Vinyl vs. Steel vs. Aluminum Gutters

Inside Look at Rain Gutters
© derevo30 / Adobe Stock

By directing rain and melting snow away from your home, your gutters protect your roof from leaks, your windows from rot, and your foundation from erosion. Not all gutter materials offer the same benefits, though. Low cost and ease of installation have helped vinyl and aluminum gutters gain popularity, but some situations call for the leak-resistance and strength of steel gutters.

Doing your research will help you find the material that meets the demands of your climate and your budget.

Vinyl: Affordable and Easy to Install

Vinyl Gutters with Plastic Guard
© Inga / Adobe Stock

If you’re on a tight budget, in a mild, dry climate or considering DIY installation, vinyl gutters will meet your needs. On the downside, they don’t last as long as metal gutters.

Pros

Vinyl (PVC) gutters have become a popular choice largely due to their low price and light weight. You can find these gutters for around $3 to $5 per 10-foot section.

Because they’re lightweight, they’re easy to handle and install. The sections snap together and don’t require joints or riveting. This cuts down on the time and cost of professional installation and even makes DIY installation possible.

Vinyl gutters are also low maintenance. They won’t rust or corrode and won’t be dented by wind-blown tree limbs or badly placed ladders. The color is embedded in the material, rather than painted or powder-coated on, so scratches and dings are less noticeable. These gutters come in a wide variety of colors, so you won’t have to paint them to match your roof.

Cons

Due to their light weight, vinyl gutters won’t hold up in climates that see a lot of rain, snow or strong winds. They’re best suited to mild, dry climates. Although they won’t corrode, they’re prone to sagging and cracking, and don’t last particularly long. They’re only available as traditional sectional models, which have more seams than seamless models. Because their seams aren’t soldered, as in some metal gutters, they’re more likely to leak.

If installed in a dry climate and properly maintained, they can keep working for up to 20 years. In a wetter climate, they might not even make it 10 years.

Steel: Durable and Leak-Resistant

Steel Gutters with Downspout
© bilanol / Adobe Stock

Steels gutters can take years of abuse from inclement weather and still perform perfectly. The most durable models don’t come cheap, though.

Pros

Steel gutters are available in both galvanized steel and stainless steel versions. The main difference between the two is their resistance to rust and corrosion. Galvanized steel, despite its protective coating, will usually be destroyed by rust within 20 years. Stainless steel won’t rust or corrode at all, so you can expect these gutters to last for several decades.

Beyond this, both are exceptionally tough and stand up to snow, hail, wind, and heat without sustaining dents or cracks. Steel gutters are available in seamless models and seamed models. In seamed steel gutters, the seams are soldered and riveted, so they’re less likely to leak.

Unlike aluminum gutters, steel gutters can be used with any type of shingle without added risk of corrosion.

Cons

Steel, like all metal, expands and contracts with heat, which can weaken it over time. That said, it’s still a better option for hot climates than vinyl. Stainless steel’s ability to ward off rust and corrosion make it more durable, but it also makes stainless steel gutters around twice as expensive as galvanized steel models. Because their weight makes them hard to handle and their joints require soldering, installation costs are higher than for vinyl or aluminum gutters.

Some installers won’t work with steel gutters, so you might have trouble finding someone to do the installation. Their limited popularity also makes these gutters harder to find.

Steel gutters come in a smaller variety of colors and styles compared to vinyl or even aluminum models. Seamless models are particularly hard to find. If you want your steel gutters to match your house, you’ll need to paint them. On the plus side, this gives you the chance to get an exact match.

Aluminum: An All-Around Practical Choice

New Aluminum Gutters
© Andy Dean / Adobe Stock

More durable than vinyl yet easier to install than steel, aluminum gutters offer a good balance between cost and longevity.

Pros

Aluminum is the most popular choice for gutters, largely because it combines many of the benefits of vinyl and steel. Like steel, it won’t sag, but it’s much lighter and easier to handle, making aluminum gutters easier to install than steel models. Aluminum won’t rust, although it can corrode from long term exposure to moisture and salt, which is a risk in coastal climates. In most climates, aluminum gutters will hold up for 20 years or longer.

Thanks to their popularity, they’re easy to find and come in a wide variety of colors and styles. You can also paint them if you can’t find the exact color you want.

Cons

Aluminum gutters are more durable than vinyl models, but generally won’t last as long as stainless steel models. Because they’re easily damaged by heavy snow, hail, and wind, they aren’t a practical option for some climates. Minor dents won’t impair their function, but larger ones can interfere with the flow of water and should be repaired. These gutters are also somewhat more likely to leak around the joints compared to steel models.

Aluminum gutters shouldn’t be used with a roof that has copper flashing or algae-resistant shingles, which contain copper particles. The small amount of copper washing off the roof will speed up the corrosion of the aluminum.

Most aluminum gutters come with an enamel coating that gradually wears away. To keep your gutters looking good, you’ll need to paint them at some point.

Choose the right gutter material for your needs, and you’ll enjoy years of trouble-free protection from water damage. For a low-cost option in a mild climate that doesn’t see much rain, vinyl gutters are a practical choice. If your area sees frequent rain or snowstorms, though, you’ll be better off with heavy gauge aluminum gutters or steel gutters.

Posted on Categories Exterior

Painted vs. Stained Cabinets

Painted and Stained Kitchen Cabinets
© Ursula Page / Adobe Stock

Because cabinets are such prominent features in your kitchen and bath, the finish you choose for them affects the whole ambiance of the room. While both painted and stained cabinets can be equally attractive, each finish has aspects that make it better suited to some situations than others.

Paint: Versatile and Modern

Painted Wall and Base Cabinets
© think4photop / Adobe Stock

Paint opens up a world of color choices and lets you create a fresh, contemporary look. You’ll get especially good results if your cabinets are MDF or wood with a fine, indistinct grain, such as maple.

A Clean Look

Because paint is thicker than stain, it provides more complete coverage of wood grain, knot holes, and natural color variations between each cabinet. You’ll get cabinets with even, consistent coloring and a sleek look that’s perfect for modern decor styles. Paint is also a fitting choice for classic retro-style kitchens, with their blue or white cabinets, and for the white cabinets popular in farmhouse-style kitchens.

The flip side of this is that paint hides the features that give wood its character. Expensive wood cabinets will lose much of their distinctive, luxury appeal. On the other hand, paint can’t always create a flawless surface on woods with a prominent grain, such as oak, ash, and hickory.

More Color Choices

Stain limits your color options to something that’s more or less a natural shade of wood. With paint, your choices are nearly unlimited. You’ll have more ways to express your sense of style and more control over the ambiance you create in the room.

You can have cherry red or lemon yellow cabinets that give the room a cheerful, sunny feel or paint your cabinets charcoal grey or indigo for a moody atmosphere. Uncommon colors, such as Merlot red or olive green, bring a unique character to the room.

A Better Choice for MDF

While you can stain MDF (medium-density fiberboard) cabinets, the result won’t look as good as stained wood. Stain works so well on wood because it brings out the wood’s natural features, in particular the grain. Because MDF doesn’t have grain, stain results in a largely flat, brown surface with minimal color variations to add interest.

Paint, however, covers MDF beautifully. Even white and pale cream shades can make inexpensive MDF cabinets look almost identical to pricey wood models.

Stain: Traditional and Easy to Maintain

Stained Wood Kitchen Cabinets
© Omid / Adobe Stock

The classic finish for wood cabinets, stain lets the natural variations in wood shine through. Because it’s less expensive and easier to care for than paint, it’s also practical for an active household.

Natural Beauty

If you love the natural look of wood, stain is the way to go. By subtly enhancing the wood’s color and bringing out the texture of the grain and knot holes, stain makes the most of what’s already there. Stain is especially well suited to traditional or rustic decor styles, where the warmth and earthy tones of wood play a major role.

In fact, although white kitchen cabinets have been the trend for two decades now, the time-honored charm of stained wood cabinets is coming back into style.

On cabinets made from wood with a prominent grain, stain usually gives better results than paint. With stain, grain becomes an attractive feature instead of a flaw the paint failed to cover.

Greater Durability

Kitchens and baths are active, messy places so there’s a good chance your cabinets will show wear. Stain hides dirt, grease, and fingerprints more effectively than paint and it discolors less with time.

It stands up to humidity better and is less prone to chipping and cracking around the cabinets’ joints. Your cabinets naturally expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity, which can crack paint. Stain is absorbed into the wood itself, so it moves with the wood and won’t warp, peel or crack. Even nicks and dings are less visible on stained cabinets.

Stain is easier to touch up in an inconspicuous way. Painted cabinets change color over time, so it’s hard to get an exact match even if you have a leftover bucket of the same paint. If your cabinets were painted by the manufacturer, many of which use industrial spray painting machines, a touch-up done with a brush won’t look as smooth. On stained cabinets, scratches and nicks are simple to cover with a putty crayon or stain marker.

Easier for DIYers

If you plan to finish your cabinets yourself, stain makes it easier to get professional results. Stain is more forgiving of mistakes such as uneven application and won’t show brushstrokes.

Applying stain is often less work. Stain can look good after just one coat and some dense hardwoods, such as oak or maple, can only take a single coat. With paint, however, you might need several coats to get that smooth, modern finish. For both stain and paint, you’ll need to sand the cabinets and finish them with a protective topcoat, so there’s no difference in time and effort there.

Lower Costs

Stain generally costs around 10 to 15 percent less than paint. In a small room with 15 linear feet of cabinet space or less, the difference is negligible. The problem comes when you have a room with more than 30 linear feet of cabinet space. In this case, you could end up spending hundreds if not thousands more to paint your cabinets rather than stain them. The same goes if you’re buying new, finished cabinets because the manufacturer will pass the cost difference on to you.

Combine that with the fact that painted cabinets also take more upkeep and you might find the cost of painting isn’t worth it.

If you want total control over the color of your cabinets or if the ambiance you’re aiming for just won’t work with wood, paint is the way to go. Even if you plan to stick with a traditional color, but you have MDF cabinets, paint will give you more appealing results.

If you have wood cabinets and want to show off their natural features, stain is the clear winner. It’s also a practical way to keep the cost and maintenance requirements of your cabinets down while still enjoying a luxury appearance.

Posted on Categories Interior

New Carpet Smell: Is it Safe? And How to Get Rid of It.

Man Rolling Out New Carpet
© New Africa / Adobe Stock

For some, the smell of a new carpet is an innocuous reminder of a recent home upgrade. For others, though, it’s an irritating stench that can make a room nearly unusable. However you feel about it, new carpet smell isn’t the healthiest thing you could be breathing, and it’s reasonable to want it out of your house as soon as possible. With the right approach, you should be able to get rid of the smell within a week or two, if not sooner.

What’s That Smell?

Women Holding Her Nose Because of Smell
© Carlos Die Banyuls / Adobe Stock

The odor of new carpeting is caused by chemicals known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs. This broad group of chemicals includes many that are frequently used in the manufacture of household products such as paint, vinyl flooring, and pressed-wood furniture.

Volatile in this case means they evaporate at room temperature. As a new carpet gradually releases, or off-gasses chemical residue, the chemicals enter the air where we can smell them. Within a few days to a few weeks, these fumes dissipate, and the carpet no longer smells.

The VOCs responsible for new carpet smell are 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PCH) and, to a lesser extent, styrene. These usually come from the synthetic latex in the carpet’s backing, as well as from the padding and adhesives used to secure the carpet during installation. Dyes, water repellents, anti-static agents, and other chemical auxiliaries can also bring VOCs into your home if they weren’t completely rinsed out during manufacturing.

Staying Safe Around New Carpet

Couple Carrying Carpet Roll Into Home
© gpointstudio / Adobe Stock

Carpets have some of the lowest VOC emissions of any household material, and you can find low-VOC and even VOC-free carpets if you don’t want to deal with new carpet smell at all. The padding and adhesives have somewhat higher emissions, however, and because carpet often covers a large area, it’s usually one of the main sources of VOCs in the house.

Even so, the amount of VOCs a new carpet releases won’t affect the average person’s health and there’s no known link between 4-PCH and any adverse health effects. You should be fine as long as you follow the carpet manufacturer’s guidelines, which usually recommend thoroughly ventilating the newly carpeted room for around three days, and not using the room for that time.

In particularly sensitive people or those with health conditions such as asthma, VOCs can sometimes cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, and eye, nose and throat irritation. If you notice these symptoms or you just don’t like breathing in that chemical smell, it’s worth going to a little extra effort to clean up your air.

Clearing Your Air of New Carpet Smell

Hand Opening a Window
© ronstik / Adobe Stock

The first step in limiting the VOCs a new carpet brings into your home is to choose a low-VOC or non-VOC carpet. Look for carpets that carry the Green Label and Green Label Plus labels from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). These indicate a carpet produces very low emissions. Choosing carpet made from natural materials and dyes, such as wool in natural or plant-dyed colors, also helps.

Ask your installer about using a non-adhesive installation method, such as a floating installation. If that isn’t possible, ask them to use low-VOC adhesives. Before the carpet is installed, unroll it in a dry, well ventilated area for a few days first. If possible, tack it down to keep it flattened. This lets the carpet off-gas most of its chemical fumes outside your home.

If your new carpet is part of a larger renovation job, wait as long as you can to have the carpet put in. This way your carpet won’t absorb VOCs from other materials and substances, such as paint.

Once the carpet is installed, ventilate the room as much as you can until you no longer smell an odor or for at least 72 hours. Open the windows and put fans in the room turned up to their highest settings. Keep the door to the room closed.

After this, just giving your carpet a good vacuuming might be enough to get rid of any odor still hanging around. If it isn’t, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet, let it sit for 24 hours, then vacuum again.  The baking soda will absorb a certain amount of the off-gassing chemical fumes.

For a really stubborn odor, steam cleaning can help by rinsing away any chemical residue that might be left in the carpet fibers. Using a basic steam cleaner rented from a home improvement store is a good start, but having a professional carpet cleaning will be even more effective.

To get rid of new carpet smell lingering in the air, try a portable air purifier with an activated carbon filter, which can trap gaseous air contaminants. You can also find activated-carbon filters designed for your air conditioning system. With one of these installed, you can run your A/C to ventilate your newly carpeted room even faster. Standard fiber media air filters, HEPA filters, and electronic air cleaners don’t work against airborne VOCs, so choose your air purifier carefully.

Some plants, including Boston fern, spider plant, bamboo palm, and English ivy, can break down certain VOCs in the air, so they’re a healthy addition to your living space and might reduce odors seeping out from your newly carpeted room.

If your new carpet is giving off a smell, chances are you have nothing to worry about. The small amount of chemicals in that odor is unlikely to make you ill, and the odor should be gone within a week or two as long as you properly ventilate the room. If that new carpet smell is making you unwell or it’s just too unpleasant to be around, vacuuming, steam cleaning, and using an activated-carbon air purifier can help you get your air cleaner faster.

Posted on Categories Flooring

Floor, Wall, or Ceiling Registers?

Air Register Illustration
© theblackrhino / Adobe Stock

The location of your heating and cooling system’s air registers might seem like a minor detail, but it has a noticeable impact on your comfort. Floor, wall, and ceiling registers each have their own strengths and weaknesses that make them suited for different situations.

The ideal register placement for each room depends on a variety of factors, including energy efficiency, ease and cost of installation, appearance and, of course, comfort.

Floor Registers: Ideal for Efficient Heating

Hand Opening a Floor Register
© tab62 / Adobe Stock

If you live in a climate where you need heating more often than cooling, floor registers are usually the most logical choice. Warm air naturally rises. When your warm air comes from the floor, it heats the room as it rises toward the ceiling. Place your registers on the ceiling, however, and much of your warm air will pool in the upper part of the room where it won’t do you much good.

Floor registers are typically placed under windows to let the warm air they deliver mix with the cool air coming from the windows. Near an interior wall is another common location. Depending on the location of your air handler, if you want floor registers, you might also need to build a duct chase under the floor, which will increase the cost and complexity of installation.

In very small rooms, floor registers can make it difficult to put in the kind of furniture you want in the arrangement you want, especially if the register is near a corner. Covering the register with furniture not only limits the amount of air delivered, but can also contribute to a pressure imbalance inside your heating and cooling system that stresses the components.

Another minor downside of floor registers is their tendency to collect dust and debris. They’re also more vulnerable to becoming blocked by a dropped toy or other object, something to consider if you have small children at home.

Ceiling Registers: a Good Choice for Cooling

Installing a Ceiling Register
© Tati Ulianova / Adobe Stock

In a warm climate where you need cooling most of the year, ceiling registers are generally preferable. As warm air rises, cool air falls, so the cool air from your ceiling registers will pass through your whole living space instead of pooling near the floor.

Over a window, with the register directed to blow air toward the window, is a popular location for ceiling registers. Less often, a ceiling register is placed near an interior wall so that it blows toward the wall opposite the door or toward the room’s biggest window. This placement requires less ducting than a register over the window, making it a little cheaper to install.

A four-way register near the middle of the room is another possibility. If the exact center of the ceiling is already occupied by a light, the register can be moved a little toward an exterior wall.

Having your registers in the ceiling frees up floor space and gives you more options for arranging your furniture. Ceiling air registers are also less prone to debris buildup than floor registers. Even so, you’ll need to climb up and clean your ceiling air registers once a year to keep them efficient and maintain your indoor air quality.

Wall Registers: Helpful for Air Circulation

HVAC Wall Register
© IcemanJ / Adobe Stock

Wall registers are positioned either low on the interior walls in cold climates or high on the interior walls in hot climates. Unlike ceiling registers, high wall registers don’t blow air directly down on you. Instead, the air they deliver flows across the upper part of the room and mixes with the room air. As this air moves, it draws room air up toward it, which improves air circulation even more.

As with ceiling registers, wall registers give you more free floor space. On the other hand, they’re more visible and can look out of place among your wall art or other decor.

These registers are tricky to install and connecting the ducts to them is a challenge even for a professional. When you’re upgrading an existing heating and cooling system, wall registers might not be an option unless you’re also doing extensive remodeling. In most existing homes, you’ll have to choose between either floor or ceiling registers.

Other Factors to Consider

For optimal temperatures and airflow, you’ll need not only the right locations for your air registers, but also the right type of registers. For example, two-way and three-way registers are used in different situations.

Heating and cooling professionals follow the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s (ACCA’s) Manual T to choose the right registers, grilles, diffusers, and related equipment for each situation.

Even if you decide to install your registers yourself, consider investing in a consultation with a professional. A little guidance can help you keep your rooms much more comfortable with less energy.

Posted on Categories HVAC

Common Signs of a Bad Interior Paint Job

Various Paint Brushes and Color Swatches
© bukhta79 / Adobe Stock

When you hire a professional to paint a room in your home, you expect beautiful, long-lasting results, but that’s not always what you’ll get. Less skilled and less honest painters can leave you with walls that are smudged or streaky, or that start fading or cracking quickly.

A bad interior paint job isn’t just bad news for your wall. It’s a sign the contracting company might have cut corners elsewhere, so you’ll want to check over the rest of their work.

If you’re having your walls painted or you’ve just had them done, the ability to spot the signs of a bad paint job will help you decide when to make a complaint. If you’ve moved into a home with painted walls, knowing the signs helps you plan for re-painting.

Signs Your Interior Paint Job is Going Wrong

Painter Sitting on Ladder
© Africa Studio / Adobe Stock

While most professional painters take great care in their work, some skip steps in order to maximize their profits at the expense of quality results. When you know how a paint job should progress, you’ll notice when your painter seems to be skimping on effort, so you can bring up your concerns immediately.

No Wall Preparation Was Done

For a paint job to turn out well, the wall must be clean and largely free from damage. Before applying paint, a professional painter prepares the wall by repairing minor flaws such as small dents and cracks, removing old paint when necessary or sanding old high-gloss paint so the new paint will stick. After this, the painter should thoroughly clean and rinse the wall, then allow it to dry.

Your painter should also come prepared with more than just some buckets of paint and a brush. They’ll need caulk, various types of brushes and rollers, edging tools, a sturdy ladder, and other professional supplies. If you see them using masking tape instead of painter’s tape, which is wider and typically blue or green, you know the job is unlikely to go well.

No Room Preparation Was Done

Your painter will probably ask you to move your furniture away from the walls, but you shouldn’t have to do much more than that. The painter should supply drop cloths to cover furniture, as well as remove light fixtures and cover windows, floors, and outlet covers.

In a room that’s already been painted, streaks of wall paint on the outlet covers and window frames are tell-tale signs of a bad interior paint job.

Signs a Bad Finished Interior Paint Job

Aftermath of a Messy Paint Job
© Rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock

Even if you weren’t there to see how the painter did their work, you can still tell when they didn’t do the job well.

The Paint is Wrong for the Wall

A garish color in the bedroom or a hard-to-wash matte paint in the bathroom might be just a bad choice on the part of the homeowner, but it also suggests the painter skipped the color consultation.

A truly professional painter takes time to help their clients chose the best colors and finishes for each room. For example, they’ll often recommend washable semi-glosses for high-traffic or messy areas, such as the entryway, laundry room, and bathroom, but suggest matte paints for the living room and dining room, where more color vibrancy and a smooth finish is important.

When the painter doesn’t provide this guidance, the homeowner is left to make their best guess on what paint to use, and they might not choose well.

Stains or Other Flaws are Visible Through the Paint

These are signs the painter either didn’t apply primer, applied too little or applied the wrong kind. Primer corrects minor surface flaws on the wall, so the paint goes on smoothly, dries with an even finish and vibrant color, and lasts years longer than it would otherwise. If the wall is water-stained, one or two coats of a sealer-primer is usually needed to prevent the discoloration from bleeding through the new paint. Less scrupulous painters might skip this step to reduce their costs and increase their profits.

A New Paint Job Looks Faded or Discolored, or Damages Easily

These problems suggest the painter used only one coat of paint where they should have used two or more. While some paints provide good coverage on light walls with just one coat, they’re the exception. For most, you’ll need two or even three coats. One coat alone will lack vibrancy, let the old paint under it show through, and fail to cover minor irregularities on the wall’s surface. If gently sponging off dirt on the wall causes the paint to come off, it’s a good bet the painter applied only one coat.

The Paint is Blotchy, Streaky, or Blistered

Flaws like these tell you the paint might have been applied to a dirty or wet wall. Over time, walls pick up dust and grime that can interfere with paint adhesion, so even a relatively clean wall should be washed before it’s painted. After cleaning, the wall should be allowed to dry thoroughly. If the painter skips these steps, the paint won’t adhere evenly, causing blotches and streaks. Escaping moisture can cause the paint to blister. Peeling paint is another problem that happens when a wet wall is painted.

The Paint is Smudged, Cracking, or Wrinkling

If you spot these problems, chances are a second coat of paint was applied before the first coat was dry. This is particularly true when paint cracks in a scaly, snake-skin pattern, known as alligatoring. In very old oil-based paint, though, alligatoring is the normal result of aging.

How long a painter should wait between coats depends on both the paint used and the room’s humidity level. While it’s safe to recoat latex paint after four to six hours, an oil-based paint will need to dry for a full 24 hours. If the room is damp or even if it’s raining out, the drying time will be longer. Wrinkled paint is usually the result of applying oil-based paint when it’s colder than 50 degrees in the room.

The Paint is Chalking

Chalking happens when the paint begins to break down. You’ll notice the paint develops a white, powdery film, the color fades, and you can wipe the pigment off with a light brush of a finger. Long-term sun exposure can cause this, but when it happens soon after painting, it typically means the paint was thinned too much, or the wall wasn’t cleaned properly before painting. Painting over a high-gloss paint without sanding it first can also cause the new paint to chalk.

Whether you’re assessing your painter’s recent work or deciding whether to repaint the walls in your new home, being able to tell a good paint job from a bad one will help you make smart choices. A bad interior paint job detracts from the beauty of your room and can exacerbate moisture problems, so if you find yours is less than ideal, consult an experienced and reliable professional painter for guidance.

Posted on Categories Interior

Ceiling Condensation and How to Fix It

Close Up of Condensation
© nokdue27 / Adobe Stock

If you don’t get it under control, even a small amount of ceiling condensation can quickly leave you with an ugly, blotchy, moldy mess overhead.

The fact that there’s moisture on your ceiling at all is a strong indication your house has problems that are running up your energy bills, ruining your air quality, and stealing your comfort. By taking steps to get rid of that moisture, you can save your ceiling and keep your home more comfortable for less.

Upgrade Your Attic

Man Installing Insulation in Attic
© artursfoto / Adobe Stock

The most common cause of ceiling condensation is an attic with too little insulation and ventilation. In an attic like this, wintertime ceiling condensation can form when cold air from the attic hits your warm ceiling. In summer, when the air conditioning is on, the reverse happens.

Improving your attic’s air sealing and insulation prevents attic air from reaching your ceiling, and it’s a fairly easy job to do yourself. Start by checking your attic’s insulation level. If you can see the attic’s floor joints, you need more insulation.

In most parts of the country, an R38 layer of insulation, or about 10 to 14 inches of fiberglass batts, is enough. In a region with cold winters, you might need up to an R60 layer or around 20 inches of fiberglass batts.

Before you install more insulation, seal any air leaks that could let attic air flow to your ceiling. Apply rigid foam insulation to the top of the attic hatch and install weatherstripping on the edges of the hatch. Fill joist spaces with rolled-up insulation batts. If you have a furnace flue, fit aluminum flashing around it and seal the flashing with heat-resistant caulk. Dropped soffits and kneewalls should also be sealed.

Recessed lighting tends to leak air, but it’s tricky to seal. If possible, have your old recessed lights replaced with insulated can models.

Take care of your attic HVAC air ducts, too. Warm air escaping from a duct into a cold attic can create condensation and encourage mold growth. Applying mastic gum to the duct joints and adding an R6 layer of insulation around your sheet metal ducts goes a long way toward protecting your attic and ceiling.

Next, take a look at your attic ventilation. It should allow air to flow both in and out. If your attic has only soffit vents, only ridge vents or a gable vent on just one side, then the space isn’t getting enough airflow. Although many attics do well with a ridge-and-soffit ventilation system, this system isn’t ideal for every home. Designing effective attic ventilation is something of an art, so it’s best left to a professional.

Get a Handle on Your Indoor Humidity

A Digital Hygrometer and Thermometer
© yo camon / Adobe Stock

The attic isn’t always to blame for ceiling condensation. Sometimes, your daily activities add more humidity to the air than your home can handle, leading to a buildup of moisture. If you notice condensation on your windows and walls, find peeling wallpaper or bubbled paint, or see mold spots around the house, your home’s humidity is too high.

To find out how serious your humidity issue is, hang a hygrometer on your wall. An indoor humidity of between 45 to 55 percent is ideal, but anything higher will cause problems.

Start reducing your indoor humidity by always using lids on pots when you cook, making your showers shorter and cooler, hanging laundry outdoors to dry, and running your exhaust fan for 10 to 15 minutes after cooking or showering. Make sure your clothes dryer vents to the outdoors and not into your laundry room or crawl space. Containing all your houseplants to one room and keeping less firewood indoors can help, too.

Backdrafting exhaust fumes from gas or other fuel-burning appliances can also contribute to moisture problems, not to mention potentially fatal carbon monoxide poisoning. Leaky HVAC air ducts, large exhaust fans or range hood fans, and a blocked or oversized flue are all possible causes of backdrafting.

Let Your Home Breathe

Woman Opening Home Window
© gpointstudio / Adobe Stock

If you’re already doing what you can to put less moisture into the air, it’s time to look into improving your home’s ventilation. Lack of airflow indoors can cause moisture to build up until it eventually starts clinging to the walls and ceiling.

To improve your airflow, you have several options for whole-house ventilation systems. Central exhaust systems, which draw air out of your home, are favored in dry, cold-winter climates where there’s less risk of the house drawing in humid outdoor air. In warm, humid climates, a supply system is preferable because it gives you a chance to dehumidify the air coming in. A balanced system, which brings in fresh air and draws out stale air, is well suited to any climate, but installation can get pricey.

Regardless of type, a whole-house ventilation system requires professional design and installation because if it’s not working properly, it can make your humidity and condensation problems even worse.

For a ceiling condensation problem in just one part of the house, such as the basement or bathroom, consider bringing in a portable dehumidifier. If you live in a humid climate and nothing you do seems to reign in your indoor humidity, your home might be a good candidate for a whole-house dehumidifier.

If you’ve spotted ceiling condensation recently, first make sure your daily habits aren’t raising your indoor humidity levels. Then check the condition of your attic to see if lack of insulation and ventilation could be causing your problem. Finally, look into improving the ventilation in your living space.

The home improvements you can make to get rid of ceiling condensation all have benefits for your home’s energy efficiency and your comfort, so they’re well worth the investment.

Posted on Categories Interior