Making a cold room work
December 28, 2012Steve Maxwell
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
“Standard cold rooms built underneath front porches typically suffer from the same trouble.”
Q: How can I stop mould from growing on my cold room ceiling? I had it professionally cleaned and coated, but I’m told the mould will probably come back if I leave the door closed.
A: Your problem is quite common and you’re right about the mould redeveloping. It probably will. The root cause is moisture deposited by condensation on the inside of the cold room ceiling, but keeping the door open won’t solve the problem.
Standard cold rooms built underneath front porches typically suffer from the same trouble. The few inches of concrete that form the ceiling and walls gets too cold during winter. As warm, moist, indoor air hits these cold surfaces, water droplets condense on the surface. If it gets cold enough outside, frost and ice develops, too.
All this is why the ultimate fix involves adding insulation to the ceiling and part way down the walls, though there’s a danger. It’s essential that this insulation be impervious to the passage of moisture vapour. Two inches of extruded polystyrene foam works well (it’s smooth in texture and usually pink or blue), but avoid white, beady expanded polystyrene foam, since it lets air pass through it.
Even with the right kind of rigid foam on your side, it’s essential that all the edges be sealed against the concrete. Without this detail, indoor air will get behind the foam, cooling, condensing and releasing moisture. Alternatively, you could also use polyurethane spray foam, though it needs to be at least three inches thick to prevent condensation against the concrete.
Insulating the underside of the cold room ceiling and the inside walls down to ground level makes for a good cold room for food storage because cool temperatures from the ground still lower the temperature of the space. If you prefer to use your cellar for non-cold storage, extend the insulation right to the floor.
Exhaust Fan Upgrade
Q: What can we do to make the exhaust fan in our new bathroom quieter? There’s so much noise and vibration we can hear the fan all over the house.
A: There are many bad bathroom exhaust fans on the market, and they’re popular with builders because they’re so much cheaper than good fans. But given the importance of moving moisture out of bathrooms, a decent fan is worth the price. Panasonic pioneered ultra-quiet, powerful exhaust fans and they still make excellent models. I’ve used their products on my own jobs and they keep on working well.
As you’ll discover, there are a great many fan models out there, and you or your handy person will have to find one that fits your existing space best. One thing to keep in mind is noise output. Fans are generally rated in units called “sones.” This is the measure of noise output in the fan industry. Anything 1.0 sone or lower is very quiet.
Another issue is fan capacity. The rule of thumb is that any bathroom fan should be able to change all the air in the room seven or eight times each hour. That said, in my experience this isn’t quite enough. Figure out the total volume of your bathroom, and then aim for a fan that moves at least 10 times that volume of air per hour. These larger-than-usual fans are slightly louder than the small ones, but still very quiet.
Enhanced Attic Insulation
Q: Does it make sense to add insulation in my attic? There’s about 10 inches of loose fill in place now but I’ve been told that adding more doesn’t make sense.
A: It’s funny how ideas of “enough insulation” keep changing. Amounts that were considered extravagant and unnecessary 10 years ago are now seen as inadequate. If it were my home, I’d definitely have more loose fill insulation blown in.
Factors like window quality, door sealing and wall insulation affect energy consumption, but attic insulation is worth a lot, too. Current wisdom says to have at least R50 in place, but you won’t regret installing more. The depth required to achieve this varies depending on the type of loose fill involved, but it all works well. Just be sure your insulation contractor takes the trouble to keep the vents around the eaves of your house open. Carelessly covering them with insulation can allow damaging levels of moisture to build up in your attic.
If you’re serious about energy conservation, get your hands on an infrared camera. They show temperature differences visually on a screen, allowing you to see exterior surfaces of your house that need upgrades to reduce excess heat loss.
Steve Maxwell, syndicated home improvement and woodworking columnist, has shared his DIY tips, how-to videos and product reviews since 1988. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, connect with him on this website stevemaxwell.ca, on Facebook at Canada’s Handiest Man or follow him on Twitter at @Maxwells_Tips.
Provided by the Toronto Star December 28,2012.
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