Air Leaks - The Most Common Causes & Solutions - Part 2

There are many different ways for uncontrolled air to enter a building therefore; the first step is to identify the cause of each air leak.

Construction Details

Depending on the structure of the building, there may be leak-prone areas that require special care. Below are some construction choices that lead to a higher likelihood of draughts.

Lack of Drywall

Buildings that have dropped ceilings and angled staircase ceilings are considered less airtight. This is because these areas often lack an additional layer of plaster or drywall. The same is true for knee walls – short, upper-level walls that fit to the slope of a roof as shown in the below image.

Attic Knee Wall

Attic Knee Wall

 In some buildings, the areas behind skirting boards may lack proper insulation too.

Generally, these are problems builders will deal with however; homeowners also have some effective solutions at their disposal. 

Unfaced Fibreglass Insulation:

An effective way to stop airflow from an attic spreading through the entire building is to hire an experienced tradesman who can wrap unfaced fibreglass insulation in plastic, sealing the air leak (as shown below).

 

Source: Midcoast Green Collaborative

Source: Midcoast Green Collaborative

Basements and In-House Garages

When a building or home has a basement, it is naturally more prone to air leaks and in most cases, the cold air comes directly from the foundation. Many older houses may require extensive modifications in the basement area, but caulking the gaps is an excellent stopgap measure. Garage doors can also be subject to weather-stripping as well.

Caulking Gaps

Caulking Gaps

Recessed Lights

This form of lighting is a common source of air leakage. Each light needs to be insulated separately which can be costly and time-consuming. In the case of new homes, the owners might be advised to opt for a different way to position lights.

Wind

Wind is another factor that can seriously impact the amount of air leakage. On the windward face of the building, wind creates a higher pressure zone which leads to infiltration on that side. The non-windward walls are subject to lower pressure instead, which is where most of the exfiltration occurs.

In both cases, the best option is to seal the gaps and cracks on the surface of the walls. Let’s look at some examples of how to do that.

  • Doors and Windows

Residents will experience draughts and drops in temperature around doors and windows where the most significant leaks occur. Homeowners can combat these air leaks by weather-stripping every door.

Note: Weather-stripping also works with insufficiently sealed windows however; in the case of windows that don’t open, caulking can be an appropriate solution as well.

Unfortunately, for old buildings, the doors and windows often need a full reconstruction. In this case, although it may be a lot of extra work, the solution is to install new doors and windows

In the case of new buildings, it’s important to select high-quality windows and doors that seal well, otherwise you may regret it later.

  • Pipes and Kitchen Units

Air leaks are common around sink pipes and soil pipes. Additionally, they can happen through:

·         The panel beside the tub

·         Behind kitchen counters

·         Behind appliances

In short, leaks can be a problem anywhere where there is pipe penetration.

Sometimes, these gaps are an error in construction, but they can also be created later, in the case of plumbing repairs.

This problem has a fairly straightforward solution. If the gaps are smaller than 1/4 inches across, it’s enough to caulk them. For homeowners, it’s usually best to use acrylic latex caulk. This is easy to apply even if you have little experience with household repairs.

In the case of larger gaps (up to 3 inches), soft foam is necessary. This is another affordable and easy-to-use tool.

  • Electric Cables and Fittings

Much like plumbers, electricians can leave gaps through the drywall. This is another problem that people can solve by caulking and it doesn’t usually require expert help. The first step is to find all the draughts around electric fittings and other installations.

  • Stack Effect

The way warm air moves through the building creates a stack effect. As the lighter warm air flows up a building and through the roof, it is replaced by the heavier cold air. This puts pressure on the upper levels of the building and the attic.

Once again, dropped ceilings tend to cause problems and need proper insulation. Properly sealed windows are a must-have.

In Summary…

As energy-efficient buildings become the norm, it’s now even more important to make buildings airtight.

Air leaks can cause a great deal of damage to a building’s integrity, and they are costly as well. Finding ways to fix this problem should be a priority for homeowners and builders alike. Some repairs are simple but others require major changes.

Installing new doors and windows is one of the most effective ways to combat air leaks. For instance, louvre windows can help make your building more energy-efficient. They are a good choice for builders looking to improve the building’s star rating and create a pleasant, safe interior space.

References:
https://energy-test.co.uk/air-leakage-3/
http://www.asbuilttesting.co.uk/2017/10/10/the-10-most-common-reasons-for-failing-an-air-tightness-test/
https://www.pippinbrothers.com/blog/common-sources-air-leaks
https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/home-air-leak-seal-tips/
https://energyconservatory.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Air-Leakage-Basics-Guide.pdf
https://energy.ces.ncsu.edu/air-leakage-defined/
https://www.buildingscience.com/documents/published-articles/pa-air-leaks-how-they-waste-energy-and-rot-houses/view
https://www.cetec.com.au/services/building-leakage.html
https://new.gbca.org.au
https://energyeducation.ca/encyclopedia/Air_infiltration_and_exfiltration
https://www.askthebuilder.com/sealing-air-leaks-in-house/

Santarita Kollosche