity problem. Standing water on the floor of the basement after rain usually indicates a foundation leak. Clean gutters and redirect the downspout away from the house. Re-grade the ground, if necessary, to ensure it slopes away from the foundation. Test your sump pump and make sure it’s in working order. Use a dehumidifier in the basement during humid months to eliminate condensation on the walls.
Problem #3: Moisture Buildup on Windows. Inefficient windows or excessive moisture levels attributed to air leaks can cause condensation on windows. Over time the seal on a window expands and contracts from exposure to heat and cold. The seal can start to fail, allowing air between the panes. Eventually the condensation results in mold growth or rots the window.
Solution #3:Check the manufacturer’s warranty. If the glass is still covered, have it replaced. If it is not, you may need to hire someone to replace the glass or install new windows. Install a window insulation kit over the windows if you can’t afford to replace them immediately. To remedy high moisture levels use ventilation fans in kitchens and baths. Vent the dryer directly to the outside, check the vent for holes or obstructions, and make sure it’s attached tightly to the dryer. Test your humidifier, based on the manufacturer’s directions, to ensure it’s not adding too much moisture into the air.
Problem #4: High Energy Bills.The problem of high energy bills is often attributed to inefficient heating and cooling systems, windows, or inadequate insulation.
Start with the EPA’s home assessment tool
to compare your home’s energy usage with other homes. Their home energy advisor tool
suggests home improvements you can make to increase energy efficiency. Hire a qualified contractor for a thorough energy audit. Some suggested improvements include adding insulation, sealing air leaks, replacing light bulbs with CFL bulbs, installing a programmable thermostat, replacing appliances with ENERGY STAR qualified models and turning the water heater temperature to 120 degrees F. Your local utility company may offer programs to help you lower your energy bills.
Problem #5: Extreme Differences in Room Temperatures.Slight differences are fine, but extreme differences between rooms indicate air leakage, poor insulation or a problem with your heating or cooling system.
Solution #5:Hire a contractor to check for air leaks or to inspect your heating and cooling system. Seal air leaks or add proper insulation. Replace doors and windows, if necessary, to seal the home tighter. Install solar shades if some rooms are hot due to extreme sun exposure. Install a ceiling fan to circulate the air so it’s uniform.