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This Sick House

house whisperer - sick house
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Happy Friday everyone and welcome back. I just returned from the lovely Coral Gables and the latest version of this sick house. First off, this one was a beauty at seven bedrooms, eight baths and weighed in at 8,900 square feet, and the poor baby was sick as sick can be. We are talking it was literally raining in the attic, every bit of that attic was soaked, the trusses, the drywall and all the ductwork has to be dried out or replaced. These clients are in for a wild ride. And before you say anything, no there are not any roof leaks.

The beautiful South Florida humidity got to this house and in a big way. I really enjoyed the challenge presented in figuring out this home’s issues. I have been at this for quite a while now and most of the time you don’t get to see anything new or out of the ordinary. Not to sound braggadocious here, however, many houses have many of the same issues, ducts aren’t sealed, air conditioner is old or not the right size, not enough attic insulation – those are run of the mill and can often be diagnosed quickly.

We started the testing to make sure equipment was functioning correctly, and then checked air flow plus static pressure, check! All good. Next up, other than being soaked, the duct connections were actually sealed and the attic had a fair amount of insulation. Did I mention humidity? My normal first thought for condensation on ceilings or duct connections is duct leakage with hot and cold air meeting by the way. That again was not the case here. I then broke out the thermal camera and humidistat along with a manometer (a humidistat checks humidity levels and a manometer measures air pressures). Thermal imaging didn’t get us very far either, just a little cold air loss at the supply grills themselves, but certainly not enough to cause this kind of water.

Relative humidity and air pressures were finally what gave me the answers to fix this sick house. Inside the home humidity was at about 58%, outside right around 78% however in the attic it was pushing 95% so the ductwork just didn’t stand a chance. I had yet to do an inspection of the outside of the home and eureka, I found the humidity issues. This particular dwelling has four different waterfalls around the outside of the home along with a giant pool, so the architect while thinking about beauty, somehow forget function. All those bodies of water surrounding the home in combination with a little negative air pressure was helping turn this attic into a lake. What’s the fix you ask?

The fix is that the attic is actually going to need to be isolated from the outside environment by sealing the soffits and foaming the entire attic roof deck interior, a couple of dehumidifiers will be needed in the attic to prevent the stacking effect, and unfortunately for our not so lucky homeowner, we are going to have to tear everything out of the attic and replace the ductwork and sheetrock to get rid of the mold. I think today I found a perfect storm that I will never see again, so I thought I would share the adventure. Remember if you are thinking of adding multiple waterfalls to the outside of your house it could cause some issues…

House Whisperer out!!


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