Nailing It Down — Protect your house — tackle moisture at the source!


In last week’s column we talked about the worst predator attacking the integrity of our homes — trapped moisture.

Today we want to take you beyond the foundation to explain more ways to identify and attack this incipient hazard.

The exterior siding protects your home from nature’s fury, just as your clothes protect you. When properly installed and maintained, the siding materials used are generally durable and long lasting.

However, damaged-penetrated paint, UV light (sunny or not), damaged siding, poor caulking and rusted flashing along with moisture build-up can really damage your house. Good ventilation and timely maintenance are our best offensive weapons.

SIGNS OF A GOOD OFFENSE

Here’s what you want to see as indicators that your home is well protected:

• A great paint job

• Good doors, windows and trim

• Good gutters and downspouts with splash blocks, to convey the water away from the foundation

• A good working flapper vent for the dryer

• Kitchen and bathroom fans vented outside

• High and low attic venting

• Lots of foundation vents in pre-treated skirting

• Happy neighbors admiring your well kept home

So, what should you do if you see something that is not on the desired list?

Well, for starters, if you see peeling paint, as we said, it’s likely either a moisture-control problem or poor prep back when painted — or both.

If ventilation is the issue, it may mean that it is time to install plastic under your house, add vents or add vented fans in bathrooms and kitchen. If all those vents work, carefully check the dryer vent to make sure it is absolutely leak free and vented all the way to the outside!

If you already have fans, make sure they are vented outside and that you use them. You may also need additional attic vents. Use our rule of thumb, one square foot of ventilation for every 150 square foot of attic floor. Inspect your siding, windows, roof and gutters for signs of leaks.

Once you have found and corrected the sources of moisture, it’s time to scrape, prime and paint.

What if you see rusty siding nails or bleed marks? It means someone used the wrong siding nails. You need to re-nail with galvanized nails, countersink the old nails and fill the holes. Use a stain blocker over the rusty marks before painting.

AVOID WOODPILES NEAR HOUSE

Woodpiles or lumber stacked near the house can also create problems — extra moisture and bugs for sure. However, it’s an easy fix. You will need to move the piles as far from the house as you can, 25 feet if possible.

Look for bugs or bug holes of any kind. They indicate a consistent source of moisture. Find and stop the source then repair any bug damage.

Remember, the damage may be hidden in a wall or in the floor. So you will need to follow the signs of moisture-related damage — staining, peeling paint, rusty nails, dampness, dry rot and bugs — until you get to the root of the problem.

Other common maintenance problems to look for include missing or damaged siding or trim. It’s important to repair and replace these materials to avoid moisture problems and further damage.

Also, pay close attention to broken or missing window parts. The sash surrounds the older style glass panes and must be kept well glazed and painted.

The stool sill sheds the rain away from the siding and must be smooth, rot-free and well painted. The trim boards around each window make a weatherproof transition from siding to glass. They, too, must be tightly caulked and painted. When these parts fail it can result in leaks, then wall and floor damage.

When you observe, repair or replace window parts, make sure to stab test the wall sheathing just under the windowsill.

CONTROL MOISTURE IN BATH

Other ways to control the moisture in your home include leaving the bathroom fans on for a half hour after you are done with your shower or bath.

Make a habit of opening your windows and airing out your home — especially after you have been doing laundry, cooking or washing your floors. It will make a difference in protecting your home.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.