Decoding dust patterns; stovepipe clearance; Fairbanks building codes

Alaska HomeWise: Ask a Builder

By Cold Climate Housing Research Center Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

My walls have black lines where dust has collected. What could cause dust to collect in this pattern?

One telltale sign that you have heat loss through the framing in your house is that the studs will be outlined in black lines on interior walls. This is what happens when moist indoor air condenses on the cooler portions of a wall where the studs are located. Air carries tiny little dirt particles, so as moist air condenses on those studs, the particles accumulate on the wall and begin to show over time.

These black lines are a sign of significant heat loss in a building, but there are steps you can take to reduce this heat loss, including retrofitting your walls or reducing the amount of moisture in your home.

Any suggestions on how much airspace to leave around my stovepipe?

One of the biggest issues associated with houses burning down is that not enough clearance is left around the stovepipe, or insulation is stuffed right up against the pipe. After years of the insulation or wood constantly being exposed to heat, the ignition point of that material drops, and it takes a lot less heat for it to catch on fire. One hot stove fire, or worse a chimney fire, could ignite that material. If you are able to get into the attic, take a look at the pipe and make sure it has the required amount of clearance between the chimney and the insulation or chimney and the rest of the structure. Typically there should be at least two inches of air space around the pipe. If there is any doubt, or if there has ever been a chimney fire, consult a chimney sweep.

Where can people go if they want more information on Fairbanks building code?

The best thing to do is call the City of Fairbanks Building Department or visit them online at The website has a lot of information regarding the permitting process, local amendments, typical details for foundations, and much more. Remember, building codes vary from city to city and they do change often, so review them, especially the local amendments, in case something has changed.

Also, if you are looking for advanced energy standard information the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation has developed Alaska-Specific Amendments to the International Energy Conservation Code 2006 and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers Standard 62.2-2004. These are a great place to start if you want to build an energy efficient home in Alaska.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.