Nightmarish water leakage problem
A friend of mine has a construction problem from you-know-where, and while I’ve got some ideas on how to fix it, I thought I’d first pop the question here since there are undoubtedly members much more experienced at this than I am.
First, a bit of background. She hired a contractor to build a 4-season’s room addition to her house. One wall abuts the house – a second wall exits to a deck – the other two walls are outside walls. I won’t go into all of the other mistakes this contractor made, however, one of the biggest ones he made was building the new room at or slight LOWER than the level of the outside deck! Well, you can imagine what happened when the first heavy rain of the season hit – her new room (not yet completed) flooded, ruining the subfloor and much of the wallboard. Subsequent rains produced identical problems. Since the deck is at the same level as the new room the water just seeps right under the wall plates and into the room. The builder that recommended this, uh, contractor to her is recommending she tear most of it down and rebuild it at the proper level! She’s already got almost $30,000 into this and the subs are now coming after her because the contractor hasn’t paid them!
Anyway, she needs the problem fixed without having to tear the place down. After looking over the situation, my thoughts were to do the following: 1) Inject as much silicone caulk (or other type of caulk) as possible to try to create some sort of barrier between the deck and room; 2) Add some sort of curved flashing (metal or rubber) that could be sealed under the siding and pitched away from the addition. Additionally, all edges of this flashing would have to be sealed with caulk or roofing tar or ???; 3) Very slightly re-pitch the deck, perhaps only a couple of degrees, away from the room addition. A few degrees would most likely not be noticible but would certainly help to drain water away from the addition; 4) Find some company that specializes in permanently sealing the impossible!
What do you think? Any other ideas? She’s not really going to have to tear this whole thing down and start over, is she?
Thanks for any suggestions you may have.
Wouldn't lowering the deck be possible? What is the deck construction? Are the deck boards spaced? Is it attached to the addition or the house, both, or free standing? If attached to the house, how exactly?
My other instinct is that it is not the level of the addition that is the main problem, but a flashing/weatherization/connection problem. What did they use between the framing, sheathing and the deck for flashing and waterproofing?
Edited 5/19/2003 9:38:25 PM ET by Mad Dog
I've been told that lowering the deck isn't possible due to the local code. This is a raised deck and lowering it would block egress from the basement windows. Lowering the deck was my first suggestion too.
Deck construction is treated wood. The deck boards are spaced, but ever so slightly. There can't be more than a 16th of an inch between boards. The deck is attached to everything - in fact, a part of the deck is now a part of the new addition. I'm not sure how it's attached to the house since it was all built when the house was.
I tend to agree with your instinct. This is a flashing/weatherization problem made worse by the level of the addition. From what I can determine (and it's hard to tell since the inside has wallboard up already and the outside is sided) this clown did NO weatherization at all. The only thing I see is a metal lip coming out from under the bottom-most course of the siding.
One further option possibly with that in mind then would be to provide egress by means of a trap door, allowing the deck to be lowered, but it sounds like with it attached to everything, it's more likely to be deck removal, which would then be compared to the trouble/expense of dealing with it otherwise. Not a good situation and I'd have to agree with the previous post about the legal thing but I'll bet she's aware of that. The immediate problem is keeping the water out until the thing is properly remedied, and I can tell you from a legal perspective that she is responsible to mitigate any further damage by doing what can reasonably be expected to keep the water out as best as possible.
May have to remove the bottom course of siding and the first couple of deck boards that run parallel to this, and consider cutting the deck boards that run perpendicular or removing them to access the troubled area so that it can be flashed and sealed properly. I would say that this is fairly doable, but who knows without seeing it. It seems like a logical first step. How much clearance between the bottom of the siding and the top of the deck boards is there?
If the deck boards are removed, then consider spacing them to allow some drainage before reinstalling them. That will help considerably. Is this in a snow location?
There is not much space at all between the bottom of the siding and the deck. There is only enough space for a thin sheet of aluminum which, I suppose, was the carpenters attempt at flashing this.
The deck boards run perpendicular to the addition, which makes the problem even worse. If the deck boards were parallel it'd be fairly easy to pull the first couple of boards to get in there to seal everything up. Yes, this is in a snow location - right outside of Chicago.
What a nightmare!
I would still lawyer him. That way, with a judgement recorded, if he ever does come into any money, it's hers.
Forget the silicone muck up. That will just make it all harder.
I can't see it from here but I imagine that you could open that tend of the deck up a little to be able to work some flashing into the new sunroom wall and possibly rebuild that end of the deck so there is a drainage channel and it only makes connection directly where the dorr connecting both is located..
Excellence is its own reward!
I think she is planning on filing some sort of suit. She's also already filed an official complaint with the village and the local BBB. However, she expects no money out of him at all.
I think she needs to "lawyer up". There might be a way to fix the problem without a complete tearout, but she should not be responsible for the problem. I see legal problems in her future.
She's been talking to a lawyer - in fact, two different lawyers. The problem is this guy has nothing in his name - his property is all under his wife's name. She could end up suing him, spending thousands in the process, and still end up with nothing. Both lawyers have recommended that she get the problem fixed and forget about this guy, at least for now.
The PT decking if installed wet will shrink up probably a qtr inch. Whish way does it run? Screwed or nailed? Can you post any pictures of this?
You could remove the bottom siding and first deck board (if running parallel to the siding) and perhaps detail a flashing that would keep the water outta the interior and down and over and out past the ledger (that's maybe nailed to the addition). You could remove all the decking and "sneak" some fall by cutting the joists down a bit. Just caulking or overlaying some sort of diverter will probably conceal slow damage. You surely don't want her to hate you too later down the road.........
best of luck__________________________________________
Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.
You know - I almost brought my digital camera along last night. I guess I should have. At this point we're in the suggestion-only stages. I'm not sure who will end up doing the repairs - it probably won't be me since I'm not a contractor myself. I doubt the village would permit me to work on her house. However, I do have a friend who's a contractor, and a very good one at that, who I've already talked to about this. He's willing to take a look as well but she's not ready to have him come out yet.
Can you perhaps post some pics of this situation?
First, I would look into the code statement about egress clearance and determine EXACTLY the requirements. Could be that comparing measurements and requirements would yield enough wiggle room to lower the deck.
Second, is there a compelling reason that the deck be attached to the house? A little reframing could separate the deck and the water path and when you get that separation the flashing could be inspected and redone properly.
Third, if it must stay where it is, then follow Calvins advice. Pull the butting deck boards and a couple of courses of siding. I'll bet you'll find the flashing to be a sham and no continuous drainage plane down the wall and over the attached ledger. Water is just riding the top of the deck, disappearing under the visible metal flashing, hitting the bottom of the sheathing and oozing thru the cracks.
Good suggestions Ralph. Thanks.
I'm told that any changes to the deck can not happen because of local code and the local homeowner's association. That's not to say that some sort of "minor" modifications could still be made. The contractor did pull permits but even with that, it turns out that most of the required inspections were never made. For example, the electrical rough-in apparently was never inspected and now all of the walls are drywalled.
I wish I had some, but I forgot to take my camera to her house last night.
Did this "professional" pull permits for this project? I have my doubts, since I would think the level of the room in relation to the adjacent deck would have raised a red flag for the inspector.
I vaguely remember a "new materials" entry a few years ago in Fine Homebuilding. The item was a grid for decks that looked like a large version of a floor heating vent. The idea is that it gives you a lot of open area right in front of the door to allow for drainage. I don't recall who manufactured this, or when it appeared; maybe someone else has a better memory?
My attempt to solve the problem would be to find a way for the water to solve it's own problem.. water likes to run downhill.. would it be possible to drill a series of holes in the decking large enough to let water run out but not too large to seriosly weaken the deck boards? If you radius the holes slightly you increase the surface area that a hole will drain from and yet provide no real weakening in the board..
Without a clear picture (or being there) I'm guessing, but a series of 1/2 holes spaced every 6 inches shouldn't weaken things too badly. you could then take a router and radius those with say a 1/4 inch roundover bit and your total drain area would be an inch.. now you'd have a chance of sealant and flashing keeping the majority of water out.
Drill all of the holes in the board right next to the house and if needed you could add a strengthening piece of plywood easily under that one board..
You're absolutely right - and that's the solution I'm trying to formulate right now. Because of the homeowners association, whatever is done has to be done discreetly. I'm still waiting to talk to my builder friend, but I think the final solution here is to cut a fairly thin slice out of the deck where it meets the new room and then to provide some sort of flashing to force the water down and out. Likewise, we're going to need to flash from the wall of the new addition to keep the water away from the wall. Since all of this is raised off the ground, getting underneath to do this should be fairly simple.
The suggestions here have all been very helpful - once we come up with a permanent solution I'll post whatever it turns out to be here for all to see.
It would be great to see some pictures. I don't even know how big the deck is. But in line with what you just posted, maybe the deck elevation could be changed to break in elevation on an existing beam away from the affected wall, the section in between removed, and rebuilt one step down so that you can repair the damaged area and reinstall that section to be lower. You never know. It might be a nice fix, giving some design or intimacy to this area. Or it could look terrible. But it is a possible fix.
I know - I've got to get back over there to get some pictures.
Unfortunately, the deck elevation can not be changed due to the requirements of the homeowners association. The dwellings are all townhouses and they all have to "match".
There is some good news though. The village inspectors are now coming over on Friday afternoon to take a look at the situation. She finally got their attention after showing pictures of the water damage. This contractor is insured and bonded (according to the village) and they are now telling her that they may go after him and his insurance company to get the problems fixed. Let's hope!
And I've now got my Internet service back. Comcast upgraded their system over the weekend which blew my cable modem off line. They replaced it with an upgraded model yesterday so now I can get back online from home again instead of trying to do this all from work! What a pain!
I'd be pretty surprised if the village filed a claim with the builder's insurance policy on her behalf, that is what her @#$%ing lawyers are supposed to be doing, but who knows. I'm sure they will not be impressed by this, and an inspector is going to feel some heat, and in the future he'll be a real hard stickler about deck flashing, probably to the point of absolute overkill, but I'm reading a lot further into this than maybe is helpful.
But it is a no-Brainer that someone should file a claim with the bonehead contractor's insurance, though they will probably have a clause stating that improperly installed work is not covered, etc. blah, ya right.
Good luck. At least maybe her own homeowner's coverage could do some good?
She can't file with her homeowner's insurance because the addition is still under construction. Insurance won't cover new construction until it's completed and signed off by whatever the local building authority is. It's the contractor's insurance that has to pay at this point.
Once all is said and done with the village today, I'm hoping that she either files a claim herself with the builder's insurance company or has her lawyer do it.
"Unfortunately, the deck elevation can not be changed due to the requirements of the homeowners association. The dwellings are all townhouses and they all have to "match"."
You don't suppose the association requires matching leaks and water damage, too?<G>
Be interesting to see the final outcome, decisions by the various "controlling legal authorities" and the actual cause and then repair of the problem.
Using such a grid is an idea - I'll have to see if I can find the article. Thanks.
John, if the joists are 2x10 or even 2x8 you may be able to change them to 2x6 with added beams under the middle. This will drop you down two inches or four inches . You would have to remove the decking, remove first course of siding and properly flash also. If the joists are 2x6 , then beams and maybe the piers must be lowered.I would talk to the code enforcement people, their negligence in this is second to the builder. If they're reasonable they will come up with an approval to lower the deck.
See my previous posting to Mad Dog. The village is coming out Friday to look over the situation. It sounds like they're finally going to do something about this.
We'd talked about lower the deck using the exact method you discussed but I'm told that it can't be done due to the homeowners association requirements. At this point though, nothing more is going to happen until the village makes their recommendation on Friday. I'll let you all know what they have to say once I find out.