Gauging SeverityOne big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay.
Loan Program RequirementsBeyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements.
Negotiating RepairsIn the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.)
Market StrengthThe strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs.
Need Some Help?Regardless of whether you’re buying or selling, having a seasoned pro on your side can make navigating repair negotiations a lot easier. Sign up for HomeKeepr for free to find the help you need to ensure the deal you deserve.
Because civilization is built on neighbors being civilized to each other.
If you have a problem, talk to your neighbors firstDoes your neighbor’s music keep you up at night? Are their kids bothering your dog? Talk to them. Having an in-person confrontation can feel scary, particularly if you need to say something you’re worried your neighbor won’t like, but talking things through face-to-face should be the first thing you try, says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “Go with a polite, non-confrontational attitude and you might be surprised how well most people respond,” she says. “Also, a plate of cookies never hurts.” If talking face-to-face doesn’t work try these 12 steps for dealing with bad neighbors. As a last resort, escalate issues to your HOA or local authorities.
Have a neighborhood safety plan“Wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes—you never know what will happen these days and if you ever get stuck in an emergency situation your neighbors are going to be the people you turn to first,” says Julie Bowman, MPH, emergency preparedness and public health expert. This is why it’s so important to set up a safety plan with your neighbors, she says. It can be as simple as printing out a map and marking where people are who will need help―like the elderly—to as complex as a neighborhood watch program or more. What you need will vary by community but start with these tips for making your own neighborhood plan from the National Crime Prevention Council. This is what to do if your neighbor’s tree has grown into your yard.
Look for ways to help neighbors instead of seeing them as problemsDoes your elderly neighbor have an unkempt yard? Does the single mom next door always leave her garbage cans out? Are the kids unruly at the bus stop? Instead of gossiping or complaining, reach out and see if you can find a way to help—for instance, mowing your neighbor’s lawn, bringing her trash cans in when you bring in yours, or offering to stand outside with the kids until the bus comes. “Often there are very simple things you can do to solve the problem and not only will you brighten someone’s day but there may come a time when you need help and you’ll want your neighbors to be there for you,” Gottsman says.
Smile and waveThanks to the Internet we’re interacting with people around the world more than ever but that may mean we’re also interacting much less with the people right next door to us. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to change that, says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. “A smile, a wave, a brief exchange of pleasantries, can inspire a lot of goodwill with your neighbors,” she says. It doesn’t take much and makes the neighborhood a much happier place overall.
Learn your neighbors’ namesThis is Good Neighboring 101 but you’d be surprised how many people have lived next to someone for years and don’t know the first thing about them. Good neighbors will make the little extra effort to learn their neighbors’ names and a few things about their lives, like how long they’ve lived in the area, where they work, or if they have kids or pets, Tsai says. The payoff can be great. It will make you feel more connected to those around you but it can also help make your neighborhood safer—neighbors who know each other are more likely to watch out for each other. One of the best defenses against a home break-in is a neighbor who knows your schedule and notices something out of the ordinary. Check out 15 more ways you can be a good neighbor.
Pick up your dog’s poop“It’s just plain rude to leave dog excrement in public neighborhood areas or in other people’s yards,” says Erin Askeland, certified pet behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow. “Not only is it rude, but it’s also gross; dog excrement can transmit diseases, damage plants and grass, and, let’s be honest, doesn’t have the most pleasant smell.” Good neighbors understand that it is their responsibility as pet owners to clean up after their animals, she says.
Give your neighbors the benefit of the doubtDo the teens next door have crazy hair and tattoos? Does the neighbor across the way practice a “weird” religion? Does the guy next door drive a big white van? Instead of assuming your neighbors are hoodlums, terrorists, or serial killers, give them the benefit of the doubt, Gottsman says. This doesn’t mean ignoring when people do bad things or putting yourself in unsafe situations, it simply means seeing people as people first and looking for other possible explanations for their behavior besides negative ones. You don’t have to be their best friend but you should treat them with respect and kindness, no matter what, Tsai says.
Maintain your fences“Good fences make good neighbors” isn’t just a cute Instagram quote, it’s really good advice as having appropriate boundaries—both physical and personal—can head off many of the typical neighbor fights, Tsai says. “It’s totally fine to say no sometimes. In fact, saying yes to everything your neighbors ask of will likely end up negatively impacting your relationship due to resentment and exhaustion,” she explains. Start with these 10 ways to build trust with your neighbors.
Don’t fight with your neighbors on social mediaKeyboard warriors are everywhere these days, using neighborhood apps and social media groups to share their indignation over everything from politics to teenagers trick-or-treating to dog poop. While this might garner you a lot of support, it doesn’t do much, if anything, to solve the problem and just marks you as a complainer, Gottsman says. “Hiding behind a keyboard is a very passive-aggressive way to deal with problems you may have with your neighbors,” she says. If you have a problem with a particular neighbor, talk to them offline and certainly don’t call people out by name on social media, she says. If your issue is more widespread—say a dangerous intersection by a bus stop—you’ll get better results calling the school, the bus company, the HOA, or the police directly. Besides, engaging on social media in a negative way could make you one of these real-life nightmare neighbors.
RSVP promptly to invitationsIf your neighbor is kind enough to invite you to their picnic, birthday party, game night, graduation party, or another event then you should be kind enough to give them a prompt answer, says Emilie Dulles, a protocol expert and founder of Dulles Designs. Unfortunately, it’s become very common today for people to either not RSVP at all or to hold back on responding, waiting to see who else is coming first, but this makes it very hard on hosts, she says.
Mind your mannersWe often reserve our best manners for people we’re trying to impress, like a boss or potential partner, and let them slide when we’re at home. While it’s fine to be more casual with your neighbors than your coworkers, you should always be polite, Tsai says. This means saying “please” and “thank you” or “excuse me” and other niceties. Even if you find them annoying or rude, set a good example. Civilization is built on people being civilized to each other! Do you know these 10 things your neighbors won’t tell you?
Stay positive about your community online
Neighborhood apps, Facebook groups, and community message boards have replaced the backyard fence of older days, becoming the main way neighbors share information. These can be a great tool, as long as you remember your manners online as well. “The whole point of these groups is to build community and camaraderie so keep your posts and comments positive and productive,” Gottsman says. “Before posting something, ask yourself, ‘What is the benefit of this?’ and ‘How would I feel reading this?’” And if someone is mean to you online? “Take the high road and simply reply, ‘Let’s discuss this in person,’” she says. Can you guess the things your neighbor wants you to STOP doing?
Do your best to follow community rulesMany fights between neighbors start over a disagreement about the rules and how someone is or isn’t following them. Most of these can be avoided by simply doing your best to abide by the standards set by your neighborhood, Gottsman says. Whether that’s taking down holiday decorations by the end of January or not playing music outdoors after 10 or keeping your garbage cans out of sight, these were things your neighbors have decided are important so you should make a good faith effort to follow them, even if they seem silly to you. If you live in an area with an HOA, these rules were likely spelled out in your signed contract. Otherwise, you might have to dig a little deeper to figure out what the expected norms are in your neighborhood.
What is a Crawl Space?A crawl space is a small space, ranging from one to three feet in height, that resides between the bottom floor of your home and the ground. A crawl space provides extra room for electrical wiring, plumbing components, and HVAC equipment. As the height of the crawl space is limited, getting into the area must be done by crawling, either on the stomach or the hands and knees (hence the name). For those searching for homes, or who own homes in close proximity to water or swampy areas, like Florida, exploring crawl spaces can be a necessary part of a home inspection.
What’s the Difference Between Crawl Space vs. Basement?Crawl spaces are typically used in damp climates, where the ground is regularly too wet for basement construction. Supporting the home off of the ground keeps it away from moisture that could cause damage. In coastal areas where the soil is sandy, a crawl space can alleviate potential basement problems, like excessive water buildup that could put pressure on basement walls. Crawl spaces are also sometimes preferred in construction when a basement is too costly. Installing a crawl space is cheaper than installing a basement. A basement is a popular type of foundation that can add space and functionality to a home. Basements are often used as storage space, living areas, or both. A basement combines elements of a slab and crawl space. The floor in a basement is very similar to a slab, and the support system used under the basement floor is the same as what is used in a crawl space. Although basements can be a great addition to a home, they cannot be built in areas with high moisture levels or unsettled soil. They also happen to be the most expensive type of foundation to build.
Crawl Space Solutions for Common Problems
Problem: MoistureHomes with poor ventilation are more susceptible to crawl space issues than others. Without regular evaluation, you may not know there is a problem until it’s too late. Signs of excessive moisture throughout the home are often readily noticeable, but signs of moisture in your crawl space may be harder to detect. Unfortunately, moisture in a crawl space can be just as problematic, causing complications such as mildew, dust mites, mold, and wood rot. When there is nowhere left for moisture to go within a crawl space, it can then travel into your insulation, flooring, and walls to create even larger problems. Crawl spaces with exposed dirt most commonly have trouble with an excess of moisture.
Solution: Vapor BarrierA vapor barrier is one of the best ways to protect your home against the encroachment of moisture. Essentially a large plastic sheet placed over the base of a crawl space, vapor barriers are intended to fully cover any exposed dirt. While this doesn’t completely eliminate moisture, it does slow the process significantly. At 50 to 70 cents per square foot, sheet plastic is a cost-effective barrier for moisture in your crawl space. A vapor barrier can be a DIY project if you’re willing to get down and dirty, but the labor that goes into covering the entire ground area can be challenging to accomplish on your own. You’ll need a friend to help you pass the rolls of sheet plastic back and forth through the crawl space, or if this sounds too labor-intensive, a professional contractor may be the way to go.
Solution: EncapsulationIf a vapor barrier alone isn’t enough to tame moisture and ventilation problems, encapsulation can be a great alternative. The first step in this process involves a vapor barrier coupled with sealing tape and coverage of walls and ceiling areas. A complete encapsulation includes drain tile, a sump pit and pump, concrete, insulation, and a dehumidifier to properly condition the air. While placing a vapor barrier can be done independently, encapsulation is best handled by a professional. The installation process takes expertise, and installing a dehumidifier is best left to a trained technician. Hiring a contractor for this work costs about $5,500 on average.
Problem: Energy LossA crawl space isn’t a livable part of the home, but insulation is still important to keep the heat in. Crawl spaces can be a major source of energy loss. If you find yourself running your furnace all winter long, driving up high energy bills, yet still feel cold on the ground floor of your home, your crawl space could be the issue. If your crawl space isn’t properly insulated from the cold, you could be wasting energy and driving up your utility bills.
Solution: InsulationInsulating your crawl space depends on the general climate in the area. In warm or dry areas, insulation can be limited to just the area between the floor joists. However, in subfreezing temperatures, insulating the walls and sealing off the crawl space is most effective. A professional can evaluate the state of your crawl space, make a recommendation, and handle the insulation process.
Problem: PestsRodents and insects can be a problem anywhere in your home, and a crawl space is no exception. Crawl spaces can easily become a dwelling for pests if they are not properly maintained. Since most homeowners do not spend much time in their crawl space, it may be harder to determine if there is a pest problem. Pests such as mice, rats, termites, carpenter ants, spiders and more have the ability to damage insulation, crawl through vapor barriers, dig into wood, and even tunnel into your main living spaces.
Solution: Pest ControlProper crawl space maintenance, including encapsulation, can keep your property safe from pests. When all entrances and exits are sealed, the possibility of rodents and insects gaining entry to your home is almost impossible. If you do see signs of pests, partnering with an exterminator can treat problems at the source.
Crawl Space Inspection ChecklistA crawl space inspection is typically included in a standard home inspection when buying or selling a house. This is an area where issues tend to arise and can throw a wrench in the home sale. Both home sellers and buyers should be aware of the state of the crawl space in order to mitigate any potential problems prior to the sale. Here are the red flags that professionals look for during a crawl space inspection:
- Electrical wiring issues
- Plumbing issues
- Moisture (standing water, damp insulation or warped building materials)
- Pests (bugs, termites, rats, mice)
- Mold and mildew
- Ventilation issues
- Cracks in the foundation
Moisture in basements: causes and solutionsBy John Carmody; Brent Anderson; and Richard Stone, Extension educator University of Minnesota
A problem that can damage your health and homeMoisture problems in existing basements are very common, but often are not understood or properly treated. In a basement that is seldom used and separate from the living spaces above, this may not present a great problem. However, most basements in Minnesota are connected to the rest of the house through ductwork or other openings. In addition, basements are increasingly used as finished living and bedroom spaces. In these cases, moisture problems are not only annoying and uncomfortable, but can lead to significant health problems. Molds and mildew can grow in damp carpets and beneath wall coverings. Finishing a basement without first dealing with the moisture problems can result in making health conditions worse and lead to significant damage as well. Basement water problems are solvable, but there is a cost to doing it right.
Understanding the problemTo correct basement moisture problems, it's necessary to understand where the water is coming from and what mechanisms permit it to enter the basement. There are just three sources of moisture:
- Liquid water from rain or ground-water.
- Interior moisture sources such as humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, bathrooms and cooking, as well as the moisture in concrete after construction.
- Exterior humid air that enters the basement and condenses on cooler surfaces.
- Liquid water flow.
- Capillary suction.
- Vapor diffusion.
- Air movement.
- Water trickling out of walls.
- Standing water on floor.
- Saturated base of concrete block walls; a ring of dampness.
- Damp, humid air.
- Condensation on cold walls and floor in summer.
- Odor, mold and mildew.
- Deterioration of carpet or wood.
- Rot and decay of wood headers, joists, sill plates and columns.
- Staining and blistering of wall covering.
- Efflorescence, spalling of concrete or masonry.
Basement moisture sources
Rain and groundwaterIn a 1-inch rain, 1,250 gallons of water fall on the roof of a 2,000-square-foot house. Without proper grading, gutters and downspouts, some of this water flows into the basement. The below-grade water table can also rise due to flooding or seasonal site conditions. This is why drain tile systems are recommended around basement walls even in sandy or gravel soils.
Interior moisture sourcesMoisture is generated inside of basements from people and their activities. Common sources are humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, showering and cooking. When basements are finished, these activities increase. Another source that can be thought of as internal is the moisture contained in new concrete after construction. In a typical house, this can amount to 0.2 gallons per square foot of wall, and 0.1 gallons per square foot of floor. It may take many months or even years for a new house to come into equilibrium with its environment.
Ventilation with humid outside airIn the summertime, basement windows may be opened for fresh air. If the outside air is warm and humid, it will condense on the cool basement wall and floor surfaces. Many homeowners see this moisture and believe they are experiencing basement wall leakage, when in fact the accumulated moisture is from condensation.
Moisture movement mechanisms
Capillary suctionCapillary suction moves moisture through porous materials. The water can be drawn upward through small pores in the concrete footing and slab and laterally through walls. This effect creates the ring of dampness seen at the base of many basement walls. This is very common at cold joints. Water can rise by capillary draw significantly as shown below: Soil type and amount of capillary rise:
- Gravel - Less than a few inches.
- Sand - 1 to 8 feet.
- Silt - 12 to 16 feet.
- Clay - 12 to 20 feet.
Air leakage through walls and floorIn most houses, a stack effect is created because warm air rises. This induces a negative pressure on the basement and draws moist air in through any cracks or openings in the foundation including open sump pits. For this reason, sumps should have an airtight cover. With a concrete block foundation, moist air is drawn through the block cores, especially if they are left open at the top course.
Vapor diffusion through foundation wallsVapor diffusion is the movement of moisture in the vapor state through a material. It's dependent on the permeability of the material and the driving force of vapor pressure differential. In a basement, vapor can diffuse from the wetter ground through concrete walls and floors toward the dryer basement interior. Vapor retarders such as foundation waterproofing and polyethylene slow down this process.
Typical causes of basement moisture problems
Inadequate gradingPROBLEM: If the ground around a foundation is level or slopes toward the house, water is directed into the basement. The soil next to the house is often backfilled without proper compaction and later settles. This is especially true under stoops where water can collect next to the basement wall. SOLUTION: Place earth around the house so that it slopes away from the foundation wall a minimum of 1 inch per foot for at least 6 feet.
Defective or missing gutters and downspoutsPROBLEM: Missing gutters and downspouts cause rainwater to be directed toward the foundation perimeter. A downspout without an extender or splashblock is worse than no downspout at all. It is depositing the huge volume of rainwater from the roof in a single concentrated location near the basement. SOLUTION: Place a minimum of one downspout per 50 linear feet of roof eave. Extensions should discharge water at least 4 feet beyond the wall. Sloped concrete sidewalks around basements are very effective in directing rain runoff.
Improperly designed window wellsPROBLEM: Window wells are like a drain right next to the basement wall. Often they are improperly built so that any water is directed toward, rather than away from the foundation. SOLUTION: Window wells should be filled from the footing to the window sill with 3/8- to 3/4-inch coarse aggregate. A supplemental drain tile extension should extend from the footing to the base of the window well.
Ineffective drain tile and sump pitPROBLEM: Many existing houses simply have no subsurface drainage system. This comes from a time when basements were not used as habitable space. In other cases, the systems don't work for a variety of reasons, such as collapse of the pipe, clogging of the pipe with silt and/or tree roots or a broken connection to the sump. The sump pit usually contains a pump designed to lift the water to the ground surface outside the foundation wall. This pump can fail.
Improper drainage with underslab ductsPROBLEM: If heating ducts are installed beneath a basement floor slab, the drainage system may be inappropriately left at a level higher than the duct. In effect, the duct becomes the drainage system. With standing water within the heating duct, there are potentially serious health consequences from mold contamination. SOLUTION: Heating ducts placed beneath the basement floor must be insulated, watertight and sloped to collection points for drainage and cleaning. A drain tile and coarse aggregate can be placed under the ductwork.
Structural cracksPROBLEM: Concrete and concrete block foundations usually develop some cracks. They can be severe if floor joists are not properly connected to the foundation wall, thus permitting the wall to move. Also, soil settling causes cracking. Places where walls meet rigid structures like the fireplace often crack as well. Usually, drainage removes the water from cracks, but repair may be necessary. SOLUTION: Proper footing design and proper connection between the foundation wall and the structure above are required (e.g. anchor bolts or straps at the sill plate and floor joists nailed to the sill plate).
An overview of solutions to basement moisture problemsThe best way to approach any building problem is to first do the things that are easy and low cost. Then proceed in a logical order doing the next least costly technique with the most positive likely result. With moisture problems, the best approach is almost always to remove or control the source of the moisture, not to try to stop it at the last line of defense.
- First, the simplest and least costly techniques are to remove excessive internal moisture sources in the basement (humidifiers, cooking) and ventilate other sources (clothes dryer, bathroom).
- Second, if condensation in the summer is the problem, do not ventilate the basement directly with warm, humid air. Ventilation through an air conditioning system or with a dessicant-type heat exchanger is recommended.
Dehumidification is not a permanent solutionDehumidification can be used as a means of reducing the symptoms of humidity and odor in a basement, but it is not a permanent or complete solution. In fact, if a dehumidifier is used in a basement with moisture problems, it may cause greater damage. By drying out the basement air, moisture is drawn into the basement more rapidly causing efflorescence and spalling of concrete and further damage to interior finishes.
Interior membrane or coating is a temporary solutionIt is appealing to solve a basement moisture problem with a membrane or coating on the inside. It's less expensive than a drainage system and seems to work for a time in some cases. The water is still there, however, and eventually these systems deteriorate or simply move the water to another pathway into the basement.
Recommended approachEvaluate gutters, downspouts and surface grading: The recommended approach after removing interior moisture sources is to evaluate the gutters, downspouts and surface grading around the house. These should be corrected first and may solve the problem. Interior or exterior drainage system: Then, if a moisture problem persists, proceed with an interior or exterior drainage system. All of these techniques are described below. If your goal is to finish a basement that has water problems, it is recommended to first deal with the water problem. Sub-slab depressurization system: An active sub-slab depressurization system including a washed-rock layer below the slab is recommended. This draws moist air from beneath the slab and may help to reduce the amount of moisture vapor that enters the home through openings in the slab. It also assists in controlling radon and other soil gases. Sumps and other open connections to the soil outside the foundation and below the slab should be blocked and sealed. More information on soil gas management can be found in "Building Radon Out," a booklet available in electronic format (PDF) from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Step by step process
- Control interior moisture sources.
- If summertime, don't ventilate with outside air.
- Correct grading, gutter and downspout system.
- Provide an interior or exterior drainage system.
- A dehumidifier can help reduce the symptoms of humidity and odor, but doesn't solve the problem.
- A membrane or coating on the interior without providing drainage generally won't solve the problem in the long term.
- Walls must be dry before insulating. Slabs must be warm and dry before carpeting.
Can a house be too airtight? No it cannot. The difference between air barriers and vapour barriers is often confused. Also confused, is which one is more important.
The difference between air barriers and vapour barriersThe job of a vapor barrier is to prevent vapor diffusion, and the job of an air barrier is to stop air leakage through differences in air pressure. A wall system should have one vapor barrier, but can have many air barriers. A vapor barrier can act as a very effective air barrier, but an air barrier does not (and should not) always stop vapor from difusing. A wool sweater for example, is a good choice of insulation and will keep you warm when there is no air movement, but will allow the wind to howl right through it. A wool sweater with a raincoat will keep you warm but hold moisture inside and soak your insulation. A wool sweater with a windbreaker will keep you warm, stop the wind from stealing your heat, yet allow moisture to difuse through it. So think of a windbreaker as an air barrier, and a raincoat as a vapor barrier. That is about as far as I can stretch the human to house analogy, hope it helps. Since warm air expands, there is more space between its molecules compared to cold air. Water vapour is found in that space. When warm air cools as it passes through your walls, it contracts and squeezes out the moisture, leaving you with condensation. In order to prevent condensation from forming, a vapour barrier should be placed on the warm side of your insulation to stop warm, moist air from condensing on a cold surface inside your wall. In cold climates like Canada, for most of the year the vapour barrier should be on the inside of the insulation. In hot climates like the southern U.S. for example, vapor barrier should be installed on the outside of the insulation, especially where there's air-conditioning involved to prevent condensation and mold. In both cases, the vapour barrier is tasked with preventing warm, humid air from shedding its moisture as it meets a cool surface, no matter which direction it is travelling. The most important thing to realize is that there is no fixed rule regarding vapour barriers. Building practices should always be determined by the climate in which you are building.
How water vapour travels:There are two main ways moisture will pass through your walls that you should be concerned about — air leakage and vapour diffusion. These are two completely different things, with two completely separate solutions. Vapour diffusion is the process of moisture passing through breathable building materials, like drywall and insulation. Vapour barriers are there to prevent that from happening. Air leakage is due to air pressure differences between indoors and out, which forces air through any holes in your air barrier.
Where the problem arises:The dewpoint in a wall is the point where the drop in temperature causes air to contract, and water vapour turns to liquid. Since the warmer the air is the more moisture it can hold, where the dewpoint will be in your wall is determined by the difference in temperature from indoor to out, and the amount of moisture in the air (RH - Relative Humidity). The job of both air barriers and vapour barriers is to prevent moisture from forming at that critical point, they just do it in completely different ways.
Vapour barriersThe rule for vapour barrier installation in cold climates is to have it on the interior with at least 2/3rds of your insulation on the outside of the vapour barrier. Air barriers on the other hand can come in the form of house wrap (WRBs), tightly sealed sheathing, insulation that slows airflow, and well-sealed gypsum board (drywall). To explain this further, Gypsum board (drywall) is vapour permeable, but stops air flow. This means water vapour can diffuse through it, but air cannot pass through it. So if you were to have a home with no windows and no vapour barrier but simply a sealed gypsum board box all around, you would have an airtight seal with no moisture carried through by air transport. The key factor here, is that the amount of vapour molecules that will pass through that gypsum board box is insignificant compared to the moisture that will pass through if you cut just one small hole in it and had an air pressure difference.
Can a house be too airtight? No it cannot.Unfortunately, air barriers are really not given the attention they should be in regards to the building envelope. In large residential developments, air barriers are often not even on the radar. Crews come and go, and in the interest of mass production, some standard practices can be detrimental to the performance of the final wall system. A proper air barrier is one of the most important elements of a successful building enclosure, and one of the most overlooked. Given the amount of heat loss due to air transmission and the potential moisture damage from air leaks, air barriers should be getting a lot more attention than they are.
- Green Building Advisor - Understanding Air Barriers, Vapor Barriers and Drainage planes
- Building Science Corporation - Air Barriers vs. Vapour Barriers
Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas that occurs naturally through combustion, or, the process of burning. Low exposure to carbon monoxide can cause symptoms similar to the flu. In high doses, exposure to carbon monoxide can be lethal.Many people who are exposed to carbon monoxide are exposed indoors in their own home. Any appliance that burns fuel indoors could be a potential source for carbon monoxide including gas stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters, furnaces, grills, generators, car engines and fireplaces. Anyone can be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, but some people are more likely to get sick than others. The elderly, infants, people with heart problems, people with breathing problems and people with anemia are all more likely to experience ill effects from exposure to carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide has been called the silent killer, because it is completely undetectable by human senses. People who experience carbon monoxide poisoning often have no idea what is happening to them. There are many ways that you can protect yourself and other people in your home from carbon monoxide exposure.
Table of Contents
- Dangers of Carbon Monoxide
- Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Home
- Stay Educated, Stay Aware
Dangers of Carbon MonoxideCarbon monoxide is invisible and difficult to detect. Awareness about carbon monoxide poisoning can save lives. Carbon monoxide often enters the home via an appliance that is malfunctioning or an engine that has been left running. People who are exposed to carbon monoxide will experience varying symptoms. Knowing what to look for can help you avoid exposure, and take action when a problem occurs.
Warning Signs in the HomeAlthough carbon monoxide is itself impossible to smell, hear or see, some warning signs can still be detected. Condensation on the windows, for example, could be an indication of a problem. This occurs because carbon monoxide and water vapor are both byproducts of inefficient combustion. When water vapor appears suddenly and inexplicably in the home, carbon monoxide may be present as well. In some cases, the appliance that is burning fuel inefficiently may produce a hot or stuffy smell. Appliances that leak carbon monoxide may also develop a sooty stain. A pilot light that goes out frequently could be an indication of a problem, as is slow burning fuel. In the case of a fireplace, soot may fall down from the chimney into the firebox. You might also notice lack of an upward draft.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide PoisoningIn mild cases, symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can seem very flu-like. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the person and also on the level of exposure. Symptoms of mild exposure include:
- Stomach pain
- Burning eyes
- Difficulty breathing
What to Do When You Suspect Carbon Monoxide PoisoningVictims often cannot think clearly once poisoning has set in, which makes self-diagnosis challenging. One of the tell-tale signs is that pets and other people in the house will experience symptoms of poisoning at the same time. In the event of exposure, getting fresh air should be the first priority. Once outside, contact emergency services. Tell the authorities your assumed diagnosis so they can test you for exposure. Do not go back into your house until the air inside has cleared and the environment is safe. If you believe that your exposure is due to a problem with a gas-powered appliance, have your gas company inspect your house and gas line. If someone you love is exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning, call 9-1-1. Be aware that a rescue attempt in a carbon-monoxide rich environment could lead to a dangerous or even fatal level of exposure. Ask emergency responders for next steps before attempting to rescue a loved one yourself.
Carbon Monoxide DetectorsBecause symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can look like so many other ailments, and because carbon monoxide is basically impossible to detect, carbon monoxide detectors are an essential part of protecting yourself and those in your home from poisoning. Many people have at least one carbon monoxide detector in their home. Here's what you need to know to stay safe.
How Does a Carbon Monoxide Detector Work?A simple reaction causes the alarm to sound. Carbon monoxide detectors come with sensors that measure the parts per million (PPM) of the carbon monoxide (CO) in the atmosphere. If the machine detects high amounts of carbon monoxide in the air, the alarm sounds. The higher the concentration, the faster the alarm will sound. 9 PPM is common in homes, but levels of 10 PPM and over can cause health stress for some higher-risk individuals. A normal healthy adult may be at risk at around 36 PPM and up. Carbon monoxide detectors also come with an LED light that indicates the unit is functioning. You'll be able to tell your carbon monoxide detector is functioning by watching the alarm for the light to flash, or by pushing the test button. If pushing the test button does not cause the alarm to sound, then the batteries may be dead or the unit may need to be replaced. Most detectors need to be replaced every 5 to 7 years. Check your specific unit for an expiration date or a date of manufacture, then replace the unit when the time comes.
How Many Carbon Monoxide Alarms Should I Have? In What Location?You almost can't have too many carbon monoxide detectors. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends putting carbon monoxide detectors in a number of places in your home. Put them outside your bedrooms, in your hallway, in your kitchen, near your furnace and on every floor of your house. If you have an enclosed attached garage, put a detector just inside or near the door to your garage. If you're hard of hearing, make sure carbon monoxide detectors are dispersed so you will hear them from where ever they go off. Here is another resource of general DO's and DONT'S when it comes to carbon monoxide detector placement.
What Type of Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should You Install?There are multiple types of carbon monoxide detectors. You can choose the type that's right for you, your budget and your household.
- Battery operated. These are basic carbon monoxide detectors that can be installed easily with a simple screw.
- Hardwired. Hardwired carbon monoxide detectors are connected to a home's electrical grid; they rely on battery backup when the power goes out.
- Digital. Digital carbon monoxide detectors show the level of carbon monoxide in the home so homeowners can monitor the level of CO in the air.
- Smart. Smart carbon monoxide detectors can be connected to a home's wireless network, so levels of CO can be monitored even from a distance.
MaintenanceOnce the carbon monoxide detectors have been put up, test them monthly and replace their batteries annually. Be sure to check the expiration dates or dates of manufacture when you replace the batteries, to ensure that the detectors are replaced when the time is right. Like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors will chirp when their batteries start to go dead. When the unit detects carbon monoxide, the alarm will sound. No amount of replacing the battery will stop the unit from beeping if there is carbon monoxide in the air. Don't assume that there's a false alarm if the unit goes off.
What to Do When the Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes OffWhen a carbon monoxide detector goes off in your home, leave the house calmly. Take everyone in your house outside with you, and if possible, bring your cell phone as well. Once outside, check everyone for signs of possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Contact the authorities to alert them to the problem, and if people from your household are showing signs of a health problem, tell the authorities while you're on the phone. Hopefully emergency personnel will come evaluate your home for possible carbon monoxide leaks. If the authorities are not coming, contact an appliance repair person, plumber, HVAC contractor or someone from the gas company to check on the problem for you. If the carbon monoxide detector goes off and the proper help is unable to find sources of carbon monoxide in your home, the problem may have dissipated or you may have had a false alarm. The following tips will help you avoid false alarms in the future:
- Relocate your carbon monoxide detectors to an area 10 feet away from sources of humidity and 20 feet away from fossil fuel burning appliances.
- Replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are functioning properly.
- Replace the units altogether if you have reason to believe that they're no longer working.
Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at HomeSometimes it is not a fuel-burning appliance that causes the problem, but the person operating the appliance. It's very important to use best practices when operating your home's appliances, fixtures and heat sources. Be aware of the things you could do that would potentially put you at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. The more you know about carbon monoxide and how it is produced, the better.
Things That Cause Carbon Monoxide BuildupAn array of things can cause carbon monoxide to buildup inside the house. Appliances must burn fuel efficiently or they could produce excessive amounts of carbon monoxide. You can protect yourself by inspecting your home's appliances for indications of a problem and by keeping your appliances in good condition. Gas-Burning Furnace Gas-burning furnaces use combustion to produce heat that keeps your home warm. Inspect your furnace on an annual basis and watch for signs of inefficiency. Take note of the following problems:
- Yellow flames
- Soot around the combustion chamber
- Blocked vents
- Avoid turning on lawn mowers and power tools indoors.
- Never run a generator indoors; place generators outside at least 20 feet from windows and entryways.
Best Practices and What Not to DoA lot of homeowners and renters make mistakes that lead to carbon monoxide poisoning because they simply don't know any better. If you own a home or rent an apartment with appliances that burn fuel, or if you keep gasoline on hand in your home, familiarize yourself with these best practices. Gasoline As gasoline evaporates, it produces a number of vapors, including carbon monoxide. You can protect yourself and members of your household by keeping gasoline in an air-tight container away from sources of combustion.
- Use a gasoline container with a child-proof lid to store gasoline.
- Keep gasoline away from heat sources and sources of combustion.
- Never use gasoline to light a fire.
- Never store gasoline without a lid.
- If possible, keep gasoline in a detached structure like a shed.
Stay Educated, Stay AwareUnder the right conditions, carbon monoxide poisoning can happen anywhere, in any home. Being aware of the potential danger can help you protect yourself, your loved ones and the people & pets in your household. If you and others in your household become mysteriously ill all at the same time, stop to ask yourself why. Keep carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your house and in strategic locations. Replace batteries annually, check the expiration dates and replace as needed. If your carbon monoxide detector does go off, don't assume that it's a mistake. Get your family out of the house and work with the authorities to ensure that your house is safe. Many government agencies provide information about carbon monoxide poisoning.
What Is Mold?Mold is a broad group of fungi, with thousands of species and subspecies around the world that typically prefer dark and damp habitats. Often fuzzy in appearance (though occasionally slimy or cottony), molds spread across materials and break them down to get the nutrients the mold needs to survive and thrive. Instead of seeds, molds release single-celled spores that in many cases are too small to see with the naked eye; these spores float through the air to land on a variety of surfaces, beginning growth once they find themselves in a suitable habitat. Though molds are made up of a number of individual stalks fibers, a connected clump of mold is considered to be a single living entity.
Types of MoldThere are several common types of mold that you might see around the house. While some of these may not be inherently dangerous, any mold can trigger reactions in anyone with an allergy or sensitivity. The five most common of these molds are:
- Aspergillus: One of the most common indoor molds, it often appears green, blue-green or gray but can also appear white or even yellow.
- Cladosporium: A black or green mold that has an appearance like ground pepper, it commonly grows on smooth surfaces like toilets and painted walls but can also grow in fabrics and rugs.
- Ulocladium: A black mold that grows in wet areas, especially in cracks and corners; it is most common in homes with water damage and active leaks.
- Aureobasidium: Varying in color from pink to brown or black, this mold most commonly grows behind wallpaper, on painted surfaces and on wood.
- Stachybortrys: The infamous “black mold”, it features a slimy dark green or black color and thrives in areas that are damp and maintain high humidity for weeks.
Is Mold Actually Dangerous?While many molds are allergens, most will not cause severe reactions unless you have a mold sensitivity or have other health problems that make you more prone to infection. However, some molds (such as black mold) actually are toxic and can make you very sick if you’re around them for too long. Symptoms of a mold allergy or toxic mold exposure can include a chronic cough, skin rashes, fatigue, difficulty focusing and even pain or infection in your sinuses, eyes and ears.
Mold Testing and RemovalIf you suspect that you have mold problems, there are home tests available to help you identify the type of mold in your home. These should only be a first step, however, as they often aren’t enough to definitively show you the scope of your mold problem. Call in an expert to confirm the results of your test or take a scraping of the mold and have it analyzed. Be sure to wear a dust mask or other breathing protection if you aren’t sure what type of mold you’re dealing with until the problem is taken care of. For many mold infestations, getting rid of leaks or other sources of humidity is a great way to slow or even stop mold growth. Mold can cause serious damage over time, however, so you may need professional mold removal and repair services if you can’t get the problem under control early. Is your home in need of some serious mold removal? HomeKeepr can help you find a mold remediator to get the mold out quickly and at a price you can afford. Because we utilize references instead of reviews, you’ll be able to rest assured that the expert you choose can really get the job done.
Where to Start?The biggest challenge is where to start when a large amount of stuff in your house overwhelms you. Ask yourself this:
- Which rooms in your home tend to collect clutter frequently?
- Which is the most stressful room or area in your home?
- Which space would have the biggest impact if you could declutter it quickly?
- 20-minute method
- Weekend plan
- Kondo style
- One room at a time
20-minute MethodThis method makes use of a timer with a 20-minute countdown to tackle tasks in smaller time doses. The upside of this method is you will not burn out in 20 minutes. The downside is you won't be able to declutter a big space in those few minutes. This method is ideal for smaller more defined spaces such as the kitchen. Here is where you tackle one cabinet or drawer at a time. The 20-minute method may not be perfect for a closet unless you divide it into specific segments - say skirts, trousers, boots and the like. This option is great if you want to make tangible progress but you're short on time. If you’re planning to move houses in a couple of weeks, this process could come in handy.
Weekend PlanIf you're the jump all in at once kind of person, this method is for you. Furthermore, with enough motivation, and someone to watch over the kids for the weekend, the more tasks you’ll complete. This method doesn't work for everyone as it’s akin to sprinting the marathon. If you do choose this method, create a concrete plan for the order in which you will declutter the rooms. It's foolhardy to start every room in your house only to run out of time to put everything back in order. This method is ideal if you’re planning to move on short notice, say at the end of the month.
Kondo StyleIn Marie Kondo's popular book "The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up", she discusses her approach to decluttering. Her forte is to take out every similar item when you declutter. For example, if you're cleaning the pantry, you must take out all the items and foodstuffs inside. In other categories, this method can be tiresome as you might not know where every office supply in the house is stored. The main reason why we have so much clutter is that we accumulate so much stuff without realizing it. Blame it on impulse buying. You’ll most likely end up with forgotten items and duplicates whenever you store your stuff in different places. Consolidating everything in one place to assess what stays and what goes is enlightening and reveals a lot. This part of the process is important as it allows you to select what to keep and what to dispose of. The Kondo style method lets you know all you own and enables you to be more mindful to avoid accumulating clutter in your home. This is also a clever way to audit your belongings.
One Room at a TimeThis method is self-explanatory. You choose a room to start with and go through every room one after the other. If you choose this method, it’s recommended to begin with your bedroom. The idea is that the room where you sleep should be the most relaxing and calming. You'll probably have orderly dreams if you fall asleep in a room where books, clothes or random items are in their rightful place. Such is a serene resting area. Bathrooms are great to do next. This is because most people don't have much sentimental attachment to bathroom products making it less overwhelming to tackle. In regards to the rest of the house, the size of some rooms and amount of clutter will determine how you will tackle the remaining rooms. Approach such rooms’ one section at a time. Assuming you have one or two months before moving house, the one room at a time method is perfect as it will give you plenty of time to declutter. In this article, we’ll discuss in depth how to go about the One Room at a Time Method.
Supplies to Gather for One Room at a Time MethodBefore you get started, here are the items you need at a minimum:
- Rolls of large heavy-duty garbage bags for household trash.
- Two large boxes or bins marked "Keep" and "Donate", for sorting the likely donations. Also, add a “Put Away” box.
- A dust mask will come in handy for closets and dealing with many clothes.
- Masking tape and sharpie for labeling items.
1. Declutter the Outside of Your HouseBefore you begin decluttering the interior of your house, first declutter the outside of your home. This will help set the mood for what awaits you inside. Anytime you go home after a hard day's work to find a neatly trimmed hedge, and well-maintained yard, it won't matter how rough your day was. Lookout for any blooming flowers and discard spent blossoms. Illuminate your home at night by changing any burnt out lightbulbs and install enough security lights. As you enter the house, ensure door knobs, door handles and locks are in tip-top shape. Don't forget to lubricate squeaky hinges.
2. Declutter the FoyerOnce you have decluttered the outside, start at the entrance and work your way through the house room by room. Maybe you don't have a traditional mudroom or foyer, but you definitely have an entryway. No matter its size, the best way to make an entryway more functional is to declutter it regularly. Since this is the welcoming area for your guests, ensure the foyer is spotless. Start with any console, side table or desk in your entry. Scrutinize each drawer by removing the contents and decide which items to dispose or keep. Go over the top of each desk and make sure you have space for your keys and other important items. When everything is accessible and not overcrowded, it will be easier to leave the house with what you need each morning. Declutter the hall closet the same way as any other closet. Start with shoes and boots, jackets and finally accessories. The entry also picks up lots of clutter from other rooms. Put items from other rooms in the put away box and back to their rightful space.
3. Declutter Your BathroomsOf all the rooms in the house, you should first start by decluttering the bathroom. This is because it's the smallest room in the house and the easiest to clean. Start with the medicine cabinet. Empty it of every item and discard outdated medication, skincare products, and makeup. Return everything you're keeping back into the cabinet and store the items you use most often at eye level. Next move to the cabinet drawers. Remove everything and do a quick evaluation of what to keep and what to discard. Return the items you're going to keep back into the drawers, with the items you frequently use in the top drawers. Move to the shower or tub and clean it out. Spray the shower with a cleaning product to get rid of any stains and molds. If you’re planning on selling the house, you definitely don’t want a potential buyer to see such stains. Clean the mirror, clean the floor, clean vanity, and most importantly clean the toilet. Remove everything from underneath your bathroom sink and declutter the items therein. Finally, sort every item that doesn’t have a home into the four bags or boxes you have staged for the purpose.
4. Declutter Your BedroomsStart by spreading your bed. It makes no sense to start decluttering the bedroom while an unmade bed stares at you. Same as the bathroom, it's not surprising to find the easy stuff are cluttering the bedroom. Clear the space next to the bed, clear off the nightstand, then go underneath the bed and clear whatever items that seem out of place. Most of these items are the easy stuff. Don't waste time on clothes. Though the closet is in the bedroom, that's a separate zone to deal with next. Fold and put the clothes back in the bureau and round up all the clothes that are on the floor and toss them into laundry baskets. Sort through photos and décor. Many photos, souvenirs, and frames end up in the bedroom, covering bureaus and nightstands. This makes the room appear more cluttered than decorated. Sort out the items you don't have a strong attachment to and donate them. Clean the bedroom from top to bottom. Clean the windows and finish by vacuuming and dusting surfaces and blinds.
5. Declutter Your ClosetYou probably have more clothes than you can manage, especially if you're a clothes shopaholic. This makes clothes the main source of your closet clutter. The best way to declutter a closet is to first declutter your clothing by type. This means you start with shoes, boots, shirts or blouses, denim, trousers and the like. The main challenge here is discarding old and outdated stuff. Donate all the clothes that don’t fit and freebies you never wear. Again, start with the easy decisions such as the promotional tees from events and jeans that you outgrew way back in college. Once you've sorted each type of clothing, you will have four piles to deal with:
- Put away any item that was in the wrong place. For example, if you had boxers in the closet, put them in the dresser.
- Toss any dirty laundry into the hamper or take it to the laundry room.
- Any clothing that needs repair should go to the tailor or the cleaners.
- Donations and consignments should go to the donations bag or box.
6. Declutter Your Laundry RoomHaving sorted out clothes for laundry, head to the laundry room as it also has a big impact on your family's wealth. The same way the bathroom is filled with ominous water so is the laundry room.
- Provide good task lighting
- Clean the storage cabinets
- Empty the trash can
- Clean around the washer and dryer
7. Declutter Your KitchenThe kitchen is a daily disaster zone. One minute it's spotless, the next counters are choking from all kind of foodstuff and utensils. Because of all the cooking, eating and socializing that takes place here, it can be a challenge to keep it clutter-free. Since it's a daily struggle, it's best to leave this room towards the end. The kitchen is the storage for all kind of items. You should, therefore, declutter your kitchen by focusing on one category of an item at a time. This includes glassware, cutting boards, utensils, or cutlery. You can also do zonal decluttering of each part of the kitchen. Empty each space, analyze each item, and return everything back to its rightful space. First identify powerhouse storage areas, upper cabinets, and the pantry. Move onto the drawers, lower cabinets, and the space under the kitchen sink. For the most part, expired food needs to be thrown away. The exceptions are where there's a difference between "Use By" and "Best By" dates. Other foodstuffs to dispose of include freezer-burned food, expired or unused spices, old oils, stale crackers and snacks, and food you're never going to eat. Such food is better off with someone who will actually use it. While decluttering the countertops, move as many items as possible off of the countertops and into storage spaces. Keep only what you use on a daily basis on the countertops. Excess plastic grocery bags can easily build up and when you have more than you will use, they take up unnecessary space. Recycle them at your local grocery store or see if a neighbor can use them. Finally, take your put away box and return any item that doesn't belong to the kitchen to its rightful storage space in the house.
8. Declutter Your Living RoomThe den is the ideal downtime area and gathering place for your family. This room should have a relaxed ambiance. Because of the many activities it hosts, it's one of the hardest rooms to keep neat every day. Living rooms also don’t offer enough storage spaces. You may have a TV console and several bookcases, but they don't hide much. The key to decluttering the living room is to decide on permanent storage spaces for items you frequently use such as magazines, books, and remote controls. Start with side tables, consoles, and bookcases. Then move to the coffee table and entertainment unit. Empty them, evaluate the items they store, then return them to the proper storage area. Keep books out of sight, action your mail, fold blankets, prop pillows and the like. Next move to the electronics. Are you using every electronic item and do they work? Remove any gadget that is not connected to the television or home theater system. Store items such as gaming equipment and chargers where you use them. Finally, if you have kids, tackle the toys. Do all the toys work? Do your kids still play with them? Assess every toy for wear and tear. Donate the toys you don’t need or grab the put away box and return everything that belongs in another room to its rightful space.
9. Declutter Your Home OfficeAny attempt to work in a disorganized office will always meet resistance and obstacles. The moment you declutter your office, a new wave of energy will flow into your workspace. In general, office spaces have one thing in common - paper clutter. Avoid having piles of unsorted papers lying around. Greeting cards that have served their purpose are worthless, ditch them. Vacuum and dust the room, close bookcase doors and categorize desk drawers with similar items. Resist tossing loose items in a drawer by using small cardboard boxes as drawer organizers. Sorting through the mess can take a considerable amount of time. If you're stuck here, place the cards or paperwork in a folder or attractive storage boxes and hide them for another day.
What to Do with All the Items after DeclutteringA crucial part of prior planning is knowing where to take donations of the many things you'll discover you don't need. The Thrift Shopper search engine lists all the thrift stores by zip code in your area. Look up salvationarmy or goodwill to identify a thrift shop nearby that can accept your donations. Other disposal options include:
- Animal shelters
- A garage sale
- For electronics, you can transfer old CDs and DVDs onto a cloud-based service