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I am going to look at a house tomorrow that is up on short…

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I am going to look...
I am going to look at a house tomorrow that is up on short sale. 5 years old. Heard from another realtor that there was frost build up on interior kitchens walls this past winter when the heat was turned "off". This sends up huge red flag for me and sounds like more than just an insulation issue. The actual builder will be showing me the house. What are the questions I need to ask and what do i really need to detail focus?
Submitted: 8 years ago.Category: Home Improvement
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Answered in 21 minutes by:
6/18/2010
Home Improvement Expert: MJ, Architect replied 8 years ago
MJ
MJ, Architect
Category: Home Improvement
Satisfied Customers: 744
Experience: Licensed Architect, LEED® AP, NCARB Certified, M.Arch degree, 12+ years experience
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MJ :

Hello and thank you for your question. If the heat was completely turned off then a frost buildup on the interior walls is not particularly unexpected. In fact, this does not even necessarily indicate poor insulation. It just indicates that the dew point - which should ordinarily be located outside of the insulated volume of the home - moved into the interior of the home because there was not heat, AND that there was some amount of moisture present in the home.

Now, it's not abnormal to have some amount of moisture in the home, but one of your concerns should be just how much moisture there is and from what source(s). One thing you can do is a get a combination hygrometer and thermometer at a hardware store. This will help you to determine if the humidity is especially high within this house - though the results aren't going to be as informative in an unoccupied home as they would be if the home were being lived in, though I suppose that's impossible in this situation.

Check the grading around the home to make sure you don't have a negative drainage situation. If there's a dirt crawlspace or basement make sure it has plastic over the dirt so that moisture doesn't rise up through the dirt into the crawlspace or basement. Make sure all your downpouts run at least a few feet away from the home, and to locations with positive drainage. Leaks of any sort (roof, wall, plumbing...) could also contribute to the interior moisture levels, and should be suspected especially since this frost buildup was localized to one area. The most common cause of interior moisture is usually just inadequate ventilation (lack of range hoods and ventilation fans, etc., or failure to duct them to the exterior), but of course in your case, since this home was vacant, these are probably not the primary causes of the moisture issues in this case.

The frost buildup itself is some cause for concern, since that alone may have caused damage to finishes, and could easily lead to mold in a closed up house. There's some concern too that the cavity wall(s) where the frost built up on the interior could also have moisture issues and damage within them.

A good (certified) home inspector should be able to identify many of the issues I've listed. I would also recommend in this situation that you try to permission to do a little spot demolition in those particular walls that experienced the frost buildup.

I hope this information is helpful, and if so that you will please click the green "ACCEPT" icon as this is the only way that I can be paid for my answer through JustAnswer. Thank you.


 

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Home Improvement Expert: MJ, Architect replied 8 years ago
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