High Moisture-Content Interior Walls Not Enclosed

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Description

If interior walls are enclosed (e.g., with drywall) when framing materials and insulation are wet, the trapped moisture can lead to problems for the home. Therefore, it is essential to do the following before enclosing the interior walls:

  • Ensure lumber does not exceed 18% moisture content. 
  • Follow the manufacturer’s drying specifications for wet-applied insulation products.

Wet-Applied Insulation that is Still Drying

Figure 1 - Wet-Applied Insulation that is Still Drying. The dark spots on this wet-spray cellulose insulation indicate that it is not dry, and it must be allowed to dry completely before the wall is enclosed. Reference

Use a Moisture Meter to Ensure a Low Moisture Content for Framing Materials

If framing materials appear wet, you must test them using a moisture meter. Moisture meters will give you a reliable benchmark to evaluate whether or not the materials can be safely installed in the home. 

The most common wet building material is dimensional lumber used for framing. This material usually arrives early at the jobsite and will be exposed to the elements longer than most other building materials. To test the moisture content of wood, you can use a resistance meter.

A resistance moisture meter measures the moisture by sending a small electrical charge through two probes inserted into the lumber. If the wood is wet, the charge will pass easily between the probes; dry wood offers greater resistance and less charge will pass (Curkeet 2011). Some moisture meters have additional features that allow the units to be calibrated for different kinds of wood, but usually at a higher cost. In general you can expect to spend between $500 and $650 on a moisture meter that will be suitable for residential construction (PNNL 2012). 

Using a moisture meter to test wood is easy but there are a few key things to remember (Curkeet 2011):

  • You must insert the probes at least 1/4 inch into the wood to get an accurate measurement.
  • The probes should be inserted parallel, or with the grain of the wood.
  • Do not try to test wood on the ends; this will not give an accurate measurement.
  • The meter only measures the moisture content between the probes. Although moisture can saturate an entire piece of lumber, it also can only impact a small section; therefore, you should test multiple areas of the wood to ensure the entire piece is dry enough to install and enclose.

If the material has a high moisture content, allow it to dry until it is under the required moisture threshold. Use dehumidifiers, fans, and gentle heat to shorten the drying time and lessen the impact on the construction schedule (EPA 2013). 

Meters for Measuring Moisture in Building Materials

Figure 2 - Meters for Measuring Moisture in Building Materials. It is important not to enclose the interior of a wall (e.g., with drywall) if a high moisture content is detected in either the framing members or the insulation products. Reference

 Follow Manufacturer’s Specifications When Drying Wet-Applied Insulation Products

Some insulation products, such as fiberglass batts, are supposed to be dry at all times. However, other products, such as open cell and closed cell spray foam insulations, are wet applied. It is critical to ensure these wet-applied products are fully dried (and cured, if required) before enclosing them. Follow this overall guidance:

  1. Apply insulation per manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Allow insulation to dry and/or cure according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Although this will depend on the type of insulation used, in general allow as much access to airflow as possible for drying. If recommended, a fan can help speed drying times. However, this can impact any curing that may need to occur, so be sure to check with the manufacturer first.

Ensuring Success

It is critical to ensure the materials in a wall space are dry before being enclosed. When in doubt, use a moisture meter to determine exactly what percentage of moisture is in the material. Also, be sure that any wet-applied insulation is fully cured so you do not trap moisture in the wall assembly.

Scope

Water Managed Building Materials

Interior walls not enclosed (e.g., with drywall) if either the framing members or insulation products have high moisture content.

  1. Enclose interior walls if moisture content of framing and insulation is low. It is recommended that lumber does not exceed 18% moisture content.
  2. If installing wet applied insulation products, follow the manufacturer’s specifications.

ENERGY STAR Notes:

For wet-applied insulation products, follow manufacturer’s drying recommendations. As guidance, ENERGY STAR recommends that lumber not exceed 18% moisture content.

Training

Right and Wrong Images

Presentations

None Available

Videos

None Available

CAD Images

None Available

Compliance

ENERGY STAR Version 3, (Rev. 6)

Water Management Checklist, Water-Managed Building Materials. Interior walls not enclosed (e.g., with drywall) if either the framing members or insulation products have high moisture content. For wet-applied insulation products, follow manufacturer’s drying recommendations. As guidance, EPA recommends that lumber not exceed 18% moisture content.

DOE Challenge Home

Exhibit 1: Mandatory Requirements. Certified under ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes Version 3.

More Info.

Case Studies

  1. Author(s): PNNL
    Organization(s): PNNL
    Publication Date: April 2012

    Case study about energy efficienct new home construction that also incorporated moisture management techniques for durability in the damp Northwest climate.

References and Resources*

  1. Author(s): Baechler, Antonopoulos, Sevigny, Gilbride, Hefty
    Organization(s): PNNL
    Publication Date: October 2012

    Report discussing opportunities and trends in the home performance industry, along with market drivers such as consumer demand; federal, state, and local programs; and utility and non-governmental programs.

  2. Author(s): DOE
    Organization(s): DOE
    Publication Date: June 2013

    Standard requirements for DOE's Challenge Home national program certification.

  3. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: June 2013

    Standard document containing the rater checklists and national program requirements for ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, Version 3 (Rev. 7).

  4. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: February 2013

    Website providing technical guidance to help home builders and their subcontractors, architects, and other housing professionals understand the intent and implementation of the specification requirements of the IAQ labeling program.

  5. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: February 2011

    Guide describing details that serve as a visual reference for each of the line items in the Water Management System Builder Checklist.

  6. Author(s): Curkeet
    Organization(s): Intertek
    Publication Date: March 2011

    Presentation about the combustion properties of wood.

Last Updated: 08/15/2013

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