What does “STACK EFFECT” mean?

The “stack effect” is a term used in building science which means the whole structure acts like a chimney, simply because warm air rises.  So, in the winter, cold air comes in from the lowest parts of the structure and exits the building at the highest point.  If you open a window in the basement during the winter, you feel the cold air rushing into the building.  If you go to the attic you will find the air leaving the attic through attic vents.

Again, air gets pulled in from the lower part of the structure and pushed out at the upper part of the structure.  Now, take this into consideration knowing that air intrusion in the winter causes the largest loss of energy efficiency.  Air movement coming in, and then out, is the “low hanging fruit” on the energy efficiency tree.  Look at it this way, you can have all the insulation in the world in the walls and ceilings of the structure, but if the windows are open, and there is air movement, the insulation doesn’t do much!

So the moral of the story is make sure you have good windows in the basement and seal any openings to block air movement.  Take a close look for openings in the basement walls and at the top of the foundation where the concrete meets the wood part of the structure.  Apply caulking or other sealant where appropriate.  Taking these simple steps could save you a lot of energy dollars over time.

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Icey flood

Freeze-Thaw Cycle

When we do our inspections on Long Island in the winter, the temperatures typically hover between 20° and 40° which means that water is continually freezing and then thawing.  So if something is wet, and then there is a freeze, the water turns to ice and expands with substantial force and can stretch or break whatever the material is.  As an example, water gets into the substrate of your driveway and a puddle forms.  And then there is a deep freeze which creates expansion breaks up the asphalt and creates potholes.

The freeze thaw cycle also can cause problems with foundations.  Let’s say there is a heavy rain and water has collected in the soil next to the foundation.  We get a deep freeze and again, the water turns to ice and expands and puts pressure on the foundation wall.  If the foundation is made of poured concrete it probably won’t have any impact, but once in a while, we do see foundation cracks from soil expansion.

If the foundation is made of masonry blocks, serious problems can happen with the foundation, including long horizontal cracks which can be very problematic.  A long horizontal crack indicates that the foundation is “bulging” inwards.  As time goes on, the bulging increases to the point where expensive repairs may be required.  This is one of the reasons that proper roof drainage is so important.  Make sure you don’t have water draining towards the foundation.  It must drain away from the foundation.

We hope this information about the “freeze-thaw cycle is interesting and beneficial for you.  As usual, we hope you stay safe and healthy! Be careful out there!

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