Home Management Checklist: Preventing Home Moisture Damage. Exterior Checklist

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1 HL 235 Rev. August 1998 In all instances where there is excess moisture in a house, the most important thing to do is to determine the source of the water and eliminate that source. The Extension publications HL 252 Controlling External Water Problems for Residences and HL 253 Controlling Internal Moisture Problems in the Home assist the home owner or occupant in finding and eliminating that source. Excess moisture may lead to costly damage to the home structure and contents. In addition, research relates excess moisture and mold to health risks. This checklist is for occupant use in managing daily living and tasks to: (1) recognize indications of RESIDENTIAL H O U S I N G Home Management Checklist: Preventing Home Moisture Damage Exterior Checklist excess moisture in the home, (2) avoid producing excess moisture, and (3) help rid the home of excess moisture. Use the checklist to periodically inspect the exterior and interior of the home for indications of excess moisture, and to manage daily tasks and living to prevent moisture damage. Some of the checklist items address management practices and are the least costly to implement, while others address maintenance and are of moderate cost. Items involving equipment will be the most costly practices to implement. For reader convenience, the items falling in these three categories are listed at the end of the Exterior Checklist, and at the end of the Interior Checklist. Regular inspection and maintenance of the house exterior will help the home owner or occupant spot existing and potential problems, and make repairs or changes to prevent future more costly damage. Check the following points at least once every 6 months, preferably more often. OK 1. Is ground around house graded (and inorganic ground cover placed) to provide a downhill slope away from house in ALL directions? The CABO building code requires Lots shall be graded so as to drain surface water away from foundation walls. The grade away from foundation walls shall fall a minimum of 6 inches [note: that means 6 vertical inches] within the first 10 [horizontal] feet. Exception: Where lot lines, walls, slopes or other physical barriers prohibit 6 inches of fall within 10 feet, drains or swales shall be provided to ensure drainage away from the structure. The code also requires that Surface drainage shall be diverted to a storm sewer conveyance or other point of collection so as to not create a hazard. 2. Is a clearance of at least 8 inches maintained between soil grade/ground cover level and all untreated wood structural members such as sills and joists? This building code requirement helps prevent moisture damage to structure. 3. Is a clearance of at least 6 inches maintained between soil grade/ground cover level and untreated wood siding? This building code requirement helps prevent wood damage. 1

2 4. Are gutters and downspouts connected to drains to avoid dumping roof water at the base of the foundation wall? Connect downspouts to drains that empty at least 10 feet away from the house, downhill. Splashblocks no longer meet code requirements. 5. Are gutters and downspouts free from leaks? Repair leaks to prevent water damage to nearby wood. 6. Are gutters, downspouts, and drain pipes free of leaves, pine straw, or other material? Do they let water flow freely? Blocked drainage paths contribute to decay hazard from backed up water wetting the wood. Use hose to spray water on roof to help see where gutters might be plugged. 7. Are small vent openings in vinyl or aluminum soffit vents clear, unblocked by paint, insulation, or cobwebs and dust? Soffit vents must remain open to vent the attic. 8. Is the exterior siding or house trim free of mildew discoloration or mold? See HL 234 Landscape Management Checklist: Preventing Home Moisture Damage. Use Extension leaflet HL 251 Recipe for Washing Mildewed House Surfaces to clean a mildewed exterior, following directions and precautions. When repainting, you may want to add additional mildew inhibitor to paint. 9. Are ends of wood siding, trim, or other wood that is exposed to weather kept sealed with paint or preservative? Water most easily enters wood through cut ends, leading to decay. 10. Are foundation vents left open year round? If concerned about water pipes close to vents freezing in cold weather, insulate the water pipes. The potential for damage from excess moisture is, in many cases, greater than that of frozen pipes. 11. Is crawl space free of stored materials that decrease or block air movement? Moving air helps keep surfaces dry and free of mildew. 12. Is the crawl space free of organic debris (paper, wood, plant roots)? If not, remove debris to prevent decay, insect damage, and retained moisture. 13. Are you thinking about adding a patio, deck, or porch? Plan and design the addition to avoid decay, and include enough ventilation to avoid future moisture damage. 14. If you have an air conditioning system, does the condensate drain pipe slope for proper drainage? Does the condensate drain pipe empty at least 10 feet away from the house, down hill in all directions away from the house? The gallons of water an air conditioner can remove daily from inside air should not be allowed to drain or stand near the house. Check drain pipe periodically to be sure it is not plugged water should drain freely. Practice Cost Exterior Checklist Items Management least 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 Maintenance moderate 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, Equipment most none 2

3 Interior Checklist Regularly inspect the inside of your home, including attic, basement or crawl space, answering these questions. Note areas that need careful attention or repairs. OK Kitchen, Laundry, Bath 15. Is there a ventilating exhaust hood over the kitchen range? Is it vented to the outside? (not into the attic, crawl space or basement!) Operate the exhaust vent during all food preparation at the range or oven. In a tightly constructed house, slightly opening a nearby window during hood operation will better vent moisture and avoid creating a negative pressure inside the house. 16. In the kitchen, are close fitting lids kept on pans, and low heat settings used to maintain simmering while cooking, to minimize moisture/steam escaping into the air? Using lids also reduces energy consumption by trapping heat in the pan and decreasing the length of time the electricity or gas is needed. 17. Are the countertops around sinks in kitchen, bathroom, and laundry caulked to prevent water damage to nearby building materials? Check caulking regularly and replace when needed. 18. Are the refrigerator or freezer door gaskets free from mildew? Replace worn gaskets to better seal cold air inside appliance. During periods of high relative humidity, turn on the appliance energy saver/power saver control switch. This turns on low wattage heaters around the door areas to keep the cabinet s surface temperature above the dew point, preventing condensation and mildew. When relative humidity is low, turn the switch off to save energy. 19. Is your house free of any leaks, water stains, or evidence of mildew or decay from water supply pipes where they enter a floor or wall, or from waste drain pipes (dishwashers, ice makers, commodes, tubs, sinks, clothes washers, laundry, showers) where they go through a wall or floor? Check behind insulation, inside cabinets, under and behind appliances. 20. Is the clothes dryer vented to the outside (not into a crawl space, basement, or attic)? Drying clothes in the house, or venting the dryer into the house, adds one pound of water to the air for every pound of dry clothing. 21. Is the wall or floor around a tub or shower caulked to prevent water from damaging nearby walls and wood structures? Check caulking every 6 months or so; replace when needed. 22. Is shower time kept to the minimum needed and steamy water temperatures avoided? Showering adds 4 times as much moisture vapor to air as do tub baths. 23. Is a vented bathroom exhaust fan provided to remove moisture- laden air after bathing? Is it vented to outside (not into attic, basement, or crawl space)? Do family members operate the fan long enough to remove moisture? If fan is not provided, during dry weather open bath room window for ventilation. During humid periods of the air conditioning seasons, it is wise to circulate conditioned air through the house rather than to open windows. 24. Is the exhaust fan you ve selected for your bathroom rated with a high enough operating capacity for the size of your bathroom, to provide at least 8 air changes per hour? See the Extension publication HL 253 Controlling Internal Moisture Problems in the Home to compute the capacity/rating needed for adequately venting a room of a specific size. 3

4 OK If there is no vented fan in bath, is a sponge or absorbent cloth used to wipe shower walls dry after bathing? This helps reduce growth of mildew on tile grout or other surfaces. 26. After bathing, are shower curtains spread out to allow drying, with open spaces at each end for air movement? Leave shower doors ajar to aid drying, also. 27. If mildew is a problem in the bathroom, are wet towels dried elsewhere (outdoors, or in a clothes dryer vented to the outside)? This prevents adding more moisture to bathroom air. Other Rooms and Closets 28. Are all gas or kerosene space heaters including gas fireplace units vented to the outside? For each gallon of these fuels burned, at least one gallon of moisture is given off as a combustion by-product. 29. Are heating and cooling supply and return vents unblocked by furniture or curtains? Freely moving air keeps surfaces dry and mildew-free. 30. Is the air conditioner properly sized for the area in which it is used? Air conditioners have two functions: (1) to cool air temperature (called sensible load), and (2) to remove moisture from air (called latent load). If too much of the total air conditioning load (sensible + latent) is designed to handle the sensible load (cooling) the air conditioner will not run long enough to remove excess moisture from the air (latent load). Weather data indicate that in some areas of South Carolina, as much as 30 to 35% of the total year-round air conditioning load is latent (moisture). In South Carolina s summer, as much as 60 to 65% of the air conditioning load may be latent (moisture). 31. Are storm windows or insulating glass used to minimize condensation on windows during cold weather or periods of air conditioning? Preventing condensation prevents damaged window sills and sashes. 32. Are windows caulked and weather-stripped (with thermal breaks in the frame) to minimize condensation on windows during cold weather or periods of air conditioning? Prevent condensation to avoid damaged window sills and sashes. 33. Are inside doors left open or ajar so air can freely circulate from room to room? If not, a ceiling fan or portable fan may help move air to keep surfaces dry. 34. Are 2 or 3 inches of space left between walls (especially external walls) and furniture? This allows air movement to help keep wall surfaces dry and free of mildew. 35. Are curtains and draperies opened as needed to allow air circulation? This can help dry condensation from windows and walls. 36. Are there water spots on ceilings or walls? Newly formed spots may indicate a leaky roof, or inadequate flashing or caulking around chimneys, windows, doors, or skylights. 37. Are painted house surfaces free of mildew? If not, use the publication HL 251 Recipe for Washing Mildewed House Surfaces, CAREFULLY FOLLOWING PRECAUTIONS AND DIRECTIONS. Test an inconspicuous area first to be sure the solution will not damage surface. Be sure all surfaces to be painted or wallpapered are first free of mildew.

5 OK 38. Is a mechanical dehumidifier used in particularly humid rooms? This will help minimize the symptoms of excess moisture but will not eliminate the source of moisture. A mechanical dehumidifier may be used temporarily until the cause is identified and corrected. Dehumidifiers use a lot of energy during operation. Dehumidifiers must be emptied and cleaned regularly. Alternatively, they may be connected to a drain pipe that empties into a drain or is piped outside of and at least 10 feet away from the house. See leaflet HL 259 Dehumidifiers Can Control Mildew. 39. Is ventilation adequate for areas with many indoor plants? Living plants give off about the same amount of moisture as they receive from watering. 40. Are closets (clothes and others) arranged to allow air movement? If musty odor occurs, leave closet doors open, or install louvered doors to allow better air flow. Vinyl-covered wire shelving may also help air circulation. 41. Are wet clothes and belongings dried thoroughly before being stored in closets or elsewhere? Avoid creating moisture problems. Attic 42. When you inspect the attic, are soffit vents on underside of the roof overhang unblocked by attic insulation? Light coming through vents into attic indicates vents are not blocked. Free air flow is required to allow moisture to escape and to keep attic moisture levels down. 43. Is attic space free of stored materials that decrease or block attic air movement? Unblocked air movement is needed to remove attic moisture. 44. Are heating and/or cooling ducts in attic tight fitting and leak-free, well insulated (to R-13 minimum), taped, and sealed with mastic? Is insulation dry? Are the insides of ducts dry? Leaky ducts as well as improperly installed or wet insulation can lead to condensation, mold, decay, and health risks. 45. Is attic wood (rafters, gable walls, roof sheathing) free of any areas darkened by mildew or mold? Darkened wood may indicate excessive moisture levels in attic. 46. Is the attic dry and fresh smelling? Damp and musty smells indicate excess moisture and fungi growth. 47. Are nail heads and nearby surfaces in attic, interior of house, or crawl space free of rusty streaks? If rusty, reduce the moisture level in that area. When building, use galvanized nails to prevent rusting nailheads. Inspect regularly to identify and repair any roof leaks. Crawl Space or Basement 48. In a crawl space or basement house, are all wood and other building materials free of mold, mildew, or discoloration from water stain? Stains may indicate a need to reduce moisture levels. A musty odor indicates mold is present, even if it is not visible. 49. In a crawl space or basement house, is wood underneath a shower, tub, commode, laundry, dishwasher, kitchen or bathroom sink dry and free of mold, mildew, or water discoloration? Push aside floor insulation so you can clearly see area. Plumbing leaks are a common cause of home moisture damage. 5

6 OK Crawl Space or Basement (Continued) 50. Are heating and cooling ducts in crawl space or an unconditioned basement tight fitting and free from leaks, well insulated (to R-13 minimum), taped and sealed with mastic? Is insulation dry? Are the insides of ducts dry? Leaky ducts as well as improperly installed or wet insulation can lead to condensation, mold, decay, and health risks, as well as decreased insulating value. 51. If a crawl space house is damp inside, has an effective moisture barrier been placed to cover all or part of the crawl space ground? Is the moisture barrier still in place after service workers have been in crawl space, or after tools have been taken in and out of crawl space storage? A ground cover such as 6 mil polyethylene can be an effective vapor barrier only if properly installed and maintained. If the crawl space has standing water, see Extension leaflets, HL 252 Controlling External Water Problems for Residences and HL 253 Controlling Internal Moisture Problems In The Home. Practice Cost Checklist Items Management least 16, 18, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 33, 34, 35, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 47, 48, 51 Maintenance moderate 17, 18, 19, 21, 32, 36, 37, 49 Equipment most 15, 20, 23, 24, 28, 30, 31, 38, 44, 50, 51 Summary Regular inspection and maintenance of a home both exterior and interior can help prevent moisture damage to a home as well as moisture-related health risks. The publication, HL 234 Landscape Management Checklist: Preventing Home Moisture Damage provides 15 related tips for home and yard maintenance. Prepared by: Linda L. Redmann, Ph.D., Extension Residential Housing Specialist Appreciation is extended to the following reviewers in the preparation of this checklist: Eleanor Walls, Professor Emeritus, University of Arkansas; Barbara Griffin, Professor Emeritus, Clemson University; Virginia Peart, Professor Emeritus, University of Florida; Anne Sweaney and Dale Dorman, University of Georgia; Sandra Dellinger Zaslow, North Carolina State University; Robert Thee, Pennsylvania Extension Service. Community Sustainability Center 6 The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or disability and is an equal opportunity employer. Clemson University Cooperating with U.S. Department of Agriculture and South Carolina Counties. Issued in Furtherance of Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, Acts of May 8 and June 30,

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