Common Construction Practice Likely to Cause Condensation Problems
GBP Silvercote receives numerous calls every winter relating to condensation problems. Many of our customers do not realize that most of these are generated during the construction process. Customers often describe how they poured the concrete in an enclosed structure and used propane fueled heaters to warm the building. Many feel that they are providing the ideal environment for the concrete to cure. Unfortunately, this procedure can trap an enormous amount of water vapor within the building interior. 24 gallons of water evaporate from every 100 square feet of 4? thick curing concrete. The heaters compound the problem, as water vapor is a byproduct of the combustion of any carbon based fuel (30 gallons of water evaporate from every 200 pounds of propane. In addition, facing materials are vapor retarders, not vapor barriers. Simply stated, high relative humidity air is a gas. That gas is under pressure and will try to migrate to a location where the pressure is lower (called equilibrium). This gas (interior air) presses itself against the facing materials trying to escape the building in order to reach equilibrium. No matter how well the facing tabs are sealed, when building interior humidity exceeds 35% for more than a very short period of time, the air will carry water vapor straight through the facing where it is likely to condense on the roof and wall panels and drip back into the insulation. This process will pump many gallons of water into the fiberglass and will continue as long as the humidity stays high. Anyone who has seen this happen knows that it can take many months for this water to evaporate out; a process which cannot begin in earnest until warm weather returns.
It is of the utmost importance during winter construction to give this water a path out of the building (other than through the facing!). Ideally the concrete should be poured before the building is sheeted. Many customers say that it is not practical to do this. If this is true then at the very least they must leave overhead doors open to allow the water vapor that leaves the curing concrete to escape the building. Many erectors will leave portions of wall areas un-sheeted until the concrete has cured.
To help us identify the conditions that cause condensation problems GBP Silvercote utilizes temperature/humidity data recorders called data loggers which work in conjunction with computer software. The recorders are placed in a problem environment and gather data every hour for any given period of time. Once the device is returned, the data is downloaded and the software creates a graph of the temperature and humidity readings. Most condensation problems are the result of the environment described above, or of abnormally-high interior humidity occurring once the building is in use. This can result if there is a source of significant moisture in the building such as processes that utilize water (parts washers, equipment wash bays, etc.) These data loggers are used to evaluate the conditions present in the building and to recommend corrective actions (most likely starting with a discussion with a mechanical engineer). Remember, during or after construction, the most effective way to control condensation is through adequate ventilation.
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