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Temperature variation is the driving force behind moisture condensation problems in buildings. It can be relatively well controlled with the use of proper equipment. The outside temperature cannot be controlled but the inside temperature can be controlled to avoid pressure differences.
The larger the temperature difference, the more drive across the wall. So it gets worse in extreme cold. Temperature causes air and vapor leakage as well as fundamental heat loss through the building envelope.
Wind direction plays an important role. Depending on the wind direction, an area of high or low pressure is created, pushing or pulling moisture through the building envelope. It has a positive effect on the windward side and a negative effect on the other side. Depending on the wind direction, the walls have several effects.
What can be the source of moisture in the house?
There are many sources of moisture in the home. This includes a shower, dishwasher and living room. In fact, approximately 60% of all moisture produced indoors comes from the occupants.
Moisture moves through the envelope in 3 ways and either inside or outside the building.
The diffuse flow migrates through the assembly and once it cools it turns into water and then into ice. This water system can be problematic. A suitable material will be introduced into the wall assembly to reduce or eliminate this. Each material has a different permeance and determines how much moisture the material allows to pass through.
Second is channel and channel flow. This occurs when moisture travels through and through the wall assembly through air gaps and gaps between the materials or components of the wall assembly.
The third is a pore flow. This includes things like service access, windows, doors and structural elements.
The main function of an air barrier is to prevent both the infiltration of outside air into the building and the exhaust of indoor air to the outside. This applies whether the air is humid or dry. Air leaks can cause problems with moisture build-up in walls, energy loss and rain infiltration.
An air barrier differs from a vapor barrier in several ways. First, an air barrier moves forward to stop air movement through cracks in the wall compared to a vapor barrier that stops diffusion through the wall.
An air barrier is a different system than a vapor barrier, which is usually a product like poly film. Also, the air barrier is continuous and all joints must be completely sealed.
Air barriers also need to be more durable.
There are three important criteria used for air barrier design
Continuity means more than the absence of holes. Because the element performing the role of an air barrier varies from wall to ceiling, continuity means that all these assemblies must be joined together so that there is no break in the air tightness of the envelope.
A major requirement of an air barrier is that it offers high resistance to air flow but not to water vapor. This is very important. This is because a material with a high resistance to water vapor will not allow any moisture trapped in the wall cavity to escape if installed on the outside of the wall.
A good example of this is plywood or OSD. Although these products are not used as air barriers, they act as air barriers to the exterior of the building. But the problem becomes that they also act as a vapor barrier. This means they trap moisture in the wall assembly. So most building codes now require plywood and OSD to be installed with gaps between their joints to allow moisture to escape.
Although complete airtightness cannot be achieved, materials such as glass, sheet metal, gypsum board, cast-in-place concrete, and properly supported polyethylene sheeting offer greater resistance to airflow than porous materials such as concrete blocks, fiber board sheathing, and expanded polystyrene insulation. Another important consideration is that individual panels should be joined in an airtight assembly. Joints in gypsum boards can be quickly and effectively taped, sheet metal panels can be lapped with tape, precast panels can be sealed with rope and sealant.
An air tightness system should give the building itself more time. For this to happen, the materials used must have a proven track record or the materials must be stored in such a way that they are accessible for inspection and maintenance.
Durability is not an intrinsic property of the material, but largely depends on how the material reacts to specific environments such as moisture, temperature, ultra-violet radiation and the presence (incompatibility) of other materials.
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