how much moisture is 'normal'

tkme4ardJuly 11, 2010

almost 2 weeks ago we found mold in our basement.

We built the house/closed on it 2 months ago. They poured the foundation in Jan. We had a lot of snow this winter followed by a pretty consistant wet spring/summer. Before we closed on the house we were having issues with water going into the wall/flooring around the perimiter of the house in the basement (not finished) and they put an industrial dehumiifier in and poked another larger hole in the sump pump and that seemed to take care of it all. No more walls/floor getting dark. When we did our preclose walk through we were suggested to put a dehumidifier in the basement. We didn't see any more 'wet' so we figured it was a 200$ purchase that could wait. A month ago when it rained especially hard we had our window wells fill with water and pour down the sides of the basement walls and onto the floor. We moved everything away from the walls and allowed it all to dry out. The builder sent someone out to seal the windows and had us put well covers over the wells. A week ago we we put in big metal shelving unit to get stuff off the floor and found that under the boxes was wet and mold had started to grow. This 'wet' was no where near where the water had come in from the window wells. I went out that night and bought a 50 pint dehumidifier

Our basement has a finished bathroom but thats the only part thats finished. The rest is a large open room aprox 30x40' (with jut outs for the dining room/morning room) We have a leather sectional, tv, toys as well as our storage to the side where the boxes were. Well upon further inspection we noticed mold on the baseboards in the bathroom, behind and below the leather sectional, wooden shelving units that held toys, paint etc.

The next day was the friday before the 4th of july and the builder sent out an 'enviromental docter' to test the mold, to see where it was and the mold levels. Told us that the mold levels were within normal range, the humidity levels was 55% but it should come down with the dehudifier running (it had been 71%) The baseboard moisture leve was 19 and above range. There was no mold on the structure of the house just at floor level. Told us to get rid of the boxes, get everything up off the floor, and wipe everything down with a bleach water solution.

Now it's been 10 days of running the dehumidifier on continuous. The digital reading on the upstairs thermostat says the humidity level is 58% the basement humidity level reading (I bought a little humidity reader at walmart) is varying from 51-58%. We were emptying the dehumidifier 2 sometimes 3 times a day, but my husband has since hooked up a hose and draining it directly into the sump pump.

I'm at a loss at this point. Our builder continues to tell me this is all normal and that if we have incured anything that has to be thrown away that they will not cover anything because we didn't buy a dehumidifier when they suggested it. Our neighbors all say their basements are dry, no mold and they were never suggested to buy a dehumidifier. I'm concerned about the amount of moisture that still remains in our home, that the mold keeps coming back into the bathroom basement baseboards, the amount of moisture that is being pulled out of the house still 10 days later. The hose isn't running has heavy as it was, its now a constant trickle but the humidity level remains the same.

If this is not normal, whats causing it. Where is the moisture coming from. Pulling this much moisture now is it going to cause for the walls to crack when winter comes? Do we need another dehumidifier? We have a 20 year dry basement warrenty that we bought/extended from the 10 year that came with the house. The house is also under warenty for the first year with a structure warenty that lasts longer but can't remember what it is. If this is not normal how do I get a proffesional to come in and tell me its not to build a case for the builder.

Thank you for any help or light you can shed on our situation. My husband just retired from 20 years in the Air Force last year, and this is our first home. We've waited a long time for our home, this is all the last thing we expected.

BTW our builder is Inverness homes of Cincinnati (we are in Dayton)


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Humidity in a basement during the summer in your climate is absolutely normal. A mechanical dehumidifier is a necesssity; don't expect to ever be without one. Our current home is 57 years old and I'm still emptying the dehumidifier once a day.

Humidity levels in a new home basement will be particularly high. Besides the normal water in the air, there are literally thousands of gallons of water in the concrete walls and floors that are continuously being released as the concrete hardens over the years.

Be sure to run the exhaust fan in the bathroom whenever the bath or shower is used. Keep doors open to allow circulation. Closets on the perimeter wall can be a big problem.

Keep the windows in the your basement closed. Don't "air out" the basement.--you'll just be letting in more damp air. To keep your electricity costs down, size the dehumidifier correctly. Don't use a dehumidifier that is bigger than necessary.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dehumidifiers

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 5:56PM
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My home has 4 separate rooms

In the basement?

Try the hallway and entry. And try to keep the doors open. As you know from your link, you may be a candidate for a whole house system. Or simply buy a couple of small portable units and use them both. So much depends on climate. For deep South homes, see the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: Conditioning Air in the Humid South

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:48AM
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The dehumidifier should be sized so that it will not have to run full time. No humidifier will last long at that pace; the coils can actually freeze up. It's hard to imagine how a dehumidifier could be too big.

Moisture can enter the basement from humid bathroom air or from humid outside air and it usually condenses against the cool concrete walls. Also, inadequate waterproofing on the outside of the walls can allow water to slowly enter through the wall and this can be exacerbated by not enough slope to the grade at the perimeter of the house and the absence of a footing drain. The absence of an adequate vapor retarder membrane under the floor slab can also add to the moisture problem.

The fact that the window wells filled up indicates a failure to provide a drain at that location. See if that was included in your contract but omitted.

You need to assume all of these issues are problems and then try to eliminate them one at a time.

First, get the downspout terminations and surface drainage to run away from the house.

Then put a piece of plastic on the concrete slab and tape the edges with duct tape. If moisture gets trapped under the plastic after a few days, the builder probably omitted the code required vapor retarder membrane under the slab. He might also have used a damp sand bed under the slab and that can take a long time to dry.

What does the sump pump serve? Is there a perimeter drain? Is it outside or inside?

Find out what the exterior wall waterproofing was and what kind of drainage/protection/insulation board (if any) was put over it.

Your contractor is obligated under the warranty to do all of this for you since the moisture is excessive but he will probably drag his feet and blame issues beyond his control. If you can't push him, you might might have to get out in front and figure it out yourself. A local home inspector can be helpful.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 5:12PM
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thank you Macy. I appreciate that. I just wish I didn't have a half dozen people saying 4 different things :)

The sump pump is the perimeter and it drains out the back of the house via a long white drain pipe.

we're going to take care of the grade as soon as we get back from vacation

determining the basement layers will be done in the a.m.

who or what kind of proffessional to bring in is what I need to know. The builders guy he sent out was even saying out a building inspector can get their license out of a magazine. I'm really feeling like our builder is nothing but a used car sales men in disguise

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 10:45PM
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I just wish I didn't have a half dozen people saying 4 different things :)

Only two anonymous voices here, not in conflict that I can see. But as a builder I like to think that the home was built right in the first place. However, the flooding window wells clearly show some oversights.

And on rereading your post I wonder if there's not some underground water flow that is the source or contributory to problems.

Home warranties here are through a government mandated programme that is arms length from the builder and can order and pay for repairs. At some point you may need an impartial expert too. An inspector accredited by one of the several associations may be of help-- American Society of Home Inspectors, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, National Academy of Building Inspection Engineers or the National Association of Home Inspectors.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 9:47PM
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