Home inspectors are given the enormous task of looking for thousands of potential problems when we inspect houses. But one of the key things that we look for is leaking water. Whether it’s rain water entering the house through a crack at the roof, exterior siding or flashing, or a plumbing leak from a fixture or pipe, water leaks cause damage and rotting of building materials and mold growth. The following is a list of some of the key areas where water leaks are most prevalent.
Roof leaks- Roof leaks are very common. One of the main ways that roofs leak is at roof penetrations. These are the places where objects go through the roof. Things such as the chimney, plumbing vent pipes, and furnace and water heater flues. Different types of flashing materials are used at these locations to try and prevent water entry. Around chimneys, metal flashing, like that shown in this picture is preferred.
If you have a chimney that has no metal flashing, and instead has asphalt, caulk or mortar, rain water leaks will be more likely.
Asphalt/ bitumin flashing, like that shown at this electrical mast head, or concrete/ mortar is prone to cracks.
Leaks will be more likely. In this case, water could possibly enter the electrical panel box. Yikes!
This water heater flue is missing its cap, Rain water will be able to pour down the flue into the water heater heat exchanger.
Plumbing leaks- Plumbing leaks are also very common. If a sink faucet is dripping into the sink or a toilet it leaking water into the toilet bowl, it will waste water, but obviously won’t damage anything. If the leak is outside of a plumbing fixture and it goes undetected or otherwise un-repaired, major damage and mold are almost guaranteed. If you find a plumbing leak in your house, be sure and get it repaired so you can avoid a scene like the one in this picture.
Air conditioner condensate leak- Another fairly common source of leaking water is at the indoor air conditioning unit. The indoor refrigerated air conditioning coil gets very cold. That’s how it cools the house. Because it gets so cold, it causes humidity in the air to condense and collect at the air conditioning housing. Because of this fact, all refrigerated air conditioning units have a condensate drain line (usually a small pvc pipe) to carry this water away. If there is a drain nearby, the water will be deposited there. If not, a small condensate pump may be used to pump the water to a distant drain or plumbing fixture. Still another option, is to run the drain line through a wall or through the crawl space and allow it to drip on the ground at the exterior of the house. But things can go wrong. If the drain line becomes clogged (with moss growth for example) the water will back up into the air conditioner housing and overflow. Also, the drain line couplings can come loose and leak water. Finally, if a condensate pump is being used, it can fail. All of these scenarios will lead to water leakage. In this picture, condensate water had been leaking for a considerable time and running down the air conditioner/ furnace housing.
The housing had a lot of rust and damage present. The leaking water continued down the housing to the wood base that the air conditioner was sitting on. The wood base had substantial wood rot and mold present.
Stop water leaks early if possible- The moral to this story is that you should stop water leaks early if you can. That way you can avoid an expensive repair. Happy leak busting. --- Kim Christensen