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Room By Room: Signs of Ineffective Home Ventilation

Sometimes, it’s just good to cut to the chase and give the people what they want: an area-by-area checklist of symptoms that are a result of poor ventilation. No? Well, contrary to popular belief, moisture doesn’t simply stop existing when we can’t see it. In fact, one issue some homeowners face is when they receive an astronomical water bill in the mail, only to find out: 1) the bill is not a joke, and 2) their basement or crawl space is likely flooded.

This information would be especially helpful to those looking to buy a used home, and are trying to find the subtle hints of whether buying is a good idea or not. As you are walking through the home for the first time, please be aware of these signs of poor ventilation.

Checking the Entryway

The first area that you are likely to encounter is the entryway of the house. Typically, there will be vents along the foundation in sight. Make a mental note of the condition of the wall vents and whether they appear damaged or not.

Do an inspection of the entryway for water stains or unusually weathered drainage. Any water that isn’t properly directed could wind up in your basement and get trapped. More on that later.

Check the air for the smell of mold or mildew in every area of the house. If the air feels damp and/or it carries the low pungent smell of mildew, this could indicate trapped moisture as well as point to a leaking water pipe or roof. The latter would especially be true if water stains are on the walls.

Checking the Kitchen

For those who don’t know, the kitchen is the second most prone to moisture damage, and most of it is due to poor ventilation.

We’ve already answered frequent and hard-hitting answers to questions regarding proper kitchen ventilation, so what would it look like if the hood vent was long dead? There would be signs of grease and/or watermarks and stains around the hood vent itself. This is also even more apparent if wallpaper was used, as it would curl and have much more prominent watermarks and/or grease buildup.

Why, though? Had the ventilation fan and filter been functioning properly, all of that smoke, steam, and microscopic debris would have been harmlessly exhausted out of the kitchen. 

According to the US National Library of Medicine, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter are indoor pollutants that may linger and even build up over a period of time, which can especially overcome those with asthma, allergies, or an otherwise compromised immune system.

Checking the Bathroom

Aside from obviously venting away unpleasant odors, bathroom fans also serve the crucial function of venting the veritable tons of steam generated by a spouse’s daily 30-minute scalding hot shower ritual. A mighty task, indeed.

In truth, poor bathroom ventilation would result in bubbling paint, soft spots in the drywall, as well as either the appearance or smell of mold and mildew

It’s also a good idea to run the bathroom fan to ensure that it’s functional and that the screen and surrounding area are clear of dirt and lint. An apparently rusty and non-functioning fan in this room is a bad idea, as the moisture problem has been going on for an extended period of time.

Checking the Basement or Crawl Space

If you walk downstairs or go below the house, and are immediately greeted with warm, dank air and the smell of water and mildew, it may indicate either a broken or leaking pipe, ineffective foundation vents, and/or poor maintenance.

This is the time to take a look at the state of the moisture guard under the house if it happens to be built on the ground. Should it be ripped or missing, this could result in trapped moisture under the house, which could ultimately lead to property damage and/or personal injury.

If the space is a full stand-up basement, take a look at the water heater and foundation. Be sure to look for any cracks, dents, or other damage to both the foundation and water heater. A break in either one of these could result in a flood.

This would be made worse by poor ventilation, as the resulting moisture would become trapped and begin weakening the foundation.

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