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Old 03-01-2011, 09:27 PM   #1
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


Greetings!

I'm a new homeowner who recently purchased a late 1930s brick home (duplex) in Arlington, Va. In short, I have a whole lot of questions! As you can see by my post count, this is my first post here. If one of you would be as kind to answer a couple of my questions I will reward you all with more questions

Anyway, what I'm hoping to do is troubleshoot whether there is any dampness on the back (plaster) wall of my house and, if so, where it's coming from. There are several reasons that I'm suspicious that there may be water on the wall. The first, and most dramatic, is that there was likely water their in the past. We removed some vinyl wall paper before we moved in and ran into a not insignificant mold problem that was growing on the glue for the paper. That mold has been removed from the plaster (at least I hope it has), but obviously making sure that there is no water on the wall would be great.

The second is that I believe small parts of the wall (directly beneath a chair rail) have felt slightly damp at times. It's hard to tell the difference between a cold plaster wall and a very lightly damp plaster wall though, so I'm not sure.

Is there any way to test this? I purchased a pinless moisture meter from Home Depot, but I could not get reliable results (the meter would jump from 0% to the teens to the 80% range and back).

And, finally, because pics are always fun. Here is the area I feel MAY be wet. The areas that look like drip do not seem to move a lot though, so they could theoretically just be the result of our recent priming job.



Thanks!

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Old 03-01-2011, 10:20 PM   #2
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


I have a few questions.
Could you back up a bit and take a photo of the whole wall, floor to ceiling?
Is this an exterior wall?
How many floors to the house?
Which floor is this the picture of?
Is there any evidence of water at the ceiling?
Is there any evidence of water above the chair rail?
Is there a bathroom above this area?
Is there an attic above this area?
While plaster is more resistant to water, it will over time deteriorate.
Does the wall feel solid?
Ron

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Old 03-02-2011, 06:34 AM   #3
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


Good questions Ron, I was thinking the same.
They mention it's a brick house, if this is an exterior wall, the weep holes may be clogged (or lacking) at the bottom.
They may be able to look into the wall cavity with a scope to inspect for moisture.
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Old 03-02-2011, 06:49 AM   #4
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


That photo makes me believe that there is no insulation in that wall----looks like typical condensation damage.
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Old 03-02-2011, 10:19 AM   #5
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


Thanks all,

I don't have a current picture at my disposal right now, but I've included a photo from before I removed the wall paper. The wall with the potential moisture is the far wall with the visible window on it. The photo I took is from the right side of the window, although there is a similar (slightly less significant) pattern on the left side of the window. There is a radiator below the window.

To answer your questions, it is an exterior wall on the first floor of the two floor home. The home is built of "solid brick" as opposed to brick veneer, so my understanding is that weep holes are not recommended. (But then I know very little.) There is no evidence of water at the ceiling or above the chair rail (although mold was above the chair rail so there may have been water at some time).

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Old 03-02-2011, 11:54 AM   #6
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


Are all the walls in that room, exterior walls?
How close to the window are the water stains?
Is there a window above this area on the second floor?
Any leaks or stains on the floor above?
Were there any ice dam issues on the roof or in the gutters over this area?
Ron
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Old 03-02-2011, 01:35 PM   #7
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron6519 View Post
Are all the walls in that room, exterior walls?
How close to the window are the water stains?
Is there a window above this area on the second floor?
Any leaks or stains on the floor above?
Were there any ice dam issues on the roof or in the gutters over this area?
Ron
There is a window above this area on the second floor. There are no visible water issues from what I can tell. There was also mold, however, in the room above this one in a similar area (concentrating on the back left corner of this room/the house.

We've had a couple roof guys up and they haven't found any issues to speak of. The gutters are new this year.

The only non-exterior wall in this picture are to the right (where you would find the kitchen (for the dining room) and the stairs (for the living room.) The attached unit is to that side.
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Old 03-02-2011, 04:55 PM   #8
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Moisture on plaster wall? (How do I troubleshoot this?)


Damp problems through penetrating damp, rising damp or condensation are quite common in solid brick houses. Condensation is often the cause, especially when changes to the house have been made like the removal of open fires.
It is possible to tell if it's condensation by taking the room temperature, R/H and using a surface thermometer to take the temp of the wall.
Have you got a photo of the exterior brickwork near the problem. Poor pointing can allow in penetrating damp.

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