Identifying and Preventing Building Envelope Problems

man with magnifying glass in hand looking at house

Your home’s outer layer is its first line of defense against anything Mother Nature throws its way. It’s therefore important to ensure it is healthy and protected from issues that can wreak havoc on your home and demand decontamination work, from mold, rot and other structural damage. Knowing how to identify issues with your home’s envelope is crucial. Our Renovation Advisors are here to walk you through the various building envelope problems to look out for, as well as the ways to prevent or repair them!

Below grade water infiltration

Foundation system problems are often the first thing homeowners think of when they think of water infiltration. As the base of your home’s building envelope, it is important to ensure it is in good condition. Many building envelope problems can begin here.

Canadian winters lead to yearly thaws, which puts more wear and tear on the building envelope as a whole. The contracting and expanding of the soil, concrete and pipes can lead to water infiltration problems for your foundation or crawl space. The rapid expansion caused by inconsistent temperatures in the spring can cause pipes or foundation walls to crack. This can cause the damp, thawed ground to leak moisture into your home. This can also be true for French drains, which can back up if not properly maintained.

Yearly maintenance, especially in the spring, is key to preventing below grade water infiltration. Ensure your ground filtration system or French drain is correctly installed, and keep a lookout for signs it needs to be replaced. If you have mature trees on your property, be mindful of where their roots grow. Tree roots will grow towards sources of water. Therefore, if you’re already experiencing a lot of groundwater accumulation near your foundation, roots may cause extra damage to the foundation or to nearby pipes.

cracked foundation - building envelope problems

Above grade water infiltration

Buidling envelope problems: exterior wall issues

Like with your foundation, temperature and weather conditions can cause problems for your exterior walls. Over time, siding materials will degrade and protect your home less efficiently. The problem may not be caused by just worn siding, however. Siding and masonry are designed to protect your home, but are not watertight. A healthy flow of air, and a means of letting moisture out, are essential for a healthy building envelope. The absence or damage of such a vital system can lead to moisture or water infiltration.

A quality vapor barrier is an essential part of maintaining the health of your exterior walls. There are building code laws that ensure the correct vapor barriers for the climate are used on new builds. If a trusted and licensed builder built your home to code, you should not have problems with the exterior wall system.

Your siding or masonry will wear over time, as mentioned, so keep an eye out for signs that you are in need of having your siding replaced or your brick repointed. You should also be on the lookout for bulging bricks. The sooner they’re identified, the cheaper and easier they are to fix.

old brick wall with large cracks in it down to the foundation - building envelope problems

Building envelope problems: issues with windows and doors

Another way moisture can get into your home through the building envelope is through the windows and doors. Like siding, different materials have different lifespans, with pros and cons for each, so when installing new ones, be sure to make the best decision for your home.

Moisture infiltration may not be caused by the window or door itself. Even if they are properly installed and in good condition, if the insulation around it is not sufficient, it can cause issues. Certain types of insulation can also act as a vapour barrier. It’s therefore important to have it installed in places where moisture is most likely to get in. Poor insulation can also lead to air infiltration, which will end up increasing your heating bill in the winter months.

Roof system water infiltration

As the final element of your home’s building envelope, your roof’s health is of utmost importance. During the winter, snow and ice accumulates on the roof, which will then turn to water in the spring. It is also exposed to wind, rain and sun in the other seasons, which can other building envelope problems.

While it’s important to ensure the eaves, joints and shingles of the roof are in good condition to help protect your home’s structure, ventilation is equally as important. A natural ventilation system relies on healthy soffits, to help air circulate naturally. Because of the heat rising into your attic space from the inside of your home, proper ventilation ensures that the temperatures are not too extreme from the outside and inside to form condensation.

Getting bi-annual inspections of your roof, once at the end of fall and once at the beginning of spring, is the best way to keep an eye on any potential problems that can occur, and let you know what repairs or replacements need to happen to avoid moisture damage.

close up of eaves, soffits and downspouts of a roof

Take care of your building envelope

There are many things to consider when it comes to renovating your building envelope. It is also important to note that a well-performing building envelope can make your home more energy efficient. That’s why it’s important to get the right help. It can be highly beneficial to get your home or building envelope appraised. Ideally, you’d do so before starting renovations on your home, selling it (to avoid avoid recourse) or simply to ensure its overall health.

We understand the difficulties that come with finding a reliable and high-quality contractor for your project, be it for roofing, siding or French drain work, so let us take away that stress! Our Renovation Advisors can invite up to three 53-Point Verified Contractors to submit quotes for your renovation and help you decide which one brings the most value to you. Call us today or fill out our form to get started!