Tips to Manage Household Humidity

As Christmas and the New Year holidays approach, it’s important to be mindful of the moisture available in the air.  Unlike the Spring, Summer and Fall, when we might open our doors and windows to allow more air and exterior humidity in the home, we are keeping the house tightly buttoned down and the colder air out during Winter.  This has a tendency to create a potential for moisture to build up where we don’t want it.  Taking a few steps to ensure this doesn’t happen will keep your air moisture regulated during the dryer colder weather.

Because there are over 10,000 types of mold that are typically present in the air, and most require moisture at levels above 50% to thrive, it is important to maintain control of the level and location of moisture in the home.

Minnesota is known for having higher humidity levels, especially during Summer, and, most inspectors recommend a dehumidifier in every basement to cut down on mold potentials.  They suggest the dehumidifier is kept running all year long and emptied regularly.

During Summer we typically also use the air conditioning system to manage the humidity level, whereas in Winter, humidity can come from washing clothes, taking baths or showers as well as cooking.  Anywhere that condensation can form around those areas of your home should be monitored to cut down on condensation, which could potentially be a site for mold buildup.  Some homes also have furnace humidifiers, however, most inspectors don’t recommend using them, as, most homeowners forget to adjust humidity levels when exterior temperatures fluctuate up and down.

Walls and windows are more susceptible to condensation, and, it is important to ensure this doesn’t become an issue.  If you notice consistent buildup of condensation around the windows, you will want to take steps to remediate that.  It can damage or decay the woodwork or allow moisture into the wall under the window creating a potential mold situation.

Other areas where unwanted condensation could become an issue is the exhaust fan from the bathrooms, especially if the exhaust is pushed directly into the attic and not vented properly to the roof and outside the home.  Mold can grow in the insulation and on the wooden studs or timbers or roof decking when vents are not properly sealed.  This also applies to the laundry and kitchen areas if not properly vented to the exterior of the house.

Keeping the dew point low enough is key, you can purchase a humidistat and test the air humidity to try to keep it around the 20% level in the Winter and at around 45% in the Summer months.  Using your dehumidifier or air conditioner will help keep those levels where you want them to be.

The best fixes are to monitor the situation as you use different areas of the home and take steps to ensure the humidity is kept low. The following suggestions will help you take control of this and being consistent will extend the life of the home.

During the Winter, keep the curtains or blinds open during the day to allow the humidity to dry around windows.  Keep the fan on in the bathroom after showers for at least 45 minutes to get rid of all excess moisture.  Ensure that your bathroom vents out to the exterior, not the attic, and check for mold or moisture around the roof seal to ensure there is no buildup.  Properly vented bathrooms are essential.

Keeping the kitchen fan on, if it vents to the outside, while cooking on stovetops is also key.  While boiling water, or cooking with liquids can generate a lot of steam and potential condensation, keeping the fan on will ensure it escapes and doesn’t create a potential for issues on windows or where you might not see it.  Some homes are missing vent fans, so, you may wish to check on installing one to dissipate the excess humidity.

Also, check for any potential leaky faucets, be sure to monitor under sinks and tubs that no leaks are occurring, and, fix any that you find as soon as possible before you need mold remediation.

One of our clients noticed a bad odor in an unused bathroom and finally checked under the sink, only to find mold growing on every surface inside the cabinet.  The whole cabinet and wall area had to be removed as well as the flooring, so mold remediation could be done.  All new flooring, drywall, cabinet and sink were installed to ensure no further mold issues could be present.

Staying on top of the potential issues is the best way to prevent them and to keep healthy humidity levels in your home.

Written by Claire Bastien for

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