High Tide at Home: Preventing Water Intrusion

Have ever heard these dreaded words? "Did you know you have a lot of water in your front yard?"

"This is actually a huge issue," says Anton Abben, certified indoor environmentalist. So huge, in fact, that Abben, along with Marla Craddick, co-founded Indoor Diagnostics (formerly Healthy Building Solutions) in Ashland to help home and business owners identify and prevent problems that come from water intrusion and other environmental factors.

not a do-it-yourself project

There are a number of organisms including molds, mildews, mosses, wood-destroying fungus (often called dry rot), and insects (including termites) that thrive in a moist environment. "Anytime you have moisture," says Ron Regan, certified home inspector with Cornerstone Inspections, "those organisms are going to do what they do best…break down the material." And they can cause a variety of problems in your home, from structural damage to health problems.

"If you suspect you have a moisture intrusion issue in your home, it is important not to disturb materials if there is any chance that there might be unseen mold growth," cautions Marla Craddick, certified indoor environmentalist with Indoor Diagnostics. "It is important that homeowners not start ripping things out themselves as they may unexpectedly encounter hidden mold growth which will then have contaminated the air in the home."

A qualified indoor air quality professional will assess any water damage safely and expertly. Look for certifications from the American Indoor Air Quality Council (AIAQC) and/or the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and/or the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). Not only will you be assured of having an expert evaluation of the problem in your home, says Craddick, "it also provides objective documentation to the homeowner in case of future real estate transactions in which a homeowner will be asked to prove that the mold or water damage was cleaned up properly."

How does the water get in?

"There are different sources of water," says Ron Regan, owner of Cornerstone Inspections in Central Point, and where it comes from will often play a part in how it affects your home:

Rain water
Rain water can enter your home in a variety of ways, says Regan. It can seep into exterior walls or around windows and doors that are not caulked or insulated properly. Clogged and overflowing gutters make it possible for water to "wick up" roof sheathing. If roof flashing is compromised, water can enter the roof or attic and down into the building. And of course, if downspouts are not connected to storm drains, the water can collect in a basement or crawlspace or under your foundation.

There are some areas in the valley, reminds Regan, where ground water levels are very high or a natural slope means more water on your property. "Homes should have a drainage system "¦ that collects water from downspouts and runoff and directs it away from the house and into storm drains," says Craddick. "If not, water can travel through unsealed or compromised foundation walls." In some situations, a curtain drain or sump pump may be necessary to ensure water disperses properly.

Inadequate venting
"We often see bathroom, kitchen and laundry fans which are ducted directly into the attic space rather than outside the structure through the roof," says Abben. "Improperly ducted ventilation fans can cause high humidity and mold growth in attic spaces." And be sure your clothes dryer is vented properly, reminds Regan. "Dryers are removing moisture from the wet clothes and putting it wherever the duct ends."

Air circulation through foundation vents is an important part of preventing water accumulation under your home, too. "You don't ever want those vents closed," says Regan. "If moisture comes in, you need to clear it out."

Plumbing and irrigation
Inevitably, "materials break down, plumbing fails," says Regan so monitor hot water tanks, wax toilet rings, tub or shower tiles and areas where fixtures contact the floor. Appliances with water connections such as refrigerators, washing machines or dishwashers should also be inspected regularly.

Remember your outdoor plumbing, too. "Landscaping around homes can be of particular concern, if there is no perimeter drain line, simply due to the increase in water seepage that occurs from drip systems and/or sprinklers," says Craddick. Pools should also be properly maintained and checked periodically for leaks.

If you suspect you have a problem, this is a time when you want expert advice. "Any bubbling of paint, lifting of flooring, warping or discoloration of any materials that may indicate water damage or mold growth should be addressed immediately," says Abben. A musty or damp odor can also indicate a problem. "In addition to mold growth, low-level moisture intrusion over time can lead to loss of structural integrity in building materials such as floor joists and subflooring."

The best prevention? "Maintenance is your answer," sums up Regan. "Get a flashlight and check for signs of water." Be sure caulking and flashing are intact, vents are properly connected and regularly take a look at your crawl space and attic. The sooner you spot a potential problem, the more time and money you will save on the right solution.

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