There is an often-unseen problem lurking in many homes across the country: moisture intrusion.
A little excess water in the wrong place can cause many problems, such as mold growth, pest infestations, and weakened building structures.
In many cases, moisture problems in houses or other structures are easy to miss until they've progressed past the point of easy repair. Early detection of these problems is a must for minimizing the extent and cost of the damage. But, how can you identify a moisture problem in the first place?
There are a few warning signs that homeowners should be on the lookout for, including:
1. Musty odors
One of the most frequently-encountered signs of a moisture problem is the presence of strong, musty odors. This olfactory warning sign is a strong indicator that there is water damage somewhere nearby - possibly in building materials hidden from your direct view, such as in the insulation behind your walls or in a crawl space that you may have difficulty reaching unaided.
This odor is often caused by bacteria and mold growth that feeds on the excess moisture in a dark, cool space. If left alone long enough, the spores from mold can become a respiratory hazard, and the affected area may start showing visible signs of rot.
2. Dark patches in building materials
One of the most obvious signs of water-related problems in any structure is the appearance of dark patches in walls, ceilings, and other surfaces. As water seeps into building materials, it tends to cause the materials to visibly darken.
Homeowners can often find these dark patches in ceilings after a heavy storm - which indicates roof damage - or in walls if there's a burst or leaky pipe there.
3. Gathering of pests
Water is a basic necessity for life - and pests like ants, cockroaches, rodents, termites, and wasps are no exception. A sudden increase in the presence of pests could be an indirect indication that they've found a suitable source of water in your home. Of course, other nutrient sources, such as open food containers, exposed trash bins, and the like can also attract pests, so it's important to consider whether there are any such food sources nearby.
Verifying moisture problems in the home
So, say you've spotted one of the warning signs above, but want to make sure whether or not there's a moisture problem in your house. How can you get a quantifiable, scientifically-accurate measurement of how much moisture is in your walls, ceilings, floors, etc.?
One of the best ways to get quantifiable measurements of moisture in the home is to use a moisture meter!