Water Leaks

In my experience of doing over 10,000 homes and building inspections over the last 24 years, one of the things that scares owners the most is water leaks.  And rightly so, buildings are designed to shed water not be saturated with water and the resulting damage significant.

Water can enter a home or building in any number of ways.  Primarily, water typically enters during a rain event through openings in the roof surfacing.  The evidence is obvious as a wet stain on a ceiling or a full blown drip, drip, drip onto the carpeting, furniture, etc.  If the leak is significant enough, drywall can be made so heavy and soft that it can actually detach from the structure and fall into the room causing even more damage.  Roof surface maintenance and frequent roof and attic space inspection for evidence of water penetration are the best way to prevent catastrophic entry of water into the building and the resulting water damage.

The next most significant point of entry of water into a building is through the plumbing system.  Leaks in piping can occur very slowly or can happen suddenly and without warning.  In homes built before the 1950’s most homes were built with galvanized or iron piping.  Typically, this piping was installed in the attic space and the piping dropped to various rooms as needed.  This type of piping tends to corrode and leak after about 40 years of usage.  If you still have galvanized piping in your home, we recommend that you consider having it replaced as soon as possible.

The most common form of piping used in today’s modern homes is copper.  This piping is typically run under the concrete slab and the piping brought up through the concrete where needed.  Leaks in this type of piping are not always detectable.  Long term leaks in this type of pipe can result in structural problems if not dealt with in time.  Leak detection is typically done using ultrasonic equipment that detects the high pitch resonance that results as water molecules pass through a microscopic opening in the pipe or joint.

Other types of piping are polybutylene, PVC, CPVC and PEX (crossed linked polyethylene). 

Polybutylene pipes have been problematic.  Numerous class action lawsuits have been filed and provide homeowners with recourse if this piping has leaked, although many of the funds that were available are almost exhausted.

PEX and CPVC piping have been found to be relatively problem free and are good choices for piping material.

Another source of moisture entry into a home is condensation.  This can happen when moist air is trapped in a cavity combined with declining temperatures.  Good ventilation of wall and ceiling cavities is a good way to prevent this problem.