Homeowners often feel they need some special knowledge to determine if their home needs repairs or restoration. They wonder if there are certain things that home renovation contractors know to look for that they might be blind to.
You May Know Your House Better Than Home Renovation Contractors
The fact is, while a pro does indeed have specialized knowledge, the person who lives in the home is often the most qualified to know when renovations and repairs need to be made. That’s because they have day-to-day experience in that environment that will tell them if something has changed.
Just like the daily driver of a vehicle is the first to be conscious of any out-of-ordinary noises, the homeowner is likely to be the first to recognize changes and problems with their home.
- Is there an annoying spot where the paint always peels off?
- Is that squeak in the floor getting louder or changing in nature?
- Did your furnace just start making a strange noise?
Often, it isn’t the symptom itself that sparks concern, but a sudden change in its nature. (After all, your furnace might always have clanked). That change could indicate that some kind of process is in play. And if the process is going in the wrong direction, you’ll want to know sooner rather than later.
Lesson No. 1, then, is this: Even if you don’t know how to solve the issue, you’ll nearly always be the first one who’s aware of it. That awareness may be a response to issues so subtle that it registers not so much as an alarm bell, but as a hint or even a gut instinct.
My goal in this blog post is to help equip your intuition with tell-tale information about the early signs of problems so you’ll be aware of them sooner and can get help from home renovation contractors before they progress toward a massive repair.
Signs it’s time to call home renovation contractors
In general, the biggest enemy of our homes is liquid water.
Water will destroy a house faster than anything else, and it can invade the enclosed spaces of our homes in several ways. Here’s the signs to watch for:
Since the highest-risk water-entry point of a house is its roof, that’s where homeowners need to have the highest degree of awareness.
One of the largest roof-damage factors in this region is ice dams, normally caused by failing insulation, not a bad roof system. What’s important to note here is that while failing insulation can cause significant damage to your roof, simply installing a new roof system will not address the root cause of ice dams.
The second factor to watch for is damage from wind, hail, and blown debris, such as tree branches. All three can tear shingles off the roof, and impact forces can just plain punch a hole in the roof. These issues are normally very obvious and must be addressed immediately to prevent major damage.
The third roof-related factor is general aging. This is much more difficult to spot before it becomes a problem we cannot ignore. Often asphalt shingles will deteriorate over time and, at some point, lose enough of their water-shedding ability to put the structure at risk. Metal roofs typically have problems at flashing points where sealants like caulking get brittle and lose their seal, allowing water to start leaking at penetrations.
The risk to walls & windows
Along with the roof, walls are another significant point of vulnerability. The difference is that walls – including siding and flashing materials – often don’t receive the same level of attention as roofs, even though they have the same vulnerabilities under certain conditions. In the words of one of my favorite building science guys: “Your wall does not know it is not a roof during a driving rain.” Unfortunately, not every homebuilder, contractor, or homeowner knows that either.
Similarly, windows are a key point of water entry. In fact, they may be a higher risk point than the roof because of the lack of attention paid to making them effectively shed water.
Condensation-related threats to the structure of a home
The costliest component to repair or replace is the home’s actual structure, and the biggest water-related threat to your house’s structural integrity comes from condensation.
Here in Northern Wisconsin, we live in a heating-dominated environment. Most of the year – except July, August, and sometimes September – our homes are heated rather than cooled. Under these conditions, air and water vapor flow from inside the home to the outside. This sets the stage for air leaks, the biggest condensation-related problem. When warm moist air flows through cracks and gaps in the walls and roof, it will hit a cold surface inside the walls or roof at some point.
Like beads of water form on a cold glass of lemonade in the summertime, the warm, moist air will condense on that cold surface within your wall or roof. Up until this point, we’re only dealing with water vapor, which won’t cause significant damage to a home. But the structure will incur damage when vapor turns to liquid and when the air leaks are large enough and continue long enough.
A vivid example of water intrusion
Some years ago, our home renovation contractors restored a home whose siding was damaged from a severe hailstorm. While replacing the siding, we discovered strange rotted areas in the sheathing on all sides of the house. While working to remediate the rot, we discovered its cause: air leaking into framing cavities where interior partition walls joined the exterior walls.
A three-stud backing had been used for the partition wall connection, and it was not insulated. In addition, a hole had been drilled into each cavity for electrical wiring. This one ¾” opening allowed enough airflow into the cavity to create condensation, turning the wall sheathing into compost. When we opened this up, we could put our hands through the sheathing without resistance.
The solution? Seal the holes with caulking. It took about $2.00 worth of caulking to seal the holes and solve the problem. Replacing the sheathing added to the cost, but the silver lining is that the storm damage revealed this problem before the wall structure rotted away.