Tag Archives: water

Controlling Humidity in your House

Controlling humidity in your house is important for several reasons.  Comfort is one reason, but preventing rot and mold is likely more critical.

A pretty picture but does not have much to do with controlling humidity
Ian Sane / Foter.com / CC BY

In cooler climates moisture must not be allowed to pass through the walls from the inside to the framing and insulation. Humid air will condense in the wall space and create conditions for mold and rot. In extreme cases, insulation can become saturated, or even frozen into a solid block.

The usual solution is to provide a moisture proof barrier under the interior finishing board. This is usually 6 mil polyethylene. Extra care must be taken to seal against all possible leaks. Electrical and plumbing penetrations are common problem areas as well as laps in the poly.

The Icy Explosion
Stuck in Customs / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Moisture escaping into the attic can form frost on the underside of the roof. When the weather warms this will melt and can saturate insulation and stain interiors. Good attic ventilation can help to clear moist air that may escape into the space but the poly barrier is the best solution.

Moisture can also condense on inside walls and create an environment for mold. This often happens behind furniture on north walls. Areas with inadequate insulation also create a problem. Forced air heat often does not reach into closets and behind obstructions, hindering drying. Under floor radiant heating is better in this regard. Diagrams of simple radiant systems can be found here.

Too little indoor humidity is not a huge problem but you may be more comfortable if it is maintained at 50 to 60 percent. Older houses with substantial air leakage can have a very dry interior environment in cold weather and a humidifier can add comfort. Too dry air can cause static electricity and dry throats.

controlling humidity can prevent undue window frost
Pretty but can be a problemmonteregina / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Modern houses are normally well sealed and the opposite often occurs. Moisture added from bathrooms, cooking, laundry and even occupant respiration can raise humidity. Attached garages may add humidity from wet cars or snow and ice melting from car undersides. Un-vented gas cook stoves add considerable humidity as a by-product of combustion. Too damp an environment can cause mold growth and windows may frost up in cold weather. Damage can occur when this frost melts. I have even seen door locks freeze solid and become inoperable.

In cold drier climates the best solution is ventilating with outside air. A heat recovery ventilator keeps heat loss to a minimum. This is the method I use in my house. It has the added advantage of replacing stale air with fresh and reducing odors. So far it has been easy to maintain humidity to between 50 and 55 %.

Many contractors will install complicated ventilating systems with many inlets and outlets. I do not think this is necessary and could be very difficult to balance. One or two well placed inlets and one or two outlets should be adequate for most houses. You should also install bathroom exhausts and a kitchen range hood that exhausts to the outside. You may need a separate make up air inlet for these. It is a good idea to wire the bath exhausts to turn on with the light. People will often forget to turn fans on when needed.

You won't need this large a fan for controlling humidity
Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Ventilators are usually controlled by a humidistat. You may at times want to control it manually to provide fresh air.

You may need a de-humidifier in humid climates or in especially damp basements. Air conditioners normally reduce indoor humidity in hot climates. Humidity makes hot weather much more uncomfortable. The ability of your body to cool itself by sweating is impaired by high humidity.

Most ventilators available today are probably a little larger than is needed for a smaller house. A smaller unit run more or less continuously may be a better answer.  The one in my house is quite large but does not create any real problems except for a slight draft when it is running. Not much of a problem as the moving air is not cold.

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A Nearly Finished Home

Our nearly finished home

Our home

Gage, the super, is checking my every move.

We now have a nearly finished home. It has been a bit of a strain on this old body but we were able to move in before winter. There is still quite a bit to do but the pressure is off.

Changing seasons

The scenery changing with the seasons

For those of you who live in more moderate climes, we had our first snowfall a few days ago (Oct.28). The temperatures at night are fairly consistently below freezing, with the lowest to date about minus 14 celsius. That is about 7 degrees fahrenheit. Our somewhat unconventional heating system worked perfectly through this first test. Of course, the house is super tight, and super insulated, so it requires very little heat. In fact, we were heating with only a small electric heater until we had our gas hooked up, less than 2 weeks ago. It was always comfortably warm.


We have a bed room

Our bedroom is nearly finished. We went outside the box a bit, and installed a chandelier.

We had one of our unforeseen delays in acquiring our gas service. Apparently, the gas company had a major outage and were short of staff. It took nearly two weeks, from the time I requested service, until the meter was installed. It was fortunate that everything worked when we started it up.

I promised to report on the results of my ceiling stippling job. I thinned drywall mud to the consistency of thick paint, and applied it in about 5 ft squares with a long nap roller. Stippling was done by pushing a special brush into the mud. After a few days drying, I primed and painted. The end result was satisfactory but not as perfect as I would have liked. The drywall joints should have been finished just a little better. The  joints are slightly visible when some lights are on, and should have been finished to nearly the same degree as required for painting. It is obvious that this is not a method to hide large flaws in your finish. It does, however, avoid the problems inherent in painting a large flat ceiling. Overall I am happy with the results, of this, my first attempt

A stipple ceiling

My stipple job

Stomping brush used for stipple

Stomping brush used for stipple

The brush used for stippling is sometimes known as a stomping brush. They are available in a few different configurations, such as rosebud or crowfoot, which can be double or single. I had a little difficulty finding one in Canada, as this is a method seldom used in this area.  Lowes was the only retailer I could find that stocked one. I was able to order via the internet. They may be more available from drywall distributors.

Most of my final inspections have been done. Everything passed with only a few minor changes.

I had originally planned on two water heaters for potable and heating, but research, and a few other concerns, convinced me to use one heater with a heat exchanger instead. Since the Navien NP-240(A) I am using is rated at an input BTU of about 200,000, there is no shortage of capacity.Because of a lack of experience, I chose to oversize the heat exchanger. The extra cost was insignificant. Unlike other types of heating, the over sizing of components has an insignificant  effect on fuel efficiency. I will dedicate a future post exclusively to this type of heating. I will add that I am sitting at my computer this morning with bare feet. Very comfortable.

Heating and hot water

This provide all our heat and hot water

I installed a circulator in my potable hot water system. This provides almost instant hot water to sinks and showers. This allowed me to use 3/4 inch water lines to all branch offs. This means that if you are in the shower, and somebody opens a faucet, there will not be a shocking change in water temperature. Although there is some energy cost ( reduced by insulating all hot water lines), there are significant reductions in water wastage.

Heat exchanger and watercirculators

A look at part of our system

Gage has a girlfriend who comes to visit and to go for a walk everyday. That’s her staring at the camera. Her name is Lulu, and the only things she likes better than Gage, is her “Mom” and food.



Gage the supers girlfriend



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Installing Water and Sewer

Installing water and sewer services is easiest done before any footings, or foundations, are poured.

Our excavation contractors were not expected back for a few days, but they were rained out at another project. They surprised me by appearing yesterday morning with their crew. I quickly rescheduled my material delivery to allow them time to install the sewer main.

The first step is to make a connection to the man hole.

Installing water and sewer starts at the man hole

Where is that connection?

Install the cleanout, and we are ready for back filling.

installing water and sewer

Finishing the sewer main extension.

By that afternoon, the sewer main extension was complete. Backfill and finished for the day

installing water and sewer

Back fill, and that parts finished

Next morning they are back to do the house connections.

installing water and sewer

Starting the sewer connection.

Installing water and sewer

Insulation protects against frost where water and sewer are nearer the surface.

installing water and sewer

I installed the water meter and temporary connections for the motor home.

installing water and sewer

connecting to the sewer main.


installing water and sewer

hot tap to water main is done and about to turn on the water.


Below is the street, back in service and better than before.



installing water and sewer

All finished and the street is like new.

installing water and sewer

The framing packge arrives and things get a bit crowded.


My framing package arrived just before we finished. Things got a little crowded.

Below is our guest house. It actually holds a double bed, a sofa, and a table with 4 chairs


The guest house

Ricks motel

It has been raining, or threatening rain, for the last few days but the project fit right in between showers. Someone is on my side.

This has been a huge first step. I have no nore excuses. I have to go to work. If my ICF forms arrrive by the middle of next week, there should be no delays.

Thanks to a very efficient crew.



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