Cement, Moisture and forces of Equilibrium- Wenatchee and Leavenworth Home Inspection

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Home Inspector with NCW Home Inspections, LLC
http://actvra.in/cZc

Cement, Moisture and forces of Equilibrium- Wenatchee and Leavenworth Home Inspection

On a recent home inspection my client asked me to look at a part of the foundation that he thought may be failing.

After evaluating the issue it was obvious the problem was not from failure of the foundation but the failure of not properly installing a proper vapor barrier for the concrete.

Most people think concrete is water tight. We make water tanks and dams out of concrete, right. Concrete can do a good job of containing liquid water (at least when there are no cracks). But water vapor moves readily through concrete. The rate of moisture transfer depends on the concrete's porosity and permeability.

Think about the concrete slab in your home as a hole in the moist ground. The soil below the concrete will almost always be damp. It nearly always has a relative humidity of 100%. That means it is a continuous source of moisture into the slab.

All natural systems always tend to migrate towards a state of equilibrium. This is much like a hot cup of coffee transfers heat to the air in the room until they are both at the same temperature (the second law of thermodynamics).

In chemistry higher concentrations of a chemical will move towards areas of lower concentration. The same is true for areas of higher or lower relative humidity (Relative Humidity is actually a measure of the vapor pressure of water vapor in air). This movement of this moisture vapor is called diffusion.

These principles mean that if the moisture in and below the concrete slab are higher than the relative humidity of the air above the slab the moisture is going to try to move into and out of the slab. Without a vapor barrier, the relative humidity in the slab or just below is most likely will be 100%. Since the air is seldom that humid, moisture is going to move from the slab into the air and as the surface dries a bit it will draw moisture up from the bottom (capillary action).

Rust and cracking from moisture diffusion    Moisture through a receptacle

Here we see metals in direct contact with the concrete that has a high rate of moisture diffusion. It is causing the metal to rust and expand thus cracking the concrete. This is the problem my client was seeing.

The attention to the detail of the vapor barrier prior to the concrete being poured is critical. Understanding the principles behind moisture diffusion will help you understand why this be happening in your home.

Cement, Moisture and forces of Equilibrium- Wenatchee and Leavenworth Home Inspection

NCW Home Inspections, LLC  is located in Wenatchee Washington serving Chelan County, Douglas County, Kittitas County, Okanogan County and Grant County Washington and the cities of Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Cashmere, Orville, Cle Elum, East Wenatchee, Quincy and many more...                             

NCW Home Inspections LLC-509-670-9572

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Re-Bloggged 2 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Dan Edward Phillips 06/27/2011 02:25 PM
  2. Dan Edward Phillips 08/22/2011 08:56 AM
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Location:
Washington Chelan County
Groups:
Adventures in Home Inspecting
Ask the Home Inspector
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Tags:
cement moisture issues
vapor barrier
wenatchee home inspection
leavenworth home inspection
chelan home inspection
quincy home inspection

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Rainmaker
341,340
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Dan,

It really is amazing how moisture works and how it can effect homes.

June 27, 2011 01:10 AM
Rainmaker
615,860
James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Good physics lesson. They don't seal form ties out there? Here in CT, where the large majority of homes have basements, they are sealed. If not they will usually leak.

June 27, 2011 07:40 AM
Rainmaker
341,340
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jim,

They seem to never seal the form ties in crawlspaces. Most of the time you will find them rusted out and weeping. In basements they are but I was thinking of crawlspaces.

June 27, 2011 08:32 AM
Rainer
164,011
Robert Butler
Montreal, Canada, Home Inspector
Aspect Inspection

Here a crawlspace automatically dates the home to pre-ready mix times. 98% of the time new construction it is basements unless you're on a rock outcrop or are a boat trailer length from water.

June 28, 2011 05:30 PM
Rainmaker
341,340
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Robert,

I would think so with where your frost line will be. Here in many areas it is 18 inches.

June 29, 2011 10:15 PM
Anonymous
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Rainmaker
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Donald Hester

NCW Home Inspections, LLC
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