Here in Middle TN, moisture in your home has been at the top of many homeowners minds due to recent flooding. Rumors, good and bad advice, and warnings all pertaining to water in a home have been circulating like wild fire.
There are three main keys with moisture in a home.
One is quick action.
Quick action is needed to eliminate standing water in a home, and remove all articles and building materials in a home which hold water, or keep air from circulating freely. I have wrote more on this here.
Second is to not rush dry time.
Many are concerned with fixing their home as quickly as possible. If you don’t allow the moisture to drop to a safe a standard level, their can be a host of problems. Mold, wood movement, and deterioration of building products. Your home may take 2-4 weeks to stabilize.
The building principle is that all homes have moisture in them. Their are safe levels of moisture, and unsafe. I know there have been people running around with moisture meters trying to determine what is bad and what is good. One day after flood waters leave a home, is premature in testing for moisture content. Follow the basic rules of remediation, start the drying process, and then test later. Here are some key facts.
1. Lumber from the mill can arrive at your doorstep at 19-20 percent moisture reading. This is not unsafe!
2. Moisture readings of 12-16 percent are safe to close up and proceed on with construction.
3. Furniture needs to be at 12 percent or below to be dimensionally stable.
4. Homes in a dry climate will sometimes drop to 6-7 percent but rarely lower.
5. An area to watch is between 20-28 percent moisture reading. Most flooded areas will drop out of this range quickly though.
6. Above 28 percent for a prolonged time, mold and deterioration are imminent.
Read more about this here.
Third, know when to stop.
Many homes are being stripped beyond what is necessary. Sub-flooring, unaffected drywall, wall sheathing are all examples of items that may not need to be removed. True the appearance of your wood may have changed, but the serviceability for the most part remains intact.
So called dimensional lumber, a 2 X 4, should look the most normal after significant water entry save for some staining. Plywood subfloor, or osb (oriented strand board) subfloor will many times look grey, obviously dirty, swell at the seams, and flake. Don’t rush removal though. OSB and plywood are manufactured with the idea that at some point they will get wet. If you can imagine a building project in a variety of rainy conditions, these substrates need to remain serviceable while getting wet. Allowing them to dry sufficiently before covering is important, but appearance isn’t primary here.
If in doubt call an engineer to check out your particular situation. Most engineering companies will perform a site visit for 300-400 dollars, much less than the cost of replacing your subfloor. As a note, particle board or mdf, as seen in lower end cabinets and at times under carpet, is a complete loss. Remove as quickly as possible. Also, if you are installing hardwoods, have them acclimate to your home for at least 3-5 days before install. This will keep them from excess movement after install.
Feel free to read more here.
So how do I test?
For the homeowner, buy an inexpensive meter. This type of meter will have prongs that you will push into the affected areas, with a gauge displaying moisture content. This is easy and necessary insurance before you start covering up walls and floors.
Check this one out, available on Amazon. There are better, more accurate ones out there, but for the average home owner this should suffice.
Yes water in your home is a call for action. Just don’t act irrationally. Knowing the rules can save you big bucks.