Repairs, Maintenance and Renovations
Thermal Loss & How You Can Spot It!
From the Volume 15, Spring 2023 issue of the CCI GHC Condo News Magazine
As the cold winter weather recedes, it is important for the Board of Directors of condominium communities to conduct a seasonal review of the building’s cladding systems. This can help identify any issues that need to be addressed in order to maintain the integrity and appearance of the building, as well as to prevent costly repairs in the future. Although this sounds like a daunting task for a Director, a lot of items can be easily observed during a brief tour of the property. So grab your warm beverage of choice, and lets go through a simple check list of items.
Ice Damming – Sloped Shingle Roofs
As the outdoor temperatures are swinging wildly from freezing to melting to freezing again, property owners may be noticing the build-up of icicles along the eaves and gutters of sloped roofs. This build-up may be a sign of “ice damming” which occurs when snow on the roof melts, runs down the slope and refreezes at the edge, forming a “dam” that prevents water from fully draining off the roof. Trapped water behind the ice dam can then start to back-up under the asphalt shingles leading to water leaks into the interior or through the soffits.
With the way our weather in the Golden Horseshoe area swings back and forth through the winter and early spring months, icicle build-up at the eaves and gutters is not uncommon. What it can indicate however, is potential issues in the attics and soffits of the units experiencing the ice build-up. If you are noticing icy conditions at the gutters, it is a good idea to call a professional to conduct an assessment of the air movement within the attics which is one the main causes of ice damming issues.
Thermal loss occurs when insulation has been unevenly/improperly distributed/installed or weather seals have failed or have been improperly installed. In most cases, this can be verified using an infrared camera.
When the temperatures warm in April and the snow recedes, we reach a “sweat spot” with nature where we can conduct both the wall and roof thermal scans simultaneously. This is the best time for thermographers to spend countless hours with cameras walking around your communities in the middle of the night.
With the results of these tests, thermographers are able to assist communities in proactively locating potential issues:
• Areas of air leakage
• Thermal anomalies related to construction
• Water leakage
In some cases, mother nature helps us by providing geometric patterns in the roof areas where heat loss is experienced between the insulation boards of the roofing assembly (see photo below). If this is something you can see from your unit window, you should have a professional look into it.
That is unless you can’t see out of your window due to condensation (see photo below).
Window condensation is an ongoing battle with physics and nature that residential buildings/units of all kinds face every cold season. The unfortunate truth is, glazing in windows is a poor insulator and condensation will occur when moisture vapour inside a building makes contact with glass, cold enough for the vapour to change to water. Life in our homes however (cooking, cleaning, taking a shower, humidifiers, plants, animals, etc.) results in raised humidity levels which cannot typically be completely eliminated.
Calling in a professional to investigate excess condensation issues is a good idea however, many times it is found to be unit owner activities that are the main culprits to condensation build-up. It is recommended that Boards/Management circulate good practice notifications to unit owners in the colder months outlining steps that can be easily taken to help reduce condensation issues. These include:
- Running your exhaust fans (bathroom and kitchen) for approximately 15 minutes after showering or boiling water.
- Open window coverings/curtains as often as possible. This allows air movement to dry the window surfaces.
- Limiting or removing the use of humidifiers.
- Ensure your humidity levels are below 40%. The colder it gets outside, the lower you want humidity levels inside the home.
- Utilize a dehumidifier in areas where the air is moist or muggy.
Thermal imaging can be completed on the interior and exterior of units experiencing extreme condensation related issues. This can be used to determine whether the weather seals of the windows have failed or whether air leakage is a contributing factor. A rule of thumb is; if its -20ºC, you shouldn’t see more than an inch or so of light beaded condensation at the base of any window. If you see more, or you’re not sure, its time to reach out to your consultant for some advise.
Andrew Poirier is Team Lead / Project Manager for Cion – Engineers & Building Scientists
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