When Is Condensation a Concern?

Posted by in Apparent Mold/Biological Growth, Attic Ventilation, Chimneys, Winter Concerns | February 08, 2016

Remember summertime?  It’s that warm or even hot time of year when we lay back on our chaise lounge in the shade with a cold glass of our favorite beverage.  It is so humid that the glass is sweating profusely and we find ourselves wiping our hands on a nearby napkin after every refreshing sip.

That wetness, my friend, is condensation.  It occurs when the moisture in the air makes contact with the cold surface of the glass or bottle.  This phenomenon is what also causes dew to form on your car or on the lawn on some nights.

On a cold glass of lemonade or on you car window shield condensation is usually not a problem, but just a nuisance.  However, when it begins to appear on building surfaces within your home, it may be a problem and a sign that something is not quite right.

Here are some photos of condensation that indicate something is not quite right.

A ceiling or wall should not have wet spots.

A ceiling or a wall should not have wet spots.

Windows should not be sweating so much that the dripping moisture damages the surrounding building components.

Windows should not be sweating so much that the dripping moisture damages the surrounding building components.

Neither should glass doors sweat so much that the moisture damages the door frame or surrounding building components.

Neither should glass doors sweat so much that the moisture damages the door frame or surrounding building components.

Some frost is expected on the underside of a roof deck at times, but it should not be the rule during teh winter months, nor should it be accompanied by dark staining from mold growth.

Some frost is expected on the underside of a roof deck at times, but it should not be the rule during the winter months, nor should it be accompanied by dark staining from mold growth.

The underside of a roof deck may exhibit some dark staining around penetrating nails.  Unaccompanied by staining from mold these are a sign of the need for more ventilation.

The underside of a roof deck may exhibit some dark staining around penetrating nails. Unaccompanied by staining from mold these are a sign of the need for more ventilation.

 

Staining at the penetrating nails accompanied by staining from mold growth indicates that the condition needs immediate attention.

Staining at the penetrating nails accompanied by staining from mold growth indicates that the condition needs immediate attention.

Water dripping from the ceiling and mold growth on the interior indicates that the condensation issue has gone on way too long.  It's time to get help.

Water dripping from the ceiling and mold growth on the interior indicates that the condensation issue has gone on way too long. It’s time to get professional help.

 

So, what’s happening?  What can be done?

If you are interested in answers to these and some other questions, please read our other articles regarding condensation:

Can Ventilation Really Reduce Condensation and Mold Growth in an Attic?

Attic Wetness – Pattern of Condensation vs Pattern of Leakage

Inadvertent Reduction in Attic Ventilation

Why is My Chimney Sweating?

In summary, if there is an issue with condensation (sweating) inside a building, generally there is too much airborne moisture.  On occasion, it may be due to a cold spot on a wall or ceiling due to missing or dislodged insulation.  Most often, the amount of moisture in the air needs to be decreased.  Airborne moisture may often be reduced by proper ventilation of the attic or living area or by reducing the amount of airborne moisture generated by human activities or equipment within the building.

Usually building codes, industry standards, and/or equipment owners’ manuals provide guidelines regarding the amount of ventilation needed or how to properly vent moisture generated by human activities or equipment.  In unusual situations, the services of a mechanical engineer experienced in these matters may be necessary to determine a solution peculiar to the conditions.  If you are unsure, get professional help.

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