It’s that time. As the seasons change, there is no better time to inspect your home in anticipation of seasonal rains, droughts and freezing conditions to ensure that your home environment remains dry and “home sweet home.” Below is a list of common household water intrusion problems – some that can be easily remedied with simple annual inspections and repairs:
Landscape and drainage issues
By far the most common cause of water intrusion is landscape grading and proper drainage. With the advent of mulch mounds and mold damage, directing water away from buildings has never been more important. The best landscape solutions allow for water to flow away from the building naturally by using the natural slope of the land rather than various drainage systems. Although temporarily effective, drainage systems such as “French drains” or other types should be employed as a backup mechanism when effective landscape grading is impossible or when the water runoff is uncharacteristically heavy. As they will become obstructed and fail over time, it is important to periodically check their effectiveness.
Wallpaper or other moisture barriers
When considering decorating options, consider the environment. Although vinyl wallpaper may allow for easy maintenance, it may not be the best option for a basement or a bathroom where leaks and moisture rage a constant battle. Applying high-gloss paint or using vinyl wallpaper locks in just as much moisture as it keeps out and this locked-in moisture will result in mold damage. Sometimes simply letting the walls breathe may be the very best option.
Construction related water damage
Sometimes a moisture problem needs to be traced all the way back to its roots. Was the home adequately protected from moisture throughout the construction process? Although complete water protection is impossible during the construction process, did the construction company protect the materials while they sat in the driveway for weeks before being used? Did they finish the roof before installing the drywall? All of these are important questions and will determine the health of the home and its inhabitants.
Since drywall is the number one victim of mold damage, it is important to address the original installation of the drywall material. Was the drywall lifted off the floor with a drywall-lifting tool prior to installation? Provided that this was done, the drywall panel may be up to 1” off the floor, thereby eliminating multiple moisture problems resulting from frequent but small water damages.
Roof and gutter design
Most exterior water damage problems start at the top. Ultimately every moisture problem below the roofline, other than landscaping issues, may have been prevented or certainly lessened if the roof design and gutter system did its job. It is for this reason that one of the first things to identify in exterior water damage is the role of the roof. Do the slopes of the roof allow for water to run away from the home or do they simply allow water to flow back toward another exterior wall like a waterfall? Where necessary, was a cricket or saddle roof installed to direct the water away from chimneys or walls? Are the gutters large enough to handle the amount of water they will receive in a normal rainfall? Most importantly, are there adequate, dedicated downspouts to handle the water?
Obviously, the bathroom is a room that needs to be designed with water in mind. This not only applies to the sink, toilet and the shower, but also the floors and walls. While it may be acceptable to install a tile kitchen backsplash over drywall or plywood, this may not be acceptable on a bathroom surface that will receive constant soaking. Check and see if a concrete board, cement base or even a rubber membrane has been installed in these locations to prevent future water damage problems. This will give the tile a solid base on which to be installed while repelling water much better than plywood or normal drywall.
It is always a good practice to check the operation of not only all pumps, but also the strength of any battery backup they may be connected to. Try disconnecting the power for 30 minutes or more and make sure that the basin of the sump pump clears completely. Additionally, by filling the basin with a hose or a bucket, you can not only check the operation of a stagnant pump, but also help to clear any debris that may have settled nearby from the pump intakes.
For floor drains, try running water to the drain for 30 minutes to ensure that it is not clogged or if there are any breaks in the lines. And always, check to make sure that areas around the drains are clear of debris and leaves.
Exterior surfaces (brick, EIFS and stucco)
As with all construction materials, the installation is as important as the quality of the materials. This is no different with brick, EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System) and stucco. Provided that the materials are installed properly, each surface treatment can work properly for many years and provide a very comfortable and efficient living environment. Although building codes and manufacturers’ instructions vary, the basic rule is to allow for the release of moisture that accumulates from the temperature differential between the interior of the home and the exterior. It is for this reason that each exterior surface is designed with moisture venting systems and vapor barriers to protect the living environment. It is important that not only these surfaces be installed with vents and moisture barriers, but that they are also properly maintained and kept above ground level.
Moisture barriers and caulking
Although a minor part of the reconstruction process, proper installation of flashing, vapor barriers and caulking can be a critical step to preventing moisture intrusion. While installation methods vary greatly depending upon the surfaces involved and the joint, the basic premise is to once again drive water away from the house and to make sure that they are periodically inspected and repaired. When installing vapor barrier treatments to window and door openings, it is not only important to continue the treatment up to the opening, but it is also important to wrap each opening as well. When installing flashing, particularly in brick, caulking is never an acceptable alternative to an actual mortar cut that places the flashing between the brick rather than just on the surfaces. When dealing with caulk, the key is to apply it to any open joint (other than vents left open to allow air circulation and moisture release) and to reapply as necessary or on an annual basis. Sometimes this $20 repair will prevent a $2,000 water damage.
Through careful analysis of the above 10 points, an experienced restorer can make not only correct mitigation judgments, but he or she might also be able to provide the customer with crucial guidance on how to avoid them in the future. With a long-term approach such as this, the experienced restorer will not only be able to grow the business, but also save time and expense. After all, isn’t that the value that we promise to our customers every day?