Archive for the ‘moisture’ category

Quick Tip #23 – Fixing a Drip at the Bathroom Fan

July 22nd, 2014

V007 - Bathroom Exhaust Fan ProblemsSo you run the bath exhaust fan to remove moisture – but then you get that drip, drip, drip from the fan on your nice clean rug. Bath exhaust fans should not drip. If yours does, there’s something wrong with it.

First, check the exhaust ducting or tubing; it should be insulated, straight and vented to the outside. There should be a minimum of bends for proper air flow. If there is no insulation around the duct, the problem could be condensation in the cold duct. Adding insulation around the duct may solve the problem.

The fan’s damper can also get stuck in the open position, allowing hot air into the cool duct and creating condensation. Check the small damper at the fan. It should open when the fan is on and close when the fan turns off. This damper responds to fan pressure and gravity. Most vent connectors through the roof or sidewall should also have a damper to keep cold air out, and it should open and close with fan operation.

For many years, contractors installed bath fan vent ducting incorrectly, creating a bend or low loop to catch condensation. This just allows water to accumulate and may cause a large leak when the water lets go.

Quick Tip #8: The Sinking Sidewalk

April 7th, 2014

M001A sinking sidewalk is bad news for you and your guests. Where the pavement is uneven, someone’s bound to trip eventually.

Pavement sinks because exterior concrete is always on the move. Soil settles. Moisture moves soil up and down. In cold climates, frost can heave and lift concrete slabs.

Tearing out, hauling away and replacing an entire sidewalk or driveway is expensive – and hard on the environment when all that concrete ends up in a landfill. But if your concrete is in pretty good shape, you can avoid this process. By “pretty good shape” I mean large sturdy pieces and a surface that is smooth and solid.

If that’s the case, a process called mudjacking can level the concrete slab. For about one-third the cost of replacement, a specialized contractor will drill holes in the slab and pump ground stone or a cement slurry under it. With just a little bit of pressure, the slab will be raised back into position. A few more holes are used to fill voids, and then a concrete mix is applied to patch the holes flush with the surface.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Use Quick Tips for your own content!

Leaks Coming From the Attic

November 18th, 2013


I have frost in the attic of my five-year old, two-story house. I noticed a small leak coming out of the can light in the bathroom. Do I have enough insulation in my attic? I have 2″ x 4″ ceiling rafters, with ~16 inches of blown-in white insulation. I also have a ridge-vent running along the peak. Could heat be exiting through the attic door, exhaust vents, or can light, then melting the frost?



Most folks who study moisture and home systems would identify your issue as an air-leak problem into the attic. Warm, moist air from the heated space is escaping into the attic, and moisture from that air is condensing on the cold roof deck. This may show as ice in very cold weather, and water in warmer weather. The problem is not insulation.


I025 - Air Leaks - Top of Wall

You need to search for air leaks at can lights, plumbing, electrical penetrations, chimneys, trap doors, etc. Seal up the air leaks, and the problem will be solved. Sounds easy? It’s not. You need an experienced contractor, who knows how to locate and seal the leaks. However, stopping theair leaks will save lots of energy.

I suspect you saw the leak at the can light because the light heat was melting the frost. The plastic vapor barrier is also open at the can light. If you want more information on attic insulation and air sealing, read my article Insulate Your Attic – But Don’t Stop There!

–Mr. Fix-It

Discoloration on Wood Windows

March 6th, 2013


We have a black discoloration occurring on the wood windows in our house; I was wondering if you knew what it was, and how to get rid of it. The windows are double-hung, and the house was built in 1995. I assumed it was mold and moisture-related, because I noticed it in the bathroom. But, I have since found it in small patches on other windows, both upstairs and downstairs. I have tried many cleaning solutions, including TSP and a bleach/water mix, but none seem to work. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



If the stains are a dark discoloration that cannot be removed from the surface, you have water damage in the wood of the window. If the TSP removes the stain, it may be dirt or mold. Once the surface finish is damaged by water, the water will discolor the wood. So, if the finish is gone and you have a dark stain, you have water damaged wood.The fix is to refinish the wood by sanding, bleaching, and more sanding. Then, stain and varnish to back to the original finish. Not an easy job.


Vapor Barriers

February 21st, 2013


For a basement wall finish in an existing home, do I need to put a vapor barrier between the insulation and the exterior wall, or below the drywall? Is it even necessary? We are finishing a room in our basement. Any other tips for us?



When finishing a basement (in Wisconsin), the current requirement is no vapor barrier. This concept allows a wall structure to dry if water ever leaks into the basement behind the wall. The moisture can move through the wall and evaporate to the inside heated space. A vapor barrier would block the vapor/moisture.

UGL DrylokWhen finishing a basement it is very important to make sure the basement is dry. I would also caulk the joint between the wall and the floor, and seal the walls with a waterproofing paint like UGL Drylok. Moisture always moves through masonry products, and you don’t want invisible vapor moving though the wall. Even though they look dry, moisture can move through walls and evaporate into vapor that you never see.

I would also seal the floor with a clear concrete sealer and put the carpet on a product called ComfortBase from Homasote. ComfortBase will provide some insulation and cushion the floor under the carpet, while adding only ½-inch thickness.


Frost on One Side of Garage

February 17th, 2013


We have a new home. With the cold, windy weather, we have noticed frost on the screw heads in the drywall garage ceiling edge. This issue is on the north side; none of the other walls have this problem. The garage is unheated, and the walls/ceiling are insulated. There is also a vapor barrier over the insulation. My husband says cold air is coming through the outside soffit, and there is no way to insulate this. There is also an electrical switch with frost on the screw heads on that wall. What can we do? Should we be concerned?



I014 - Air Bypass at Insulation - OverhangThe problem is caused because the screw heads are colder than the dew point temperature in the garage. In fact, the screw heads are below freezing so the moisture condenses and freezes. You have two solutions – raise the temperature of the screws or reduce the relative humidity in the garage.

Assuming you don’t want to raise the temperature in the garage, you can try to raise the temperature of the screws. I think your husband is correct – cold air is leaking into this wall area, either at penetrations, gaps, or through the roof venting. The cold air blows in and cools the wall.

For the attic venting, you should check above the soffit vents and make sure there are air chutes that direct the ventilation air over the insulation. If it blows into the side of the insulation, it will chill the wall. At times the best solution is to seal the air chute from the top of the wall to the roof deck with spray foam insulation. You want the air flowing over the insulation.

You should also look for any exterior gaps that may need sealing – perhaps around light fixtures, at the lower edge of the siding and around windows and doors. Any penetration in the wall and house wrap is suspect.

You could heat the garage; that would solve the problem, but I don’t suggest that. Lowering the relative humidity in the garage is virtually impossible, however you could sweep out snow and ice that may drop off your car.


Water Leaks by Basement Foundation

October 1st, 2010


My tri-level home is about 35 years old. We have water in our basement coming from the foundation between the lower level and basement common wall, and the front basement wall. The basement wall is under a 6’x23′ cement slab across the front of the house. Whom do I contact to resolve this issue?


Think about the specific symptoms you see when the leak is occurs. If it only leaks when it rains, you may have a problem with surface water, surface drainage, gutters, downspouts, sump-pump discharge, or storm sewer lines. If you have a sump pump, is it running and moving water? Does it run when the leak occurs?

A leak at the floor/wall joint is caused by too much water flow toward the area, and a possible hampered drain tile system. Water leaking higher on the wall is often caused by surface drainage issues.

I suggest you contact an independent basement inspector. In the Milwaukee area, Mike Shadid (414-379-1265) and Chuck Weber (414-536-1300) are good options.

Basement Specialists Inc. is a great basement repair company. However, be careful; some basement repair companies will send their sales folks to evaluate the problem, or say that they provide an “independent” inspector who actually works for the repair company.

Black Discoloration on Wood Windows

July 13th, 2010


We have a black discoloration occurring on the wood part of the windows in our house. Do you know what it is and how to get rid of it? The windows are double-hung and the house was built in 1995. I assumed it was mold and moisture-related because I noticed it first in the bathroom, but now I have found it in small patches on other windows. I have tried many cleaning solutions including TSP and a bleach-water mix, but none seem to work. It occurs both in winter and summer, with windows open or closed.


If the stains are a dark discoloration that cannot be removed from the surface, you have water damage in the wood. If the TSP removes the stain it may be dirt or mold. Once the surface finish is damaged by water, the water will discolor the wood. If the finish is gone and you have a dark stain, you have water-damaged wood.

The fix is to refinish the wood by sanding, bleaching, and more sanding. Then stain and varnish back to the original finish. It’s not an easy job. Don’t get too worried about the “mold” word. Issues related to mold have been greatly exaggerated by many folks in recent years. Go to the State of Wisconsin or university websites for accurate information about mold in a home – not testers or contractors who make money on mold.

White Stains on Slate After Flooding

April 27th, 2010

We have slate on the floor under and around a portable fireplace. Last winter we had some flooding in that room, and it seems that the water caused white stains to appear on the slate. We tried Lime-Away to no avail. Do you have any answers how we can remove or cover the white stains?


When white stains appear on stone or masonry surfaces it is usually efflorescence (salt and lime stains). The stain is from salt and lime in the masonry materials (grout, block, or concrete), and the stains come to the surface with water movement.

You could try a stronger cleaner. Scrub the area with a strong solution of MEX and hot water. MEX is a detergent that is also used for cleaning masonry. If the stain remains, test a small area with UGL ETCH. This is an acid cleaner for efflorescence. You need to test an area because it may also discolor the slate. Finally, you could go to a store that deals in tile and slate and find a proprietary cleaner for slate or stains.

Should I Install Sub-Floor Panels When Finishing a Basement?

March 25th, 2010

We are installing a rec-room in our basement. Some of the books I have read recommend installing sub-floor panels over the concrete floor in order to provide extra warmth and help prevent moisture. Is it worth the extra expense? If so, is there a brand you would recommend?


ComfortBase from HomosoteWhen installing carpet or floor covering on a concrete basement floor, always try to add some type of insulation. The concrete slab is in contact with the damp soil. This will make the floor covering cool and subject to condensation, resulting in a musty, mildew smell. A little insulation will make a huge difference.

I suggest ComfortBase from Homosote. It is a 1/2-inch-thick resilient fiber-board that cushions hard concrete and provides a thermal break. The single-ply concrete flooring system is perfect for finishing basements or improving concrete slab floors, while also increasing the floor surface temperature. ComfortBase is easy to apply over concrete floors with adhesive, or floating the panels on the surface.

You can only build a rec-room if the basement is totally dry. It’s a great product but a little hard to find at times. Many home improvement folks don’t know about the it, so you can educate them.