– Trapped moisture causes havoc… and a whole lot of rot –
This story all started with wanting to replace the front door! Home owners Sonni and Michael designed and built their dream home over 23 years ago. It was and still is a beautiful, modern looking flat roof home that was always unique to the block and certainly ahead of its time in the realms of design. The interior of their home is a place of joy and family life. It has been impeccably upgraded and maintained over the years with beautiful furniture and exquisite art gracing the walls. As this family of four continue to enjoy the fullness of their home both girls continue their studies at the U of A and have no intention of moving anytime soon. In fact, these accomplished young ladies love their family home so much that they often joke with their mom about the plans they have for the house once it becomes theirs! It is a bit of a standing joke in the family and there is tremendous joy in knowing just how precious this home experience is to them all. Yes… this loved family home captures the essence of family, beauty and longevity. So when the homeowners went to a door company to make a simple purchase and install of a new front door they had no idea what was in store for them. They were shocked with what was found. “You need to get a contractor here right away and get this problem looked at!” The entire structure of their home had been compromised by wood rot and the house integrity was in serious trouble. Sonni and Michael needed to act fast to save their house!
This renovation story captures what happens when moisture is trapped between layers of stucco, fiber insulation and a poly vapour barrier. Originally the house was finished with a traditional stucco consisting of a regular wire mesh over the top of tar paper, with OSB wall sheeting, batt insulation, wood studs and a poly vapour barrier between all this and the drywall on the inside of the house. About ten years ago, a coating of acrylic was placed on top of the regular stucco and it sealed off the “breath-ability” of the wall. This non- breathable coating combined with a roof membrane that had leaks, allowed water to get trapped behind the original stucco with no way for the water to escape. The water settled in the organic matter and started to rot. The results were disastrous.
Sonni remembers the day only too well when the door company delivered the shocking news that their door frame was so rotten they couldn’t put the door in and it wasn’t even safe to continue. “They just boarded it up, put a tarp over it and said we needed to find a contractor who could assess the extent of the rot and fix the structure. And we needed to do it fast. We had always wondered about the streaks of rain water on the exterior walls and there were some places where the stucco looked like it was a little loose from the wall but we had no idea of the extent of this problem.” Sonni shared, “What started as such a simple door replacement turned into more than just a major exterior renovation. We were in a precarious situation and our precious home was in serious trouble. We were a little nervous to say the least. ”
After the initial shock of what might be found under the rest of the stucco had settled in their mind, Sonni explained just how important the concept of trust was when finding the right contractor. “We were frightened by what was there and we wondered how the walls were still standing. With the use of the infrared camera, Wayne from Aquarian was able to show us just how extensive the rot was. We learned that this rot was the result of many years of moisture being trapped between the interior vapour barrier and the exterior stucco product. We had no idea it was there. The inside of the house is where we spent our time and we have always taken such good care of our interior space. There was never an indication of any moisture getting into the house and if there had been, perhaps we would have discovered this problem years ago.” Sonni shared. “But as we learned, the interior water barrier was intact and none of the trapped moisture could get into the house. The problem was, it couldn’t escape from between the layers either and so it was like a wet towel stuck in a plastic bag for years. It rotted the wood from the inside and when I saw the guys from Aquarian put their finger through the rotted wood it was unbelievable. We learned so much about the building envelope during this renovation. We realized the damage that moisture can cause when it has nowhere to escape or dry out and we want to tell our story to help and perhaps even warn others. We are sure there are other homeowners who have no idea what is happening within their walls. The wood was all rotten and the studs were rotten too. It was unbelievable! We needed to save our place and are so grateful for the expertise and the solutions that Aquarian were able to deliver.”
When learning about just what was happening under the exterior stucco, Sonni shared her thoughts about some of the technology Aquarian used. “The infrared camera was invaluable. It showed the extent of the wood rot. We could also see the heat loss that was happening around the windows and doors and through the soggy walls. We learned that our veranda and the deck outside of our master bedroom was equally in rough shape and It became evident that ‘while we’re at it’, a new front covered veranda with a positive slope drainage system would be in order! It would also help to keep the moisture away from the house. The funny thing was, we had never used the deck outside our bedroom and maybe that was a good thing because, given the state of the rot, we may have fallen through! It was that bad!”
Sonni went on to say, “I was adamant that I did not want to have stucco on the house again and was so excited when Tyler from Aquarian came up with a solution that really captured the look I wanted. The Hardie Panels gave the wow factor we were looking for. We love the look and the fact that no water will ever get trapped behind these walls now is really exciting! I love the silver and the glass on our new deck. We even use it now! The new garage door is spectacular. Our house looks modern and new and so good. We feel safe and snug inside knowing that the problem inside the walls is … in fact better than ever. What a relief!”