Thursday, January 24, 2013

What to do About Condensation on Your Windows?

One of the most frequently asked questions by home owners is what do do about condensation on their windows. It's messy, damages the wood sills and turns them black (mold). “In the winter I even have ice in the corners of the window glass.”

What's the Cause?

Condensation is caused by warm moist air coming into contact with a cold surface (window) in the winter and/or cool air-conditioned air coming in contact with a hot surface (window) in the summer. There can be only two reasons for condensation in your home:

  1. Too much humidity, and/or
  2. Poorly insulated surfaces (windows)

What's the Solution?

Decreasing the humidity level in the home is the first step to take. Purchase a hydrometer at the local hardware or box store. You want to keep the humidity level at less than or equal to 40% when the outside temperature is between 20° - 40°. (see below)

Outside temp Inside humidity
20 – 40 ° 40%
10 – 20 ° 35%
0 – 10 ° 30%
-10 – 0 ° 25%

Note: Decrease inside humidity level as outside temperature decreases.

How Do I Decrease the Humidity Level?

      1. If you have a humidity control on your furnace, just turn the humidistat down.
      2. Increase air circulation around affected areas.
      • Turn furnace fan from “auto” to “on”.
      • Open drapes and window coverings to expose windows to air movement.
      • Turn on ceiling fans if available.
      • Check your air filter to make sure it is clean.
      1. Increase the time your bathroom exhaust vent is running after showers. Put this switch on a timer so you don't forget.
      2. Open a window in a moist area like a bathroom.
      3. In summer use a dehumidifier to maintain a humidity level of about 50%.

What About Better Insulating the Surfaces (windows)?

It is very important to address humidity levels and air movement first. Even brand new high efficient windows will condense moisture if humidity levels are too high. If you think about it, the new windows will actually keep that moist air from escaping better than the old drafty windows.

Once humidity levels are addressed, then proceed to improve the insulation of your windows and adjacent wall and ceiling areas. Not only are windows damaged from excess humidity, but also walls can stain and metal throughout the house rust. By properly installing windows with a minimum U-factor of .30 and SHGC of .30 you can drastically improve the condensation problem. Also, have an insulation contractor or power company perform an energy audit to identify (with an infrared camera) the suspected areas that are letting warm moist air escape. This escaping of moist air can condensate and damage walls and attic space.

By following these tips you can beat the condensation problem.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What's the BEST Counter Top?

I am always asked which is the best counter top for my kitchen or bathroom. The facts are you have many excellent choices. The quartz suppliers have done an excellent job in selling their revolutionary product and planting the seed of doubt about their competitors. However, the granite, acrylic, cultured marble and laminate manufactures have responded with some innovations of their own to gain back some of the counter top market share. Here are my recommendations based upon a number of years of installing each product.

Natural Stone

Granite, Soapstone and Slate are the most popular natural stones in use today. Granite comes in a wide variety of colors and designs. Because it is natural-it is timeless. I often tell people that in 10 years they may have an outdated man-made product because it will be identified with the colors and patterns available today! On the other hand, with a natural stone you will not be able to tell whether it is 10 years or 10 days old!

Many granite slabs are pre-sealed by soaking in an impregnating sealer. Sensa granite even offers a 15-year Warranty against staining when you purchase one of their patented sealed granite slabs. You pay a little more per square foot, but it is worth it. You also want to purchase from a reputable fabricator who pre- inspects their slabs for natural flaws that could cause problems. Guess what, these slabs are usually sold to another fabricator at a discount! Expect to pay between $75 - $250 per s.f. depending upon color.

Soapstone is porous and will require an ongoing sealant. $100 - $150 per s.f.

Slate is naturally non-porous and can scratch, but will buff out easily. $100 - $200 per s.f.


A man-made product made of 90% quartz and 10% acrylic binders, is non-porous and very hard. NSF approved for use in food service. Available in more and more designs and colors to look more like natural stone. An Italian company owns the patent for the formulation process which all the suppliers use. Cambria, Silestone, Hanstone, Zodiak, CesarStone are all quartz manufactures. Strong, hard and stain resistant. Expect to pay between $150 to $200 per sq. ft.

Acrylic Solid Surface

The first acrylic solid surface Corian was developed by Dupont. It comes in a variety of colors and can be thermofoiled or shaped by heating to 300 degrees to any shape desired. Integral sinks are a selling point of this product because seams can be made undetectable. Not as hard as quartz, but it can also be adhered to other solid surfaces like quartz with colored epoxy to provide a seamless acrylic sink for a quartz counter top. HI-MACS, Gibraltar, and Avonite are all acrylic manufactures offering their own line of colors. Expect to pay between $100 to $150 per sq ft.


Your mother's Formica is still available now in a variety of colors and even natural stone designs. Many designs have a new stronger wear layer. Now, with the ability to install over an under-mount sink, laminates are an excellent option for less expensive renovations. The other laminate manufactures Wilsonart and Pionite each have a stable of new designs for you to choose from. Expect to pay between $25 to $35 per sq ft.

Ceramic Tile

Although not used as much, you still can construct a beautiful counter top out of tile. Expect to pay between $40 and $60 per sq ft.


Still a popular counter top especially for islands the butcher bar look is attractive. Actually, bacteria has been shown to not stay in wood cutting surfaces, but die as it dries. Expect to pay between $100 and $200 per sq ft.


Made by pouring concrete over reinforcing mesh and then staining or coloring. Unique designs can be created at less cost than other options. Expect to pay between $85 and $100 per sq ft.

Cultured Marble

Cultured marble is a precise blend of polyester resin, catalyst, fillers and pigments that is thoroughly mixed and placed into open molds that have been coated with a clear gel coat. The clear gel coat is the ware layer for this product. Best applications are for bathroom vanity counter tops and shower walls.
Not a solid surface, so it cannot be brought back if damaged. However, a beautiful less expensive option for the right application. Expect to pay between $30 and $35 per sq ft.

JoeNelson – Owner – Twin City Home Remodeling LLC