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Old 11-03-2010, 08:03 AM   #1
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Attic Insulation


Attic Insulation
We are having a problem with humidity in our basement. We had several items that had grey mold on them and lots of condensation on the windows in the winter..Our walls are also cold, our heating bills are high in the winter and the hygrometer meter can read anywhere between 50-75% humidity. We do run the HRV to bring clean air in the house. I was told that this sounds like a ventilation problem. We went up into the attic yesterday and took a look around. Our attic has spray insulation and it looks like the insulation has been blown right over top of the soffit by the builders. There are baffles between every other roof joist. I would like to know if we need to remove the insulation that is covering the soffit and also should we have a baffle between every roof joist? My husband had insulated the garage with pink insulation and didnt cover the soffits with insulation so there is some air flow up there.... I'm wondering if the majority of the soffits being covered has been the problem with the amount of moisture in the basement. Our dehumidifier is a portable model and it fills up every other day if i leave it on the maximum speed...Can anyone give me a suggestion ...We are at our wits end with this issue. I live in Ontario Canada so you can have an idea about the temperatures and weather we get.. I hope this is enough information...thnx

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Old 11-03-2010, 09:37 AM   #2
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Most likely you don't have a soffit vent running between every joist so it would be pointless to add more baffles. What you do want to do, is make sure that the baffles are placed correctly (where the soffit vent panels are) and that they are unobstructed. What type of roof venting system do you have? Inadequate roof venting could be a problem. Also, make sure that any exhaust fans (bathroom, kitchen) are vented out the roof, not just into the attic... If all else check out, you might consider adding a powered roof vent.

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Old 11-03-2010, 05:35 PM   #3
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I don't understand the possible relationship between your problem and the attic. If your attic has good spray insulation (closed cell polyurethane, or similar) you have a very very good vapour barrier between the living space and the attic. I agree that it sounds like a ventilation problem. But that would be ventialtion of the living space. Might be a problem with your HRV. Do you perhaps have a natural gas stove that you use a lot ?
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Old 11-03-2010, 08:30 PM   #4
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Old 11-04-2010, 06:37 AM   #5
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Attic Insulation


Paige, I agree with SPS, I have blown in my own attic insulation and added vents, however if your attic has an issue it would be contained since it is sealed from the rest of the house by your vapour barrier which is required by code in ON.
You do not say if the home is one story or 2 but checking for a humidifier on the furnace in the basement. My home in Waterloo has a humidifier programmed to the furnace. Given our damp summers it is normally off in summer, on in winter. Occaisionaly in summer even with though I have AC I have a backup dehumidifier running just in the basement... I have resealed a lot of the house reducing drafts and as a result I expect the house will hold more humidity this winter, so I will be watching for signs on the main and upper floors such as frosting or humidity on the windows... but this is not attic related. Give us more details please, is there a humidifier box on that furnace? Is the basement insulated. If you have HRV already I am guessing it is a newer fairly airtight home. What age is the home. If it is less than 15 years you will have 6 mil poly sealed vapour barrier in your walls for sure. Mine is older and very thin.
Have you done any exterior insulating, or basement sealing or new siding , etc,l. The fact that your DH is full every day is certainly an issue at this time of year as our air is starting to dry.... and are you near any of the lakes?
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Old 11-04-2010, 11:05 AM   #6
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Paige, I agree with SPS, I have blown in my own attic insulation and added vents, however if your attic has an issue it would be contained since it is sealed from the rest of the house by your vapour barrier which is required by code in ON.
You do not say if the home is one story or 2 but checking for a humidifier on the furnace in the basement. My home in Waterloo has a humidifier programmed to the furnace. Given our damp summers it is normally off in summer, on in winter. Occaisionaly in summer even with though I have AC I have a backup dehumidifier running just in the basement... I have resealed a lot of the house reducing drafts and as a result I expect the house will hold more humidity this winter, so I will be watching for signs on the main and upper floors such as frosting or humidity on the windows... but this is not attic related. Give us more details please, is there a humidifier box on that furnace? Is the basement insulated. If you have HRV already I am guessing it is a newer fairly airtight home. What age is the home. If it is less than 15 years you will have 6 mil poly sealed vapour barrier in your walls for sure. Mine is older and very thin.
Have you done any exterior insulating, or basement sealing or new siding , etc,l. The fact that your DH is full every day is certainly an issue at this time of year as our air is starting to dry.... and are you near any of the lakes?
Our home is only 8 years old..all brick.. it is a bungalow..no humidifier on the furnace..not near any lakes...the insulation in part of the attic is that white fluffy blown insulation and the insulation above the garage is the pink insulation which is not over top of the soffit or as some people call vents...the builder says the houses today are airtight...i know ppl who have homes the same age as ours in other subdivisions and they dont have this problem...some of my neighbors have condensation on the windows others dont...so im thinking something was not put into this house correctly..i was told that it sounds like a ventilation problem and we should have a fan test and a thermal imaging test as well...i checked out a goverment energy site and it had all of the problems listed: cold walls..mold..humidity..condensation on the windows etc. and it states that it would be an insulation problem...i hope this is enough info...lol
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Old 11-04-2010, 12:32 PM   #7
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hi there, the HRV is brand new and no problems with that...no natural gas stove and the insulation is blown in white fluffy insulation... moisture on the windows, cold walls, high humidity, mold on paper products and wood which are disposed of and the basement is not finished, just insulated by code (4 ft down from ceiling i believe)
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Old 11-04-2010, 12:33 PM   #8
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Our home is only 8 years old..all brick.. it is a bungalow..no humidifier on the furnace..not near any lakes...the insulation in part of the attic is that white fluffy blown insulation and the insulation above the garage is the pink insulation which is not over top of the soffit or as some people call vents...the builder says the houses today are airtight...i know ppl who have homes the same age as ours in other subdivisions and they dont have this problem...some of my neighbors have condensation on the windows others dont...so im thinking something was not put into this house correctly..i was told that it sounds like a ventilation problem and we should have a fan test and a thermal imaging test as well...i checked out a goverment energy site and it had all of the problems listed: cold walls..mold..humidity..condensation on the windows etc. and it states that it would be an insulation problem...i hope this is enough info...lol
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Old 11-04-2010, 12:34 PM   #9
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I dont believe the dryer would have anything to do with it since it is clean...I am very diligent on checking those things out!!
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Old 11-04-2010, 05:27 PM   #10
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Sorry, when you said you had spray insulation, I thought you meant spray-foam. The house would still have a plastic vapour barrier under that insulation. Just about all windows will sweat when its cold. Walls are cold ? --- thats not right, but are they really colder than everybody elses? That would tend to mean no insulation in the walls - very unlikely -- in an 8 year old house that would mean both an incompetent builder and an incompetent inspector. Certainly possible, but unlikely. 50%-75% humidity seems very high. If you are not producing extreme amounts of moisture, then I would assume your house is well sealed (as it is supposed to be), and you don't have sufficient ventilation. Cold winter outside air is very dry, so if your house was getting fresh outside air into it, the symptoms you described would tend not to occur. My 14 year old Ontario home is TOO dry in the winter. It has no HRV, but is plenty leaky. Just because your HRV is new does not mean its working properly. Did you buy it yourselves? Maybe call the contractor that installed it and tell him you have 75% humidity in your house, and ask if he can come over and check that it is functioning properly. Even if you have to pay for a service call, it would be worth it. You don't want to be living with mold and stale air.
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Old 11-04-2010, 05:53 PM   #11
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I did speak to someone today regarding the soffit (vents) in the attic and they said most definately they should not be covered with insulation....We didnt have the HRV running all of the time but once it was on the humidity levels dropped down...As I mentioned earlier the government site that listed all of the 5 things... mold, humidity etc., states that poor circulation will cause all of those things including the cold walls if the attic is not ventilated properly...The workmanship that was done in this house had a few flaws which we did get fixed by them but the last issue with the high humidity I had to chase them for 5 yrs..it wasnt until I emailed the top dog with photos of the mold I should have reported them...nothing but excuses once they have your hundreds of thousands of dollars what do they care....I will never buy from them again...no need for us to be going through this not to mention the allergy problems it has caused our child...that is why i have been researching this problem and trying to stay on top of it with constantly checking stuff in the basement and having the HRV put in...just not right!! So I am going to get into that attic and start removing the blown in insulation off of the soffit and make sure that the baffles are not covered as well....what a job this is going to be lol! thanks for your input...
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Old 11-04-2010, 08:02 PM   #12
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Attic Insulation


Paige,
I am not a heating or insualtion contractor but I have done a lot of air sealing and insulating in my own home. IMHO in Ontario, if built to code with a 6 mil poly vapour barrier on your ceiling your attic is somewhat isolated so although your attic vents should be clear and the channels should allow air flow, that ventilates your attic and relieves heat build up there in summer and cold build up in winter. Lack of insulation and improper ventilation could trap cold air and cool your ceiling but should not cause the humidity issues you are referring to in the basement. You say you have blown insulation so that should be sufficient if the total is more than 12 inches deep. A build up of humidity below is a lack of fresh as well as damp air trapped inside, just like when your car windows stay fogged up when your fresh air is set on recirculate in winter.
The issue in the basement is likely entirely separate although troublesome as well. You need to find the source of the humidity and exchange that trapped air with fresh, hence the HRV. I don't think your attic is the problem although you do need to look at your air flow up there for a separate reason.
As stated above have a good heating contractor in to assess the whole heat and ac system and the HRV. If you are in a moist soil area some moisture will wick through your walls as well, but a properly set up HRV should be exchanging the damp air for fresh dryer air and helping this scenario, even in an airtight home. This week CDN Tire has a laser temp scanner on sale. You can buy one and measure your walls to help pinpoint cold spots. It might be worth the $40 if you think your insulation is not done right. Keep the info coming but dont confuse the attic with the other. I am certain this is not just attic related. Feel free to PM if you like. Also check that your clothes dryer is connected to its unobstructed vent at bottom and top and not blocked allowing the damp air to escape within the basement.
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Old 11-05-2010, 06:43 AM   #13
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Paige, just pondering your scenario, another thing, if you are pulling back insulation batts or blown insulation in the attic be sure it remains above the top plate of the walls below. Otherwise cold air will travel down that wall. In a home as new as yours you will likely have perforated soffits made of aluminium. The job of that perforation is to help air flow up and circulate out the top of the roof, so you are correct in that they soffit area which overhangs your exterior wall should be fee of obstruction and the air flows in teh area between the rafters upward to the roofs peak.The blown insulation you mention can be pulled back with a flat plastic rake blade and should be levelled when you are done, but don't put a foot through the ceiling while you are up there. I found that lying on a child's foam sled was the easiest way to access my soffit area. I took an extendible paint roller handle and fashioned a plastic flat blade about 12" wide so it fit between my joist bays. It worked great for leveling my added self blown insulation... but my attic work although making the home more cozy has not changed the humidity in the home to any degree, and I sealed well before I blew in the insulation
When I had my first Eco energy audit done an air leakage test was performed in my home using a blower door, etc. This determined that prior to my air sealing , my drafty 35 year old, custom built home had a 6.5 ACH or hourly air change more or less equal to a 260" square inch window opening year round.
As I sealed the exterior and the rim joist in the basement this air loss was reduced.. The result being my home now has an air change rate of about half what I started with and it is approaching new home standard... around 3.5 ACH, any tighter and I too will require an HRV system. (I would suggest you consider a blower door test if you can't pin this down.)
However even at that the difference is I only run my dehumidifier on the muggiest days in the summer if I am idling my old tired AC unit. That said we did have serious issue at one point with a clogged clothes dryer vent boot which was allowing humidity to back up into the basement very similar to what you are describing. So once again, newer home more airtight by code yes. If it is super airtight the HRV should have been there since new,since it is designed to help the home breathe. Again if the home is too tight the stale air could be triggering your childs allergy issues, but the mold is the biggest risk. You could look into a Swordfish UV light system for the furnace(on sale this week as well) or a similar device to help with the allergies. Also try to monitor if the allergies seem seasonal with ragweed or get worse in the winter when the home is closed up, possibly indicating the mold as a trigger. I have used a product called Concorbium to battle mildew and in my neighbour's attic where his bathroom fan was poorly vented and causing an issue.
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Old 11-05-2010, 08:29 AM   #14
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Once we get up there will will definately check to make sure that there is poly under the inuslation..there better be..Thanks for the tips on taking out the insulation..I was thinking of using a small garden rake and putting down a board so I dont fall through the ceiling that would not be good...lol I have heard about the Swordfish product where is it on sale? I have also read up on the blower door test as well...Ive been searching the net for quite some time to try to get to the bottom of this issue...enough to drive you nuts lol! So far now mold or anything int he attic it seems pretty dry up there although we havent walked around and lifted insulation or anything like that...now I have also watched videos on installing insulation and they show that pink insulation should be cut to size around electrical equipment (light fixtures) in the attic..What about the blown-in insulation it looks to be just blown over everything..should we change anything up there? thanks for all your tips I really appreciate it!!
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Old 11-05-2010, 09:18 AM   #15
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Attic Insulation


Paige, if you lift out the blown you will likely see batts of insulation underneath. Light fixtures generating heat normally have shielded box around them. Bathroom fans vented through the attic will have a snorkel running to the rooftop.
The Swordfish is on sale at Home Hardware and Home Building centers, page 20 in the Winter Clearance flyer this week. Otherwise it is frequently 30% off at Cdn Tire and I recommend that laser temp scanner for sure. Get one this weeks flyer, page 37 top right...
The extended handle rake I made kept the insulation out of my face, and also gave me an extended reach with while levelling, eliminating the need to crawl so far.Wear a fibreglass rated dust mask, NOSH 95 I believe, and lying on the foam sleigh or across a 2 inch thick piece of rigid foam insulation is much easier on your back or stomach, just lay it across the rafters, not between..
It would be rare that you would not find a vapour barrier under your insulation as that would not pass inspection before drywalling. Just consider this, the dry condition of your attic emphasizes that the vapour is trapped below, so the attic and humidity below are separate isolated issues.
Your home needs to breath and given that the lower 4`ft of wall is uninsulated it should breathe to some degree anyway. Is there any exterior insulation around the foundation and footing, i.e. foam against the concrete below grade. Does your dryer blow a cloud out today now that it is cold outside...

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