Heritage Restoration, Inc.

A building is a reflection of where it is and what we do to it

Moldy insulation

Wet insulation from direct water and condensation can cause mold

There can be consequences for changing a building and its behavior towards its environment. As time passes, the natural environment matures and a building wears. We manipulate and upgrade buildings for energy efficiency, ourselves, and because we have to. We expect buildings to keep us safe and comfortable, and we certainly do not expect our houses to make us sick. But sometimes the natural environment and built environment come into conflict.

Buildings are always reacting. A building could survive 250 years of exposure and use, yet innocent, subtle, cumulative changes can all of the sudden make that building sick. Direct water and moisture can start from failing roofs and sidewalls, improper retrofits, poor drainage, dampness, plant and tree suffocation, and weather. Buildings should be designed to manage its reaction to the environment, yet not all do. Here are some ways a good house can become sick.

  1. Water infiltration. Managing a good building envelope is a balance of the right investment and good work. All building parts have a life cycle and some parts are harder to replace than others. Failing drip caps over doors and windows can eventually bring water into a building and require removing other building parts. Chimneys require step and cover flashing to prevent water from coming in, and many times are overlooked and repaired with short term products like tar and caulk. Siding can also fail, bringing air and water into the frame. All of the parts expected to protect the building will fail, but managing proper protection is key.
  2. Not all building should be insulated. Wet basements, improper insulation and prevention of air flow, water infiltration, poor siding and building envelopes, as well as failing gutters and improper water management can all lead to houses getting wet and staying wet, causing issues like rot and mold.
  3. Mold is everywhere. Preventing mold is about managing moisture and controlling the interior environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture. The concentration of mold and its effects are dependant on the occupant. One third to one half of all structures have damp conditions that may encourage development of pollutants such as molds and bacteria, which can cause allergic reactions — including asthma — and spread infectious diseases.”

Buildings are not supposed to just look pretty but they have to function as well. Sometimes a good building can quickly decline when they are neglected or improperly retrofitted. When you are considering improvements and retrofits, make sure the science and designs are well vetted. The suggestion of one contractor may not be the best solution. Be sure you are getting unbiased advice from a contractor that is not benefiting from a single product or approach. For instance, a window replacement company may suggest replacing your windows when you don’t have to, or an insulator suggesting only blown-in insulation. Be sure a contractor is considering all options and choosing the one that is the best option for your budget and the building.