The idea of barndominiums may have started in 1989, but to date, it is still very relevant in the global housing industry. Barndos come with many advantages and disadvantages (including rust build-up and condensation). Condensation speeds up the possibility of corrosion and can cause mold build-up, amongst other issues.
You can stop condensation in a barndominium by adequately maintaining and insulating the space. A barndo condenses when hot air containing moisture combines with the cold surface of the structure’s metal. Therefore, dealing with excess moisture is the best way to stop condensation.
The rest of this guide will take you through a step-by-step approach on how you can stop condensation within your barndominium for good. Let’s get started!
1. Understand the Causes of Barndominium Condensation
You can’t possibly stop condensation from occurring without understanding what it means and how it relates to a barndo. Condensation is the process of water vapor turning back to its liquid state at its dew temperature.
Canned drinks are a great example of a visual understanding of condensation. You won’t see water drops on the can when the canned drink is cold. However, if you put the cold can at an average room temperature, the liquid drops emerge because the water vapor condenses.
The condensation on a canned drink is similar to what happens in a barndominium. Naturally, metal conducts heat easily, so it feels colder to the touch. Air has some moisture, and the warmer the air, the more water it can carry.
When this warm hair hits the coldness of a barndominium steel pole, its moisture condenses.
There are two common types of condensation:
- Visible condensation. As the name implies, this type of condensation is the one you will quickly notice on surfaces. In a steel building, you may find it on the insulation material and air ducts, amongst other components. Due to greater exposure to the elements, this type of condensation usually occurs outside.
- Concealed condensation. This condensation occurs inside the home and is tricky, so you may not notice until it has caused damage. A sign of concealed condensation means the interior of the barndominium experiences unnaturally warm air.
Taking care of concealed condensation is trickier, but with suitable quality materials, you can get it done.
2. Embrace the Use of Insulation
Insulation is a vital step towards stopping condensation in your barndominium. Proper insulation will regulate the indoor temperature to around the same level as the outer temperature. That way, there’s no way the indoor temperature will reach the dew point, thereby stopping condensation.
Insulating your barndominium is not a process you should complete under a tight budget. However, high-quality insulation for a steel building will cost you some money.
Moreover, it is always better to have continuous insulation around your barndominium. Continuous insulation will cost a lot more, but it is always better. If you can’t afford it, some places you can insulate include:
- The roof.
- The walls. These are specifically the walls that connect with the exterior, not interior partitions.
You can use different types of insulation in your barndominium. Some of the factors to consider include:
- The R-value. This value is a measure of how effectively the insulation material will perform its function correctly. Building codes in the United States have acceptable R values per location, so it’s best you find out this before making a choice.
- The location. If the barndominium is in a place that experiences harsh hot or cold weather conditions, you need insulation.
- The barndominium design. Factors like foundation type, and the number of poles, amongst others, should affect the type of insulation you should use.
- The use. Regardless of the barndominium’s function, you should insulate it. However, if you’re breeding animals like horses and cows in a barndo, you need rigid insulation because they produce more moisture than humans.
- Budget and longevity. It’s okay to consider your pockets when insulating your barndo, but always consider the longevity of the job as well.
You can install some insulation independently, but I advise that you let a trusted expert handle it for accuracy. You don’t want to waste money on materials and experience condensation.
That said, let’s discuss some options for your insulation.
This insulation type uses different equipment to fill the walls of the barndominium with fiber or pellets. The costs may be high and this may not be the best option for a nonresidential barndo.
It has an R-value of between R-3 and R-4. Its advantage is it ensures no leakages since it is placed across the corners of the structure.
One factor making batt insulation a popular option for barndos and metal buildings is the low cost. Made of either fiberglass or wool, this insulation type is cheap to buy and install in your barndo.
It has an R-3 value, which may not be sufficient if you live in the barndo. If you must use it, you may need to add a radiant barrier to the insulation.
Rigid Board Insulation
Rigid board insulation is a brilliant way to insulate your barndominium. You have different material options to choose from when using this rigid board. Each material has its corresponding R-value, and they include:
Polystyrene and polyurethane insulation are usually better than fiberglass because of their R values and performance against wetness.
Fiberglass insulation, also known as blanket insulation, is a popular insulation type, and when you compare its cost to its performance, it is very cost-effective. It can come in several materials, delivering different R-values.
However, a significant downside that fiberglass possesses occurs when it is wet. It loses some thermal properties, which cause condensation in a barndominium.
Insulated Metal Panels
Insulated metal panels are very effective at ensuring insulation within your barndominium, but they are costly. This insulation type adds two additional metal panels to wherever you’re insulating. Insulating material will be placed between both metal panels.
It has excellent insulation properties, but it is better done during construction. The extra metal panels increase the dead load of the barndominium, and you need to factor that load into the foundation design.
This is a newer insulation type in the metal housing sector but is practical and ecological. Foil has a way of reflecting light away from it, causing fewer temperature changes.
The foil insulation adds an aesthetic feature to your barndo because of its reflective property, and it is easy to install. However, it may cost more than other options because of the material, and it might need support insulation as well.
3. Install Vapor Barriers
Using insulation alone will not give complete protection against condensation. Insulation efficiency depends on the installation accuracy and material quality.
A vapor barrier, however, ensures that all surrounding moisture remains outside the barndominium. Like insulation, the material choice for the vapor barriers determines its performance against humidity.
According to the US Energy Department, there are three classes of vapor retarders. Permeability is the yardstick used to classify vapor barriers into the following classes;
- Class I. The vapor barriers in this class are the best options as they have a permeability below or equal to 0.1. Examples of these vapor barriers include polyethylene, and glass, amongst others.
- Class II. Vapor barriers within this class have a permeability of above 0.1 but lower than 1. Materials that fall under this class include polystyrene, plywood, etc.
- Class III. This class refers to materials like brick, block, and fiberglass. The permeability level is higher than one but is not greater than ten.
The lower the permeability, the less chance of water seeping in. Hence, the class one vapor barriers are the preferred option.
Installing a vapor barrier requires a lot of expertise, depending on the complexity of the barndominium design. Even with a simple design, I advise you to hire an expert because of the available tools at their disposal.
If you want to install the vapor barrier yourself, some materials and tools you will require include:
- A vapor retarder
- A seam tape
- Measuring tape
- A utility knife
- Saw. Some vapor barriers may be stubborn to cut through with a knife.
Polythene film, also known as a plastic vapor barrier, is the most commonly used vapor barrier. This vapor barrier comes in different types based on its thickness, usually between 6 mils and 20 mils.
As you can expect, the thicker the plastic vapor barrier, the more effective it is at stopping condensation in your barndominium.
4. Get Proper Ventilation
The barn-like structure makes it a bit difficult to achieve proper ventilation in a barndominium, especially when you build it yourself. That is why you should always hire an expert.
Proper ventilation allows rapid airflow, reducing the possibility of condensation. If your barndominium doesn’t have good ventilation, you may need to add some fans to increase airflow.
Ventilation may be as easy as opening the windows and doors, but you need to be strategic about it.
As I said earlier, warmer air holds more moisture, causing condensation. Hence, ensure the air outside is not extremely hot, as it can worsen the situation.
However, if you keep animals, ventilation is especially vital because they release all kinds of moisture, and the air will carry such, causing condensation. Putting fans is not a good idea if you keep livestock like horses and cows in the barndominium.
5. Stop All Water Seepage
Water seepage is a phenomenon that will occur when you ignore proper construction processes during barndominium construction.
There is groundwater beneath every type of soil. If you do not take care of the water, it will start condensing from the foundation with the steel poles. This is incredibly dangerous because apart from corrosion, the barndominium is also in danger because of the weak foundation.
The way to protect water seepage in a barndominium’s foundation is to have stones like gravel under the foundation. If using the pier and beam foundation, you don’t need it because the boles reach the bedrock directly.
Another way to protect your foundation is to have a drain directing water away from your barndominium. If water seeps into the floor around your barndo, it will cause condensation in no time.
You can also consider adding vapor barriers and insulation to the lower part of your barndominium.
6. Check for Potential Condensation Issues
Condensation has a direct relationship with moisture; to fight it, you need to be attentive to the humidity in your barndominium.
The first thing you need to do is to understand and monitor all sources of moisture in the barndo. What you are using the barndominium for determines the possible sources of water. Some of the familiar sources include:
- Leaking roofs
- Poor drainage
- Weather Changes
- Heater types.
When you study the water sources in your barndo, you can quickly trace and take care of them.
7. Measure Humidity Levels
Knowing the moisture level in the air around your barndo is the best way to tell whether condensation is looming or not. A hygrometer is a tool that will quickly help you monitor the levels.
The recommended moisture level for good living conditions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is between 30 and 50%.
This humidity range is a great level to keep your barndominium in whether you live there or not.
If you want to purchase a hygrometer, I recommend ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer (available on Amazon.com). I love this device for two reasons- first, it gives accurate results on high and low humidity levels at any moment. Secondly, it has an indicator to tell you when the space is too dry, wet, or comfortable, which is a great feature when you don’t live in the barndo.
Condensation in a barndominium is something that you should do your best to prevent during the construction phase.
It’s impossible to completely stop moisture from entering a barndominium since it moves with air. However, it is possible to prevent that moisture from causing condensation in the barndo.
The steps I have mentioned in this guide will usually suffice – however; I’ll also suggest that you have an expert check out your barndominium routinely for maintenance. They know what to look for and can find immediate, practical solutions.