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Can Leaks be Caused by Not Cleaning a Bathroom?

We recently had water leaking from the ceiling of the first floor in our house. It turned out the water was coming from a shower on the second floor. The water was leaking through a space between tiles on the wall, about 3' above the floor. There is a window located directly above the tile where the leak occurred. There appears to be little or no grout between the tiles at the location of the leak. Our landlord is telling that the grout has deteriorated from a lack of cleaning and that as a result, we are at fault and must pay for the damage. The house is a little over a year old. Can not cleaning a bathroom cause this? Is there any credibility to him saying this?

Our Answer

I spent 20 years as a professional home inspector and I have to say that this has GOT to be about the dumbest excuse for a lazy landlord I have ever heard! The answer is NO!  Not cleaning a bathroom will not lead to a leak. However, not maintaining your grout and caulk WILL!  Tell your landlord to  get busy fixing this as it is his 100% responsibility for sure.

Usually these kind of leaks occur when a section of grout is missing, or if the seam was never caulked. When you take a shower, water splashes off you and can run down the walls until it finds these little gaps and then leak to the space below.  To make sure that the drain is not leaking however, you can easily pour a few gallons of water down it without splashing any on the walls.  

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The Best Ways to Attach a Deck to Your House

I'm buying a house and the inspector noted that the deck was improperly attached to the house. It is a brick veneer home and they attached the deck directly to the brick instead of making it a floating structure. Will this cause a problem with my brick along the deck area? If I fix it, should I detach it from the brick and install a beam to support it where it is up against the house, or should I try to put anchors all the way through the structure into the basement with long bolts?

Our Answer

This is a really important find on the part of your home inspector. Improper attachment to the house is the number one reason decks fail - and they fail with alarming frequency. Typically, you use a deck every day for family gatherings. But on the occasion that there's a holiday or party, the deck gets overloaded and tragedy can ensue. The best way to avoid this is to firmly attach that deck to your house. (Here are some deck design ideas for safer structures.)

As you pointed out, there are two ways to do this. You could completely isolate the deck from the house by adding supports along the beam that attaches to the house at present. You should really do this with the help of an engineer or construction expert because it is not clear how the entire deck is put together from your question.

The other option is to attach that ledger to the building itself by the use of long bolts going all the way through that foundation wall and bolting on the other side. Mind you, that's probably the strongest way to attach a ledger. The fact that your ledger beam was attached just to the brick veneer is dangerous, and needs to be fixed immediately - before there is any opportunity for people to be gathered on it. Again, great job to your home inspector for finding it. You are absolutely right to be concerned, and this is one repair project you need to hop on right away!

Again, great job to your home inspector for finding it. You are absolutely right to be concerned, and this is one repair project you need to hop on right away!

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Replacing Wood Deck Boards with Composite Decking

If I want to replace the wood boards on my deck, will there be a problem installing new ones because of the existing screw holes? We would like to put composite boards in place of the old boards, but we ONLY want to do the top layer...not all of the wood framings.

Our Answer

This is a great project to take on whenever the existing deck boards have become cracked, rotted, or otherwise deteriorated. It will essentially allow you to have what looks to be a completely new deck, but while only having done part of the work. In this case, you will remove all of those old wood deck boards and replace that decking with composites. (Here is more information on composite decking.) You asked if you had to be concerned about lining up the previous screw holes. The answer is no, you absolutely do not.

The composites should be directly attached to the original floor joist, and keep in mind there are a number of ways to do just that. For example, composites offer a "hidden" attachment system where the deck screw fasteners are really hidden; they may be inserted into the sides of the boards or attached with special clips. It's well worth looking into this because the result is a much more attractive surface. If you are going to attach through the composites, special screws have been designed for this. They will drill and screw at the same time. This will avoid that "mushroom" effect - where the decking surface backs up around the screw as it passes through. If you pay attention to the attachment points, you will find that the entire project looks a lot neater.

While you're at it, you may want to think about replacing the wood railing and covering the exterior box beam. That's the wood that surrounds the outside of a floor joist structure. You don't actually have to replace it, but you can cover it with additional composite material. Composites are available in a standard 5/4 in. x 6 in. size for decking. But, they are also available in a 1 in. x 12 in. option, which is the perfect size to cover those sides of the deck. Either way, you're going to have a good looking deck that you can use for many more years.

As a first step, I should caution that I would inspect the deck carefully to make sure the floor joist is structurally sound and the deck is firmly attached to the house. You wouldn't want to go through all that work only to find that the structure is bad later. Here are more tips we recommend for repairing your deck! Good luck with that project, and send us pictures when you're done!

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