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Need some expert opinions...I am selling a home in the greater Houston area. Buyer's inspector included the following in the inspection report, "Observed elevated moisture readings, using the Tramex Moisture Encounter, on the inside of the exterior walls under/adjacent to the windows...". Since I have no experience in this area, was just wondering about the reliability of the Tramex. House has HardiBoard on the exterior and sheetrock on the interior. We have never experienced leaks in this area in 12 years. However, I did powerwash the outside wall within a few days of the inspection. Could the washing have impacted the moisture count? Additionally, any option other than pulling the siding and visually inspecting? If so, given the heat and humidity in the geographical area, would we expect the moisture reading to drop? Any insight would be very helpful. Thanks....

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Let's see, some free expert advice. Ya know what they say about getting what you pay for! [;)]

The Tramex is a very good tool but as with any tool it has its limitations and it is subject to the experience of the person that is using it.

Just how elevated were the readings?

If moisture was found only below the windows it is most likely related to a flashing problem. Yes, you could have forced water into the wall if you power washed the house. Power washing a home is the worst thing you can do to it. You can force water into places that it does not belong.

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Scott, thanks for the response. The report did not indicate any specific numbers, only a mention of "elevated" moisture readings. Is it standard practice to include readings in the report? Am I incorrect to assume that readings would vary throughout the structure under normal conditions?

I certainly don't mind repairing any damage that needs to be repaired. However, I want to be sure about the course of action prior to removing the siding for a visual inspection.

Thanks again for the response.

David

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The moisture encounter will really just give you a relative reading and not a specific percentage. You need to find out if the moisture was Low, Medium or High. You might even ask the inspector to come back out to help you locate the problem, this will most likely not be a free service. Expect to pay the inspector for a hour or more of their time.

On a home that does not have a moisture problem, I would not expect to have elevated readings. You might do better going in through the drywall side instead of removing the siding to check for damage.

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I think Scott's right on target.

Was there anything in the report about the exterior of the house in the effected area?

It would be great if the inspector would get involved, if your buyer is serious it would give them a boost of confidence.

If the inspector is willing, have him open the sheetrock and do a limited intrusive inspection and again during the repairs.

I have mixed emotions about working for the seller during the transaction. I would request that I be paid by my client and inspect on their behalf.

You can reimburse the buyer... prior to the inspection and as a courtesy, ask for a copy of the reinspection reports.

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Originally posted by bigwavedave

Need some expert opinions...I am selling a home in the greater Houston area. Buyer's inspector included the following in the inspection report, "Observed elevated moisture readings, using the Tramex Moisture Encounter, on the inside of the exterior walls under/adjacent to the windows...". Since I have no experience in this area, was just wondering about the reliability of the Tramex. House has HardiBoard on the exterior and sheetrock on the interior. We have never experienced leaks in this area in 12 years. However, I did powerwash the outside wall within a few days of the inspection. Could the washing have impacted the moisture count? Additionally, any option other than pulling the siding and visually inspecting? If so, given the heat and humidity in the geographical area, would we expect the moisture reading to drop? Any insight would be very helpful. Thanks....

One can get false positives from a Tramex, but generally, if the Tramex says the wall is wet, the wall is wet.

A Tramex Moisture encounter doesn't give hard numbers. It just has a needle that moves when it finds a wet spot, and a noisemaker that makes noise when it finds a wet spot.

Never power wash a house. You'll shoot water into the walls. Modern flashing and watersealing work is pretty much limited to the skills of the slowest/dumbest/newest flunkie on the crew, and there are very few people who know how to install flashing these days.

You might want to get somebody to open up a little hole in the wall, and see just how wet (if it is wet) those walls are. Worst-case scenario is mold and rot growing in the walls.

WJ

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Originally posted by AHI

In my quest for knowledge I have a question.

Is Hadriboard itself impervious or will it soak up moisture?

If you are referring to Hardiplank or Hardipanel products, the answer is that it will turn to mush if left unpainted and allowed to get wet. It needs to be properly primed, painted and installed. Once installed properly, it's, in my opinion, one of the most durable products available.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by bigwavedave

Need some expert opinions...I am selling a home in the greater Houston area. Buyer's inspector included the following in the inspection report, "Observed elevated moisture readings, using the Tramex Moisture Encounter, on the inside of the exterior walls under/adjacent to the windows...". Since I have no experience in this area, was just wondering about the reliability of the Tramex.

You're asking the wrong question. What's important here is the reliability of the person using the Tramex. The device itself it just a stupid machine. It behaves in a predictable manner when it encounters various substances. If the person using it is inexperienced, he'll probably misinterpret the readings or he won't know what to make of the readings. On the other hand, if the person using it is experienced and intelligent, he can make some amazingly accurate predictions about what's going on inside walls.

House has HardiBoard on the exterior and sheetrock on the interior. We have never experienced leaks in this area in 12 years.

Forgive me for saying so, but you have no idea if this is true or not. Your window flashings could have been leaking for 12 years and there might not be any outward signs.

However, I did powerwash the outside wall within a few days of the inspection. Could the washing have impacted the moisture count?

You betcha. A power washer can drive gallons of water into the walls of your house. In this case, it might have driven water in around the sides of your windows after which it ran down the jambs, hit the sill and spread out behind the sheetrock. If that's what happened, it means that your windows are installed wrong (but typically). It might also mean that driving rain has been doing the same thing for the last 12 years.

Additionally, any option other than pulling the siding and visually inspecting?

Is there trim around the inside of your windows? If so, ask the inspector to tell you which of the windows showed the highest moisture levels. Pull the stool and skirt trim off of the sill of that window and examine the sill. For fun, go outside and blast that window with your pressure washer while a helper watches from inside.

If so, given the heat and humidity in the geographical area, would we expect the moisture reading to drop? Any insight would be very helpful. Thanks....

I'm not familiar with your climate. If you took a wet dishtowel and put it in a plywood box outside, how long would it take to dry out?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by hausdok

If you are referring to Hardiplank or Hardipanel products, the answer is that it will turn to mush if left unpainted and allowed to get wet. It needs to be properly primed, painted and installed. Once installed properly, it's, in my opinion, one of the most durable products available.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

My experience is different. I've never seen Hardiplank suffer any long-term effects from wetting. Sure, long pieces become floppy and nearly impossible to handle when they're soaked. But once they dry out, they're indistinguishable from a new piece of Hardiplank.

I covered my house in Hardiplank in 1992. Lots of scraps fell on the ground and, somehow, never got cleaned up. Every so often, I go pull one out of the mud, clean it off and run it through the dishwasher. Once cleaned, these scraps are invariably in fine condition.

I also kept a large stack of spare planks behind my woodshed, out in the open and, in fact, under the woodshed roof's drip edge. (No gutter) These planks got absolutely soaked every winter for 10 years. Then in 2003, I built a garage and used up these planks along with new ones I'd ordered. The old ones handled, cut and nailed exactly like the new ones did. Now that they're all painted, I can't tell which are old and which are new.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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From the James Hardie website (my bold)...

Q. Do I have to paint HardiePlankâ„¢ siding?A: Yes, HardiePlankâ„¢ lap siding must be painted or you may order many James Hardie® products with ColorPlus® Technology. If painting, 100% acrylic topcoats are recommended. Do not paint when wet. For specific recommendations, please refer to JH Technical Bulletin No. S-100 or refer to paint manufacturers specifications. Back rolling is recommended if the siding is sprayed. Within 180 days for primed product and 90 days for unprimed.

I'm not sure I've ever seen un-primed Hardiplank, but the manufacturer saying it's OK to leave it exposed to the elements for 90 days wouldn't suggest it "turns to mush when wet".

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Hi Rich,

Try picking up a wet length of hardiplank sometime. It's like picking up a piece of just-cooked spaghetti and if you don't have a helper it'll break. When the stuff is dry it's wonderful, but when it's wet it's a whole different story. Once it's installed, painted and dry it's great. I think Jim's experience of the planks lying out in the rain for years getting wet and then using them is abolutely correct, but I doubt that he tried to install it wet.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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A good question to ask the inspector is "elevated compared to what?".

Generally, absent visual observed evidence of excessive moisture, when using this type of meter to identify suspected problems you want to compare the indicated moisture content of "wet" areas with similar material, preferably on the same wall, ceiling or floor, at other locations - it's the *pattern* of readings that's significant.

For example, if "elevated" moisture readings under a window are similar to those at sections of the exterior wall in the same room but distant from wall penetrations, then the "elevated" moisture is less suggestive of a problem at the windows.

OTOH, if readings under the window are higher than at adjacent areas, and taper off more rapidly to the sides than under the window, then that's suggestive of water intrusion at the window.

One option to investigate further without too much disruption and mess is to use a "pin" type meter with extension probes - one type I use has a pair of insulated probes about 6 inches long with the "sensor" portion at the tip - you can drill a two small (around 1/8 inch) holes in the drywall and gradually insert the probes, reading the moisture level at the drywall, on thought the installation, and on out to the sheathing (the inside of the exterior wall) as you go. As this is a direct physical reading, if you detect elevated moisture, it's really there.

Another option is IR thermography -if there is water in the wall there there will usually also be a small difference in temperature, which will show up on a real time display as the IR camera is pointed at the wall.

The advantage is that you can "scan" a large areas quickly and often identify the"source" of the water, the disadvantage is that in a lot of real-world situations you need considerable training and experience to accurately interpret what you are seeing at the display.

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Thanks very much to all who replied. Your opinions and insight were very helpful. We had another inspector check the "wet" areas yesterday and no "elevated" reading resulted. Given the explanation of powerwashing the siding and the second "normal" reading, the buyer appears to have been placated.

On a different topic, the original inspector had found only a 10 degree difference between the return air and the outbound flow in the upstairs central unit. Apparently, there should be a 15 to 20 degree difference. We had our AC man check it again and he gave it a clean bill of health. We agreed to have another review by a AC man of the buyer's choice. His review also came back clean. Given the temp in the greater Houston area these days, I understand why the buyer wanted to be thorough.

Thanks again for the assistance. By the way...I have learned my lesson regarding power washing my siding.[^]

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