How To Battle Against Moisture
Updated: Mar 31
Anyone who has coped with rain-soaked plaster and flooded basement can be forgiven skepticism when a professional roofer speaks of hundred-year-old roofs that, although they leaked daylight in a dozen places, let in hardly a drop during a rainstorm. The story is not an exaggeration. Many older roofs are covered with wood shingles, which have the happy faculty of plugging their own small leaks. The wood expands as it absorbs the initial rainfall, effectively sealing small holes. Unfortunately, the leaks and moisture problems encountered by modern homeowners go beyond small holes and are rarely self-correcting; prompt action must be taken before water causes serious expensive harm.
In addition to such obvious effects as puddles and peeling paint, water can cause damage more slowly and in less noticeable areas. An ice dam on the roof often hides water seeping under shingles. The swelling and shrinking caused by changes in moisture levels make wood joists and beams warp and bow. Damp timbers are susceptible to the fungi that cause mold, mildew and dry rot which can reduce sturdy beams to dry powder; damp wood near the foundation also invites termite infestation.
Problems caused by condensed moisture can be cured by improving the ventilation in your home. By installing strategically placed openings in the attic and basement, you can ensure a constant movement of the air that will push warm moisture outdoors, taking advantage of the natural tendency of hot air to rise. In problem areas- kitchen, bathrooms and laundries- ducting and electric fans may be needed. An electric dehumidifier can also help.
Leaks and seepage originated outdoors can often be corrected by such simple measures as redirecting the flow from downspouts and banking the earth around the foundation. If the basement still leaks, try waterproofing the porous masonry from the inside with the appropriate paint, sealant or cement. More serious drainage problems, or a rising ground-water level under the basement, will require digging a dry well or excavating around the foundation to install drain tile and waterproof the exterior walls. When even these measures fail to keep water out of the basement, an electric sump dump provides the last line of defense, discharging the water as fast as it enters.
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