Prescriptions from Building Doctors
- Check your roof and attic or upper stories for leaks at least every six months. Look for separations, bulges, cracks and signs of moisture. It’s important to check your roof regularly. A sound roof is the key to preventing many problems that can occur below.
- Inspect your gutters and downspouts during a hard rain to see that they’re working properly. Keep them clean and free of leaves and obstructions that may clog them. Make sure water from downspouts is directed away from the foundation.
- Open your basement windows in the dry season to let air circulate. Feel basement walls for dampness. A musty odor indicates a high moisture level in the basement. Check for proper ventilation and dehumidification. Be certain that air circulates freely and isn’t blocked by materials stored against the wall.
- Look for loose or damaged siding. Note any areas of paint failure. Check gaps between boards. Gaps smaller than a quarter-inch will help ventilate the wall cavity; larger gaps may admit rainwater.
- Caulk gaps where window and doorframes meet masonry or wood openings to prevent water from entering wall cavities of frame buildings or masonry of bearing-wall structures.
- Examine painted surfaces for signs of peeling, cracking and alligatoring. Look for clues to original painting techniques and colors. A common way to examine hidden layers of paint is to carefully sand a small area in a location where it would not have weathered or been in direct sunlight, exposing the individual layers.
- Assess the condition of all exterior features, particularly those of significance, such as porches, brackets and other decorative trim.
√ Don’t use abrasive methods to clean brick or masonry. They can cause irreparable harm. Sandblasting, for example, removes the hard outer surface of the brick, exposing its softer core to the elements, and damages other kinds of masonry and wood, too. Avoid all techniques for cleaning masonry or wood that involve blasting or high pressure.
√ Don’t use water-repellent coatings on masonry. They can trap moisture inside instead of letting it pass freely in and out as it normally would. When trapped moisture freezes, it expands, often forcing the surface of the brick or stone to flake or spall.
√ Never seal basement windows shut. You’ll trap moist air inside and prevent proper air circulation, which can lead to a damp basement.
√ Don’t plant bushes or vegetation close to the foundation. They prevent sunlight from reaching the ground, allowing moisture to accumulate there.
√ Don’t use blown-in insulation unless you install a vapor barrier, too. Without the vapor barrier, moisture can accumulate, saturating the insulation and damaging your wall.
√ Don’t leave unused gas pipes connected or live ends uncapped. Have gas lines professionally inspected. You can prevent a tragedy and save yourself money.
√ Don’t allow bare wires to remain exposed. Have old wiring professionally inspected.
√ Don’t forget to give your building a thorough check-up every six months to ensure it has a clean bill of health.
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