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Unread 12-02-2019, 08:58 AM   #1
car_whisperer
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Need advice - vapor issues?

Hello all, I need some advice before proceeding to the next step. First, I'll try to give all the details as possible.

When I bought my current house 5 years ago (built in 1977, single story on slab), I noticed one wood board (Shaw SW219 Pebble Hill) had a warp in it, I thought that it might have happened due to a spill in the kitchen since that board butted right up to the kitchen tile. I didn't put any more thought into it.

A year or so later, I started to notice some discoloring of the wood and some of the furniture was leaving indents where the feet were, almost like the wood was soft. I mostly ignored it since it was essentially a spare room that we didn't spend any time in and I was working on other house projects. Later it became a work/craft room for my wife then more problems started to present itself. A 2'x3' section of the floor buckled and became unattached from the slab. If she left a plastic Tupperware container on the floor for more than a few days/week, water would condense on the underside of the container, so water is definitely trying to move through the wood. I also noticed a white powdery substance on the wood in places where there wasn't any traffic which I'm thinking is efflorescence.

So now I'm finally getting around to doing something about it after finishing other projects and ignoring it for way too long. I started pulling up the floor in this affected area (front of the house, about 300 sq ft) and parts of the wood was actually wet, smelled musty, and came up very easily. It looks like some of the floor had self leveling concrete and other portions of the floor just used a thick layer of green rubbery glue. When pulling up the wood, portions of the self leveling compound would just peel up with the wood so I went over the whole floor with a chipping hammer to remove the bulk of it and used a floor grinder to finish it all off. I then treated the area with an ozone generator to kill the smell. I then looked for plumbing leaks and roof leaks but found none, and after any downpour the slab would stay dry, there didn't seem to be any obvious issues.

The remaining 450 sq foot of Shaw flooring doesn't show any issues but I've decided to go ahead and remove all of the wood flooring and replace it with wood look tile. I've gotten some quotes and spoke to each of the companies about my issues and none of them seem extremely concerned, they stated they can put down some water proofing material before tiling. On the other hand, I'm very concerned and want to make sure I'm doing the right thing to ensure a long lasting and trouble free floor covering. I've done all this hard work and surely don't want to have to do it again in 5 years.

Now, after having the wood flooring removed in this portion of the house and getting some quotes, I did the "tape the plastic sheet to the slab" trick to see if there's water vapor working it's way through the slab and after 72 hours, it's still dry. No droplets condensed or anything, so now I'm unsure of what's happening. I know it's probably not the best test to determine if I have issues but I figured it would for sure show water with as bad as the wood seemed. Also, on this side of the house, I don't have gutters so all the rain water just falls off the roof and onto the ground next to the slab and I know this can cause issues as well. I'm also getting quotes on that now (I'm in Houston so we get quite a bit of rainfall.)

It seems Ditra comes very highly recommended (pretty pricey as well) but is this the right product for the application? I know it states that it has channels for vapor to equalize, etc etc. Redgard states it's a waterproofing membrane and can be used as a vapor barrier but not to be used over surfaces where there's hydrostatic pressure which I'm assuming over a slab on grade could cause issues? What other products are out there?

In total I have about 750 sq ft that I'm having someone install tile on but I'm trying to do everything that I can myself to save money on the labor. If all they have to do is lay the tile, I'll feel like I've done well. So my plan is to have the surface prepped with whatever underlayment is appropriate and let them get to it.

What are your thoughts?
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Unread 12-02-2019, 12:30 PM   #2
RichVT
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Check with the installers before you do the prep work.

I probably would not take as job where the homeowner had installed the tile underlayment because I could not be sure that it was done correctly and that could negatively impact my work.
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Unread 12-02-2019, 01:53 PM   #3
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What rooms are closest to that area that had problems? A bathroom? Does it have a shower? Have you looked in there for issues? If the moisture is not coming up from the slab, it's from some other leak, which could be from lots of places: roof, drains, water supplies, showers, washing machines, etc.

I'd pull the trim off of the tub/shower and look into the wall. I'd carefully look at the walls and baseplate of any exposed walls along with the baseboard trim. See if you can discover any evidence of moisture problems. If the floor was that wet, it probably affected the walls, too.

You could get water through the wall if there's any penetrations, say the electrical supply, gas, phone, etc., or anything that has a wall vent. Time to do some sleuthing. If it's not coming up through the slab, it has to be coming from somewhere.
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Unread 12-03-2019, 12:34 PM   #4
car_whisperer
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The closest area is the kitchen and I've checked the sink and drain area for issues and haven't found anything. The one place I haven't checked yet is behind the fridge for the water hookup there. I'll pull out the fridge and check and I'll get up in the attic and see if there's any evidence of leaking there. The main water into the house is on the other side of the wall, I'll see if 1) water is leaking from a joint inside the wall and 2) if when it rains, water is working it's way through the penetration. The baseplates and floor trim didn't look bad but I might go get one of those moisture meters and start going around the room and see if there's an area where the moisture is higher in the baseplate.
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Unread 12-04-2019, 04:20 PM   #5
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lots of humidity in Texas. Get a moisture reader & try to pinpoint the issue. Once its figured out you will have plenty of options. If its coming from the slab & you have 9'or taller ceilings you could always use a floating system on the slab to allow air movement however pinpointing the issue will give you a better idea of what options to use.

also next time it rains check for moisture. It could be sneaking in somewhere with heavy rain.

once you have looked into the moisture issue let us know your thoughts please

good luck

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Unread 12-05-2019, 09:58 AM   #6
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As a general rule, grout joints allow enough moisture to dissipate (and porcelain or quarry tile isn't discolored by water) that most people in the tile world don't worry about the relative humidity of the slab. In your case, since you know there's a vapor drive you'll want to address it before tiling. I know when I was at MAPEI we used to recommend Mapeguard UM for this situation. You will have to treat the seams with the seam tape they recommend (you should be anyway, but particularly when it's used to stop moisture from below). Remember too that moisture can move sideways, especially in wood. If the wood abutted a damp area it could pull the moisture further into the floor. This won't typically happen with tile. Good luck!
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Unread 12-05-2019, 10:54 AM   #7
car_whisperer
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I ran another experiment this week, I taped another piece of plastic to the slab closer to the outer wall (these rooms both border exterior walls) instead of the center and within 72 hours I had some water droplets condense where the plastic in the center of the room didn't have anything yet. I feel like this could be attributed to not having gutters. All the water just pools adjacent to the foundation when it rains and soaks in. I'll still wait until it rains and eliminate the possibility of water coming in from from other locations though but I think I need to invest in gutters and still some type of underlayment. I'll go to Lowes today and pick up a moisture meter and wait for some rain. Never know when it'll start raining in Houston.
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Unread 12-05-2019, 12:47 PM   #8
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Jason,

I too am in Houston. Round these parts we generally get the 6 inch gutters which is great, but they tend to put the down spouts every 30 feet which is oftentimes not often enough. Water doesn't like to make turns, so I prefer a downspout in every straight section unless its very short.

When the pipes head to the ground, they go directly into 4 inch, solid, schedule 35 SDR pipe all the way to the curb. I like to have a 90ยบ elbow with a 12 inch or 18 inch section vertical as to create some head pressure to force the water and any gunk out of the pipe. Don't use that black corrugated pipe as it clogs over time.
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Unread 12-05-2019, 11:46 PM   #9
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FWIW, any home should have the abutting land sloped away from the foundation for at least 6' or so (more is better), so that you don't get it pooling because of a depression. Gutters will help IF you direct the water far enough away from the foundation. That area seems to often be fairly flat, so that can be a challenge.
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Unread 12-06-2019, 10:56 AM   #10
car_whisperer
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Water drainage on this property has been a challenge for me over the last few years, mainly with the back yard. I finally have that one under control but one side of the house and the front have issues that I know need addressing. The gutters will help tremendously on the front, I plan on having 4 down spouts, 3 of them will exit either on the sidewalk or on the driveway for easy drainage to the street. The 4th will require me to add pipe to the street, I'm just starting to lose area to add pipe, I already have 3 4" drain pipes going to the street along the side of the house! Time to add a fourth though...
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Unread 12-06-2019, 11:48 AM   #11
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FWIW, where I live, that would be problematic as it could end up freezing on occasion, creating a safety hazard. That might not be an issue where you live, but you might want to check. We would have to either drain it into a dry well, or directly to a storm drain.
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Unread 12-09-2019, 02:32 PM   #12
car_whisperer
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Jim,

Being in Houston, that won't be a problem. We never really experience a hard freeze.

I did get in the attic and look around and didn't see any indication that water is leaking from the roof or vents. We're expecting rain tomorrow so I'll keep an eye out for moisture.
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