Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ductwork Condensation and Fix

One evening in the middle of last month my wife pointed out to me that it looked like we had leak in the ceiling of our mudroom. A small but noticeable wet spot had appeared where the wall met the ceiling.

The water spot.

During the construction of the house I had extensively photographed every step of the build especially before the drywall was put up. A coworker had advised me to do in case there was ever any question of where wiring, plumbing, etc was and I'm glad I did. After looking at the pictures I realized there wasn't any plumbing in the area and it was more than likely an issue with the ductwork. In the Sienna the main air duct for downstairs runs most of the length of the center of the house. I noticed in the pictures I took during the build that the duct was insulated in the wall in the garage but was uninsulated starting where it crossed over into the house above the mudroom door. (I was told during the resolution of this incident that the duct inside the mudroom ceiling is considered to be in "conditioned space" so insulation around it isn't necessary.)

A few weeks before this happened one of my neighbors with a Florence told us that they had developed a leak in their laundry room that turned out to be condensation dripping from the duct work. Several others in our neighborhood reported similar issues and were told that at least with the Florence model it was a design flaw where hot air was leaking into the space above the ceiling, hitting the cold duct work, condensing, and creating the leak. They were also told that even though several of them had been in their houses for several years the issue hadn't occurred until now because the previous two summers had been rather mild. By contrast the last few months have been horrendously hot and humid.

Because of that and even though we've been in our house for two and a half years and beyond the warranty period I called the service line after texting back and forth with our service manager. The current SM for our neighborhood called me within an hour and agreed to come out and take a look at the issue the following week.

Upon arriving he used a moisture meter (I need to get one of these) to check the walls and ceiling around the first floor. From there he realized it was confined to the mudroom and then cut a hole in the ceiling under the duct.

Given the pattern of the moisture on the duct (it only extended out a few feet) the determination was made that hot air was leaking in through the wall above the mudroom door. Expanding foam was sprayed around the wall and the wet 2x4 was replaced. The cover of the outside vent for the half bath vent fan was also removed and foam sprayed around that duct. Just like with the issue in the Florence noted above I was told this problem didn't occur until this summer because of how awful the heat and humidity was. We more than likely had some condensation in previous summers but it was never enough to drip through the ceiling and be noticeable because we never had such extended periods of extreme heat.

The ceiling was left open for a few days and we discovered the duct was still dripping. So another contractor was dispatched to use a different spray foam in the cavity and around the duct. A laser thermometer was also used to check the temperature in various spots.

After a few more days with plastic covering the hole we had no more condensation and an appointment was set up to replace the drywall. (The contractor that came out also fixed a settlement crack that had developed near there as well.) All that's left is for us to repaint soon. 

While the house was being built I was amazed at how thorough the construction crews seemed to be with sealing any spot air could potentially leak with expanding foam. Obviously a spot was missed but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, it happens. The most important thing is (and what the wife and I appreciate the most) is that Ryan Homes and their service manager Brian covered the resulting problem for us even though we'd been out of the warranty period for four months by the time this issue started. Of course had the previous two summers we've been in the house been as bad as this one the problem would have already occurred and been fixed. That being said, they could have denied us but they stood behind the house and took care of it. 


  1. I just found your blog and have been helped by your posts. We have our pre-drywall meeting next week, so I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures! This is very helpful.

    If you're so inclined, I'd love for you to add my blog to your blogroll.


    1. Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad to hear it's been helpful. I'll definitely add your blog.

    2. Hi, Jeff. I'm presently looking to purchase a Sienna. What did your Sienna go for? The price point after the free morning room? Kindly let me know. Sorry about the post/ re-post. My computer driving me nuts.

      Em G.

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