Monthly Archives: October 2022

How to enjoy winter

How to enjoy winter

Whether or not you enjoy winter, there are ways you can enjoy it more.  It calls for identifying some potential drawbacks, and transforming them into advantages.  Some potential cons of the winter are less daylight, more clothing, less time outside, colds and flu, and staying at home when inclement weather hits.  These don’t have to be dampers on the season: here’s how.

Less Daylight.  When the sun goes down at 5pm or earlier, our bodies tend to say, “Yay, it’s time to sleep!”  but there’s still plenty of time left in the day.  Apparently, less sunlight really does affect our circadian rhythm and may cause us to feel groggy or fatigued during the day.  Also, because our bodies use sunlight to manufacture vitamin D, and vitamin D is a hormone, less of this vitamin has a tremendous impact on mood, energy level and immune function. Here are some ways to keep your energy levels high even after the sun goes down:

  • Bright light helps to energize us by telling your brain to stop producing melatonin, a sleep hormone.  If you want to get really technical, blue light does that best, while lights that are amber and reddish don’t provide much “wake-up” at all.  In our previous post, we describe how sunlight actually wakes and puts us to bed with different wavelengths as the light is filtered differently through our atmosphere at different times of day.  You can do this inside (artificial light)with programmable light bulbs in your home like the Wyze Color Bulb ($16) or Light Engines ($289-349) which can help your body track the natural sun or reprogram for travel.  In any case, when you want to stay awake, break out those cool blue light bulbs (also called daylight and cool white), and head toward the warm white bulbs when you’re ready to sleep. 

  • Get tested for your vitamin D levels.  Women are especially susceptible to deficiency in this vitamin, which can lead to lower bone density, fatigue and susceptibility to disease (immune problems).  Your doctor can help you select the right vitamin D supplement to recover.

More clothing:  If you prefer to walk around in shorts, winter could put a cramp in your style, but layers can extend many different styles.  When the weather is blah, brighten up your mood with your wardrobe!  Here are some cases in point:

  • Leggings got you covered whether you wear a summer dress or shorts over them.

  • Socks come uber-stylish in patterns and colors, and showing them off is cool.  Unique socks make great gifts too!

  • Sweater vests add warmth to your core.

  • Try a different kind of hat, in a different color, than what you would normally wear–like a bucket hat, turban or tam.

  • Lighter layers even help you to pack less clothing when you travel, because you can mix and match them compared to more bulky items.  

  • Think about it: insulation in the home is about sandwiching air in cavities.  Several light layers usually cause active people to be more comfortable and sweat less.  They also do a better job to allow movement and coverage–a gap here or there is covered by another layer, or adds “ventilation”.  

Less time outside: says who?  If you’re limiting time outside, it’s only because you haven’t found the right sport or way to dress for it.  There are proven benefits to spending more time outside during the winter: it increases the basal metabolic rate, which helps the body burn more calories. (  Here are some suggestions:

  • Firepits and outdoor heaters

  • Hot tubs

  • String lights

  • Backyard gatherings with friendly competitions and hot chocolate

  • If you live in snow: snowshoeing, cross-country-skiing

  • Biking

  • Birdwatching

  • Polar bear dips

Repeat after me: colds and flu do not have to be part of my winter!  Contrary to advice during our upbringing, people experiencing cold temperatures are no more likely to get sick than those who are in a warm environment.  The increase in colds and flu at this time of year is most likely because cold, dry conditions are ideal for transmitting these viruses.  The virus is more stable and is able to stay in the air for longer when it’s cold and dry. (  

If the indoor air is dry, you can add humidity to it in your own home by using a humidifier.  Dr. Jeffrey Banyas is an ear, nose and throat surgeon in Pennsylvania.  He advises that about 40% relative humidity is ideal to prevent infections, because it reduces the chances of virus remaining airborne, and it helps the body’s natural defenses.  “The nose and sinuses are lined with a mucous membrane that has within it small hairs called cilia,” Banyas explained. “These cilia beat rhythmically to sweep the sinuses clean.” Banyas said when the mucus is thin, the cilia work much more efficiently. However, dryness impedes them.

“When the membranes dry out, not only do the cilia not work as well, but any trapped infectious mucus, pus, or debris is thicker and harder for the cilia to remove.” (Pennsylvania newspaper)

Especially if you are out and about, be sure to drink plenty of water and use a saline nasal spray or gel to keep nasal passages moist.

Cold air is a problem for asthma sufferers because it causes air passageways to constrict when breathing it in.  In this case, it’s best to dress warmly and place a scarf or covering over your mouth to help warm the air before it enters your body.  In the case of those with heart disease, cold temperatures stress the cardiovascular system and cause your blood vessels to constrict, shallow breathing, and a slight thickening of the blood.  ( Yes, strenuous outdoor activities like shoveling snow can cause heart attacks, so if heart disease is a concern, it’s best to get help with chores outside! 

There is moderate evidence to suggest that vitamin C, D and zinc help with colds.  Vitamin C helps in the formation and function of immune cells, but here’s the thing: they don’t do much if you only start taking them after you get sick.  According to a 2013 Cochrane meta-analysis of human studies, people who take vitamin C regularly can expect shorter colds (by 8% in adults and 14% in children) with slightly less severe symptoms.  Also, athletes who take vitamin C regularly are about half as likely to catch a cold as those who don’t.  The recommended daily dose of vitamin C is 75 milligrams (mg) a day for women and 90 mg a day for men. (

Vitamin D is involved in many cellular processes, including the regulation of immune cells during infections. Deficiences of vitamin D are associated with increased upper respiratory tract (URT) infections. (  Because one way of getting vitamin D, through exposure to sunlight on your skin, is limited during the winter months, supplements can help.  You don’t need to take a large dose of vitamin D daily to get its benefits. The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for children up to age 12 months, 600 IU for people ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years.  (

Zinc keeps the immune system strong, helps heal wounds, and supports normal growth.  Some studies have found that zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of cold, perhaps by a day or so, and may reduce the number of upper respiratory infections.  The recommended dosage of zinc is 8 mg/day for women and 11 mg/day for men (

Knowing that your body reacts differently to cold air and it can harbor harmful viruses, taking care of your body needs to be an everyday routine.  Make sure to get the rest you need, hydrate your body and the air, and take supplements that will support your immune system before you encounter germs, to have your best winter yet!

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Are my windows causing my mold allergy?

Are my windows causing my mold allergy?

If you viewed the results of my home’s mold plate testing, you probably saw the high count of mold colonies in my sunroom–which doesn’t even have air conditioning vents in it.   What the heck?  I was scratching my head until I remembered that I had placed the plate on a table only a few feet away from the exterior wall of windows.  There are 12 exterior windows in that room!

Here are some of the ways that windows can increase mold counts in your home:

  • Direct water leaks:  if the seals or caulking fail on your window(s), they could allow water to run into the wall, where mold can grow.

  • Drafty windows allow air to pass from the outside in, or inside to outside, where the temperature and humidity difference can surpass the dewpoint and cause condensation.  Condensation can occur on the windowsill or anywhere around the window that is not properly sealed.

  • Outdoor mold can grow on the screens, because they retain dust and moisture.  When you open windows, air blowing through the screens will blow mold spores right into the room.

  • Heavy window treatments create a micro-climate between the room and the window.  Although they are great at insulating the room from heat or cold, fabric curtains retain humidity/moisture, and also create a cold pocket of air without air circulation.  With drafty windows, air between long curtains and the wall can allow condensation, and offer the ideal darkness for mold to grow.    

In my case, I believe it was the drafty windows that allowed air to blow around the frames and carry mold into the room.

Here are some ways to get that mold count down:

  • Check for leaks in your windows.  Here are some warning signs that a window is leaking and how to determine where it is leaking (video):

    • Peeling paint on an interior window sill 

    • Peeling paint on an interior wall near a window

    • Rotting wood on the exterior window frame or sill

If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to remove the outer siding materials and find out where the water is getting in, because cosmetic repairs will not fix the leak. 

  • Decide whether to replace or reseal your windows.  It’s rarely an easy decision because replacing your windows is not likely to save you money, considering the cost of the windows and installation.  However, there are some ways to know that it’s time to replace them:

    • Replacement: If your windows are extremely damaged by water infiltration, then it’s a good case for replacement. (  There are many options for energy-efficient windows, available in wood, vinyl or composite (fiberglass or a combination of materials).  Like many products, the installation of the windows is just as important as the quality of the windows themselves. Quality installation is critical for an airtight fit and a continuous water barrier to prevent drafts, water damage and condensation.(  To select windows, the National Fenestration Rating Council ( is a non-profit organization that gives consumers energy performance ratings and other useful information about windows, doors, and skylights.  You’ll also want to consider that new exterior windows that meet Energy Star standards fall under “qualified energy efficiency improvements” which can generate tax credits.  For windows purchased in 2022, you can claim the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit for 30% of the total cost, up to a maximum of $600 for exterior windows and skylights. ( In addition, check with your local power supplier to see if they have more incentives for replacing windows. If you do decide to replace, remember that higher-cost wood windows (which are clad in aluminum or vinyl for weather protection) are only as good as the seals and techniques of cladding them; if water penetrates the cladding, the windows can rot in just a few years.  In addition, the vinyl or aluminum skins on these windows do not permit passage of vapor from the interior to the exterior, so that condensation forms on the inside of the skin.  Condensation = rot! (video)

    • Reseal:  If the windows and frames are in good shape, but you have airtightness problems, it’s most cost-effective to apply some sealing around them. Caulk, weatherstripping and caulking cord are all products made for these purposes, and this video shows how to apply them.  In order to know where the air is coming in, you can do the following (

      • Seal the house by locking all doors, windows, and skylights.

      • Close all dampers and vents.

      • Turn on all kitchen and bath exhaust fans.

      • Pass a burning incense stick along all openings -- windows, doors, fireplaces, outlets -- to pinpoint air rushing in from the outside. Smoke Pencil Pro ($44) is non-toxic smoke pencil for this purpose.

    • Clean your windows and screens!  On windows where screens are installed, a bi-annual cleaning will greatly reduce the amount of mold present.  In general it’s not better to wash the outside or the inside first, as long as both are done!  However, since outsides usually get dirtier than the insides, it may be easier to see inside dirt if you wash the outside first. You can use a bucket of warm water with a few drops of dish detergent on the outside with a long-handled brush and squeegee, and TotalClean or a mixture of one part white vinegar to two parts water in a spray bottle for the inside. 

    • Get your drapes in order!  If drapes are causing condensation to form on or around your windows, this is not a good situation and it will lead to mold if left unchecked.  Here are some suggestions:

      • Open the drapes during the warm part of the day so that temperatures between the room and window can equalize and dry out moisture. 

      • Leave the ceiling fan running in the room to promote circulation. 

      • True thermal curtains are made of 3-4 layers of material, including a vapor retarder that allows vapor to escape through the curtain.   Problems can occur if the curtains block vapor.  

If you still have a high mold count near your windows, it’s best to check with a qualified, reputable mold inspector to find out the source and be able to enjoy the sun and scenery through your windows instead of the mold!

Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash

Mold is not just toxic to humans; your furry friends suffer from it too.

Mold is not just toxic to humans; your furry friends suffer from it too.

If you or anyone in your household is experiencing sensitivity to mold, it’s best to check in with your pets, too.  Since dogs, cats, rabbits and other pets spend a lot of time on the floor and the ground outside, they can be even more prone to inhalation and ingestion of mold than we are.  According to a registered vet technician on the natural pet website, typically your dog or cat will show the following symptoms when experiencing mold:

  • itching
  • redness of the skin
  • dry, scaly skin
  • hair loss
  • chronic ear infections
  • head shaking
  • chewing/licking skin, especially the paws

It doesn’t stop with their skin, though.  Because mold affects their respiratory and digestive systems in similar ways to ours, serious breathing and digestion issues can develop from mold.

Mold is everywhere.  Here are some common types of mold your pet may encounter, and where they are found (

  • Aspergillus – found in plants and damp basements
  • Spondylocladium – found in plants or in air ducts
  • Hormodendrum – found on leaves
  • Fusarium – found on plants, often crops
  • Penicillium – found on plants or stored items
  • Helminthosporium – found in soil, especially in summer

You can actually test your pet's fur to see the relative amount and variety of molds they may be carrying.  To do so, you can purchase mold test plates from Immunolytics and follow their advice for testing here

Since many pets eliminate waste in the backyard, it’s almost impossible to keep mold out of their paws and fur.  However, inside is where you can control their surroundings a bit better; the following are some tips from experts!

Try to keep them out of damp basements or garages where mold proliferates.  

If your pet’s bedding is made of old carpet or furniture that can’t be effectively washed, discard it and find a new alternative that can be laundered more frequently.  When washing, try one of these:

Try to use a brush on their fur before coming inside, and wipe him/her down with a damp cloth.  Weekly baths with a soothing shampoo containing essential oils will help eliminate mold in their fur.

  • CitriSafe shampoo is non-toxic to pets and humans and safely eliminates mold in pet fur.  
  • 4Legger has a variety of gentle shampoos that smell wonderful!  

Here are 2 sprays gentle enough to be misted directly on your pet’s fur and bedding between washings to keep mold under control:

Adding an Omega3 supplement will help to strengthen the skin barrier, which helps to prevent secondary infections caused by allergies.  You can try breaking a fish oil capsule over their food, or checking with your vet for their preferred supplement.

K9 Mask is a new product that can protect dogs from breathing in mold and other allergens when it’s highest outside.  The masks can also be used in wildfire smoke and other air pollution environments.

Finally, for your own health as well as your pets’, clean for mold as much as possible using a HEPA vacuum and non-toxic cleaners like TotalClean on your surfaces, even on floors!  

Catch it EARLY

Catch it EARLY

No, I’m not talking about a movie, or even a sale.  I’m talking about water leaks.  After recently dealing with a leaky faucet (what a pain), I figured that there must be something to help me detect the leak in the first couple hours after it starts, instead of days later.  I’ve seen leak detectors that can detect as little as 1/16” of water, but that still requires placing it in the right place and hoping that the leak will puddle there first.  When I opened the doors to the area below my sink, what I sensed first, before seeing any water, was the high humidity.  Even without standing water, high humidity can cause mold to grow in virtually any area that it contacts.  

Here are my requirements for these remote hygrometers (humidity sensors):

  • Use a common, easily accessible battery
  • Place it anywhere in your home
  • Low cost of sensors to enable more monitoring places
  • Wireless alarm through phone app
  • Enabled with history to show trends of rising humidity

Bingo!  There are a few systems that fit this bill and more.

Govee is a brand known for its LED lighting and smart home appliances.  Regarding their WiFi digital thermometer hygrometer, they have great reviews on the ease of setting up the WiFi Gateway, and adding all of the sensors to the app.  The sensors can remain connected up to 230 feet away, and the gateway can connect up to 10 sensors ($119 on sale).  Let’s see, I could use one: under each bathroom sink (2), kitchen sink (1), behind the washing machine(1), next to the water heater (1), next to the HVAC air handler (1), behind the refrigerator (1), under the dishwasher (1) in bedroom closets (2-3).  Other people have used them for greenhouses, humidors, and as room sensors to balance their HVAC systems.   I easily found places for 10+ sensors in my home, and with the discounted price, they are cheaper than buying the smaller 3-sensor pack ($46) and adding more sensors separately. 

The Moen Smart Water Leak Detector ($102 for a set of 3 sensors) monitors moisture levels (through a moisture-sensing cable), humidity and temperature to send alerts to your phone through the Moen FLO app.  It does require a wifi connection, but you also have the option of installing a remotely-operated water shutoff valve ($470) that can operate manually from your smart phone, or automatically in response to a water leak detection signal from one of the monitors.  This valve also performs a nightly check of the system by shutting off the water and sensing pressure drop, to detect leaks as small as one drop per minute behind walls!  

YoLink is another smart appliance manufacturer and their temperature/humidity devices have a few differences.  For one, the wifi connection can be sustained up to ¼ mile, which is over 5 times the distance of Govee.  The YoLink can monitor extreme temperatures, which is useful if you want to place one in your attic or in your freezer (in case of a power outage). It is also compatible with Alexa.  There are  2 sensors and a hub in this pack ($60), and the hub can monitor other YoLink devices such as water leak sensors and door/window sensors. This unit runs on LoRa (Long Range wireless technology), which uses less power and transmits for longer distances than traditional bluetooth technology.

These devices are especially helpful in vacation homes and rental homes, as well as a great monitoring system to assist caretakers for the elderly and handicapped.  The Internet of Things (IoT) is making our lives less prone to worry in more ways than one.  Can it train my dog not to splash water on the floor?  Maybe not, but with sensors in other places maybe I’ll have the “bandwidth” to do it myself!

Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash

What do our holiday traditions really cost?

What do our holiday traditions really cost?

Okay…we all know that visiting the Christmas Tree Lot the day after Thanksgiving can be really expensive, and prices get better the longer you can wait to get one.  That’s not what I’m talking about!   I wanted to know, are some of our traditions costing us in our health?  After my manager shared how his family “mysteriously” gets allergies every December after bringing home a live tree, I had to do some research!

As it turns out, Christmas tree allergies are real.  If you experience any of the following after bringing home a live tree or other live pine decorations, the pine may be an allergen, or it may be carrying allergens (

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Dark circles under your eyes
  • Skin rash

Now that you may be making some mental connections, here is what scientists have found about homes with live trees:

  • Mold: pine trees can carry 53 different types of mold!  (Researchers at SUNY Upstate Medical University).  Many of these are allergens and especially so for infants and children.  The mold, which is attached to leaves, branches and bark, multiplies in your warm home and spores are released during the agitation of bringing the tree in, setting it up, placing lights and decorations on it and watering it.  A 2007 study found that apartments containing a live Christmas had a 6-fold increase in airborne mold, which did not return to normal until after the tree was removed.  Weed, grass and tree pollens were also found in the air during the time Christmas trees were in the house, because of course, live trees once lived in fields with other weeds and trees.  
  • The beloved pine scent emitted by Christmas trees is actually a family of VOCs called terpenes.  Terpenes are made naturally in the tree sap, and real or artificial terpenes are often used in pine-scented cleaning products and home fragrances.  Terpenes can unfortunately be allergenic to some people. 
  • Dust mites and insect droppings come with live and artificial trees that have been in storage because they naturally accumulate dust. 

Bringing home a live tree is a deeply-ingrained tradition for many American families, so unless your allergies become severe, simply treating your tree appropriately may help you to suffer a lot less this season!

  • Formerly, it was recommended to spray the tree down with water and allow it to dry naturally outside for a day or two, or blow off the water with a leaf blower before bringing it inside (  However, water is just what mold needs to keep growing and multiplying!  Therefore, we’re going out on a limb here (pun intended) to say that the same EC3 Mold Solution Spray or  Remedy Mold Treatment Spray by CitriSafe that is safe for humans and pets, is a great treatment for live and artificial Christmas trees.  Yes, use that leaf blower on your live or artificial tree to remove dust outside (with a mask of course), and then give it a good misting of EC3 Mold Solution Spray or  Remedy Mold Treatment Spray over every branch (don’t be afraid to use too much).  This should drastically reduce the amount of mold in your home while the tree is up!  Treat live garlands, wreaths and other live decorations in the same way.
  • Dispose of the tree as soon as possible, because any mold that was not touched by the spray will continue to grow.  

If you opt for an artificial tree, you still may suffer from allergies if it’s improperly stored.  Here are some tips:

  • Storing trees and decorations in unconditioned spaces like attics and basements can expose them to mold and dust.  In these situations, don’t use cardboard boxes; change the storage container to a sealed plastic bin or optimally, make a little room in your conditioned space for storage.  
  • Use a mask when retrieving them out of storage.
  • Use a cloth misted with EC3 Mold Solution Spray or use CitriSafe's Remedy Multi-Purpose Mold Treatment Wipes to wipe down ornaments and lights before adding them to the tree. 

Scented candles and sprays may smell nice, but they can seriously irritate your respiratory system and add unwanted VOCs and toxic chemicals to your air.  Instead, we can show you a number of ways to add holiday fragrance without the allergies in this post!  With the vodka air fresheners mentioned,  if you have several spray bottles, you can “decorate” your home with different holiday scents by adding drops from an assortment of essential oils like this one

This holiday season, break the mold (pun intended) by dis-inviting mold and allergens from your decorating party: it will be less costly for your health! 

Understanding Air Barriers and Vapor Retarders: Why and Where to Place Them

Understanding Air Barriers and Vapor Retarders: Why and Where to Place Them

If you are endeavoring to build your own home or even just renovate part of it, most likely you want to do it right the first time.  Here is some inspiration to plan well from

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States

“Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent return on energy!” ― Brian Tracy, author and motivational speaker

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ― Abraham Lincoln, former U.S. President

It’s so true.  One of my personal skills is the ability to paint walls well and enjoy doing it.   I know that planning works because the best walls I have ever painted were the ones I spent 75% of the time preparing and 25% of the time painting.   Planning ahead just makes the job so much more easy and successful.  

Building something that you want to last is the same way: the investment of time and money is well worth it when the home just works.  Layout and design seem to be the priority today, but function should take first place.  It’s like choosing the color of the living room and buying that paint before any of the structural decisions have been made or executed.  Does the roof work?  Do the walls do their job?  Does the foundation work?  Let’s get those bones built and covered, so that they will protect all the beauty of form and life inside.  (getting off my soapbox now).

Here is an article that is well worth reading: Building the Perfect Wall by Joe Lstiburek. Mr. Lstiburek argues that there are four barriers that need to be constructed to protect the home from the elements, and here they are in order of importance but not in order of installation.

  1. a rain control layer
  2. an air control layer
  3. a vapor control layer
  4. a thermal control layer

He also argues that all of these layers should be on the exterior of the structure (the bones, whether it’s wood or steel or concrete), because the structure is where the money is!  Other than the rain control layer and maybe a vapor control layer, many builders do not recognize this.  Putting the insulation on the outside of the structure?  It’s just not done enough, but it’s brilliant.  Here is a simplified diagram ( 

Here are some important points to understanding why these control layers are needed and why they have these priorities.

Rain control: 

  • Water does a lot of damage.
  • UV light also does a lot of damage. 

Air control: 

  • In order to control the interior environment, for the health of the building and its occupants, you must control the air.  Controlling the air means making it air-tight, with controlled penetrations. 
  • Air can carry (transport) a lot of water: see the first point above about water doing a lot of damage.

Vapor control: 

  • Water vapor travels in two methods: air transport (see air control above) and vapor diffusion.  
  • Once again, in order to control the interior environment, you must control the vapor flow into and out of it. 

Thermal control:

  • Thermal control prevents condensation when the temperatures and dewpoints inside and outside of the home are different.
  • One final word: Comfort!

Rain control and thermal control are relatively easy for me to understand; after all, every 4-season home now has siding and insulation.  It took some digging to understand the limits of, and relationship between, air barriers and vapor retarders. It’s helpful to know that air barriers are actually rated in their ability to retard vapor, so that in modern buildings, air barriers are used as vapor retarders as well.  (The term "vapor barrier" used to be in vogue but it's actually more accurate to use "vapor retarder").  There are two terms that relate to a material’s ability to retard vapor: permeability and permeance.  To understand them, it’s helpful to know a little about water vapor.

Water vapor moves in two ways through a building:  diffusion through the building materials themselves, and air transport.  Here is a diagram illustrating the two:


Water vapor has its own pressure, which contributes to the total air pressure.  The difference in vapor pressure between two sides of a building envelope assembly is the driving force behind vapor transmission by diffusion. (

Water vapor absorbs heat differently than the air in which it is mixed.  If you think of sunshine streaming through a window and heating a room, the sun is heating air and water vapor in the room, but at different rates.  Heat applied to the air raises its temperature directly (called sensible heat). Heat applied to the water vapor raises its temperature more slowly (also sensible heat), increases vapor pressure and with the increase in ambient temperature, also increases the ability of the air to hold more water vapor; thus it causes evaporation of any water in the room (from our skin for example) without changing its temperature (called latent heat).   Sensible heat causes an increase in temperature, but latent heat causes a change in state without a change in temperature.  (Latent heat is the heat applied to melt ice or boil water; the ice cube doesn’t change temperature while it’s melting and the water in a boiling pot does not change temperature while it’s boiling.)  Vapor pressure will seek equilibrium, so that an area of high vapor pressure will try to diffuse to an area of lower pressure.  It does this by “diffusing” through the wall itself. This movement is the reason for installing a vapor retarder.

Regarding air transport of water vapor, warm air naturally holds more moisture than cooler air, so you’ll want to prevent warm humid air from moving inward during summer, and warm air from moving outward during winter (causing condensation on the way in/out). The air barrier is responsible for stopping this movement.

Permeance describes the water vapor transmission rate (by diffusion).  It is the rate over the course of one hour through one square foot of a material of a given thickness at a specified vapor pressure, expressed in perms (grams/hour●ft2●inches Mercury). ( Since it deals with water vapor, permeance is also a description of how vapor retarders slow the transmission of latent heat.  

Permeability in building materials is permeance per unit of thickness—or perm-inches, which is useful when comparing different thicknesses of insulation.   

With the standard of Permeance, we are able to compare the vapor transmission qualities of different building materials.  The less permeable a building material is, the greater its resistance to water vapor transmission. A vapor retarder is essentially any building material that exhibits a very low permeance (very high resistance to water vapor transmission). (  Here is a table with some common building materials and their permeances:

Below is a diagram of The Perfect Residential Wall.  The vapor arrows denote the desired flow of moisture because “we want the assembly to dry inwards from the control layers—and to dry outwards from the control layers.” (Joe Lstiburek, Building Science)  You never, never, want to sandwich material between 2 vapor retarders.  In effect, vapor will definitely be retarded there in that sandwich, causing condensation and mold!


Note that this wall has two layers of insulation, which is ok, because the insulation is not trapping moisture (however it’s probably advisable not to insulation without kraft paper inside, more on that below).  The external rigid insulation stops heat transfer to the wooden structure, and the internal insulation provides more comfort.  The Perfect Wall article also describes a “clever wall” which combines all three: air, vapor and thermal control layers with one external layer of closed-cell high-density foam insulation.  

Vapor retarders have evolved a lot over the course of just a few decades.  From the early to the late 1900’s, roofing felt/tar paper was usually the only thing that went over the sheathing and behind the siding.  There was no drainage behind the siding (and in most mid-grade homes, there is still none), and no air barrier.  Sometimes the assembly worked well to protect the structure, and sometimes it did not, but without an air barrier, only moderate thermal control could be achieved inside.  Also, the kraft-paper facing on fiberglass insulation is a permeable vapor barrier (see chart above).

Polyethylene was introduced as a vapor barrier in the 1950s ( and it had disastrous effects in many homes, because although it is a Class 1 Vapor Retarder (0.1 perm or less), correct placement of this layer was critical to avoid condensation issues.  This brings us to our final point, where is the best place for the air barrier and vapor retarder?

The construction industry has had much confusion over where to place these layers.  For a long time, installers were instructed to install the kraft paper facing of fiberglass insulation “facing the warm side”.   They were also told (true today) to install it “facing them” meaning toward the interior of the building.  What about southern buildings, which are cooler inside for most of the year, and cooler outside for only a few months?  One can’t rearrange the insulation seasonally after the wall has been sealed up (!).    The good thing is that kraft paper is semi-impermeable and, it turns out, is one of the earliest “smart” vapor retarders, meaning that it has variable permeance: low permeance in cooler, drier weather, and higher permeance in warmer, more humid weather. ( The newest vapor retarders are doing this to give a measure of flexibility to buildings in these swing climates.  Some brand names are Intello Plus, Pro Clima DB+, and MemBrain (haha).  Each of these products are marketed as air barriers AND vapor retarders, so that by installing one of them outside the structure (wood or metal or concrete), you are protecting the structure by slowing vapor diffusion through it and maximizing climatization inside the building by sealing air leakage.  Since air sealing is ranked in priority above vapor retardation, it’s critical that the product be correctly and thoroughly installed to prioritize air sealing.  For example, on a busy jobsite, different trades and change orders can make multiple unauthorized perforations in a properly installed air barrier, so signage protecting it and rules for authorizing penetrations must be given. 

Since Youtube and Pinterest are the inspiration for many renovation projects, if you are taking on a renovation as a DIYer, and even when using a contractor, go back to the beginning of this article for more inspiration on planning.  It does take extra time to read and research products and methods of installing air barriers and vapor retarders, but it’s oh-so-critical to get them right for the long-term health of your family and longevity of your home.  Some recommended sites (in no particular order) are,,,,, and more.  Planning it well is more than half of building it well!

How to protect your child’s air quality

How to protect your child’s air quality

When school shootings, abuse or other violence take up the bulk of the news, it’s easy to miss that the very air your family breathes has a great impact on childrens’ health (even more than ours).  Why? (from

  1. Air pollution can affect them even before they’re born, with increased chance of pre- term birth (California study published in 2016)
  2. Eighty percent of a child's lungs will develop after birth, and continue development until the child becomes an adult.  Air pollution increases the risk that their lungs will not reach full maturity. 
  3. They take 2-3 times as many breaths as adults.
  4. According to a 2021 meta-analysis from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, exposure to fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) has been linked with significantly increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children, particularly if exposure occurs during the third trimester of pregnancy or during early childhood,
  5. They spend a lot of time in schools that may have inadequate ventilation and high contaminants.
  6. They don’t behave like adults–they spend a lot more time outdoors with increased activity.

Protecting your child’s lungs and body from polluted air is not always easy.  Masks can help, but they’re just one part of your arsenal.  

Masks need to have good filtration, fit and comfort.  AirPOP is a company that was founded when the children of one of the founders suffered from acute respiratory reactions to the local air pollution in China.

When choosing a device for your child, make sure to choose one that has undergone some lab testing against fine particles or is officially certified as KN95, N95, KF94, FFP2, or another regional standard. For air pollution, cloth masks and surgical masks provide minimal protection. (  Here is one of the highly rated KN95 kids’ masks from their collection.

In moderate to severe air quality environments, it also comes down to monitoring your children’s whereabouts and activities.  Teaching them about air quality conditions and forecasts lets them know why they are wearing a mask or doing activities indoors, and every parent knows that the “Why?” is very important!

Whether it’s walking, riding a bus or driving them in your personal car, getting your children to school can expose them to a lot of pollution.  Finding less polluted routes or using a mask or HEPA filter in the car makes sense.  

At school, teachers need to know the outdoor air forecast in order to plan outdoor time or alternative indoor activities.  Also at school, you can inquire about whether they have an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) monitoring plan. If not, the EPA has suggestions on how to develop and implement one.

At the end of the school day, idling busses and cars (in the car pickup line) can be a problem as the vehicles queue up and wait for their passengers and the scheduled time of departure. According to the EPA, it’s a myth that busses need to remain idling to keep the cabin (inside the bus) at a comfortable temperature.  There are technologies available to avoid idling and strategies to help parents and schools implement anti-idling policies. 

Children love to learn. Learning eventually gives them power over their environment through the ability to make wise choices.  They are also naturally fond of the earth, our natural environment, and their ability to do physical activity (read: play!), so that educating them on air quality can be done on age-appropriate levels with fun activities.  Here are some sites to help:

Getting your child “on-board” with protecting their air quality will come in time, but until then, there are daily decisions that parents need to make that will impact their life and health for years to come.  Don’t worry, HypoAir is here to help!  Consider adding an Air Angel and HEPA filter to their bedroom to cut down on fine particulates, germs and allergens.  For a whole home solution, our Whole Home Polar Ionizer and HVAC home filters protect through your HVAC system.   These are low-maintenance ways to take the burden of air quality off your shoulders at home!

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

The Epidemic of Asthma

The Epidemic of Asthma

If you don’t suffer from a certain disease or know someone who does, it can often evade your concern or thinking.  Asthma is one such disease for me, and aside from drug commercials on the internet and TV, I didn’t give much thought to it.  “Pandemics” seem to have taken over our health radar, while asthma continually advances in cases every year. 

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. Although it is incurable, asthma can be managed so that it doesn’t recur by avoiding triggers, taking medications to prevent symptoms and preparing to treat asthma episodes if they occur. ( About 300 million people worldwide have asthma, with projections for it to increase to another 100 million by 2025 (The Global Asthma Report, Auckland, New Zealand, 2018). 

According to Oxford Languages, an epidemic is “a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time.”  Asthma is not an infectious disease, yet it is called an epidemic because of the sharp increase of cases since the 1960s in many developed countries.  This sparked a number of studies in the 1990’s, confirming that “asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases across the globe in all age groups and there is substantial variation in asthma prevalence worldwide.”  (2019 study on the Epidemiology of Asthma)  It is difficult to define, but the research community finds it helpful to define it by observable traits (phenotypes) which are composed of symptoms (such as wheeze or cough) and objective measures (such as lung function and biomarkers in blood, exhaled breath, sputum, and/or urine). 

What causes asthma?

Researchers prefer to use the word “trigger” instead of “cause”.  However, some of the airborne triggers are House dust mite (HDM), Animal hair and dander, Pollen exposure, Mold (fungal) spores, and  Thunderstorm asthma (most prevalent in Australia where high pollen counts are released during a unique type of thunderstorm).  Habits like parental or personal smoking tend to increase risk for asthma.  Occupational triggers such as cleaning agents, paints, or dust may increase risk (a comprehensive list can be found here), and there seems to be genetic predisposition for it also. 

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), asthma tends to peak in September in the US due to a confluence of several risk factors.  This month peaks in ragweed pollen, a common fall allergy; more falling leaves mean more mold spores in the air, and the return to school causes more respiratory illness in families. In particular, the third week of September is usually the highest in numbers of doctor visits and hospital stays due to asthma attacks, and children are the most affected.  (

Asthma is a problem in children because their lungs are still developing, and continue to develop until they become adults.  Asthma may impair airway development and reduce their maximum lung function, and these deficits may persist into adulthood.  When occurring first in adults, asthma may accelerate lung function decline and increase the risk of fixed airflow obstruction, especially for smokers with asthma.  People with asthma are more susceptible to infections and non-communicable additional chronic conditions (comorbidities) such as diabetes, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, and issues with mental illness such as anxiety and depression. (2019 study)

Asthma can’t be cured, but it can be controlled.  It’s controlled through avoiding triggers, and/or the use of medication.  Because avoiding triggers could be potentially be better for your body and your budget, here’s some advice on how to do that (adapted from

  • Use air conditioning to establish a clean, comfortable environment in your home.  Air conditioning allows you to control:

    • Humidity: most sources set the optimal humidity between 30-50% (if it goes well above that, use a dehumidifier).  At this range, dust mites are lower in concentration.

    • Pollen: with air conditioning, you’re able to close the windows on high-pollen days

  • Use filtration to keep airborne contaminants low!  You can do this by regularly changing your HVAC home filters (and possibly increasing the MERV rating on them), or adding a standalone HEPA filter to one or more rooms in your home.  In addition, bi-polar ionizers like our Germ Defender and Whole Home Polar Ionizer will cause larger contaminant particles to clump together and be more easily filtered or vacuumed.

  • Clean your home regularly, once a week, with a HEPA vacuum cleaner and non-toxic all surface cleaner like TotalClean.  If you can’t keep your home clean by yourself, ask someone to help you.

  • Prevent mold from growing in your home by monitoring wet areas like bathrooms and under sinks.  Mold can also intrude if you don’t clean gutters or remove debris from around the house on a regular basis, so try to keep your gutters and the area directly around your home clean too.

  • Keep pet dander under control by brushing pets outside and bathing them regularly with a moisturizing shampoo.

  • Remove hard-to-clean surfaces like carpet and deep rugs, and avoid down-filled pillows and furniture. 

  • Consider avoiding perfumes and heavily-scented personal products, candles and cleaning products.

  • Because cold air can trigger asthma, cover your mouth and nose when you go outside in cold temperatures.  

In addition, since asthma can be exacerbated by excess weight and heartburn, it’s important to take care of yourself with moderate exercise (your doctor can help with advice) and medication if acid reflux is an issue.  

If you are among those who deal with asthma on a regular basis, remember that surrounding yourself with a clean, comfortable environment can be the best investment in your health and life.  Changes like removing fragrances and adding an air purifier can make a big difference in the way you feel.   You are definitely your best advocate in minimizing the effects of this disease!

Photo by Sahej Brar on Unsplash

Taking care of your body’s air filters

Taking care of your body’s air filters

A little bit of knowledge about our bodies really makes us appreciate all their functions and complexities!  Take for example our respiratory system starting with the nose.  It’s important to understand how our nose and sinuses work.  If you’re not an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor and you want to learn how air gets to your lungs, here is a very helpful video.  (It’s made by a clinic on the US west coast that does not do surgeries, yet they are able to help their patients by thoroughly examining and diagnosing the nasal structure and breathing and recommending treatment from there).  The video also illustrates the point that we need to utilize ALL of the area and defenses in our nasal passages to help us breathe, fight infection, smell and taste, and to be careful about removing or reducing any one spot so that nasal flow is not redirected too radically.

Here are the main defenses that are built into our body to prevent contamination by particulates in the air:

  1. Hairs in your nose entrap larger particles, which can be blown out 
  2. Mucus in the nasal passages entraps smaller particles as air bounces off mucus-lined surfaces
  3. Moderate resistance from undulating passages in the nose causes the air to be slightly turbulent and capture more particles
  4. Tiny hairs, called cilia, along your air passages move in a sweeping motion to keep the passages clean.
  5. Sinuses produce the mucus and warm and humidify the air going down to your lungs.

A lot of peoples’ breathing problems originate in the sinuses. 

Sinuses are admittedly a bit of a mystery (  We do know that they generate mucus to moisten our nasal pathways, and they give resonance to our voice (with a plugged nose our voices sound very different).  We each have 4 sets of sinuses, which are normally empty except for warm, moist air and a small amount of mucus.  There are small pathways into and out of each sinus cavity, called ostia.  Knowing these few details, then, tells us that we don’t breathe through our sinuses, yet, when they get plugged with mucus or inflamed with infection, they can swell and severely obstruct  nasal passages.  Here is a diagram of the sinuses and how blocking the ostia can promote infection and swelling:


There are several non-medicated ways that doctors may suggest to take care of your sinuses and nasal passages, to keep them performing well and protecting our respiratory system.  Some of these are nasal sprays, nasal irrigation, humidifiers, steams and saunas, and staying hydrated.

Nasal sprays at the minimum are saline solutions packaged in a spray bottle.  To use a nasal spray, block off one nostril by applying gentle pressure to the side of the nose, insert the tip of the bottle into the other nostril, and squeeze the bottle forcefully while inhaling through your nose.  Then spray the other side, making sure to block the opposite nostril.  The saline solution moistens the nasal passages and helps the mucus to stay thin so that it flows down the back of your throat and doesn’t plug the ostia. Various chemicals are added to some nasal sprays to shrink membranes and provide longer-lasting moisture, but in general these are not necessary for a healthy individual.  It’s a great idea to use nasal sprays when the humidity is low, or you’re traveling in close proximity to other people, to keep your nasal passages moist and able to discharge microbes easily.  

Nasal sprays with essential oils (EOs) have been observed to lessen symptoms of allergenic rhinitis (AR).  Rhinitis is when a reaction occurs that causes nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, and itching. Most types of rhinitis are caused by inflammation and are associated with symptoms in the eyes, ears, or throat. (  In a 2021 study using Puressentiel® Respiratory-Decongestant Nasal Spray (PRDNS), which is a spray containing 4 essential oils, 43 patients with persistent mild or persistent moderate-to-severe AR used the spray 1x in the morning and 1x in the evening for 30 days.  They were tested at Day 0 (before treatment) and Day 30 for Allergic Rhinitis Control Test (ARCT) scores. The proportion of patients with controlled rhinitis after 30 days of treatment with intranasal PRDNS administration was 69.8% versus 14% before treatment.

This is great news, and you can even DIY your own Essential Oil nasal spray to fight mold and microbes.  This video by Dr. Jill Crista, a naturopathic doctor and one of the leading experts in mold-related illness, shows how to do this.  Personally, I buy a generic 1.5 oz plain saline spray, pop the top off, add only 1 drop of food-grade teatree oil or 1 drop of oregano oil, replace the top and shake to make a strong mold killer for those days when I’ve been exposed to too much mold or start to feel a cold coming on.. 

Why irrigate?

Irrigation does several things: 

  • it gets the harmful particles like viruses, bacteria and mold out more quickly than your body can do it alone, reducing the chances of infection

  • It can help clear the ostia so that sinuses can maintain natural drainage and not become blocked

  • it clears the cilia so they are not overloaded with thick mucus or particles.

  • The salts in the sinus rinse shrink inflamed sinus tissue by pulling out water.

According to, a nasal irrigant manufacturer: “There is no clinical evidence that saline from nasal irrigation devices of any type consistently enters into and rinses inside the frontal, sphenoid, and ethmoid sinus cavities. Nasal irrigation can and often does penetrate the maxillary sinuses with saline.”  So, although many irrigations are marketed as “sinus rinses”, they technically only go into 1 out of 4 sets of sinuses. 

There are several nasal irrigation systems, some of which are called Navage (a powered suction saline system), neti pots, and a nasal squeeze bottle. Here is an excellent video on how to irrigate your nose using a squeeze bottle.   

Humidifiers, steam and saunas do help to open nasal passageways temporarily.  Warm moist air causes the blood supply to your respiratory mucous membrane to improve. This means they are better able to purify themselves, which in turn strengthens your natural defense mechanisms. Your bronchial muscles also relax in the warm air – a great benefit for those suffering from asthma or bronchitis. (  If you do use a humidifier, take care to clean it regularly, as it can breed mold and bacteria.  In addition, ultrasonic humidifiers can actually increase the PM2.5 levels in your indoor air (see our post here). 

According to, besides using moisture in the air, make sure you help your body from the inside by staying hydrated.  Drinking plenty of fluids like water or tea — especially if you have a dry nose during a cold — can help moisturize your nose from the inside out.

Just like any filter, occasional maintenance is needed, and your body is no exception!  We hope that you stay well throughout the year and keep those nasal passages clean and moist for your best breathing. 

Waterproof wall coatings: should you use them in your basement?

Waterproof wall coatings: should you use them in your basement?

As a followup to our article on Getting the Basement Dried Out, and in response to customer questions, I thought we should talk about sealing basement walls.  There are some really good products like GAF Hydrostop, UGL Drylok Extreme, Koster, Xypex and Sani-Tred to name a few.  These kinds of coatings can definitely stop moisture and are relatively cheap compared to the other measures I’m going to recommend here, but the sad truth is that they’re usually only a temporary stopgap measure if proper drainage is not in place.  The building science experts have determined that the basic rules for water management in buildings are:

  • Don’t trap water in building materials or assemblies.
  • Allow materials and assemblies to dry to at least one side. (  

In the words of expert Joe Lstiburek:  “Waterproof coatings are not bad; they are not, however, a substitute for an adequate drainage system.” ( The reason is that waterproof coatings act as a vapor barrier, and applying them to the inside of your basement is not a good thing.  

Without proper grading and drainage, your basement is basically a hole in the ground where water IS going to collect.  Construction of a house with a basement doesn’t begin with pouring the basement; it begins with preparing the ground so that it slopes and drains away water, which is the enemy of all the precious building materials in the home.  If your home was not graded/prepared properly during the construction phase, here are the ways that you can get the water flowing in the right direction (down and away from the house!)

  • If you have a dirt floor in your basement, cover it with polyethylene to seal the moisture below it.  You don’t want moisture and possibly radon continuously seeping into your basement air space from the dirt).  If you have a bit more in your budget, dig out some of the soil first so you won’t lose ceiling height. Then install a layer of crushed stone, a horizontal layer of rigid insulation (plus some vertical insulation at the perimeter), a layer of polyethylene, and a concrete slab over it all. (
  • Check/install roof gutters:  Gutters are the first line of defense in routing water away from the foundation, because instead of pouring directly down around it, water is directed away from it.  Ideally, the gutters will drain to areas 10 feet away from the house.  If you have gutters, make sure that they and the downspouts are not plugged up with leaf debris!
  • Check/adjust grade around your home: if you have an older home, many times the soil around it has built up over the years with mulch, grass clippings, and vegetation so that it doesn’t drain properly.  A good slope to aim for when grading land extending out from a house foundation is about 6 inches for the first 10 feet (that translates to a "slope" of 5 percent). This article tells you how to determine whether your lot already has this slope, or you need to do some work to get that slope.  
  • If you can’t grade the area with a rake, shovel and wheelbarrow and you’re going to hire an excavator, then it’s worthwhile to dig down to the footers and install gravel and a perforated drainpipe, so that any water that drains down the wall will drain down and away from the footers.  If you are doing this, THIS IS THE BEST TIME/AREA TO USE A WATERPROOF COATING: on the exterior of the wall! 
  • If your home has nice patios, walkways, etc. around it and you don’t want to tear them up, then go for an interior french drain, so that water around and under the slab can be pumped away.  It’s probably a job you’ll want a contractor to handle, but it’s best if you know what to expect and that the contractor outlines his plan, before work starts!  According to Green Building Advisor, a trusted building science site, here is how they would install a french drain: 
    • Cut a trench about 8 inches wide and at least 8 inches deep at the perimeter of your basement slab, near the wall.
    • Put some crushed stone in the trench, and some perforated 4-inch pipe, followed by more crushed stone. The pipe can be installed level or slightly sloped, and should lead to a sump installed in a corner of the basement.
    • Install a sump pump and connect the pump’s discharge pipe to a distant drywell, to daylight far from the house, or (if permitted by your local municipality) to your sewer drain. 
    • Once the French drain is installed, the concrete slab can be patched.  Before patching the concrete, however, you may want to install a tee in the 4-inch pipe, and connect the tee to a solid 4-inch riser pipe that extends through the roof. This riser pipe, along with a properly sized inline exhaust fan installed in the attic, are the essential components of an active radon mitigation system. Such a system depressurizes the air under a basement slab, and provides an important side benefit: it helps keep your basement dry.  (

If you have done these things and have a condensation problem on the walls, it’s still not time to break out the waterproof paint, because the condensation is likely because of temperature differentials.  Typically condensation will occur on the upper part of basement walls in the winter, when it’s cold outside and warmer and humid inside, or on the lower part of basement walls in the summer, when it’s cooler down below grade but the basement has warmer, humid air.  Check the wall to see if this kind of seasonal condensation is what you’re experiencing.  If so, this calls for permeable insulation that isolates the interior atmosphere from the cold walls, yet allows any moisture coming through the block to pass through.  .  

The best insulating materials for a basement are those that are permeable or semi-permeable such as expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS), as these materials are less sensitive to moisture than other insulation types. However, EPS is preferred over XPS in our opinion for the following reasons (

  • Off-gassing: EPS does not contain hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs))
  • Loss of R-values: in tests XPS has lost up to 44% of its R-values and EPS only 6%
  • Water absorption: in tests XPS absorbed up to 18.9% by volume and EPS 4.8%  
  • EPS has higher vapor permeance (thus allows more water vapor to pass through) at about 1.2 perm versus roughly 0.3 perm for XPS for R-12 insulation boards.  Normally one would not think this is desirable as vapor is passing through to the basement interior, but this factor affects the foam board’s own potential to stay dry. 

The best place to insulate is on the exterior.  Exterior insulation is advantageous because it protects the wall from the cold soil so that condensation cannot occur on the wall and the wall can dry to both the interior and the exterior. Installation of exterior insulation is best done during construction, however it can be accomplished as a renovation if  great care is taken to prevent damage during back filling around the foundation. If you don’t plan on excavating to the footings of the home, opt for interior insulation.  It should be vapor permeable or semipermeable as well as “air tight” to prevent warm, moist interior air from condensing on the cold concrete or block wall. Some foam insulations such as EPS and XPS can satisfy both conditions if installed properly (including taping at the seams). (

The slab floor:  Once again, the best place to insulate the slab is under the slab during construction, however, if you’re renovating, then insulating on top of the slab is fine.  Because most of the year the slab will be colder than the interior air, it’s a surface on which condensation can occur. The best way to accomplish this is adding a layer of rigid foam insulation, 2 layers of plywood for support, and a permeable finish like wood, carpet or cork (see diagram below).

Source: (“The No-Mold Finished Basement”;

If you don’t have a need for a finished basement, you can still create a liking for pink (or blue or whatever color the rigid foam board comes in!) like this one:


A few final tips for finishing your nice, dry basement:  

  • Carpet should not be installed directly over an uninsulated concrete basement slab. Any moisture that condenses on the cold slab becomes a nice habitat for mold and other biologicals. (

  • Impermeable paints (waterproof coatings) should also not be applied to an uninsulated basement slab. Moisture that condenses on the cold, coated surface cannot be absorbed by the concrete. The thin film of water that forms on the surface of this floor is very slippery. (

In all of these improvements, the only vapor barriers we’ve recommended have been on the exterior of the block wall and under the slab, because water permeating through the wall should not be trapped on the inside.  It’s like choosing to paint the interior of a gypsum wall (drywall) with latex paint, with a pinhole plumbing leak behind it that keeps the wall moist.  Is there going to be mold growth on that wall?  Of course!  You won’t see it right away, but when the paint starts to bubble and peel, it will eventually rupture to expose all of that mold to the air of your home.  Similarly, in most cases waterproof coatings don’t have a place inside basements, because unless they are waterproofed on the outside, they need to constantly dry to the inside.  That’s actually a good thing, so in our opinion it’s best to resist the temptation of slapping on a waterproof coating to reduce moisture in your basement.  Go for the long-term solution: good drainage and insulation!

Photo by Adam Winger on Unsplash