Demystifying siding repair

Posted by on Jul 30, 2019 in Energy efficiency and green building

For some folks, it may seem a bit mysterious that the walls of most buildings frequently get wet, however, they don’t always rot. This blog post will shed some light on the science of why some walls rot when they get wet, and others don’t. It will also cover the steps we take to repair siding if it is rotting.

Our skilled carpentry division recently worked on this major siding repair project. The home was built in the 1990’s but clearly has extensive water damage.

A quick recap

Moisture causes rot in walls, frequently, that moisture is a result of rain. Since it rains roughly 35 inches a year in Bellingham, rot is something Bellingham homeowners should think about. Wind-driven rain can get behind siding or exterior trim, and when that moisture doesn’t have an escape route it will likely, over time, cause mold and rot. Often, older buildings have more escape routes for this kind of moisture since there weren’t as many insulation or air-sealing products used 50 or 100 years ago, so while rot is less likely, draftiness and energy efficiency definitely are…but that’s another story!

Buildings that don’t have the right kind of moisture management won’t last as long as those that do, but the thing we find scariest about rot and mold in building walls is the potential impact on indoor air quality. If left unchecked, rot and mold in the walls will negatively impact indoor air quality. The air quality in homes is, on average, 2-5 times worse than outdoor air? Let that sink in. The air in our homes could very well be making us sick. Moisture and mold in the walls aren’t the only culprit for poor indoor air-quality, activities like cooking and showering; inadequate ventilation exacerbate the issue of off gassing from products like couches, mattresses and carpet.

Was my siding installed correctly?

So, by now you’re likely wondering if the siding and trim on YOUR home were installed?! That is a great question, and the best-case scenario, of course, is to catch the damage early and fix it quickly. That doesn’t always happen because moisture damage isn’t always immediately visible, but we are great detectives when it comes to tracking down the signs of potential water damage, and with a visual examination of suspicious areas or a bit of selective exploratory trim or siding removal, we can usually suss out the extent of the issue.

Bellingham siding repair
If not installed correctly, windows and doors are an ideal place for water to penetrate the siding and lead to mold and rot; which means your siding will need to be repaired.

What’s next?

So, how do we repair siding material, trim and/or sheathing? We start by investigating the cause of rot – our crew is fond of saying ‘think like a raindrop’ – this approach helps to track down the entry point (or points) of the moisture. From here we move on to overhauling the affected area of the exterior, removing the siding and trim, adding a weather resistive barrier, rainscreen and installing new siding. It isn’t always necessary to replace all of the siding, however, it’s important to ensure that the full extent of the rot has been discovered and resolved. For the non-building science nerds amongst us, a rainscreen is a thin layer of building material that creates an air gap between the sheathing and the siding to create an escape route for moisture.

Rebuilding homes has an environmental impact. If a six-year-old house requires extensive repairs because the walls have started rotting and turning to mush, then the unfortunate truth is that the house was not well built. Maintaining our current housing stock, however, is a great way to minimize the larger impact of having to demolish a home and start over. A lot of carbon goes into manufacturing the building material for a new home, so even when it’s a major overhaul, a durable, building-performance upgrade to the exterior of a home pays dividends in both the longevity and carbon footprint of the building.

We’re committed to working with homeowners to help them make sure their homes will stand the test of time while being comfortable, healthy and beautiful too!