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Old 11-12-2018, 03:01 PM   #1
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condensation on upstairs cathedral ceiling


I own a 100+year old house. When we purchased it in 1986 there was an unfinished walk in attic that the previous owners had started work on, but never finished. The room is 15' x 26' with 3' side walls on the long side and a 12/12 pitch on the ceiling. The walls and ceiling,all the way to the peak were covered with 4" faced fiberglass insulation. When I finished it off into a master bedroom, 3/4 bath, and walk in closet I kept the insulation that was there and covered the exterior walls and ceiling with 1" blue styrofoam before putting drywall on the walls. The ceiling was never finished because of various reasons. I just taped the seams on the ceiling. There were no ridge, peak or soffit vents in this area and never had any condensation problems.
Fast forward 20 years. I put aluminum vented soffits on the entire house when I resided. A couple years later, in preparation for a new roof I finally wanted to get more insulation in the ceiling. I furred the rafters down to allow 6" insulation as well as a ventilation channel from the soffit all the way to the ridge vent that was going to be installed with the new roof. There was still no indication of any condensation.
The very first winter after the roof was installed, (new asphalt shingles and OSB sheeting) I noticed the north wall of the closet had a little trickle of water in one spot. I opened up an inspection hole in the ceiling and discovered that the area between the underside of the roof sheeting and styrofoam ventilation tray was all wet. It was running down the tray and leaking out a small hole that had been poked in it when the old cedar shakes and 2 layers of shingles had been removed.
I had at first wondered if my wife had not been running the exhaust fan when she showered. She assured me that was not the case. The bathroom is on the south side of a wall that is 1 1/2' south of the roof peak anyway, so that was most likely not the culprit. After a couple years of trying to seal up all the possible places moisture could get through I decided to just tear everything out and start over.
When I tore out all the wall and ceiling insulation I discovered that the whole north side had the condensation problem. There was actually water standing on the top of the wall plate in a couple places. The south side was completely dry and there was no evidence that there was ever water anywhere.
The soffit vents on the north wall are only about a foot above the porch roof. Could the moisture laden air be coming off the porch roof when it rains, or when the snow melts.
I am almost ready to block off the area to the soffit on the north side. For 100 years there was no moisture condensation. I would leave the ridge vent so at least the summer heat could be vented out.
Any comments or suggestions would be helpful
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Old 11-12-2018, 06:55 PM   #2
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Re: condensation on upstairs cathedral ceiling


I'd post this over at www.greenbuildingadvisor.com in the Q&A section. There's some real experts there that could figure this out for you.
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:14 PM   #3
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Re: condensation on upstairs cathedral ceiling


Are you sure it is condensation and not a leak from higher up?
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Old 11-12-2018, 08:15 PM   #4
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Re: condensation on upstairs cathedral ceiling


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Originally Posted by Grandpa Bob View Post
The soffit vents on the north wall are only about a foot above the porch roof. Could the moisture laden air be coming off the porch roof when it rains, or when the snow melts.

I can't see how that would be possible. The air going up the soffits will have some moisture (although not much if its cold outside), but the sheathing above a living space will be warmer than outside air, so I don't see how you could get condensation.


I would sooner guess that any moisture is coming from the living space. Do you have a vapor barrier on the "warm in winter" side ?
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Old 11-12-2018, 11:13 PM   #5
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Re: condensation on upstairs cathedral ceiling


Thanks for the responses. It is definitely condensation. There are no leaks in the roof and when I removed the old insulation and vent channels the entire north half of the roof sheeting was damp. There were droplets of water hanging from the underside of the roof from the top of the wall all the way to the peak of the roof. Only on the north side though. I used the blue Dow 1" foam as a moisture barrier. The seams were all taped. I had believed that moisture was getting through and that was the cause of my problem. I sealed up every little gap that I could find over the last couple winters and nothing made a difference. This would not explain why there was no evidence of condensation until I put the new roof on and added the ridge vent. The Dow styrofoam has been on the ceiling for over 20 years and nothing else has changed other than putting the ridge vent in. I'd love to attach pictures but everything is torn out right now. We aren't supposed to get any rain or snow for the foreseeable future but you can bet I'll be looking for any leaks when we do.
I think I may try the Green Builder site. I remember looking on some of their forums while I was in the process of fixing up a house last year.
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Old 11-13-2018, 12:55 AM   #6
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Re: condensation on upstairs cathedral ceiling


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Originally Posted by Grandpa Bob View Post
Thanks for the responses. It is definitely condensation. There are no leaks in the roof and when I removed the old insulation and vent channels the entire north half of the roof sheeting was damp. There were droplets of water hanging from the underside of the roof from the top of the wall all the way to the peak of the roof. Only on the north side though. I used the blue Dow 1" foam as a moisture barrier. The seams were all taped. I had believed that moisture was getting through and that was the cause of my problem. I sealed up every little gap that I could find over the last couple winters and nothing made a difference. This would not explain why there was no evidence of condensation until I put the new roof on and added the ridge vent. The Dow styrofoam has been on the ceiling for over 20 years and nothing else has changed other than putting the ridge vent in. I'd love to attach pictures but everything is torn out right now. We aren't supposed to get any rain or snow for the foreseeable future but you can bet I'll be looking for any leaks when we do.
I think I may try the Green Builder site. I remember looking on some of their forums while I was in the process of fixing up a house last year.
I wonder if there was something wrong with the ridge vent, wind driven rain.


I will say good on you for opening it up. most people that come looking for answers can't be talked into looking for the problem.
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attic ventilation , condensation , roof ventilation


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