Deliveries, Security and You

In our modern always-connected world, it seems like we’re always having packages dropped off from one re-tailer or another. If you receive packages regularly while you’re not home, though, you may be setting yourself up for problems. Packages left alone on your porch invite thieves to come up and take them, and if there are regularly people coming to your property to drop deliveries off then your neighbors might not think that it’s strange when one more person walks up with a box… even if it turns out to be a burglar with the foresight to throw on a brown shirt and carry a package.So how can you make sure that your package deliveries aren’t creating a big risk for you? There are a few ways.

Establish a Delivery Area

When placing orders online, you often have the option to provide instructions to delivery drivers to make sure that your packages are delivered correctly. If you’re concerned about how frequent deliveries affect your home security, you can use these instructions as a powerful tool to thwart would-be thieves. Set up a delivery area around your home that’s covered or otherwise protected but not directly adjacent to your home and leave instructions for drivers to place any packages there. If possible, place the delivery space in an area that is clearly visible from neighboring houses as well. Because this designated area stands on its own, anyone entering it to try and steal packages will be very visible. It also foils would-be burglars because they now have no convenient excuse to approach your house.

Set Up Security Cameras

One thing that you can do to keep both your home and your packages safe is to install security cameras around your front door. This will allow you to see who’s coming to your house and will also provide evidence in case a burglar or thief approaches. If someone comes on your porch and steals your packages, you’ll have video of the thief and you’ll have proof that a theft took place so you can file a claim with the shipping company or retailer. You can even put cameras in an external delivery area if you’ve set one up! Make sure that you purchase a high-quality camera, though; cheap security cameras provide grainy and washed out footage that makes it very difficult to identify a perpetrator.

Invest in Smart Monitors

If you’re worried that a burglar might dress as a delivery person to gain access to your property, consider installing smart monitors on your windows and doors. These monitors may or may not be part of an alarm system – but setting off an alarm isn’t all that they can do. When triggered, the devices can notify you not only that a window or door was opened but also which one was triggered. This allows you to call a neighbor or notify the police and provide very specific details as to where a potential burglar entered. In some cases, the monitors may even be integrated into locks so that you can lock windows or doors remotely if you realize that you left them unlocked, taking care of a mistake that might have given a burglar easy access to your home.

Install a Security System

If these solutions don’t do enough to keep your packages and your home safe, consider getting a full home security system installed. These systems are more than just alarms; they contain several components that work together, along with active monitoring to contact the authorities or take other action if something suspicious occurs. Best of all, they can protect your home from other problems such as fires and even water leaks.

Keep Your Home Secure

Regardless of how you choose to close security holes related to package deliveries, you can find a security expert on HomeKeepr who can help you get the job done right. Sign up for free today so you can have a safer and more secure tomorrow!
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Care and Feeding of Brick Siding

Having brick siding installed on your house gives it a classic look. Unfortunately, a lot of people view brick as an install-it-and-forget-it option and allow that look to deteriorate over time. Brick homes require basic maintenance and care just like vinyl and wood siding do, though the specifics of maintenance may be a little bit different. It’s just like with anything: If you want the look, you have to put in the work to keep it up.Fortunately, maintaining your brick isn’t that difficult. Even better, the maintenance you do now can help prevent your brick siding needing major repairs in the future. So long as you’re willing to put forth a little effort, you should be able to keep your home looking great for years to come.

Cleaning Your Brick

The brick on your home is exposed to the elements on a 24/7 basis, and the rough surface of most bricks make them ideal for picking up dust and dirt. This can lead to damage over time, so once or twice a year you should take the time to clean your bricks. Most of the time this is as simple as spraying them down with a garden hose to remove any dirt and grime that’s built up on your home, though particularly tough spots and areas may need a scrub brush with soapy water as well. Avoid the temptation to use a power washer as the high water pressure can damage the brick.

Vegetation and Mildew Removal

While some plants such as ivy provide what some consider a dignified look, any vegetation that grows on your brick will damage it. Remove any vines, moss or other plants that you notice growing up your brick wall, making sure to wear gloves in case the plant is something that you don’t want to touch like poison ivy. You should also periodically check your brick for signs of mildew or mold, both of which can damage the brick surface as they grow. Scrub the area where you notice these growing, spraying them with a diluted solution of bleach and water to kill off any remaining remnants or spores. It’s a good idea to wet down the brick before you spray it, though, as this will prevent bleach from collecting in deeper contours of the brick and causing discoloration.

Checking for Damage

There are two types of damage you should check for at least once per year when you have a brick home. The first is impact damage, resulting from something hitting the brick and causing cracks, chips or other damage to it. This can come from a variety of sources, including things as ordinary as a lawnmower throwing a rock. The second type of damage to look for is water damage, which occurs when rain or splashing water repeatedly hits an area of the brick and starts to wear it away. Both of these can damage not only the bricks but the surrounding mortar as well. When damage is found, scrub the area to remove any loose material and keep an eye on the area to see if the damage gets worse over time. If the damage is caused by splashing water or other environmental issues, you might also adjust your landscaping or install additional drainage to redirect water and prevent further damage.

Repointing and Repair

As brick and mortar become damaged, you may need to make repairs from time to time. If the damage is just to the mortar, scrape and chisel away any damaged portions and apply new mortar to the entire area where wear and damage is present; this is typically known as repointing. If there are bricks that are damaged to the point that they need to be replaced, chisel away the mortar surrounding those bricks until they can be removed. Apply fresh mortar and new bricks to fill the damaged area.

Getting It Just Right

If the thought of replacing bricks or mortar intimidates you, we can help. Sign up for HomeKeepr today and we’ll help you find the masonry professional that can get the job done exactly the way you want it.
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What Color Should I Paint My Walls for the Best Return?

Painting your home is a great way to express yourself and let your personality shine through in your living space. The colors you choose for your rooms can really bring them to life in ways that few other changes can. However, a fresh coat of paint can do more than just give your rooms some personality. With the right colors, the paint you choose can even increase the likelihood that your house will sell at a good price when you put it on the market. To maximize this effect, there are a few colors you should consider (and a few you should avoid.)

Picking the Right Color

If you’re looking for a good color to apply throughout the house, consider a light shade of gray or beige. Both of these colors help to liven up rooms by adding just a bit of color but are neutral enough to let each room’s other accents take command. If you want something a bit different, taupe or so-called “greige” colors (mixes of gray and beige) can also work well. Some off-white colors, especially those with hints of brown or other warm shades, can also brighten up your rooms. Many of these colors pair well with white or beige baseboards and trim.

Good Kitchen Colors

If you’re going room by room, the kitchen is a good place to add a bit of darker color. Darker grays and grays mixed with darker blue shades do well in the kitchen; in fact, some reports have shown that homes with a gray-blue shade in the kitchen sell for an average of $1800 more than similar homes with other kitchen shades. Depending on the size of your kitchen and the amount of wall that’s actually visible behind the cabinets and appliances, you may be able to get away with hotter colors such as deep red or dark orange. Just avoid going too bright with whatever color you choose.

Living Room and Bath Colors

The living area and bathroom both benefit from more neutral shades such as beige and gray, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change things up in some cases. Consider the flooring and other fixtures as well as the amount of natural light that comes into the room and look at colors that take advantage of what’s already there. Light green, blue or brown can sometimes work wonderfully, especially if they include hints of gray to keep them from being too bright. You can even choose a bit stronger blues in the bathroom as homebuyers tend to respond well to blue there, just so long as you don’t go for too bright of a shade.

Bedroom Colors

Blue is a popular bedroom color, especially in shades such as cerulean. There are several bold color choices that you can get away with in the bedroom, though. Don’t go crazy with the bedroom colors and avoid anything that’s too bright – but giving the bedroom a splash of color in blue, green or even red or brown can work well so long as it’s not too much of a departure from the rest of the house.

Colors to Avoid

There are, of course, a few colors that you should avoid when painting your walls. Anything too bright or garish should obviously be avoided since it could turn off potential buyers. Black is another color to avoid; not only do many people find it depressing, but it will also be difficult for future homeowners to cover up. Also on the list of colors to avoid? Bright white. You might think that this would give your home a clean look or make it ready for a new homeowner to customize, but bright whites (especially when paired with white trim) often create a clinical look that actually makes buyers less interested in the space.

Making the Choice

If you’re not sure which colors will work best in your home, consider bringing in an interior designer or painter to help you pick the perfect hue. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today and you can find the perfect helper for your budget and your sense of style.
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Halloween Decor Trends

Decorating for Halloween is a tradition that many families take part in year after year. As with most traditions, though, the decorating trends that dominate Halloween change from time to time. Giant inflatables and laser light shows were all the rage just a few years ago, but now things are starting to shift a bit more toward subtle. The over-the-top Halloween decorating style will likely never fully go away, of course; there’s at least one house in every town that goes all out with its display and people always love it. If you’re looking for something simpler (and easier on the power bill), here are a few trendy options to keep in mind.

Candles

With the right candleholders, basic white candles can add a spooky ambiance that hearkens back to older Halloween traditions. Specialty candles are available that are carved to look like bones or horns as well. No need to go overboard with effects-candles, such as those that “bleed” when lit; just a few tapers burned to different lengths and then extinguished serve as the perfect subtle candle accent to your other decorations.

Pumpkins

What would Halloween be without pumpkins? While the traditional jack-o-lantern is still great, there’s an increasingly common trend to display uncarved pumpkins as well. White pumpkins are also seeing an upswing in popularity to really help set your decorations apart from the norm.

Halloween Wreaths

Also seeing an increased popularity are Halloween wreaths. Coming in a variety of styles, these wreaths have a lot more room to experiment than more traditional Christmas wreaths because of the generally spooky nature of the holiday. You can DIY a wreath yourself or buy one of multiple pre-made varieties to give your home a really unique Halloween look.

Lighting and Signs

Halloween lights have been growing in popularity in recent years, providing a decorative option that can be enjoyed even once the sun goes down. Signs, both lighted and non-lighted, are also firmly establishing themselves as Halloween must-haves. Combining the two can give your home a unique look that neighbors can enjoy both during the day and after the night descends.

Window Décor

Instead of going all-out with inflatables, animatronics and big clunky pieces made of plastic and rubber, an up-and-coming trend is to make use of silhouettes in front of plain curtains to give your decorations a more subtle flair. Some homes even take this a step beyond, using white sheets or similar coverings on the interior windows and then using creative lighting and figure placement to actually cast shadows onto the waiting windows. The shadow puppet feel gives the effect an extra layer of spookiness.

Black and White and Purple Trappings

While black and orange are the dominant colors of Halloween, a big trend in recent years has been to move away from the orange and embrace the holiday’s darker tones. White is used for contrast, with the predominant colors in decorations being black and dark purple. Splashes of other colors may be added as well, but the black, white and purple theme is definitely striking.

Zombie Flamingos

While there has been a move away from some of the cheesier parts of the holiday, the kitsch of putting zombie flamingos on your lawn is a bit too fun to ignore. There are a variety of styles of flamingoes available ranging from silly to gory, giving you plenty of room to find birds that match both your personal tastes and decorating style. Best of all, they can be mixed with a few traditional pink flamingos to give everything a splash of color while totally buying into the Halloween fun.

Need Some Halloween Style?

If you’re not sure what sort of decorations would look best with your home, consider consulting a decorator who has experience with Halloween trappings. Not only will they help you pick the best décor options, but they’ll aid you in choosing accents that go perfectly with both your home style and the decorations you choose. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account and get matched with the decorator you’re searching for today!
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Mike Holmes: Assess your windows now, before we get deep into the winter season

Here are some of the signs you’re ready for some new windows

But one other important function is their ability to keep your home from leaking its treated, comfortable air into the outdoors. Some windows will be much better at this than others. Whenever you’re planning upgrades for your home, I always say to focus on your building envelope first. By working on the outside FIRST, you’re taking steps to protect what’s inside your home – and make it more energy efficient, too. This is good time of year to assess your windows, before we get deep into the winter season, and your HVAC has to kick in to overdrive. Here are some of the signs you’re ready for some new windows. They’re difficult to operate It shouldn’t take all your strength just to open and close your windows to let some air in. If they don’t work like they used to, such as not opening smoothly, or getting stuck in the track, you’re likely ready for new windows. For true accessibility, windows should only require one hand to operate. Casement and awning windows that open and close with a crank are easiest to use for any homeowner, and you don’t risk accidentally slamming the windows shut. All windows should also come with good locks for added security.
They start to ‘cry’ When the temperature outdoors stats to dip and your heat kicks in, do your windows develop condensation? Don’t whip out the tissues just yet – but if this is a recurring problem, it could be indicative of bad windows. Don’t rip out the windows just yet because there are a few potential causes of weeping windows. Condensation on windows can be caused by a lack of ventilation in the house. If a house is very well sealed, and lacks mechanical ventilation such as an HRV or ERV, or even a bathroom ceiling fan, humidity levels can get too high. Cooking, showering and doing laundry all add humidity to the home. Ideally, relative humidity in the home should be kept between 35% and 45%. First, turn down your humidifier by about 10 percent and see if you still get that buildup. Take a look at the seal around your windows, and replace old, worn, or missing caulking as necessary. It could solve the issue completely. If the condensation appears between panes of the window, odds are the airtight seal meant to stop heat transfer is broken, and it’s time to replace them with new windows. If you’re totally stumped over the cause – a home inspector can help you find the source of your moisture issues. They have visible damage Your windows are constantly exposed to whatever Mother Nature can throw at it. Freezing rain, ice, sleet, high winds, and even UV rays can start to affect the health of your windows. Look out for things like cracks in the window glass, or visible signs of water damage. Even the best windows and frames can eventually submit to the elements. Check your frames for instances of warping, mould and rot. If they’re starting to show major signs of damage, it’s time for new windows. Don’t underestimate the importance of curb appeal when it comes to selling your home in the future. Not only does adding new windows add monetary value to your home by making it more energy efficient (not to mention cheaper to heat) – good looking windows can also wow potential buyers, making your home sell that much more quickly. They’re just plain old Finally, old windows just don’t do the job the newer, more energy efficient models do. If your windows are seriously old, you might be looking at single pane units instead of double or triple paned glass. These single paned windows don’t offer any insulation or soundproofing, and are totally energy inefficient. That means your HVAC system is going to have to work that much harder to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. And you’ll be seeing that effort on your monthly energy bills. Think of all that extra money and energy you’re throwing down the drain with inefficient units. Investing in new windows will offer serious long-term savings on your energy bills.
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Heating Sources Explained

There are a lot of different options available when it comes to heating your home. Some of them, you’re likely really familiar with, while others are newer options that you may not have heard of. Regardless, understanding how different heating options work is an important part of deciding how to best heat your home. Whether you’re building the home of your dreams or just remodeling your existing home, here’s some info on some of the heating options you might encounter.

Gas Heat

As the name implies, gas heat means that your system produces heat by burning a flammable gas (typically propane or natural gas). Depending on where you live, the gas either comes from a city-supplied utility line or a standalone tank that sits on your property. The heater functions by adjusting the gas passing through the heating chamber to make flames larger or smaller, controlling the amount of heat the flames release into the air that passes through the chamber. Propane heat may also come in other forms, such as gas fireplaces that serve a decorative purpose, as well as providing localized heat.

Forced Air

A forced air system is one that uses fans or other blowers to move air over a heating element and throughout the heating system’s ductwork. These are some of the more common heaters that you will encounter, as variations of forced air heating is used in most central heat and air systems and in many portable heaters.

Baseboard Radiators

There are a few different types of baseboard radiators that you might encounter. These heaters sit at or around floor level around the edges of a room, generating heat and allowing it to rise naturally throughout the room or house. Different materials are used in these heaters, with more modern varieties using pipes filled with heated oil to hold and radiate heat at a lower power cost than similar heating options like older, electric floor radiators.

Radiant Heat

An increasingly popular option for heating the home comes in the form of radiant heat flooring. A closed liquid heating system is embedded in concrete or other flooring material, heating the floor itself and allowing that heat to radiate upward naturally to provide gentle heat over a larger area without the need for high energy costs. There are a wide range of radiant heat options available, including everything from electric heating to systems that are heated from a wood stove outside of the home.

Solid Fuel Heaters

Also referred to as “pellet stoves” or “biomass heaters”, solid fuel heaters are stoves or other heating units that burn solid materials such as wood pellets or shavings instead of liquid or gas fuels. This is seen as something of a green option for homeowners who want to use wood and other materials that would otherwise be considered waste by the forestry industry. The fuel pellets or shavings are loaded into the heater and released into the burning chamber gradually, providing more control over the temperature and heat intensity than you would have with traditional wood-burning stoves.

CHP Systems

An emerging technology, “combined heat and power” or CHP heating systems are designed to be another environmentally-friendly heating option. These systems use a generator that produces power for the home or other buildings on the property, then reclaims heat energy released by the generator to heat the home. These systems are not yet available in all areas and may not be for everyone since they do provide more than just heat. For those planning for the future, however, keeping an eye on CHP systems may be a way to heat the home while simultaneously reducing dependence on external power.

Turn Up the Heat

If you aren’t sure what type of heating system is best for your needs, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for free and we can help you find a professional that will match you with the heating solution that best fits your home and budget.
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Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) & Air Exchange Systems

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) & Air Exchange Systems There are some commonly asked questions about the installation, maintenance and operation of home ventilation systems. If you have others, please contact us and we'll be happy to answer them. Why is proper ventilation in my home so important? Controlling Moisture Levels in your home – Moisture comes from cooking, bathing and breathing. Too much moisture may not only cause condensation which can damage the structure of your home but also provides a breeding ground for mould, mildew & bacteria. Ridding your home of pollutants and Contaminants –construction materials used in new homes and furniture as well as regular household products may release toxic fumes and gases that contribute to poor indoor air quality and possible health issues.​ How is a Heat Recovery Ventilation System different from a regular air exchanger? Both Air Exchangers and HVR systems move old, stale air out of your home and draw fresh air in. The difference is that an air exchanger expels heat – as well as your money! A HRV system transfers (recovers) as much as 80% of the heat energy from the out-going air to the clean fresh air coming in. Good for the environment and for your wallet. Can a HRV system be installed in an older home? Yes. Clean Air Solutions will install a ventilation system that is custom fit for your home. How do I maintain my ventilation system once it’s installed? Regular Maintenance of your HRV system is required to keep it working properly. In fact an improperly serviced HRV may not only contaminate the incoming air​ but also reduce the transfer of heat energy from 80% to as low as 20%. How do I adjust the HRV settings? Clean Air Solutions recommends these settings for your HRV system: Spring | Mid-June Turn your wall control to a high setting (above 70) Fall | Mid-October Turn your wall control back to its regular setting (usually 45) Every 3 Months Remove & Clean Filters Clean Exterior Vents Annually Book a 10 Point Service Plan appointment with Clean Air Solutions Will a HRV work with all heating systems? Yes. It is independent of the heating system in the house. Are there health benefits to installing a HRV? According to Health Canada, 1 in 4 Canadians have reported health problems linked to poor indoor air quality. Indoor pollutants can contribute to health issues such as allergies, headaches, fatigue, asthma and other respiratory conditions. Removing contaminated air from your home and bringing in fresh air can alleviate these symptoms. Does the same air get recycled? No. There are two vents: one draws the warm stale and polluted air from the living areas of your home through the HRV system to be released outside. The second draws a continuous stream of cool fresh air in through the system to be distributed throughout your home. The ducts run side by side and only the heat energy is transferred from one to the other. How much does it cost to install a HRV system? The cost to install a HRV will vary depending on the size of the home, whether it’s newly constructed or requires retrofitting, the complexity of the installation, etc.
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Moisture in basements: causes and solutions

Moisture in basements: causes and solutions

By John Carmody; Brent Anderson; and Richard Stone, Extension educator University of Minnesota
This page briefly describes moisture sources, moisture movement mechanisms and typical basement moisture problems. Then, a step-by-step process for addressing each problem is presented along with several detailed approaches to solving the problem.
Moisture problems in basement, rainwater, groundwater, interior moisture.

A problem that can damage your health and home

Moisture 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 problem

To 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:
  1. Liquid water from rain or ground-water.
  2. Interior moisture sources such as humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, bathrooms and cooking, as well as the moisture in concrete after construction.
  3. Exterior humid air that enters the basement and condenses on cooler surfaces.
Moisture is transferred from the outside of the building to the basement interior by four mechanisms:
  1. Liquid water flow.
  2. Capillary suction.
  3. Vapor diffusion.
  4. Air movement.
Sometimes problems are traced to poor construction with cracking, settling foundations. In many cases, however, houses and basements can be structurally sound but are often not properly built to handle water drainage. Failure to slope the ground surface away from the foundation or lack of a good gutter and downspout system is common. Missing or nonfunctioning subsurface drainage systems are also found relatively frequently. These problems can all be addressed and corrected if a systematic approach is used. This page briefly describes moisture sources, moisture movement mechanisms and typical basement moisture problems. Then, a step-by-step process for addressing each problem is presented along with several detailed approaches to solving the problem.

Symptoms

  • 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 groundwater entering basement.
Rain and groundwater

Rain and groundwater

In 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 sources in basement.
Interior moisture sources

Interior moisture sources

Moisture 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 air.
Ventilation with humid outside air

Ventilation with humid outside air

In 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

Moisture movement mechanisms - capillary suction.
Capillary suction

Capillary suction

Capillary 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.
Moisture movement mechanisms - Air leakage through walls and floor.
Air leakage through walls and floor

Air leakage through walls and floor

In 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.  
 
 
Moisture movement mechanisms - Vapor diffusion through foundation walls.
Vapor diffusion through foundation walls

Vapor diffusion through foundation walls

Vapor 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

Causes of moisture problems - inadequate grading.
Inadequate grading

Inadequate grading

PROBLEM: 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 downspouts contribute to basement moisture.
Defective or missing gutters and downspouts

Defective or missing gutters and downspouts

PROBLEM: 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 wells cause water to flow toward basement.
Improperly designed window wells

Improperly designed window wells

PROBLEM: 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 pit
Ineffective drain tile and sump pit

Ineffective drain tile and sump pit

PROBLEM: 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.  
 
SOLUTION: See approaches 2 through 5 that follow.
Improper drainage with underslab ducts
Improper drainage with underslab ducts

Improper drainage with underslab ducts

PROBLEM: 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 cracks let water in basement.
Structural cracks

Structural cracks

PROBLEM: 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 problems

The 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.
  1. 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).
  2. 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 solution

Dehumidification 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 solution

It 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 approach

Evaluate 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

  1. Control interior moisture sources.
  2. If summertime, don't ventilate with outside air.
  3. Correct grading, gutter and downspout system.
  4. Provide an interior or exterior drainage system.

Notes

  • 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.
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THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AIR BARRIERS AND VAPOUR BARRIERS

The difference between air barriers and vapour barriersThe difference between air barriers and vapour barriers © Ecohome

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AIR BARRIERS AND VAPOUR BARRIERS

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.

Ecohome Published: Aug. 27, 2012, 8:34 p.m.Last updated: July 20, 2019, 1:44 p.m.
Mike Reynolds

The difference between air barriers and vapour barriers

The 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 barriers

The 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.
The difference between air barriers and vapor barriers
The need for a proper air seals in homes is grossly underestimated, and too much faith and focus is put on the vapour barrier. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, "air movement accounts for more than 98% of all water vapor movement in building cavities.” If you think of how a polyethylene vapour barrier is installed, it will be cut, stapled and taped, then have nails and screws put through it to install strapping and drywall, along with breaches due to electrical wires and boxes. In most cases, the vapour barrier will be perforated thousands of times during the building process. But a perforated vapour barrier would actually not be a problem if you have a tight air seal. Like that gypsum board box, the amount of water vapour that can pass through a ripped and torn vapour barrier is insignificant as long as the air seal is intact.

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.

Additional reading:

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Carbon Monoxide Safety: How to Protect Your Home, Identify Issues, and Respond to Emergencies

 

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.

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon 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 Home

Carbon Monoxide Building up in Home Although 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 Poisoning

In 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:
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Disorientation
  • Exhaustion
  • Burning eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
Carbon monoxide poisoning is different from flu because of the lack of fever. People start feeling better soon after leaving the area of exposure. Severe cases of poisoning can cause more serious problems. Memory loss, loss of vision and even loss of consciousness are all symptoms of exposure. A feeling of vertigo, chest pains, seizures and a total loss of coordination can all happen. Some victims may even think they're having a heart attack. In the most serious cases, the result may be brain damage, coma or even death.

What to Do When You Suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Victims 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 Detectors

Because 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?

Carbon Monoxide Detector Example 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?

Carbon Monoxide Detector on Ceiling 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.
Many modern homes come with carbon monoxide detectors hard wired into the walls. If your home does not have hardwired detectors, battery operated carbon monoxide detectors will work just as well.

Maintenance

Once 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 Off

When 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 Home

Sometimes 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 Buildup

Sources of Carbon Monoxide in Home An 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
If your furnace displays any of these symptoms, contact an HVAC professional immediately for a check up and tune up. Gas-Burning Stove Like the furnace, a gas-burning stove should produce blue flames and little or no soot. Using the vent in your kitchen can help keep carbon monoxide levels low when cooking. If there is no vent, or if the vent is not functioning, have that fixed. Avoid setting oversized pots on the flame, and avoid placing foil on the bottom of the oven. Fireplace or Wood-Burning Stove An upward draft in your chimney is required to keep a fire burning efficiently in your home. Pay attention to poor upward draft (your home will become smokey). And only burn seasoned firewood. Have your gas and wood burning appliances inspected on a regular basis, and have your chimney inspected and cleaned yearly. Get a tune up for any fuel-burning appliances that start to behave strangely, produce odd odors, make strange sounds or function less efficiently. Water Heaters Gas burning water heaters are a source of carbon monoxide just like any furnace or stove. Gas burning water heaters rely on a pilot light to produce combustion that heats water in the tank. Gas burning water heaters that are burning inefficiently may produce soot or a yellow-brown byproduct that indicates poor combustion. If you can see the pilot light, look for yellow flames instead of blue. Have your water heater inspected if you notice signs of a problem. Engines Engines of all types produce carbon monoxide. Car engines, generators, power tools and lawn mowers are all common sources of carbon monoxide in the home. Poisoning by carbon monoxide sometimes happens when car owners accidentally leave their cars running. This is becoming more common as a greater number of car owners now use keyless fobs to operate their vehicle. This is an easy mistake to make because modern cars tend to be very quiet, and no key is required to shut off the car. If you're buying a modern car, you can protect yourself from this problem by purchasing a vehicle that has an alarm that will alert you if you leave the car running. Other ways to protect yourself from engine-related carbon monoxide include:
  • 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 Do

A 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.
Other Sources of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In addition to the common sources mentioned above, there are other ways that can cause the build up of carbon monoxide in the home. Fumes from certain paint thinners and other harsh chemicals may contain carbon monoxide. If you're taking on any home improvement projects that involve harsh chemicals, follow all manufacturer instructions that require use in a well-ventilated space. Grills can be a source of carbon monoxide poisoning. Never operate a charcoal or gas grill indoors, even in a garage with the door open. Operate grills outdoors, away from windows in areas where ventilation is good. Even a blocked chimney or a partially closed flue could cause your home to fill with carbon monoxide quickly. Check the flue before lighting a fire in your chimney or wood-burning stove, especially when lighting for the first time at the start of winter or after a long period of time. Never use your fireplace if your chimney is partially blocked by an obstruction. Finally, camping stoves can also be a source of carbon monoxide. Never use a camping stove indoors in a space that is not well ventilated.

Stay Educated, Stay Aware

Changing Battery in Carbon Monoxide Detector Under 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. When the time comes to buy new carbon monoxide detectors, consider replacing old standard detectors with smart or digital devices, which provide more information about the conditions inside your house. If you have questions about the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, talk to your doctor. If you're worried about the condition of your appliances, talk to your appliance repair person or contractor. Following these tips could save your life and the life of the people you love.
 
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