Sheetrock Cracks from Water Invasion

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With 2016 being one of the wettest years in Minnesota on record, you may be experiencing things in your home this winter you haven’t in past years. Heavy fall rains and the quick freeze may have negatively impacted your home. Water expands as it freezes, affecting building components such as shingles, siding, windows, doors, framing members, drywall, flatwork and foundation walls. Movement from frost expansion can cause degradation to building components and often, complete failure.

Water follows the path of least resistance so homeowners need to ensure they are not inviting water into their building envelope and particularly into the foundation. Poorly installed or under maintained components such as flashings, roofing, siding and exterior  grade will invite water into unwanted areas. Common identifiers are cracks in walls and ceilings and heaving of driveway aprons and sidewalks. Unusual sounds in your home during extreme cold may also be observed. Doors and windows may become difficult to operate. Gaps in wood trim may appear.

Another commonly overlooked area is your attic. Look in there on a cold day. If you see frost on the underside of the roof, you are experiencing heat loss and likely inadequate or faulty ventilation. The frost you see can lead to mildew and eventually, wood rot. Controlling the temperature of the attic is a key part of preventing water intrusion. Figure 1 below is a great depiction of how the combination of heat loss and cold weather can damage your home.

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If you are experiening any of these issues this winter, you need to contact Complete Building Solutions. We can assess your home for possible problem areas and provide a corrective course of action. Don’t let Old Man Winter destroy your home!

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.

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.

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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

Home Inspection Services vs. Engineering Services

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Here at CBS, we are often times called in to find deficiencies in the building performance of townhomes, condos, and single family dwellings.  The items including ice dams, heaving concrete, rot behind siding and moisture intrusion, just to name a few.

Today, most real estate transactions are based on contingencies subject to inspection of these dwellings.  Frequently, at Complete Building Solutions we are asked, “Why didn’t my home inspector find these issues?”

As I answer this question for people, I tell them that there is a notable difference between a home inspection and an engineering-consulting service such as CBS.  The bottom line is this: A home inspection service will typically be used to look over a home in its entirety to see if there are any obvious warning signs for buyers and sellers alike, and are typically done so in a noninvasive fashion.  These items include but are not limited to the installation of appliances such as the furnace and water heater to notable issues with the exterior such as the roof.  With this in mind, the home inspector may not find issues that are hidden.

So, when problems such as moisture intrusion, structural issues, ice dams, heaving concrete, etc. occur and manifest themselves, we at CBS as a construction engineering-consulting firm are called to perform a deeper level invasive investigation.  Complete Building Solutions will dismantle certain areas of homes to determine what is causing the issues, finding the root cause. Inversely, home inspectors do not invasively inspect for such issues that are a lot of time hidden from the naked eye. CBS finds the anomalies with an assessment, document and report our findings, and provide engineering based solutions to improve the dwelling’s overall performance.

Now, do not take this blog out of context.  There is a definite need and market for home inspection services and we at CBS have very positive relationships with many of the best in their field within the state of Minnesota.  As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago we had the honor of being invited to speak in front of 35 home inspectors that belong to the MSHI (Minnesota Society of Housing Inspectors) and are all ASHI Certified.  As I talked through all the issues that we find everyday on structures, I was beyond captivated by my audience of inspectors.  I found in the room a great deal of knowledge, attention to detail, and the overall sincere concern they hold in regards to their clients and the evaluations they provide for their homes.  This should come as no surprise however, because at the head of this organization sits Reuben Saltzman, of Structure Tech Home Inspections.  I have worked alongside of Reuben for many years and am thoroughly impressed with his detailed reports. We work hand in hand when Reuben finds issues that go beyond the home inspection realm and into the need for engineering.  He, along with other members of the MSHI, are very accredited individuals within the home inspection industry.

Here at Complete Building Solutions, we strive to make buildings perform the way they were intended to by presenting a realistic route to resolution, including estimates to have the necessary repairs made, so the home buyer knows exactly what the cure is for the home.  Knowledge is money, especially on the biggest investments we usually make in our lives: our homes.  So if you have building performance issues requiring detailed attention, no matter where you are in the home ownership process, please don’t hesitate to give us a call as we would be happy to assist you in any way we can.  For those of you in need of an accredited home inspector to perform that service specifically, please visit the ASHI website at http://www.ashi.org and search under the “Find a Home Inspector” tab.

And, as always, please check out our website at http://www.cbsmn.com  for continuing information on what we do in the home performance and engineering part of the construction industry.

Stay warm out there

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