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The Stack Effect

Close up of soil.

You might not have heard about the stack effect before, but this natural phenomenon could damage your Canadian home. When warm air rises, it can escape from your house, creating a vacuum effect in your crawl space that pulls cold air in through windows, doors, and other openings. That not only makes your home uncomfortable during winter but can lead to dampness, wood rot, mold, and, eventually, structural damage.

A professional crawl space repair and encapsulation expert like Groundworks can find the root cause of this problem, identify any damage to your foundation, and provide an engineered solution based on your property’s needs.  

What Is the Stack Effect?

The stack effect, also known as the chimney effect, pushes air through your home at an increased rate. Warm air is lighter than cold air, so it rises to the top of the building and escapes through windows and other openings. This process creates suction at the bottom of your house, allowing cold air to enter from outside.

The opposite might also happen. When cold air fills your property, it can drop to the bottom of the building and draw warm air from outdoors.

What Causes the Stack Effect?

The stack effect can happen for several reasons:

Open Crawl Space Vents

Warm air might escape your home through open vents in your crawl space, causing cooler air to enter your property. Encapsulating your crawl space should balance airflow.

Damaged Windows or Window Frames

Windows that are damaged or not sealed properly allow warm air to exit your house, triggering the stack effect. 

Loose Doors

Loose, ill-fitted, or damaged doors might disrupt the airflow in your property and cause moisture intrusion and pest infestations.

Structural Damage

Large cracks or holes in your foundation create new pathways for air to enter and exit your property.

Yes, but that doesn’t mean it affects every property. For the stack effect to cause damage, air has to enter through an opening in the lower part of your home. For example, an exposed or non-encapsulated crawl space can initiate the stack effect.

Encapsulating and waterproofing your crawl space should prevent the stack effect from damaging your home. Properly sealing windows, doors, and other openings can also help. Groundworks will find the right solution for you.

Sealing open vents with DIY solutions might not be effective, and entering your crawl space can be dangerous, especially if it’s contaminated by mold spores and other irritants. We recommend leaving things to professionals like Groundworks.

What Damage Can the Stack Effect Cause?

Ignoring the stack effect might lead to the following problems:

Exacerbation of Allergies

As air enters your home from outside, it brings dust, pollen, and other irritants that can affect family members with allergies.

Airborne Contaminants

The stack effect allows contaminants like mold spores to infiltrate your home. That could lead to health issues such as runny nose, sore throat, and migraines.

Condensation and Dampness

Increased airflow from the stack effect can cause condensation and dampness in your property, potentially leading to foundational damage.

Higher Energy Usage and Bills

Constant thermal changes and air movement create an unstable interior climate in your property, meaning your HVAC might have to work harder than normal. As a result, you could receive higher energy bills.

Recognizing the Stack Effect

Although the stack effect can be subtle, look out for the following:

  • Slamming Doors and Windows: Doors and window shutters that slam and drafts around your home could be signs of the stack effect.
  • Increased Energy Bills: Air movement caused by changes in temperature can strain your HVAC system, resulting in higher-than-usual energy bills.
  • Changing Temperatures: The stack effect might be present if your home experiences regular temperature fluctuations.

How Groundworks Can Help

Ground Works man is being welcomed at the door by happy homeowner

The first step to combating the stack effect is to contact a crawl space and encapsulation specialist like Groundworks. We can identify what’s causing this problem and secure your home with insulation, air sealing, and other solutions.

Contact us for a free, no-obligation inspection and estimate today.