Keeping moisture out of a home reduces the chance for structural deterioration, mold growth and indoor air quality problems. You can bolster your home's moisture resistance with these tips.
Be on the lookout for signs of moisture in your home
According to Phillip Carter, urban regional extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, common signs of unwanted moisture include:
- Excessive, continuous condensation around windows;
- Musty smells;
- Standing water, especially under the home and around the foundation;
- Surface discoloration and stains;
- A higher-than-usual water bill from unseen plumbing leaks;
- Decaying wood and other materials throughout your home; and
- Flooding events, such as bursting pipes or excessive rain that release large volumes of water into or outside your home.
Review your home regularly for potential water leaks
Make regular home moisture inspections a priority. "It's important to inspect more around walls, on the roof, under sinks, near water lines, and so forth," says Carter. "A lot of the problems I see may be hidden leaks and by the time people notice them, they have a real mold problem." Smart home systems also offer automatic water detection features. Places to inspect in your home are:
- Hot water tanks. Sometimes the pressure relief valves can leak.
- Toilets. Listen for any “hissing” sounds after removing the tank. You can also add some food coloring to the tank to help identify where a leak might be coming from.
- Meter line. Look at the shut off value and meter to see if there is excess moisture.
- Washing machine and refrigerators. Examine the refrigerator and washing machine water line connections to look for excess moisture. Also look around the base of the appliances to see if there are water marks.
- Bathroom and kitchen sinks. Look under the cabinets to see if there is any water damage beginning to appear.
Control the humidity in your home
Your home's relative humidity should be roughly 30-50%, says Carter, who recommends buying an inexpensive hygrometer to keep tabs on your home's humidity levels. Some tips to combat high home humidity:
- Run a dehumidifier, decorate with moisture-absorbing houseplants.
- Set your air conditioner's fan to automatic.
Make sure your air conditioner is the right size
All too often, people invest in oversized air condition units, says Carter. "And that's not good, especially in the South, because it doesn't run long enough to remove enough moisture from the inside air and can cause tiny water droplets to collect on surfaces," he adds. Also keep your unit's condensate drainage line to the outside clean and clear of debris. "Keep plants and shrubs trimmed several feet back to ensure good air flow," says Carter.
Monitor drainage around your home
Your gutters and downspouts should drain away from your house. "Water should never linger near your home's foundation," says Carter. Carter recommends checking your gutters every two weeks for leaves, acorns and pine needles. "Take a leaf blower and water hose with a strong jet to remove trapped debris," he says.
Make sure your home is properly vented to keep the moisture out
Proper circulation prevents warm, moist air from condensing on cooler surfaces through evaporation. Carter recommends these ventilation best practices:
- Ventilate your attic and crawl spaces.
- Vent all interior exhaust fans to the outside.
- Run bathroom ventilation fans while showering and for five to 10 minutes after showering.
- Install louvered doors or louvered devices installed into walls to provide air circulation for small rooms and closets.
- Use ceiling fans.
- Open doors and windows when possible.
Make sure you have adequate insulation
Carter recommends boosting your wall and attic insulation based on your climate. (Find your recommended level of insulation from EnergyStar.gov.) "This way you don't have a huge temperature contrast," says Carter. He also recommends adding a 6 to 8 millimeter-thick vapor barrier under your house to keep vapor from going up through your flooring.