Humidity in our homes creates a welcoming environment for mould – will damage your home and may harm your health. The good news is that there are simple things you can do now to prevent problems in the future. It’s true what your grandma said – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Mould is naturally occurring – it is part of our environment – and it’s not all bad (penicillin and other pharmaceuticals are derived from mould). Many science fair projects can be found at the bottom of the fruit bowl or in the back of the fridge so we all know what mould does – it breaks down its host. Since mould needs food and water to grow, the way to prevent mould from taking hold is to control the conditions that are favourable to mould growth. Which brings me back to steam…
Since we can’t eliminate mould “food” from our homes – like drywall, osb, wood and the dust and debris in carpets and furniture – we need to control the moisture in the air. Drying out a damp basement may be the most obvious place to start, but there are other culprits in our homes that you may not have considered.
Kitchen and bathroom fans are crucial to reducing moisture in your home so make sure that they are in good working order and are vented directly outside through the roof. Here’s the key – having working fans is only one step – you need to actually turn them on when you are cooking or showering, or better yet, install a humidistat and connect it to your bathroom fan. It should be installed on the outer wall at about eye level. A humidistat will automatically turn on your bathroom fan when the humidity is high and will run until it lowers.
Another culprit is the venting coming from the fans. It is a common building error that the venting is expelling in to the attic and not to the outdoors – or it may be running for many feet across your attic before it vents out. Venting should be expelling out of the roof of your home – in a short path from the source. The more bends in the ventilation, the less it is pulling.
Another source of steam that you may not have considered can be found in your laundry room. Dryers can be a source of humidity in our homes if they aren’t vented properly, or if the vent hose becomes dislodged or damaged. Take a look behind your dryer – you are going to want to be armed with a vacuum for this job – there will be dust bunnies, lint and a few missing socks. Make sure the dryer hose is attached, in good condition and again, venting directly out of your home. Warm, damp air coming out of the dryer can create the perfect environment for mold to settle.
So what should you do if even after doing all these preventative steps you still find condensation on your windows? If your fan isn’t able to handle the steam created by your shower – open a window and/or use a good de-humidifier or even add an inexpensive portable fan to any room that needs it. Reducing moisture in the home is more about ventilation and air movement than it is about heat. Controlling the moisture in your home makes your house less hospitable to mould – and who wants an uninvited “guest” that can damage their property?
If you think you are doing everything right but your windows are still steaming up or you smell mould, consider hiring a professional to conduct a home inspection. A trained and certified inspector will give you all the information you need to prevent mould and reduce humidity.
If you install a humidistat, it should be at eye level on the wall just outside your bathroom.