The 57 acres that comprise Cedar Ridge Farm are located in the beautiful rolling hills of South Central Kentucky. My wife, our four children, and I are on a homesteading adventure as we work toward increased self-sufficiency. We grow much of our own food and enjoy being in touch with the agrarian roots of our lives.

One of the major projects we have undertaken is the building of our own home. The house we're building has three major distinguishing features: 1. we're building it without incurring any debt; 2. it is a timber frame structure; and 3. the exterior walls will be plastered straw bales. We live debt and mortgage free, and building our house with that approach makes perfect sense. Large timbers in a home possess a beauty and project a sense of strength, stability, and warmth that we want in our home. Straw bale walls provide insulation and make ecological sense. This blog is a record of our home-building project.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Water in a wall (or, I don’t like roof leaks)

I was trimming the ends of some bales in the kitchen this week (one of those little things I hadn’t previously done) when my younger son noticed a black spot on the ceiling near where I was working. He asked what it was. When I looked, I saw that it was caused by a mushroom that was now dead, but there were some live ones peeking out of the straw bale wall. That wasn’t something I wanted to see.

Sticking my hand into the straw in that section of wall, I could feel moisture. Of course, the mushrooms already told me there was moisture in the wall. So, I started pulling straw out of the wall. Some of it toward the center of the wall was fairly damp. Nothing sopping wet, though. The moisture extended down from the 006ceiling in a section of about 1.5 courses of bales and less than 12” wide. We removed the damp straw from the house, and I sought to determine the source of the moisture. Although it may be hard to see, the photo to the right shows the area from which I removed the damp straw. The “stick” in front of the void is one of the sapling pins we used to tie the bales together in the wall.

My first thought was that it was from condensation under the metal. I have a 2” ventilation space under the roof metal. Before we put up the kitchen ceiling, I added flashing to keep water outside of the house from this space if it was ever present. I figured that the flashing just wasn’t doing the job. So, I bought some 24” aluminum flashing and redid the job better than before.

It rained last night, and this morning I checked to see if the leak was taken care of. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. This did help narrow down the area through which the moisture is entering the house. It appears to be around the chimney flashing on the roof metal. I have been wanting to do more with the chimney flashing anyway. This leak provides motivation to do it sooner rather than later. I used a piece of flashing to redirect the water from the leak away from the straw bales for now. I’ll be fixing the cause of the problem this week.

I’m thankful that the problem presented itself at this point in time and not several months later.


Mariam Freame said...

Because of the moisture buildup, algae and molds can contaminate the roof and even the interior of the house. There may be a problem with the flashing or the sheets. Try surveying it again, and check on the flashing. To do it sooner rather than later is a good idea because you never know what can happen.

dp said...

Thank you for the comment, Mariam. I have checked it several times and have redone the flashing and roof metal in the area. No more leaks. The moisture problem was caught early enough that there is no lasting damage.

Willie Norman said...

It’s good that you were able to fix the leak. Now you have fewer worries when the rainy season comes. Roof leaks are minor roof issues that can create major damage if left unattended. It can weaken the roof structure and damage the roof itself. By repairing that particular part, you are preventing the damage from spreading out.

Rodney Orton said...

@ dp. It's a good thing that there are no more leaks in your roof. Your flashing before you fixed it was not installed in the proper place, that's why it caused leaks to your roof. But anyway, it's good that you've managed to repair it on your own. Just keep on checking your roof every once in a while to make sure that there are no problems that may cause you a lot of trouble in the future.