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2 Damp Buildings Almost all buildings experience excessive moisture, leaks, or flooding at some point. If dampness-related problems are to be prevented, it is essential to understand their causes. From a technologic viewpoint, one must under- stand the sources and transport of moisture in buildings, which depend on the design, operation, maintenance, and use of buildings in relation to exter- nal environmental conditions such as climate, soil properties, and topogra- phy. From a societal viewpoint, it is necessary to understand how construc- tion, operation, and maintenance practices may lead to dampness problems. The interactions among moisture, materials, and environmental conditions in and outside a building determine whether the building may become a source of potentially harmful dampness-related microbial and chemical exposures. Therefore, an understanding of the relationship of building moisture to mi- crobial growth and chemical emissions is also critical. This chapter addresses those issues to the extent that present scientific knowledge allows. It starts with a description of how and where buildings become wet; reviews the signs of dampness, how dampness is measured, and what is known about its prevalence and characteristics, such as sever- ity, location, and duration; discusses the risk factors for moisture problems; reviews how dampness influences indoor microbial growth and chemical emissions; catalogs the various agents that may be present in damp environ- ments; and addresses the influence of building materials on microbial growth and emissions. The chapter does not review effects of building dampness that are unrelated to indoor air quality or health. However, dampness problems 29
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30 DAMP INDOOR SPACES AND HEALTH often cause building materials to decay or corrode, to become structurally weakened or lose their thermal capacity, and thus to reduce their useful life. Dampness also causes building materials and furnishings to develop an unacceptable appearance. The societal cost of such structural and visual effects of dampness may be high. As discussed below, there is no single, generally accepted term for referring to "dampness" or "damp indoor spaces." This chapter and the remainder of the report adopts the terminology of the research being cited or uses the default term "dampness." MOISTURE DEFINITIONS1 Studies use various qualitative terms to denote the presence of excess moisture in buildings. These include dampness, condensation, building damp- ness, visible dampness, damp patches, damp spots, water collection, water ponding, and moisture problem. Dampness--however it is expressed--is used to signify a wide array of signs of moisture damage of variable spatial extent and severity. It may represent visual observations of current or prior moisture (such as water stains or condensation on windows), observed microbial growth, measurement of high moisture content of building materials, mea- surement of high relative humidity in the indoor air, moldy or musty odors, and other signs that can be associated with excess moisture in a building. Some studies make separate observations of dampness and mold, and both observed dampness and visible mold have been weakly associated with mea- sured concentrations of fungi (Verhoeff et al., 1992). Chapter 3 discusses the various signs and measurements of dampness, moisture, or mold that have been used in studies and lists several examples. Numerous technical terms are also used to describe characteristics of moisture and moisture physics, including absorption, adsorption, desorp- tion, diffusion, capillary action, capillary height, convection, dew point, partial pressure, and water vapor permeability. A complete discussion of all the terms is beyond the scope of this study, but some that are used in the report are defined below. The amount of water present in a substance is expressed in relation to its volume (kg/m3), or to its oven-dry weight (kg/kg). The former is referred to as moisture content (MC), and the latter as percentage moisture content (%-MC). MC is directly proportional to %-MC and to the density of the substance (Björkholtz, 1987). 1Material in this section and later in the chapter has been adapted or excerpted from a dissertation by Dr. Ulla Haverinen-Shaughnessy (Haverinen, 2002) that was written under the supervision of one of the committee members. It is used here with the permission of the author.
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DAMP BUILDINGS 31 Relative humidity (RH) is the existing water vapor pressure of the air, expressed as a percentage of the saturated water vapor pressure at the same temperature. RH reflects both the amount of water vapor in air and the air temperature. For example, if the temperature of a parcel of air is decreased but no water is removed, the RH will increase. If the air is cooled suffi- ciently, a portion of the gaseous water vapor in the air will condense, producing liquid water. The highest temperature that will result in conden- sation is called the "dewpoint temperature." "Humidity ratio" is another technical term used to characterize the moisture content of air. The humid- ity ratio of a parcel of air equals the mass or weight of water vapor in the parcel divided by the mass or weight of dry (moisture-free) air in the parcel. Humidity ratio, unlike RH, is independent of air temperature. The indoor outdoor humidity ratio can be used to estimate the rate of interior water vapor generation, or more qualitatively to indicate if a building has sources. Water generation rate can be computed from a moisture mass balance equation; however, the rate of outdoor air ventilation must be known. If the building has a dehumidifier or an air conditioner that dehumidifies, the rate of water removal via this device must be factored. Sorption and desorp- tion of water and from indoor surfaces also complicates the estimation of the internal water vapor generation rate. Monthly mean water activity level has been proposed as a metric for evaluating whether mold growth will occur on surfaces of newly-designed buildings (TenWolde and Rose, 1994) but there is reason to be skeptical about its practicality because the level varies throughout a building and is not easily measured at all relevant locations (for example, in wall cavities). The temperature of air and materials in a building varies spatially; therefore, RH also varies spatially. In the winter for example, the tempera- ture of the interior surface of a window or wall will normally be less that the temperature of air in the center of a room. Air in contact with the window or wall will cool to below the central room temperature, increasing the local relative humidity. If the surface has a temperature below the dewpoint temperature of adjacent air, water vapor will condense on the surface, producing liquid water. Without a source to moisten building material continuously, the MC of the material depends on temperature and the RH of the surrounding air. The RH of the atmosphere in equilibrium with a material that has a par- ticular MC is known as the equilibrium relative humidity (ERH) (Oliver, 1997). Different materials have different distributions of pore size and degrees of hygroscopicity so materials that have the same ERH may have different MC. For example, at an ERH of 80%, the MC for mineral wool is about 0.3 kg/m3, for concrete can be 80 kg/m3, and for wood is about 90 kg/m3 (Nevander and Elmarsson, 1994).
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32 DAMP INDOOR SPACES AND HEALTH MOISTURE DYNAMICS IN BUILDINGS-- HOW BUILDINGS GET WET Water exists in three states: solid (ice), liquid, and gas (water vapor). The molecules in liquid water and water vapor move freely; molecules in ice are bound into a crystal matrix and are unable to move except to vibrate. Liquid water is a cohesive fluid; when it interacts with other materials, it is affected by forces that originate in the new material. If a drop attaches to a surface that has a strong affinity for water, like wood, it will spread out across the surface. The attraction may be great enough that water will run along the bottom of a horizontal material--a roof truss, for example--until it comes to an air gap or a downward projection where gravity pulls it away from the surface and it falls. Many building materials are porous, and the size of the pores affects their permeability. If the pores are small enough to keep both liquid water clusters and water vapor molecules from passing, the material is imperme- able; metal foils are examples of such materials. Materials with slightly larger pores (building papers like Tyvek and builders felt) will shed liquid water but be relatively permeable to water vapor. If the material has pores that are large enough for tiny clusters of liquid water to enter, it will be permeable to both liquid water and water vapor. As a result of intermolecu- lar forces, liquid water is drawn into the pores of such materials by capil- lary suction. Water drawn in that way is said to be absorbed by the porous material. Water migration through porous materials is a complex interac- tion of forces. Water molecules clinging to the surface of a solid material are bound to that surface by intermolecular forces. They cannot move about as freely as liquid water molecules or water vapor molecules and are in what is sometimes referred to as the adsorbed state. Water must accumu- late on surfaces to a depth of four or five molecules before it begins to move freely as a liquid (Straube, 2001). Adsorbed water cannot be removed by drainage. In the adsorbed state, water molecules are less available for chemi- cal and biologic purposes than they are in a nonadsorbed state. It does not take a great deal of moisture to cause problems with sensi- tive materials like paper or composite wooden materials. Moisture sources in buildings include rainwater, groundwater, plumbing, construction mois- ture, water use, condensation, and indoor and outdoor humidity (Lstiburek, 2001; Straube, 2002). The first three are sources of liquid-water problems, construction moisture may result in both liquid-water and water-vapor problems, and condensation associated with humidity involves water vapor as well as liquid water. Moisture problems begin when materials stay wet long enough for microbial growth, physical deterioration, or chemical reac- tions to occur. Those may happen because of continual wetting or intermit- tent wetting that happens often enough to keep materials from drying. As
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DAMP BUILDINGS 33 discussed below, the important moisture-related variables in determining whether fungal growth occurs are those which affect the rate of wetting and the rate of drying (Lstiburek, 2002a). The most damaging water leaks are those which are large enough to flood a building or small enough not to attract notice but large enough to wet or humidify a cavity space or material for a long time. Thus, the "best" leak is one that is large enough to be noticed right away but small enough that the wetting does not promote microbial growth or affect materials. Both floods and slow leaks can result in large areas of fungal growth. Condensation sometimes occurs over a large area and can also result in extensive mold growth. Rainwater and Groundwater Placing a building on a site does not change how much rain falls each year--it changes the path that rainwater takes on its journey through the hydrologic cycle. When building designs work properly, rainwater is col- lected and redirected so that it does not intrude into the buildings them- selves. When collection and redirection fail, rainwater wets buildings. Build- ings have been protected from rainwater for centuries by using gravity, air gaps, and moisture-insensitive materials to direct and drain water away from other materials that can be damaged by water through corrosion, microbial contamination, or chemical reaction (Lstiburek, 2001). Weak- ness in rainwater protection can be found in the detailing of the roof, walls, windows, doors, decks, foundation, and site. Rainwater leaks may take a long time to become noticeable because the water often leaks into cavities that are filled with porous insulation. Insulation may retain the water, keeping materials wet longer than would empty cavities. Many roofing materials are impermeable to liquid water and can be repeatedly wetted and dried without damage. Wooden shingles and thatched roofs are exceptions. They drain the bulk of rainwater away from the interior but also absorb some of it. An air gap beneath then forms a mois- ture or water break and allows drying of the shingle or thatch by evapora- tion from inner and outer surfaces. Roof leaks typically occur at joints and penetrations; parapet walls, curbs for roof-mounted equipment and sky- lights, intersections between roofs and walls, and roof drains are common leakage sites. These leaks are often the result of failures in design or of installation of flashings and moisture or water breaks. In climates that receive substantial snowfall, water can intrude through roofs as the result of melting snow. Ice dams occur when there is snow on a roof and roof temperatures reach 33°F (1°C) or higher at times when the outdoor air temperature is below freezing. Snow on the warm part of the roof melts and then follows the drainage path until it reaches roofing that is
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34 DAMP INDOOR SPACES AND HEALTH chilled below freezing by outdoor air. The water then freezes on this part of the roof and causes ice dams and icicles. Aggravating conditions for ice dams include sources of heat that warm snow-covered sheathing (air leaks and conductive heat loss from the building, recessed lighting fixtures in insulated ceilings, and uninsulated chimneys passing through attics) and valley roofs, which may collect water from a large surface area and drain it to one small location. Several design approaches are available for prevent- ing ice dams: · Air-seal and heavily insulate the top of the building so that escaping heat does not reach the roofing. · Ventilate the roof sheathing from underneath with outdoor air. (In combination with the air sealing and insulation, this keeps roofing cold, so melting does not occur or is minimized to rates that do not result in ice problems). · Avoid heat sources in the vented attic or vent bays (for example, do not use recessed lights in insulated ceilings). Rainwater protection in walls is accomplished largely with three basic methods: massive moisture storage, drained cladding, and face-sealed clad- ding (Lstiburek, 2001; Straube and Burnett, 1997). Historically, walls ca- pable of massive moisture storage have been built of thick masonry materi- als (such as stone in older churches). Exterior detailing channels rainwater away from entry through such walls. The walls are also able to store a large amount of water in the adsorbed state, and their storage capacity is suffi- cient to accommodate rainwater wetting and drying cycles without causing problems.2 Rainwater intrusion problems occur in these walls when a path- way wicks water from the exterior to the interior, where moisture-sensitive materials are. Wooden structural members in masonry pockets, interior- finish walls made of wood or paper products, and furnishings composed of fabrics, adhesive, or composites are typical materials that may be affected by rainwater transported through walls by bridging or capillary suction. Cladding (a protective, insulating, or decorative covering) with air gaps and a drain plane is another historical answer to rainwater intrusion. A drained-cladding wall has an exterior finish that intercepts most of the rainwater that strikes it but is backed by an air gap and water-resistant drainage material to keep any water that gets past the cladding from enter- ing the wall beneath. Wooden clapboard, wooden shingles, board and bat, brick or block veneer, and traditional stucco are examples of cladding used in some climates in the United States that has historically been backed by an 2Condensation is not typically a problem, because, unlike many composite structures, such walls have relatively even distribution of water-vapor permeability.
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DAMP BUILDINGS 35 air gap and drainage layer. Asphalt-impregnated felt paper, rosin paper, and high-permeability spun-plastic wraps are examples of materials that are used as the drainage layer. Foam board and foil-faced composite sheath- ing have also been used as drain planes beneath cladding (Lstiburek, 2000). The most frequent problems in these walls occur when moisture-sensitive sheathings--such as oriented strand board (OSB), plywood, and low- density fiberboards--are not protected by a drainage layer. Face-sealed walls are made of materials that are impermeable to water and are sealed at the joints with caulking or gaskets (Straube, 2001). Struc- tural glazing, metal-clad wooden or foam panels, and corrugated metal siding are examples of face-sealed cladding. The intention is to seal the joints between the panels well enough to prevent rainwater entry. Rainwa- ter intrusion occurs when the seals fail. Seals on some face-sealed walls need to be renewed every 45 years. The unavoidable weakness in rainwater protection for any wall is at the penetrations--windows, doors, light fixtures, the roofs of lower portions of the structure, decks, balconies, and porches. Rainwater leaks through poorly detailed, designed or installed flashing are most common. Common errors include failure to provide detailed instructions for flashing in construction documents, providing two-dimensional details for situations that require three-dimensional flashing, installing head flashings on top of building pa- per rather than installed underneath, and ignoring leaks in the window itself. Wall drain papers for windows must be installed in the same way that a raincoat is worn: over, not tucked into rain pants. Pan flashing beneath windows can prevent leaks, even of poorly installed windows, from wetting the wall below (Lstiburek, 2000). Foundations are typically protected from moisture problems by being constructed of materials that are resistant to water problems (stone, con- crete, and masonry) and having rainwater diverted away from them (Lstiburek, 2000, 2001). (In some old buildings, foundation structures could be constructed of wooden piers, which might have to be kept wet.) Exces- sive moisture in foundations is often the result of poorly managed rainwa- ter, but it may also result from groundwater intrusion, plumbing leaks, ventilation with hot humid air, or water in building materials (such as concrete) or in exposed soil (for example, saturated ground in a crawl space foundation). Rainwater is diverted by sloping the finish grade away from the building; rainwater and groundwater are diverted with subsoil drain- age. Drainage systems use stone pebbles, perforated drain pipe, sand and gravel, or proprietary drainage mats. Stone pebbles and perforated pipe are typically enclosed in a filter fabric to prevent clogging by fine soil particles. Below-grade foundations are coated with dampproofing to provide a capil- lary break. Water problems occur if rainwater collected on the roof is drained to the soil next to the foundation. This may happen if the site is
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36 DAMP INDOOR SPACES AND HEALTH inadvertently contoured to collect rainwater and drain it into the building or if paving does so. Other problematic scenarios include a drainage pipe that is missing, is installed improperly, or does not drain to daylight or a sump pump; a drainage system that fills with silt carried by water percolat- ing through the soil and that then clogs; and a failure to install a capillary break, which would keep water from being wicked through concrete prod- ucts to the interior. Foundations may be slab on grade (or near grade), full basements, crawl spaces, piers, or a combination of these types. A slab-on-grade foun- dation consists of a concrete slab that constitutes the first floor of the building. The perimeter of the slab may be thickened and reinforced, or it may be bound by a perimeter wall that extends some distance into the soil. The most common water problems with slab-on-grade foundations are caused when rainwater from the roof or site wets the foundation and the water is wicked up through concrete to wall or flooring materials. If air ducts are placed in or beneath the slab, these may flood with poorly man- aged rainwater. A basement is made by excavating a large, pond-like hole in the ground and constructing walls and a floor in the bottom of the hole. A basement floor slab is wholly or partially below grade. Some basement floors are at grade on one side and below grade on another. A drainage system is placed on the bottom of the hole around the perimeter of the walls, and a capillary break in the form of stone pebbles or polyethylene film is placed beneath the floor. Walls are coated with some form of dampproofing to make a capillary break. Free-draining material is placed against the walls to divert water from the foundation into footing drains. Many potential causes of dampness problems in full basements result from vagaries of weather and defects in design, construction, and maintenance. Rainwater from the roof or site can easily saturate the soil near the foundation and make it more likely for liquid water to seep or run into the basement. A more subtle problem occurs when water wicking through the walls or slab evaporates into the basement, leaving the walls dry but over-humidifying the space. Placing framing, insulation, paneling, or gypsum board against a basement wall creates a microclimate between finished wall and basement wall. In fact, if the outdoor-air dewpoint is higher than the temperature in this space, ventilating air will add moisture to the cavity, not dry it and this can result in conditions favorable for microbial growth. A solution to this problem is to insulate the foundation wall on the outside. If the foundation is insulated on the inside, a material with high insulating value and low water-vapor permeability should be used; this will keep the warm humid basement air away from earth-chilled walls. Plastic foam insulation meets this criterion. If the water vapor permeability of the insulation is low enough, it will reduce drying from the foundation wall into the basement.
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DAMP BUILDINGS 37 Placing insulation beneath the floor slab can prevent basement floors from "sweating" during hot humid weather because it thermally isolates the concrete slab from the cool earth below. A crawl space is constructed in the same way as a basement foundation except that it is shorter and often the floor is not covered by a concrete slab. Many crawl spaces have air vents through the walls intended to provide passive ventilation. Because crawl spaces are not intended for occupancy, drainage detailing around them is often lacking or poorly implemented. Rainwater intrusion is common. In addition, the floor is often exposed soil, which creates the potential for evaporation into the crawl space. Vents placed too close to the ground sometimes become rainwater intakes. When the outdoor-air dewpoint is higher than the temperature of the soil and foundation surfaces, ventilating air wets the crawl space rather than drying it (Kurnitski, 2000). Pier foundations (concrete or crushed-stone footings for posts that con- stitute the major structural support for a building) are the most resistant to rainwater problems. Piers extend from the ground to above the surface of the soil to support the lower structure of a building. The most common water problem for this type of foundation occurs if a depression in the ground beneath the structure collects water and exposes the underside of the building to prolonged high humidity. Plumbing and Wet Rooms Most water intentionally brought into buildings is used for drinking, cooking, or cleaning. The bulk of this water passes harmlessly through drains to public or private treatment and is then released to the hydrologic cycle from which it was diverted. The pathway followed by such water consists of pipes, tubs, sinks, showers, dish and clothes washers, driers, and ventilating air. Most of the materials used in the pathway are moisture- insensitive--able to withstand dampness without decomposing, dissolving, corroding, hydrolyzing, or supporting microbial growth. Moisture prob- lems occur when water leaks from pipes or from sinks, tub or shower enclosures, washing machines, ice machines, or other fixtures and appli- ances that have water hookups. Pipes leak when joints are incorrectly made or fail, water freezes in them, the pipe material corrodes or decomposes, or a screw or nail is driven through them. Joints may not be correctly soldered, gasketed, cemented, or doped. Water lines lose integrity when they are exposed to acidic or caustic water or--in the case of rubber or plastic lines to washing machines--the polymers break down from oxidation or ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. Corrosive water may lead to mold growth if a large number of small leaks result. Pipes in exterior walls or unheated crawl spaces or attics may freeze
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38 DAMP INDOOR SPACES AND HEALTH and crack during subfreezing weather. A screw or nail driven through a pipe may not leak for some time, because the fastener seals the hole it made; after thermal expansion and contraction and corrosion work for some time, the pipe may begin to leak. Drains and water traps are vulnerable to leaks. Overflows and careless installation and renovation practices also contribute to problems with fix- tures and appliances that use water. The materials that surround tubs and showers--typically ceramic tiles and fiberglass panels--receive regular wet- tings. They must be constructed, sealed, and maintained to protect the wall and floor materials beneath them. As with rainwater protection, most prob- lems occur at the joints. Grout between ceramic tiles often does not ad- equately serve as a capillary break and water wicks through to the base. In ceramic tile surrounds with paper-covered gypsum board as the base, mold growth may occur beneath the grout and on the backside of the gypsum board where water wicks through the paper facing the wall cavity. Depending on the detailing, water may also be wicked through the gaps where fiberglass panels overlap and meet tubs or shower pans. The shower pan in stand-alone showers is another weak spot. Essentially, these are basins that must hold a small depth of water. Leaks are most common at the drain penetration. Pans that are constructed on site have more joints to leak than prefabricated pans that are molded into a single piece. Poorly designed, incorrectly installed, and carelessly used shower curtains and doors are another source of problems. Tub surrounds and shower enclo- sures can be constructed of materials that are poor substrates for fungal growth; for example, fiber-cement board, rather than paper-covered gyp- sum board, can be used as the base for ceramic tile. Such steps reduce, but do not eliminate, the possibility of microbial contamination. Construction Moisture In newly constructed buildings, a large amount of water vapor can be released by wet building materials such as recently cast concrete, and wet wooden products (Christian, 1994). Manufactured products that were origi- nally dry can become extensively wetted by exposure to rain during trans- portation, storage, and building construction. Case studies have attributed microbial contamination to the use of wet building materials or to wetting during building construction (Hung and Terra, 1996; Salo, 1999). Large areas of mold growth may occur when a floor enclosing an earth-floored crawl space is installed because the soil may be a reservoir of rainwater; the humidity in such a crawl space quickly becomes high when the floor deck is applied over moist earth. Floor decks made from OSB or plywood are vulnerable to mold growth during extended periods (23 days for OSB, 42 days for plywood) of RH greater than 95% (Doll, 2002).
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DAMP BUILDINGS 39 Condensation and High Humidity Condensation necessarily involves water-vapor transport. The two im- portant variables for condensation are chilled surfaces and sources of water vapor. Materials chilled below the indoor or outdoor air temperature accu- mulate water molecules in the adsorbed state and are at risk for condensa- tion; those chilled below the local dew point will begin to accumulate liquid water. Porous materials can hold more water vapor than impermeable ones before liquid water appears. The combination of high RH in indoor or outdoor air and cooled building materials increases the risk of dampness problems and microbial growth. Even without condensation, the local RH of air at the surface of cool material can be very high, leading to high mois- ture content in the material. Figure 2-1 illustrates how much air needs to be cooled before the difference between the air temperature and dewpoint temperature equals zero and condensation occurs. Regardless of the initial air temperature, when the relative humidity is very high only a few degrees of cooling will result in condensation. For example, if the bulk of the air in a room has a RH of 80%, condensation will occur on a surface that is only about 7oF (4oC) cooler than the bulk room air temperature. Therefore, whenever cool 90 80 70 60 Tair-Tdewpoint (°F) 90°F 50 70°F 50°F 40 30 20 10 0 5 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Relative Humidity (%) FIGURE 2-1 The difference between air and dewpoint temperatures needed for condensation to occur, expressed as a function of relative humidity, for three in- door air temperatures.
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