Utah's Best Home Inspections! IXL Infrared Management 801/921-3150

We Perform Home Inspections and Commercial Infrared Surveys/ Residential and Commercial Properties, in the Provo, Orem, Spanish Fork, Lehi, Pleasant Grove and surrounding areas of Utah, Utilizing the Latest Infrared Thermal Imaging Technology.

Keep Your Home/Business Dry and Healthy


Carl Brahe

Many parts of the country are experiencing more than normal rainfall, and snow melt, in recent years. People are finding that their houses, and other buildings, have leaks they never imagined. Water is finding its way inside through foundations, windows, doors, siding, chimneys and roofs. Leaks always get worse if not repaired.

Where water is present in digestible building materials for more than a few hours mold will grow and wood will rot.Natural forces of decay will perform their functions where there is sufficient water. Uncontrolled water inside, or outside a building will cause damage. Most damage will go unnoticed, possibly until it becomes critical.

Water damage is often unseen and may only be discovered when walls are opened for inspection or repair. Mold and rot can grow inside walls leaving no outward signs.

If flashings, windows, doors or other building components are leaking into walls, or other structure, it can often be seen with infrared imagery. Infrared cameras measure surface temperature. Water warms and cools faster than building materials. Building materials that are moist are cooler, or hotter, depending on conditions. This difference in temperature may be seen through the IR camera. IR thermography is sometimes the easiest method for finding leaks in flat roofs.

If your home has undergone renovations, or remodeling, you can check to see if building permits were issued and inspections completed. Building permit reports are readily available on line, or you can check with the local building department or county clerk. If permits were issued and completed, you can  be reasonably assured that minimum building standards were met. In some situations minimum building standards are not adequate for the environment, but completing the permit process is an indication that construction is of at least minimum acceptable quality. If work was done without permits, odds are that it was not done right.

Modern foundations are usually sealed, and built with drainage systems that direct water away from the structure. These can be ineffective if overwhelmed. Older homes and commercial buildings may not have these features and rely on clay pipe systems that become clogged over time and broken by shifting ground, or depend only on runoff water being directed away at the surface by hard packed soil sloped away from the foundation. If water runs toward the foundation in sufficient quantity, the foundation will eventually leak no matter how well designed and built.

  • The first step in making sure your house is water tight is looking at your house from the edges of your property. Look for the high point where water will flow from in a heavy rain storm. Stand at this spot and look to the lowest point of your property. This is where water will flow to. Notice where your house, building or other structure, sits in the path of the water flow. If the water flows toward the structure, there is a potential for problems. Consider contouring, adding dry wells, swales or retaining walls to redirect water in a safe pattern through your property.
    • If water runs toward the foundation next the structure, runoff  from  the roof and landscaping watering, as well as rain and snow melt, will eventually find its way through the foundation, into the basement or crawlspace.
    • Landscaping bark, or rock, often disguises drainage defects. Covering up problems is much easier than correcting them. If you pay landscapers, make sure they do it right. If you do it yourself, do it right. It will save you a lot of trouble.
    • Buildings can sink over time requiring soil to be taken away to correct the drainage. The soil line should be at least 6” below the sill. This is the interface between the foundation and structure. If this joint is below ground, the structure will rot from the bottom up.
    • Ground should slope 1/2” to 1’ for at least 10 feet from the structure. This applies to driveways, sidewalks, patios and other paved surfaces next to the building.
  • Look for openings in the exterior walls.
    • The most common places for leakage is at ground level.
    • The ground should slope away from window wells. A drain system should be installed in the bottom. Look inside, below basement windows for signs of leaks, past or present. Rusted window wells indicate water flowing behind them. Correct window well problems with covering, regrading or replacement.
    • Cracks in the foundation and/or exterior walls may let water in. Repair these as soon as they are discovered. If they recently appeared, look for reasons. Poor drainage, misdirected/clogged gutters, or badly directed landscaping water can quickly cause great damage.
    • Around doors, and windows, are common places for leaks. Check inside for signs of moisture on window sills and at the sides and below windows and exterior doors. Moisture on sills, or frames, may come from condensation, or from windows being left open in the rain, but check the outside carefully for gaps around the frame, or in the caulking.
      • Caulk all gaps. Replace old, hard, shrunken caulk. If a void of any size exists in caulking/sealant, were water might fill from wind blown rain or snow melt, water will freeze here creating leaks over time.
  • Check exterior window sills. Sills must slope away from the window and have no leaks.
    • If mortar is deteriorated between bricks on sills, they are likely to be leaking.
    • Replace, or repair, any caulking with defects from age or poor installation.
  • Gutters must collect, and redirect, all the rain, or snow melt, that lands on your roof. Make sure the gutters are in good condition, clean and downspouts are clear of blockage.
    • Stand back and take a look at the slope of the gutters. Do they slope from the high point to a downspout at the lowest point? Are there dips in the gutter where water would collect? If you see any problems have the gutter system cleaned and/or checked.
    • Notice how many downspouts are present and where they are located. Do the gutters all run downward to the downspouts? Are there long runs of gutter emptying into a single downspout? If the downspouts don’t handle the runoff, the water will cascade onto the structure. Look around your neighborhood. Are your gutters smaller than on other house or buildings around you? If so, have the system evaluated by a professional.
    • Walk directly under the gutters looking for light shining through between gutter and building. If light comes through so will water. If you see daylight, have the whole system evaluated, or replaced. Water is likely being wicked under the roofing cover and into fascia and soffits.
    • Make sure all downspouts extend 6’ from structure with splash blocks, or extensions.
  • Look for gaps in the soffit and at top of the siding. Seal any present. Various pest can use any gap in the exterior to enter.
  • If you feel comfortable in attics, look inside yours. When you open the hatch you should be met by hot air in warm weather and cold air in cold weather.
    • If walk boards are not present, examine as much as you can sticking your head through the hatch.
    • If you feel the temperature change before opening the access, evaluate insulation and air flow in the attic. Air needs to flow freely in most attic systems. Vents allow air flow from a low point, like soffits, to a high point, like ridge vents. If all vents are at the same level there  cannot be sufficient air flow.
    • Examine the underside of the roof decking for water stains. If you see stains notice what part of the roof they are in. When you examine the roof, look carefully in this area for defects.
  • If you feel comfortable on your roof examine it from roof level. You can examine the roof fairly effectively from a ladder and from the ground with binoculars. You can see a great deal of detail this way.
    • The most likely places to leak are flashings.
      • Flashings direct water away from joints. This may be where vent pipes, chimneys, or other things, go through the roof and where different materials join.
      • Kick out flashings are used at intersections of upper roof and lower exterior walls, and other places, to direct water away from vulnerable materials.
        • Look for cracked or missing sealant, or damaged or missing flashing.
        • It is very common for kick out flashing to not be installed. If enough runoff is directed to a point on the roof where it accumulates enough water to rise above the flashing, a kick out flashing is required.
    • The next most likely place for leaks is at penetrations through the covering. Popped nails, anchoring or mounting bolts, places where electrical, water or gas lines pass through are prime suspects.
    • Chimneys commonly leak from several sources.
      • Flashing around the chimney, or the chimney chase, is a common place for water penetration.
        • If the chimney is on a sloped roof there should be cricket on the high side. A cricket is a V-shaped build up under the roof covering that acts like a kick out flashing diverting runoff away from the top flashing and around the chimney.
        • If a raincap/spark arrestor is not in place rain and snow can fall directly into the chimney. Water and creosote creates acids that can dissolve mortar. Make sure proper covering is present.
        • Brick, and rock, chimneys usually have a concrete covering to seal the top. The concrete cracks and water penetrates. If the concrete cap is damaged, repair or replace it.
    • Water can penetrate gaps in mortar. Repair all mortar. A small amount of tuck pointing now can save bigger problems later if left unrepaired.

Uncontrolled water may be the biggest threat to a structure. It can also undermine foundations and concrete pads and paved area. With uncontrolled water comes natural forces of decay that will eventually digest most building materials. The decay process brings opportunistic microbes and larger pests that can adversely affect health and comfort. Keeping a healthy indoor environment requires keeping water under control; shed from structure without penetrating the outer envelope, and directed away from structure including concrete pads and paved areas.  Maintenance deferred here may cost you dearly.

Copyright 2011, all rights reserved. Copyright and Author byline must appear if republished in any form.

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