New columnist: Todd Abercrombie

By Todd Abercrombie

Todd Abercrombie works as an energy auditor and is president of EverGreen Home Energy Consultants, Inc based in Peoria and serving all of central Illinois.

Much of central Illinois is still feeling the impact of the rain storms that hit the area recently. Many homeowners have been spent a lot of spare time mopping or pumping water out of basements. As we all attempt to get our homes back to normal operation, it is a good time to assess the damage and come up with a plan to prevent water infiltration for future storms. While some homes have been damaged by flooding of lakes and rivers, many other homes simply have design features that failed to shed water properly during the heavy rainfall. No one wants water in their home because of structural damage that is costly to repair. It is also important to address the potential impact of mold growing in the homes that will impact both the durability of building materials and potentially lead to health problems through poor indoor air quality.

Here are some things to consider to prevent future water damage and to hedge against mold in homes.

1. Monitor the humidity levels of the home. It only takes a few days of maintaining humidity levels of 60% or more to make the conditions ripe for mold to grow. Use a hygrometer in the house to monitor humidity, and place one in the room with water damage. Some hygrometers even feature an alarm that will beep when the 60% relative humidity has been reached.

2. Run the dehumidifier! Even after you have removed the bulk of water in the house, there will still be a lot of moisture gathering in materials such as dry wall and wood framing. The best setup is to have a unit that is piped directly to a drain which allows you continuous protection without the hassle of emptying buckets daily. Be careful not to over-dehumidify. We don’t want to dry out building materials so much that the dry wall or wood flooring start to crack. Stay above 30% relative humidity to be safe.

3. Examine the exterior of the building to evaluate how well it sheds rainwater. Ask yourself the following questions:

· Is the roof in good condition? Are there curled shingles?

· Are the gutters cleaned regularly? Are there sags in the gutters or signs of overflowing gutters? Is there a gutter protection system installed so that you do not have to clean them yourself?

· Are the downspouts secured to the wall?

· Are the kick-outs at the bottom of the downspouts extended at least 5′ from the foundation wall?

· Are there cracks along the window apron that can channel water inside the building?

· Is the ground sloping away from the house? Are their signs of water puddling at low spots around the foundation? Are their signs of holes near the foundation from moles or chipmunks that can channel water?

· Do the window wells have covers? Is there rock or pea gravel at the bottom of the well that is at least 6″ underneath the window?

If the building is ultimately shedding water correctly, then it will prevent more costly mitigation strategies such as foundation repair, drain tile systems, or basement de-watering systems. A high performance home that is air tight and well insulated also has critical water management systems in place to prevent water in the home. The home should be both durable and have good indoor air quality. The chance of mold in a high performance home is extremely low.

Good luck out there, and stay dry!

Todd Abercrombie works as an energy auditor and is president of EverGreen Home Energy Consultants, Inc based in Peoria and serving all of central Illinois. He is a certified professional by the Building Performance Institute (www.bpi.org) and is credentialed by the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org) as a LEED Green Associate.

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