Unwanted moisture in a home can be a problem at any time. Add in a bit of cold weather and short days, and any moisture problems can become much worse. New Zealand’s experience with water tight properties isn’t that great. The combination of the Building Act 1991, shoddy work practices, unsuitable cladding materials and untreated timber all contributed to a multi-billion dollar quandary we’re still working through.
It’s no wonder the weather in New Zealand is such a common subject for conversation. Our climate can vary from subtropical to temperate. When it rains it pours, and damage can often follow, especially where there are problems with water tightness or maintenance. The biggest hassle with water damage is that once it’s noticeable it’s already too late.
And why we can try to rectify the situation, dry out the house and replace any damaged building materials, prevention is always the better option. Here’s our thoughts on reducing the risk of water damage to your home.
1. Good design
Call us architectural dinosaurs but we like roofs with eaves. With the high risk of rain in New Zealand (and often blown at an angle) we prefer the overhang of a decent roof to reduce the risk of water cascading over windows and doors. This of course is only personal opinion backed up by observations rather than scientific fact, but it makes sense.
2. Check the cracks
Don’t assume cracks are the result of earth movement. Water entry into any form of exterior cladding can often result in expansion and cracks. If you find a crack, check it out and repair it, if only to prevent any further ingress of water.
3. Check and repair those flashings
The old school carpenters (who grew up with everything in pounds, feet and inches) made the fabrication and fitting of window and door flashing an advanced art form. These flashings were designed and fitted to make use of gravity, allowing any water to fall away from any joinery or place where it might linger and cause damage. Over time these flashings (particularly the older galvanised versions) can ‘pit’’ and corrode. A good clean followed by the application of the suitable paint should keep them functioning as intended.
4. Check the drainage
Water needs to go somewhere. Many older wooden joinery had drain holes bored into the structure to allow for water to drain away, but are easy to paint over. Modern aluminium joinery often has small holes for the drainage of condensate. Again these need to be clear to allow water to drain away.
5. Provide for drying
Most of the houses built in NZ after WWII, especially those with stucco cladding, made extensive use of ventilation holes drilled through the studs and bottom plates (often bored by the apprentice with a old brace & bit). Buggar the insulation: these holes were designed to allow for some air and humidity equalisation and prevent any build-up of moisture. If you are carrying out any DIY repairs, especially on an exterior wall, if may pay to get some expert advice to ensure you follow best practice and meet the requirements of the building code.
If the worst happens and you need to remove moisture from a home due to the failure of a water tight feature, we have a range of fans, heaters and dehumidifiers to help. But we’d much prefer to help you out with a bit of preventative maintenance rather than repairing the effects of water damage.