Basement Window Condensation
LESLIE: The next caller takes us to Illinois where Ken has some moisture around the windows.
Ken, is the moisture in between the panes of glass; is it on the frame; is it on the glass? Where are you seeing it?
KEN: It’s actually on the – it’s in the basement on the concrete foundation side. I’ve got windows on the foundation side and there’s like a metal framing around the window and it’s actually showing up on that metal frame; on both windows on that side. My other windows are in the wood framing and there’s no moisture anywhere around there.
TOM: Well, you might have some very high humidity in that basement and you could be seeing condensation because basement windows are famously inefficient.
KEN: Oh. Well, I mean is there anything I can do to keep it from doing it again or to get it to clear up? Because I don’t know about the condensation portion. It seems like it would be on both windows, I would have thought; I mean, you know, the windows on the framing side as well.
TOM: Well, is there a drainage issue where the water is perhaps ponding right at the base of the window and wicking through the wall or is this water formulating on the window itself and running down?
KEN: I don’t know. I’ll have to double-check that. I mean it’s on the inside of the window.
LESLIE: And it’s just on the metal frame around it?
KEN: Just around the metal frame.
LESLIE: It could be that the temperature difference – it could just be that the temperature on the concrete – you’re in Illinois. The temperature is very cool; maybe the metal is then getting cool and when it hits the heated room, the heated air in the room …
TOM: Which is moist.
LESLIE: … it’s just condensing.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Right. Which is condensing.
KEN: (overlapping voices) OK. And that may be it, too, because it did happen right when the temperature dropped.
TOM: Right. Right, warm inside; cold outside. And again, those are not good insulators.
LESLIE: Right, but that’s a poor insulation issue.
TOM: You know, basement windows, there are new vinyl-framed basement windows that are available now and those types of windows are a lot more efficient because they don’t have the thermal transference of cold from the outside to the inside, so you get less of those moisture issues.
The other things that you could do, Ken, is you may just have a humid or very damp basement, so you could take some steps to try to dry it up by making sure that your grading is in good condition on the outside; that the soil slopes away; that the downspouts are cleaned and extended. You might also want to take a look at adding a dehumidifier down there. Little things like that can help reduce the amount of moisture and thereby reduce the condensation.
But probably nothing short of replacing those inefficient metal windows with ones that have warm, wood frames or ones that have vinyl frames will make that problem completely go away.
KEN: OK, and they’ll fit right into the concrete?
TOM: Yes. Typically, those windows are modular. You know, they’re a pretty set size because you’re working with windows that are formed inside of a block wall.
KEN: OK. OK. Well, great. But you guys mentioned too, before, about – kind of another subject here – about removing caulking. I did a really bad caulking job in the bath.
TOM: (chuckles) OK.
LESLIE: (chuckles) At least you can admit it.
KEN: And I’m trying to get it off there and you mentioned a product. I forget what it was and where to get it.
TOM: Yeah, most manufacturers have a caulk stripper or a caulk softener.
LESLIE: Caulk softener.
TOM: Yeah, caulk softener.
KEN: Oh, OK.
TOM: And it’s like a paint stripper but it’s just for caulk. And you put it on there and it softens the caulk and then it’s easy to scrape it away.
LESLIE: It makes it all gummy again and then you can just pull it right out.
KEN: Oh, OK, OK. And typically, any hardware store will have that?
TOM: Hardware store or a home center. Or if you don’t see it and you’ve got a big, messy caulk problem, make sure you make them special order it because some of these stores don’t carry this kind of thing in stock. But it should be very inexpensive; you know, only a couple or a few dollars a tube.
KEN: Sounds good. Sounds good.
TOM: OK, Ken?
KEN: Well, thanks a lot.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.