What is Wrong with my Windows?

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rotted window

Proper window installation is crucial to having a lasting home. The process should be thoughtfully planned out from start to finish because there are multiple steps that can leave your home vulnerable to degradation if they are not done properly.

Good windows are designed to last 30-50 years. However, a typical warranty provides coverage for only 10 years on average. One of the biggest reasons for this is that window manufacturers know how frequently improper home building practices actually occur. So, as a homeowner or management company how can you tell if your windows have been correctly installed?

Here are some signs that your windows were either installed improperly or are faulty:

-Moisture Intrusion

If you notice leaking from your windows, there is definitely a problem. This could be an array of construction defects including flashing or installation issues. Immediate action should be taken to avoid permanent water damage to your home.

-Drafty windows especially during winter months

Drafty windows are a sure sign that your windows are not insulated properly. This is concerning because around 10-25% of a home’s heat is lost through the windows. You are losing heat and paying big $$ for it.

-Difficulties opening, closing, or locking the window

If you are unable to open, close, or lock your new windows, it is likely it was installed improperly.

 -Fog or condensation has developed inside the window unit

Certain windows, such as double and triple-paned assemblies, are filled with safe gasses that aid in the energy efficiency of your home. When this gas becomes depleted, either naturally over time or because of improper installation, the pane will appear cloudy and/or have condensation. Be sure to clean the exterior of the window to verify that the moisture is within the pane.

-Frost on the inside of windows

Frost on the inside of windows is most likely from poor insulation or a bad seal. It presents a danger to your home because, upon melting, it transfers moisture to anything nearby causing cracked paint, discoloration of materials, and can even migrate to your home’s walls and cause water damage.

All of the above issues are indicative of poorly installed or faulty windows. It is important to have those checked by a professional to prevent any further damage that could be occurring within the home and/or energy loss. Complete Building Solutions, an engineering & consulting firm based out of the Twin Cities of Minnesota, specializes in home performance and has combined knowledge extending over 80 years. We would be happy to do an inspection for you. Check out our Facebook page and give us a call today!

(612) 868-2922

https://www.facebook.com/completebuildingsolutionsmn/

Reduce Your Energy Bill – Energy Savings Testimonial!

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eneryg light

As an engineering consulting firm overseeing projects, Complete Building Solutions has been serving Minnesota homeowners with home performance issues for years, and we provide solutions that last!  CBS will typically test for heat loss using a thermal camera before and after improvements and then, at times, will test even a year later.

Over the weekend we received an email from an ecstatic client stating that their energy bills had dropped by over 35%! This is the kind of thing that drives us to continue doing what we do best, advocating for the consumer by ensuring long lasting homes.

This particular project consisted of 53 Minneapolis townhome units that needed serious work done. The attic systems were lacking sufficient ventilation and insulation resulting in a large temperature difference from the inside of the attic to outside. This led to heat loss, condensation, and non-adherance to fire codes. In short, the attics were “rotting” from the inside out, and the energy bills were high.

Here’s the proof. This client’s energy bill decreased by 35% after an attic inspection and the necessary improvements.

 


“Immediately after the roofing project, we noticed things like the furnace running less often, the thermostat not needing to be kept as high, the upstairs room feeling evenly heated compared to downstairs, etc.  We continue to be very thankful for these improvements following our roofing project.”

 

 Old monthly bill versus new monthly bill 

Snip It Energy Bill

This particular bill is based on Xcel Energy’s Averaged Monthly Payment Service which looks at the past 12 months worth of billing data and calculates an averaged amount to pay the next 12 months. You can see the significant drop in charges from the previous years average which was set before the attic improvements had been made.

To read more about this same clients Energy Savings click here !

 

 

Leaks: Don’t Ignore the Unseen

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Roof Leakage

It is mid-January in Minnesota. We have seen temperatures plunge below zero and return to the mid-thirties (degrees Fahrenheit) multiple times. This varying temperature span is a recipe for attic leaks. Ultimately, the leakage problem exists because your attic system is failing somewhere.

A healthy attic means three things: first and foremost, the bypasses are sealed, two, an airflow is provided by correct ventilation, and three, the right amount of insulation pertinent to your area is present. To learn more about the attic system check out this blog post  http://cbsmn.com/blog/?p=121 .

When your attic is not performing at its peak, leakage can occur. Many homeowners assume that if a leak were present, it would be visible on the sheetrock surface of their home. This is NOT the case. When was the last time you visited your attic? You might be surprised at what you would find.

There are multiple ways that water can infiltrate your attic. One way is through condensation and frost. When your attic system is not functioning properly, warm air will escape through open bypasses and move into your attic. When this warm air meets the cold attic, it will stick to metals first and wood structures second. During periods of cold temperatures, this moisture will become visible as frost. When the weather begins to warm up, this frost will begin to thaw. All of this moisture has to go somewhere, so it leaks onto the attic insulation.

Another way moisture can enter the attic is through the build-up of ice dams. Again, these ice dams are formed because your attic is not performing adequately. As snow melts and water moves down your roof, the dam continues to build.  Water will search for ways to migrate underneath the shingles, through the roofing deck, and into the attic.

This dripping moisture from condensation & ice dams can cause mold to form, but more importantly, the insulation will become damp. Ultimately, this weakens the materials ability to resist heat flow (R-value=resistance to heat flow). It no longer acts as an insulator, but conversely, as a conductor of heat, allowing warm air to escape through your attic. In concurrence with the ineffective insulation, mold may also form on the roofing deck of the attic. The mold will continue to spread and break down the structural materials in your attic. Can you believe that all of this is may be occurring without you even knowing?

Ice build up on slate roof.

Because Minnesota is the 3rd coldest state in the United States (http://www.wdsu.com/weather/states-with-the-coldest-winters/22668580), it is even more important to ensure attic performance.  This is the time to call the Twin Cities premier engineering and consulting firm, Complete Building Solutions. Your attic will be assessed as a whole, and the proper course of action will be determined. We pride ourselves on our ability to create building solutions for your home that last.

High Energy Bills: The Truth about the Attic

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Ice Damming Prevention MN

What if we told you there is a way to drastically decrease your energy loss and ultimately put money back in your pocket?  All you have to do is, look up. Your attic could be needing some serious attention.

It is common knowledge that warm air rises towards the top part of a building. This creates a pressure gradient within the structure. A higher pressure exists near the uppermost part of a building while a lower pressure resides near the bottom. Ultimately, the low pressure near the foundation will pull cool air into the building while the high pressure at the uppermost part of the building drives warm air out through any crevice it can find.

 No wonder your energy bill is literally THROUGH THE ROOF!

You can see why it is so important to have a properly insulated attic. In order for an attic to perform at its best, it must function as a system. Three main areas must work together to ensure peak performance:

  1. Bypasses

Frequently, the ceiling bypasses are not sealed correctly rendering the attic insulation ineffective. Sealing bypasses can be anything from an interior wall extending into the attic, ducting, bathroom fans, plumb vents, lights, and wires. Many times, these bypasses are not insulated at all, leaving the home vulnerable to serious energy loss.

  1. Insulation

Insulation is naturally resistant to conductive heat flow. Depending on the density, thickness, and type of insulation, the level of resistance, or R-value, varies.  A higher R-value will be more effective against heat trying to escape. Your geographic location helps to determine how much insulation you need. Again, the more insulation used, the higher the R-value.

  1. Ventilation

An effective ventilation system helps keep your attic at a temperature which allows for best performance. Keeping attic temperatures down in the summer while also keeping the attics dry in the winter is essential. This allows for a prolonged life of materials and structures as well as lower energy bills

All three of the systems mentioned above must work together in order for a home to function at its best. Having a new home does NOT guarantee this.

Luckily, CBS has ensured peak attic performance in more than 120 townhome association’s in order to eradicate heat loss due to incorrectly insulated ceiling bypasses. Our experienced engineers understand that insulating an attic is irrelevant if the bypasses have not been sealed properly. Our team addresses the attic as a whole structure, not just as individual parts, in order to find the root of the problem and act accordingly.

Be aware! If you have/are experiencing any of the following, your attic may need some attention:

A) Ice dams

Ice dams

  • When heat escapes through poorly insulated areas, the attic is warmed up and melts snow on your roof. This melting snow migrates to the edge of the roof where it freezes and continues to build up and hold water in the form of a dam. This is a serious issue that can lead to further problems such as severe water damage.

For more information on ice dams, check out a previous blog: Ice Dams vs. Natural Ice Build-up

B) Mold

  • As we touched upon earlier, warm air rises and will try to escape out of any open channel it can find in your attic. An open bypass is a great vessel for this air to escape. As the escaping warm air meets the cool air from outside, condensation is formed. This condensation, along with other forms of moisture intrusion, leave your home very susceptible to mold. This mold will be apparent not only within the attic, but on walls and other areas of the home. Think of the health implications this proposes.

C) Nail pops on roof

  • The hygroscopic nature of plywood or OSB (oriented strand board) contributes greatly to the nail pop issue. Plywood is made from several layers of veneer held tonail popgether by glue. During periods of drastic temperature differences (40-50 degrees F difference) between the attic and exterior, expansion and contraction between the different layers of veneer (or within OSB) occurs. What do you think happens to the wood when this takes place? Here’s a hint, we have all experienced this at one point or another. Yes, the wood literally becomes unglued! You can see why this is a problem. The nails are slowly and forcefully pushed upwards due to the conflicting movement (“ungluing”) of the wood. This phenomena transpires more frequently as moisture content in the attic increases, primarily from unsealed bypasses.

Nail pops must be taken care of immediately in order to prevent moisture intrusion, however, if your attic is not insulated properly, they will continue to occur. If you are interested in prolonging the life of your roof, this issue must be acknowledged and corrected.

D) High energy bills

  • Your energy bills could be high because your attic is not sealed and insulated properly. Remember, heat rises and will escape out of any area it can find. If measures are not taken to keep heat within the home, such as sealing bypasses, your hard earned money is being lost to the atmosphere.

Want to learn more about energy savings? Check out this blog: Energy Savings

If you have noticed any of the above issues, it is time to call CBS. Using our expert knowledge to best assess your needs, the root of the issue will be determined and corrected.  Don’t waste time and money addressing symptoms that come from a poorly insulated attic when the real problems are still lurking within. Imagine the peace of mind and money saved by having a smaller energy bill, the lifetime of your roof extended by 15 years, prevention of water damage, and a healthy family. Why not call CBS to take care of the real problem once and for all?

Contact CBS

 

 

 

Energy Savings

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Would you heat and cool your home with the front door and windows open?

Like me, many homeowners are look for energy savings in their homes because we know that energy prices will be and are skyrocketing! We check the efficiency of our furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, kitchen appliances, bathroom ceiling fans scouring our home for ways to save mother earth and our pocketbooks. Checking your home’s performance is the place to start, the ceilings, attic, windows and other energy loss areas. Many homeowners think that spending thousands of dollars on new appliances will save them from dishing out big bucks on heating and cooling their homes. Start with calling Complete Building Solutions, we work with many homeowner associations and homeowners to make their homes perform and become more energy efficient. Read the testimonial below from one of our customers who were elated by our completion of the elimination of bypass, insulation and ventilation correction and saving money far above their expectations!

Complete Building Solutions has saved money for over 115 homeowner associations, townhome and condominium complexes (around 2,000 homeowners in the Twin Cities area alone). Our engineering firm has concrete methods to measure a home’s energy inefficiency and create a path to mending homes. Aside from a detailed attic visual inspection we can also offer infrared camera analytics, moisture testing and negative blower door testing. The negative blower door test determines how many CFM’s (cubic feet per minute) of energy your home is losing. These tests are sometimes done before we work on a home and after the work is completed and sometimes, over a two year period. Typically after a home’s performance is maximized by fixing heat loss areas, a homeowner can save around 25-50% on their energy bills. These savings and your investment will actually pay for themselves over a period of time.

One of our homeowners, Dr. Tracy was elated when we saved him just under 50% of on his energy costs:

“So, thanks again for a job well done! In addition to this very noticeable drop in natural gas usage, we are also noticing that we don’t have to keep the thermostat set as high to keep the house warm, the furnace doesn’t seem to run as often, the upstairs rooms are nice and warm (they were cold in years past), and, of course, no large scale ice build up along the roof lines anymore. There’s some ice in some corner spots but nowhere near as much as in years past.”

—Dr. Tracy

Natural Gas Usage

This bar graph shows Dr. Tracy’s actual gas bill before our assessment and execution of our recommended work scope (left F) and after (right F). These represent the difference in gas usage between February 2014 and February 2015.

Contact us when you are ready to analyze how you can keep the energy you pay for in your home and not giving it away to heat your neighborhood!

 

Builder’s vs. Building Performance Engineers – Loud noises in your home

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I wanted to share with you a little more about what came out of the interview last week with Heather Brown’s “Good Question” on WCCO, TV and what followed.  Mainly, I want to back up the statement I made about loud noises or creaks in the home because I got a mild amount of pushback.  I decided to show proof so that people actually understand the consequences of warm meeting cold in the attic.

Last week I mentioned that a builder’s explanation for the loud booming noise was, “no big deal” and “just a settling of the home”.  My comment was, “the loud booming and cracking sounds could be a signal of issues that are actually quite detrimental to the performance of the home, lumber could be moving”.

The following photo shows where the roof truss has separated from the roof deck of this west metro complex.

PIC1

This is an example of what can occur when warm air from the living space meets the cold air in the attic space starting the expansion and contraction cycle which can lead to compromising your building elements.  Different types of lumber or materials have varying properties causing their movement behaviors to be diverse. Plywood is filled with glue which moves differently from a roof rafter which is made from a softer wood with no glue added.  Similarly, the structural members typically are made of different materials than these joining members, such as structural beams, which do not match the movement of the other elements.

Most often these roof noises occur when exterior temperatures reach extreme lows. The loss of heat in the living space meets the cold structural members in the attic causing physical movement or “booms”. Because of expansion and contraction, and due to the varying material properties, there are times when lumber will move and will change the load bearing properties and capacity. Particularly during a winter with heavy snowfall.

We at CBS, can help you with your building’s performance to eliminate heat loss, ventilate your attic space correctly and prevent these occurrences

Why does my house make loud boom and cracking noises during the cold of winter?

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This week, Heather Brown from WCCO 4 News, contacted me because she heard Complete Building Solutions is known as the Twin Cities Premier Engineering Firm who deals in building performance.  A lot of her listeners contacted the station with a “Good Question”. They were wondering why their homes make big boom sounds or loud cracking noises when it’s cold. Heather wanted to get answers to this age old question from two professionals, a home construction builder, and a structural engineer consultant(CBS).  The builder commented that it was “no big deal” and “just a settling of the home”. When in fact, the loud booming and cracking sounds could be a signal of issues that are actually quite detrimental to the performance of the home.

As a structural and building performance firm, here at CBS we spend all of our time consulting and resolving these issues. The biggest reason for the boom sounds and the expanding and contracting, or movement in the lumber comes from warm meeting cold in areas where they should not meet.

We advise that you contact us to investigate your home through thermal imagery and non-invasive structural testing. These issues can lead to severe expansion and contraction of lumber, condensation, ice dams, severe energy loss and premature degradation of the homes component’s.

See the WCCO TV spot here: Rob Vassallo on Good Question – WCCO

Ice Dams vs. Natural Ice Build-up

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I find that homeowners often confuse natural melt/freeze ice build-up with a systemic ice dam problem in their home.  I also often hear people say things like “ice dams cannot be stopped in Minnesota” or “nature causes ice dams, you cannot fix Mother Nature.”  This also leads me to the conclusion people need to learn to differentiate between the two occurrences.

Early February provided some interesting weather here in Minnesota.  Temperatures have fluctuated between dry, extremely cold days to days with weather near or just above freezing with a lot of moisture in the air.  We have seen a lot of natural ice build-up and several cases of hoarfrost which is less common in Minnesota due to dry weather in the winter.

Hoarfrost:

Hoarfrost is defined: “A grayish-white crystalline deposit of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc.”  Occasionally we wake up to this phenomenon and see these crystalline deposits on trees, fences etc.  You probably notice it mostly on trees.

You might wonder how this affects my home.  With high humidity in the air, condensation can occur in areas and freeze.  We often see this occur on plumbing stacks on a roof.  There are two conclusions when we find this issue; either it’s a one-time occurrence (hoarfrost) or it’s a systemic problem caused by condensation coming from the plumbing stack.

It is important to differentiate between the two.  If the plumbing stacks were installed improperly, the issue should be corrected.  We find that often they are cut too high off the roof elevation (more than 12”) and freezing will occur due to the install.  This should be corrected immediately.  However even when properly installed the plumbing vent may still freeze due to the moisture in the air (hoarfrost), this is a “one-time” occurrence or something that will happen infrequently and while clearing the ice is advised, there is not a problem that needs to be addressed.

Natural Ice Build-up vs. Ice Dams

We receive a handful of phone calls when the weather fluctuates between near or above freezing during the day and drops below freezing at night.  Most homeowners are concerned due to icicles forming on the eave or visible ice on the roof.  Again it is important to differentiate between Mother Nature and an ongoing problem with heat loss in your attic space.

Ice Dams form due to heat loss in the attic along with improper ventilation.  Attic bypass often allows warm air from the home into the attic and in turn it warms the roof deck.  This melts the snow on the roof, when the melt reaches the cold eave (overhang) it then freezes.  When there is enough ice built up and it reaches the warm area on the roof, water builds up behind the ice, working its way uphill and will often cause leaks in the attic.  This can lead to problems such as; leaks, mold, warped roof deck and deterioration of shingles.  Also, heat loss and bypass lead to other attic issues, most notably moisture issues.  I’ll to a whole blog about this in the future, stay tuned!

Even if all your heat loss is stopped and your ventilation is performing you can still have some ice form on your roof eave.  We see this happen with or without gutters, although more often when gutters are present.  When it snows, and either warms up near or above freezing during the day or the sun shines on the roof during the day and then at night the temperature drops, we see natural ice forming on roofs.  The most important distinction to make here is that there is no water sitting behind the ice or working its way uphill on the roof. Thus there is no problem with your attic.  Again, it’s ok to have a little ice on your eave or a few icicles as long as your attic is performing.

Natural Ice build-up

Natural Ice forming on a roof.

A saying that we repeat a lot around our office is that “gutters are a double edged sword.”  While they do help move roof water away from the foundation of your home, they do enhance the natural ice build-up on a roof eave.  Gutters along with the overhang are cold, so naturally when they will form ice in the winter.  Gutters are often necessary to move roof water, this only reinforces the need to properly insulate and ventilate your attic space.

Conclusion

While in most cases we still advise you have a professional inspect any potential issue, it is important to understand the difference between natural ice and ice formed from unnatural occurrences in your home, namely heat loss.  If your attic space is sealed and there is proper ventilation in your attic a little ice can be expected from time to time, but if you are seeing large amounts of ice or what you feel are ice dams, you should have a professional inspect your attic space and get a recommendation on how to remediate these issues.

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