Ask Ted!

If you have any questions you want answered, feel free to drop me a note. If you’ve got a question, chances are, there are lots of others out there with the same question. So ask away!

Note: all comments are moderated unless I’ve approved one of your previous comments. Almost everybody gets thrown off by this, but I moderate comments to avoid spammers. The downside of this is that you won’t see your comments post until I’ve had a chance to review and approve them. Sometimes this can take days (sorry!) Thanks for your patience.

 

1,214 thoughts on “Ask Ted!

  1. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area peninsula area in an older home with a dirt crawl space, CAN lights in a vaulted ceiling, and fiberglass insulation between the ceiling and the roof. You describe exactly what I have experienced in the Springtime during the past several years. Water drips from the CAN lights onto the floor below the vaulted ceiling (when it is not raining outside and has not rained for many days). There is visible water damage to the ceiling that has accumulated over several seasons. I’d like to have a qualified professional assess my situation before contemplating repairs, but I am struggling to find the right person using the search terms you suggested. Can you recommend some one in the Bay Area who I can work with to better assess my situation and propose solutions? Thanks.

    • I’m afraid I missed your message when you first sent it sorry for the long delay. In the Bay area, there should be many options. You can look for people experienced in building science and moisture troubleshooting. A BPI certification is a good thing to look for. If possible find an independent company, not one that provides services like insulation or HVAC installation. I generally have been more impressed with specialists who focus on building science issues. They don’t have a vested interest in selling you something usually.

    • Thank you! There are a lot of good analysts out in the Northwest. You can try searching for “BPI certified” or “building science” or “home thermal imaging” for your area. The trick is finding people with experience and the right motivations. I typically suggest looking for independent people, not associated with an HVAC or insulation company. If you don’t have luck, email me with your town and I’ll try searching for someone promising.

      • It is great to have the info you provided. I am having water dripping from the light features in the ceiling. I also have fiberglass ceiling. Is there a way to fix the light features without redoing the entire ceiling? Will removing the moisture from the house (for example, seal the crawl space) help?
        I live in San Mateo city, Bay area, California.

      • Water dripping from the ceiling light fixtures is definitely a big problem!

        As you suggested, the first approach would be to greatly reduce the moisture in the house. I’d suggest buying a few of these inexpensive moisture monitors and placing them in a few locations in the house including the rooms where the light fixtures are dripping and the crawl space. This will give you better idea of the current humidity levels in the house and confirm your thought that the moisture is coming from the crawl space. It might be that the crawl space isn’t the source of the problem, which would save you a lot of effort. However, if your crawl space is noticeably wet, then you want to take care of that immediately. I had a townhouse with puddles on the floor from water seepage up from the ground! The previous owners never dealt with the moisture and it rotted out the floor joists under the kitchen to such an extent that the refrigerator was at risk of falling through the floor!

        Given how much moisture is building up in your ceiling, it is very likely that damage has already been done inside the ceiling. The dripping water means that the wood is probably already saturated. Over time, this will lead to mold and rot. At the very least, I would consider replacing those light fixtures with sealed, flush mount LED fixtures. When installed tightly against the ceiling, these will greatly reduce additional moisture from entering the ceiling and will help to reduce additional damage. But ultimately, I think you’ll have to bite the bullet and cut out a section of the ceiling around the light to assess the extent of the moisture in the ceiling.

        Here’s a link to a bunch of these humidity/temperature gauges at Amazon:
        https://www.amazon.com/s?k=humidity+temperature+monitor&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

  2. I’m having a problem with condensation on my ceilings and bricks of my chimney. I have vaulted ceilings and there isn’t anywhere for venting. I’m at my wits end with this problem and I don’t know where to go next. Is there a way I can talk directly to you or send pictures? Please help!

    • Sure -send me anything you’ve got to tedinoue@Gmail.com
      The more details, the better. What the conditions are when it happens – outdoor temperature and weather conditions. Time of day. What was the day before like? And clear photos showing the area where the condensation occurs and the relative position in the room. It’s also useful to know where you live (city and state) so I can look up weather/temperature history.

  3. I have a 1980’s atrium. Fully HVAC with humidistat and exhaust fan. If I dont manually adjust humidity exhaust almost daily and sometimes hourly, condensation forms in the house.

    • That probably means there’s missing insulation in the areas of condensation. Moisture rises and collects at the ceiling so that’s usually where the problems are worst.

      • Thanks for quick response. The atrium roof is glass and the house surrounds the atrium. It is a t & g, cathedral ceiling on house. Is there way to insulate around atrium from the inside? Its a one story house with asphalt shingles and a 3″ roof deck which in the 1980’s was good enough for insulation.

      • Is the condensation forming on the glass or somewhere else?
        If it’s the glass, there’s nothing you can do other than reduce the humidity in the house or get more warm air movement up near the glass to try to keep it warmer.
        If it’s on other surfaces, like the T&G ceiling, that can be more problematic. Again, any time you get condensation, the first thing is to review your home’s humidity. This can vary greatly from room to room depending on usage. For example, the humidity in my bedroom at night increases considerably because it’s sealed up and we’re breathing all night! Other examples are near showers, if the bathroom isn’t being vented adequately and in areas with lots of house plants that release a lot of moisture into the air.
        If you’re using a humidifier, try not using it for a while and see how that changes things.
        You can get little humidity meters from Amazon for cheap. If possible, put them close to the places where condensation is forming so you can see what the level is right there. Since the moist air rises, the humidity at the ceiling can be significantly higher than a few feet off the ground.
        Here’s one example of the gauges I’m referring to
        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GNMKYCZ

  4. I have a 2-story property in Huntington Beach, California that was built in 1964. It was renovated in 2017. Starting last December, two sections of the property is showing excessive condensation and moisture accumulation. This condensation problem is mainly on the north facing areas. One area is on the first floor, and the other area is on the second floor, and these areas are not on top of each other. I am using a 50 pint dehumidifier and DampRid closet hangers to absorb the excess moisture continuously, but I want to know what is the cause of this so I can fix it. I greatly appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

    • Huntington Beach has a very mild climate, so it’s surprising that you’re having condensation problems.
      What surfaces is the condensation forming on?
      It’s common for people to develop condensation issues after a renovation due to the improved construction which makes a home “tighter.” The tightness is good, but that also means one has to be careful about uniform insulation and reducing interior humidity sources.
      Condensation will form on the colder surfaces in a house. Often, that’s windows, which is almost unavoidable if there’s excess moisture in colder climates. In your climate, it’s less common.
      I’d do a couple of things
      1 – check for interior moisture sources. Most common is showers that aren’t properly vented. I always recommend checking the bath fan for good suction at the intake. Then, make sure the fan runs during the shower and for at least 15-30 minutes after you finish showering in order to remove the excess moisture.
      2 – monitor the humidity in those rooms where condensation is occurring. You can get these on Amazon so cheaply – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QMZL448/
      If you find the humidity in those rooms rises up past 60%, you know there’s too much moisture in the air under most circumstances. During the summer, it can be hard to keep it down.

      I checked the daily humidity numbers for your area in December and they were very high – 60%-80% for many days. If you open the windows, especially at night or early morning when the humidity is very high, the house will fill with moisture which will condense easily. Unfortunately, that’s unavoidable. The humidity drops quickly as the day warms so you can flush out the extra humidity by opening up the house on non-humid days in the afternoon. But it can be a tough battle in your climate.

      I’d start with those little humidity gauges placed throughout the house. See what the indoor humidity is like and if it is associated with any particular usage patterns, like opening windows or showering or cooking. Keep using dehumidifiers when the house is closed up, that might be your only solution during the colder months. During the summer, running the air conditioner will suck the moisture out of the air quickly.

      Hope that helps.

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