LESLIE: Ellen in Massachusetts seems to be having a painting problem. What’s happening, Ellen?
ELLEN: Hi. We have an old farmhouse – and I mean really old; it was built in 1750.
ELLEN: Really old. (chuckling) And we’ve had it for 30 years and for 30 years we have had problems with the paint on the exterior peeling off.
LESLIE: What are the exterior walls made out of?
ELLEN: Well, we replaced the siding, about eight years ago, with new cedar siding. But that didn’t help. They told us that would help but it didn’t.
TOM: Well, if you’re having a problem with paint adhesion, usually there’s a moisture source for that. There’s moisture in the walls that’s, basically, wicking out and causing the paint not to stick.
LESLIE: And the cedar is like a great source for the water to just sort of stick into and feed into.
TOM: Now, when you put the cedar up, did you prime it?
ELLEN: Yes. And, supposedly, they left … they let it sit to be sure it dried out and everything. But we have a stone and dirt basement – the original foundation and basement – which definitely are very damp and we do believe that is the problem. Someone said to us maybe we should try to put an interior wall in the basement. We don’t know how to get rid of the moisture …
TOM: Alright. Well, let’s talk about ways you can reduce the humidity levels inside your house. I’m going to guess that you have a hot water heating system. Is that correct?
TOM: Alright. Well, hot water systems are far moister than hot air systems and you can’t really use a whole home dehumidifier with that because you don’t have a duct system. Are you air conditioned?
ELLEN: Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t understand your question. We have an oil … we have an oil burner …
ELLEN: … and it’s forced hot air.
TOM: Oh, it is forced hot air. Oh, perfect.
ELLEN: Yes, it’s forced hot air. I misunderstood your question. So it’s not …
TOM: Here’s what I would recommend you do. First of all, on the basement question. Let’s talk, Leslie, about outside drainage.
LESLIE: Yeah, you want to think about a couple of things. When you’re dealing with your gutter situation on the outside of your house, you want to make sure that those gutters are always as clean and clear as you can possibly maintain them. This way, the water is actually staying in them and running down those downspouts; instead of spilling over and hitting directly into your foundation.
Now, with the downspouts, you want to make sure, Ellen, that the downspouts are depositing the water about three to six feet away from your house. You want to make sure that they’re not just depositing the water, again, directly into your foundation.
And then, you also want to look at your grading on the exterior of the house. You want to make sure that the ground slopes away from the house and you want it to go down about six inches over four feet. So it really is a gradual slope but it’s enough to sort of make all moisture move away from the house. And that will help a great deal.
TOM: Now, Ellen, after you get the grading and the drainage conditions straightened out to reduce the overall moisture that’s getting in there, let’s talk about managing what’s left. I asked you about your heating system. You said you have a forced air system. What I’m going to recommend is that you have installed a whole-house dehumidifier. Not …
LESLIE: You will be amazed at the amount of water it pulls out of the air inside your home in one day.
TOM: Yeah, it takes out like 90 pints of water a day. A whole-home dehumidifier is … becomes part of your HVAC system. It’s not the kind of humidifier that sits in your basement with the pan that you have to empty. It’s different. It’s installed into the home’s heating system itself; has to be professionally installed. It’s made by Aprilaire.
LESLIE: But it’s pretty easy to do.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. On Aprilaire.com you can get information about that. And that’s going to take out a lot of humidity in the house. And I suspect when you get the drainage conditions straightened out and you dry out the home, you’re going to have a lot fewer painting problems. Because that water finds its way right through those walls and wicks right out. And I’ve seen that happen with cedar time and time again and it always comes back to a managing-the-moisture situation.
ELLEN: Well, thank you very much. After 30 years, if we can solve this, it would be wonderful. (laughing)
TOM: Yeah, well, we’re so happy to be able to help you do that. Ellen, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.