Finding the Source of a Water Leak
LESLIE: Jean in California listens to The Money Pit on KVML and you’ve got some water issues. What’s going on?
JEAN: Well, I’ve got a closet – a cedar floored closet – that seems to be oozing water.
JEAN: And what we’ve checked, so far, is we’ve kind of … in fact, today, we were able to pull up … there’s a trap door in that floor. We haven’t been able to get it out until today. Today, we finally got the thing out and my husband looked underneath. And it looks like the joists are wet but the ground is not. There’s a crawl space underneath there.
LESLIE: What is that crawl space like?
JEAN: Crawl space is just dirt and it’s dry. It’s down about … oh, I’d say, 18 inches from the floor.
TOM: The water that’s on this floor of this closet … if the crawl space is dry, I’m thinking it’s sounding like it’s not condensation. That water is probably coming from somewhere above and just leaking down the wall and then maybe exiting out onto the floor. Water can travel quite a distance without showing it’s ugly head, sometimes. So you may need to be … start at the top and look down; as opposed to start at the bottom and look up. Is it a steady stream of water?
JEAN: The outside … there’s an eave portion. Again, my husband got up there and took a look at that. Instead of putting the facing or the fascia (ph) – whatever they call that –
JEAN: – underneath the shingles …
LESLIE: The flashing.
JEAN: The flashing? Okay, they put it on top of the shingles.
TOM: Oh, that’s odd.
JEAN: Yes, that’s very … this house has a lot of odd things. But anyway, he went up there and beaded (ph) that off to kind of seal it. But we still have the problem with the water inside. So what we’re wondering is if, maybe, the water’s already gotten in there and maybe it’s something in the wall and what do we do about it if that’s the case.
TOM: Well, if you’ve stopped the leak – if, perhaps, it was originating from the flashing problem and you’ve stopped that – that’s going to dry out. I mean it’s not going to continue. And the fact that the wall was wet once – even if it was soaked once and dries out – is not likely to give you any kind of ongoing problems.
JEAN: Okay, question. If there is insulation in it that got all wet …
JEAN: … is that going to dry out also?
TOM: Yes, it will eventually all dry out. And insulation is not organic so I’m not so concerned about moisture being trapped in there. Hey, look, it’s not great and in a perfect world, we’d open the wall up and replace it. But I’m not going to get too worked up about one wall that got wet and then dried out again. It’s probably going to be just fine for you.
LESLIE: Do you think Jean should put a fan in the room to sort of help things circulate and just dry out a little bit faster?
TOM: I wouldn’t … I wouldn’t …. I wouldn’t mind you leaving the door open and making sure there’s a lot of air … sometimes closets tend to get very stale.
JEAN: Well, I’ve pulled everything out of there and right now I’ve got a ceiling fan in the room that I tend to have on. And I also put a small space heater fan on the floor because the floor was getting that wet that it was beginning … the wood was beginning to warp and I didn’t …
TOM: Well, let’s make sure we’ve dealt with the leak. The first thing you need to do is nail that leak down. And has it been repaired long enough where you can rule out any kind of roof leak above and it’s still wet?
JEAN: He did the roof, probably, about a week or so ago.
TOM: Okay, not enough time.
LESLIE: And it doesn’t seem like it’s dried out at all?
JEAN: I, finally – with the fan and the heater in the closet – got the water to dry up. But then, within a day or two, it’s moist again.
JEAN: So it seems like if there is water in the wall, it hasn’t gone away; it’s still there.
TOM: Is there any plumbing above or to the side of the closet?
JEAN: No, there’s no plumbing in that area at all.
TOM: Well, it’s got to be coming in somewhere. It’s got to be coming into the roof …
LESLIE: I mean, maybe, with the shingles – the way they’re layered over each other and then with the flashing on top of it – maybe there’s still an area where moisture is running down those shingles and slipping right underneath the flashing.
TOM: Well, have you had a lot of rains this week?
JEAN: Not that much. We’ve had rains before but since he’s actually put that beading (ph) up there, we haven’t. But we had a lot of moisture in the last couple of years.
TOM: Well, it might still be drying out. I’ll tell you what. I’d give it another week or two and see what happens. Because it’s … it sounds, to me, like it’s probably coming from above. And the fact that it’s on the floor is just gravity doing it’s work. I can’t imagine it’s coming anywhere else if you’re not … if you have no plumbing that’s around it, no pipes that could be leaking, and the only source could really be a roof penetration … you spotted some bad flashing up there, you’re trying to address that. That’s probably the issue. And I would give it another week or two to dry out and then keep an eye out and see what happens.
JEAN: Okay. If it doesn’t dry out within a week or two, what would be my next recourse?
TOM: Well, then you might have to start opening things up and looking more carefully at where the water’s coming from. But I’d like to see if you can avoid that, if at possible.
JEAN: That’s what I would like to avoid, too. That’s why (laughing) …
TOM: Okay. Sometimes it takes a little patience to really nail these things down.
JEAN: Okay. Is it a good idea to keep that heater going in that room now?
TOM: Not … not all the time. I think, at this point, just leave the door open. Yeah. Okay?
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-888-MONEY-PIT end_of_the_skype_highlighting. You know, sometimes Leslie, tracking down the source of a leak like that is a little tricky operation.
LESLIE: Well, and it seems like it doesn’t come from exactly where you think it might be coming from.
LESLIE: So it’s a little Sherlock Holmes mystery for them.
TOM: Can zigzag it’s way over and deposit in the most unlikely of places. So you’ve got to be persistent and you’ve got to be patient; but, hopefully, we have helped Jean get to the bottom of that do-it-yourself dilemma.