Craig There's a fine line in Colorado between having a house that is too dry for occupant health (dry respiratory passages) and having a home that is too wet resulting in structural damage and/or compromising your family's health from mold or mildew growth.
The best way to deal with moisture in homes is to first determine if there is a problem (too dry or too wet), figure out what is influencing the moisture activity of your home, and then learn to control moisture to ensure the structural integrity of your home as well as assure healthy indoor air quality.
A necessary tool for determining if the air in your house is at a healthy moisture level is a moisture meter, which displays the humidity level in the room it is placed in. A healthy level of indoor humidity is between 25 to 40 percent.
These are available at most hardware stores for about $12 to $25.
The best ways to control excess home moisture is to stop water it at its source. Each spring, be sure to observe whether or not thawing snow and rain water are flowing away from your home's foundation. If not, correct the situation by re-grading the soil around your home so that it slopes away from the house. Fix all indoor plumbing leaks, leaky roofs, etc.
Control seepage through masonry by applying waterproofing treatments. Keep moist air away from cold surfaces by plugging holes in walls and sealing fixtures and outlets. Seal leaks in ventilation systems. Make sure that exhaust fans, such as those in bathrooms and kitchens, vent outside. Consider upgrading poorly insulated windows and doors.
Typically, moisture in the form of excess humidity is produced in homes just by the act of living in them. Taking a shower, cooking a meal, even breathing all add moisture to indoor air. You do not necessarily need a leaky roof or seepage from masonry surfaces to create excess humidity, though they certainly can contribute to the problem.
If you suspect moisture problems, look for the following signs:
• Presence of mold, fungus or mildew on interior surfaces
• Efflorescence (salt deposits) on both interior and exterior surfaces
• Flaking paint and peeling wallpaper
• Corrosion on metal surfaces including metal surfaces in basements and attics
• Condensation on windows and walls
• Warped, cracked or rotted wood
• Chipped or cracked masonry surfaces
• Ice dams in gutters and on roofs
• Dank and musty smells
Once excess humidity is under control, it is important to treat and repair all moisture damaged areas promptly. Areas where mold is present should be scraped clean and washed with bleach. Wood that is damaged should in most cases be removed because rot will often continue even after the source of water has been removed. Don't delay repairs. Spores from mold and other fungi can be released into the air and can lead to various respiratory illnesses.
For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.