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What Happens When a House Isn't Vented Properly?

I received a phone call this morning from a lady who said mold had begun forming in their attic. Now, that isn’t uncommon, but the way she said it made it seem as though it was a lot of mold. She said it had just started recently and was quickly getting worse.

So, as usual, I set a time to meet her at the house and look at the problem. To her and her husband (he’s been in the attic to see the problem), it appeared that there was a roof leak; and through this roof leak, mold had formed on the underside of the roof decking (1/2″ plywood). When I went into the attic, what I saw was bright gray and greenish-gray mold growing on the plywood. And it wasn’t a little spot, it was the whole front of the house. I’ve been in thousands of attics, literally, and I’ve seen mildew and mold on plywood, but this was one of the worse.

Now came the obvious question: What was causing it? Was it a roof leak? And if so, where was the water coming from and why was it causing that much condensation? Again, I’ve seen tons of leaks in attics and they don’t cause this much mold, not even really bad leaks.

Upon further inspection, and after some general questions, I discovered that they had new vinyl windows installed about 2-3 years ago. Also, I realized that there was no ventilation in the attic and the soffits were wrapped in vinyl and vented poorly. So basically, the moisture that used to be able to flow out naturally was being trapped in the house and attic with nowhere to go. It is equivalent to taking something steaming and wrapping it in a plastic bag.

The house was suffocating.

Ideally, when the windows were installed, the contractor would have informed the homeowners of the downside to air-sealing a home, and either fixed it or referred them to someone who could. Think about it: the moisture from taking a bath and doing dishes and washing clothes has to go somewhere. Now don’t get me wrong, new vinyl windows are an excellent idea, but make sure you have proper ventilation all around the house or they can cause major problems.

What did we do to fix this lady’s problem? You’ll have to wait….I’ll post the solution soon.

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