Humid, sticky air in your home or crawl space is unpleasant and irritating, to say the least. As well as making the environment in your home uncomfortable, humidity can cause a range of problems for you and your property as a whole. From changing the atmosphere and climate in your home to structural damage and infestations, there are many different reasons you should investigate and address the causes of high humidity in your property.
The ideal rate of humidity in a home is anywhere from 40-50%, depending on the season and climate, as well as other factors. However, it may be necessary to keep humidity below 40% in the winter months (especially in cold areas like Denver, CO) to avoid condensation on your property’s windows, and your crawl space may require humidity to be as low as 30% to avoid condensation and dampness.
Where Does Humidity Come From?
While Colorado isn’t generally as humid as other areas of the country, it’s still important to know about this issue. Humidity in your home is a direct result of moisture evaporating into the air. This makes it harder for your HVAC system to control the temperature inside your home and can contribute to an environment that is conducive to mold formation and pest infestation. Of course, there are many potential causes for this dampness.
Internal leaks are some of the most common causes of dampness, standing water, and generally high humidity in a home. From a full-scale plumbing flood to a gentle trickle, internal leaks can be caused by a number of factors. In Colorado, the harsh winters and sudden cold snaps make burst pipes unfortunately common, especially in a property with an exposed crawl space. Other internal sources of water include deteriorating or broken appliances and leaking pipes, which can cause a steady stream of water to enter your home and raise levels of humidity in your home.
Structural damage of any kind, whether to your roof, your walls, or your foundation, can cause a spike in relative humidity inside your home or crawl space by letting water seep into your home. Cracks in your property’s structure or gaps in vulnerable areas (such as around windows) will allow water to seep into your home, especially during the spring thaw.
An Exposed Crawl Space
Properties that have an exposed crawl space are particularly vulnerable to issues with dampness and can quickly develop a high level of relative humidity. This is partly because of the way an exposed crawl space can collect water during storms, but also because of the way in which warm summer air will condense when it hits the cool surfaces inside.
The Problem Signs of High Humidity in a Property
Learning to recognize signs of dampness and humidity in a property is all-important to ensuring you are able to address problems before they escalate. There are a variety of red flags you can look out for when surveying your home for signs of humidity and dampness, but the most common are:
Condensation on your windows, walls, floors, or even ceiling is one of the strongest signs that you have a high level of humidity in your property. It is also a sign that is likely to show itself very quickly after the levels of humidity in your home rise. For homeowners in Colorado Springs, Denver, and nearby, condensation is most likely to show itself in winter.
This is because cold air has a lower capacity to hold moisture than warm air. So, if you notice that winter has brought condensation this year despite it never having been a problem before, it may be time to contact a professional. Condensation on your windows can be a sign of relatively high humidity, but it is not necessarily a huge issue. If you are noticing condensation on your walls, however, this is a strong sign of severe dampness somewhere in your property. As such, you should make a call to an expert to investigate.
If you detect a strong, musty odor in your crawl space or your property as a whole, you should first investigate to see if there is an obvious cause. If you can find no obvious cause for the smell and it persists no matter what you try, it’s likely that consistent dampness is the cause. If dampness and humidity are at the heart of the issue, you will be able to follow the trail.
The smell is likely to be strongest where the dampness in your home is concentrated. When you find the concentrated source of the smell, you should look for other signs of dampness as well as standing water. This will help you guide any professional that comes to inspect your home to damage and other potential causes.
Increasing Energy Bills
Damp or humid air is difficult to heat or cool. As such, homes that have problems with humidity are likely to experience frequent fluctuations in temperature. These happen as the property’s HVAC system struggles to consistently condition the damp air. This can make the climate in a property quite unpleasant, but it is not the most pressing side effect.
These fluctuations in temperature and the fact that the HVAC system has to work harder to process the humid air increases energy usage. A rise in energy bills is almost assured when it comes to humidity spikes in a home. The severity of the cost increases depends on the size of the house and the levels of humidity as well as the age of the HVAC system itself.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew thrive in humid environments and can spread very quickly. Although most species will take root and grow more quickly in summer, they can spread in winter too. Most species of mold and mildew are prone to forming in areas that see consistent dampness, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or entry points.
There are other species of mold, however, that thrive inside HVAC systems and ventilation ducts. These kinds of mold are harder to spot at first but are very likely to cause a musty smell that is spread through your home rather than being localized.
Wet Crawl Space Insulation
Long-term humidity and dampness can cause exposed crawl space insulation to absorb water and become saturated. Of course, plumbing floods will also saturate crawl space insulation, but this is likely to be a cause of humidity rather than a secondary symptom. Wet crawl space insulation will also contribute to a vicious cycle of humidity and condensation.
Of course, you shouldn’t really touch your crawl space insulation. This can make it hard to determine whether it is damp or not. However, there are other symptoms you can look for. Damp insulation is more prone to rapid deterioration and rotting, for example. Likewise, rotting insulation will give off a fairly strong smell in many cases. So, when in doubt, look for discolored, sagging, or mold-infested patches of insulation and follow your nose.
Wood rot is a serious and potentially damaging issue that is fairly common in crawl spaces that have severe and persistent issues with dampness and humidity. Unless properly treated, exposed wood is vulnerable to a number of environmental pressures and issues. Persistent humidity and dampness, even at a low level, can cause wood to become saturated and eventually rotten.
Rotting wood brings many problems to a property. For a start, it is structurally less robust than healthy wood. Rotting wood will begin buckling or even crumble when put under pressure. Rotten wood will also be somewhat of a magnet for mold and pests. You will also notice a change in the appearance of wood as it starts to rot. As such, it is generally easy to spot rotting support beams, joists, and floorboards in a home that is struggling with dampness and humidity.
Sagging or Warped Floorboards
Sagging or warped floorboards are common in homes where dampness is an ongoing issue, but they very rarely appear in isolation. Generally speaking, there will be a plethora of co-occurring symptoms and issues to consider. For example, if the humidity has first affected the wooden supports and joists in your crawl space, the evidence of damage will be more severe.
In some cases, you may even find that your crawl space as a whole begins to sag. A sagging crawl space is generally caused by a combination of factors that can include damaged supports, improper support placements, too little support, and wood rot as a result of moisture damage. You will notice this very quickly because the flooring directly above a sagging crawl space will start to sag as well.
Each of these problem signs can appear in isolation, and they should be taken seriously, but if you notice a cluster of them, you should prioritize their investigation. Many of these issues can work together to create tertiary problems such as pest infestations, and the severity of these issues is only likely to grow over time.
There are many potential reasons your home could be experiencing spikes in humidity. You can narrow down the most likely reasons by considering whether the humidity is consistent or irregular. If the humidity remains consistently high, it is likely that you have an internal source of water. If it fluctuates, it could be a result of structural damage and seasonal changes.
Internal Water Sources
Internal water sources are leaks and sources of dampness that either come from your property’s plumbing system or an appliance like your washing machine or water heater. While many people think of dramatic plumbing floods when it comes to an internal leak, most are far more subtle. A small leak in your water heater, for example, can go undetected for months.
Despite being small, these leaks are more than sufficient to raise the relative humidity inside your home significantly. As a result, they can cause a number of issues to form, especially in the immediate vicinity of the leak. Of course, these issues will spread over time and affect other areas of the house.
Structural Damage or an Exposed Crawl Space
Structural damage is a very common factor in properties that have problems with persistent, mid- to high-level dampness and humidity. Whether the moisture is seeping through cracks in damaged or bowing walls or it is entering your home via cracks in your foundation, the damage is usually fairly noticeable. Of course, if you have serious structural damage, humidity is likely to be the least of your issues.
If you have an exposed or unencapsulated crawl space, you are far more likely to experience issues with dampness and humidity, even if the structure of your home is sound. If you have uncovered crawl space vents, the risk of dampness and humidity increases exponentially (as well as the risk of things like pest infestations).
In the grand scheme of things, humidity may not seem like a very pressing issue. Nonetheless, there are a number of reasons you should be concerned about high levels of relative humidity in your property. This is especially the case if the humidity is protracted.
Humidity is a Warning Sign
High or regularly fluctuating levels of humidity are almost always symptomatic of deeper issues within your home. Even low-level humidity can be a sign that you have damage to your plumbing system, appliances, or property structure. There are dozens of potential causes, and when the humidity is severe, the likelihood of multiple causes increases.
As such, high humidity is a red flag for damage within your property that you ignore at your peril. The most common causes of humidity are cracked or bowing walls, foundation damage, subsidence, leaking appliances, and cracked or corroding pipes. In older homes, it is common to see a mix of these issues, and over time, they can cause further issues.
Humidity Can Cause Damage
As well as being a warning sign for existing damage in your property, humidity and low-level dampness can cause problems surprisingly quickly. Of course, the precise nature of the problems depends on the severity and location of the dampness. A severe flood, for example, is far more likely to cause warped floorboards than a small pipe leak.
However, even relatively mild levels of humidity can lead to the formation of mold and mildew and attract certain pests. Exposed wooden support beams and joists will be at risk of rotting if a home experiences frequent and prolonged periods of dampness and humidity. As such, it is very much in the homeowner’s best interests to control humidity levels.
If you suspect you have issues with dampness and humidity in your property, there are a few options that could help you to restore your home to peak condition. Every repair process should start with a call to a professional; we never recommend the DIY approach.
Drain Standing Water
Not every property with humidity issues will have standing water, but if you have a crawl space with a dirt floor, the soil could very well be saturated. If this is the case, a professional will still recommend that you invest in drainage options. This will not only help to lower humidity levels quickly but will contribute to better foundation health within your property.
When it comes to drainage options, a professional will tailor a solution that suits your home and its particular needs. However, broadly speaking, it is likely that an interior drainage system and a sump pump will be a part of the average system. These are some of the most common drainage options because they balance effectiveness with cost.
Invest in Waterproofing
Once water has been successfully drained from your property and crawl space, it is imperative to ensure your property is sufficiently waterproofed to prevent a recurrence. Professional waterproofing for a basement or crawl space is a relatively quick, easy, and cost-effective process that can be tailored to suit each home.
The most commonly deployed waterproofing products are vapor barriers, insulation, and a dehumidifier. When deployed in tandem, these products prevent moisture from seeping into a home, help regulate the temperature of a property, and actively control the level of relative humidity. As a result, they will keep your home dry and safe in the future. Waterproofing can even have extra benefits like a general lowering of energy bills in the long term.
What to do When Your Property Has High Humidity Levels
If you have noticed some warning signs for persistent, high relative humidity in your property, it is normal to be concerned. It is also a good idea to conduct a preliminary investigation yourself. As the property owner, you are the person most likely to notice a change in your home. As such, you should survey your home and crawl space for signs of dampness, damage, mold, and pest infestation where possible. Once you have a good idea of where the issues are concentrated, you should call a professional.
It is never advisable to deal with issues like dampness and humidity alone because of the complexity of the diagnosis. There can be multiple causes or sources of dampness and humidity at work in a single home. This not only makes it hard to identify all areas requiring repair, but it makes co-occurring problems far more likely. All of this means you will need a tailored solution to ensure your property is restored to a safe and healthy condition. This is where Colorado professionals come in.
Let Complete Basement Systems Take Care of Your Humidity Problems
If you have any concerns about the stability of your property’s structure or you’re simply having trouble identifying the causes of damp, musty smells in your home, you can reach out to Complete Basement Systems. Our team is one of the most skilled and highly regarded in northeastern Colorado. From Colorado Springs to Denver, we are the go-to repair service for many homeowners.
If you have any concerns about your home, please contact our team to schedule a free, no-obligation home inspection. We will find out the precise nature (and causes) of the humidity in your home and provide you with a tailored repair solution that will not just restore your home to health, but protect it from future damage. This free inspection comes with no obligation to book repairs through us. Our staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and eager to help each and every homeowner find the answers they seek.
Once thorough inspections of your home and crawl space have been conducted, your inspector will give you a written estimate for all the suggested solutions. We encourage you to take the time to think about the information you have been given and to shop around for your own peace of mind. Should you wish to move forward with us, our team will be delighted to begin the repair process as soon as you are ready. If the situation deteriorates quickly at any point after your inspection, do not hesitate to call the team directly for emergency assistance.