Water Leak Repair
Having an unidentified leak can be nerve-wracking. It’s impossible to determine the extent of damage that has been done until you locate and fix the issue. If you suspect a leak inside your wall, don’t worry – you may be able to fix it without shelling out or major maintenance repairs.
Locate the Leak
Water leaks typically occur due to pinholes in the plumbing system or minor faults in caulking or other external materials. Water would normally travel down to the ground on the easiest path, which in this case is usually the wall framing.
If unsure, use a moisture meter to check if your home’s moisture levels are within the normal range and an infrared camera to identify leaks within ceilings and walls.
Signs of a Possible Leak
- Discolored or wet drywall
- Damp masonry
- Water-stained trim
- Mildew or mold
- Moisty smells
- Drips from the ceiling or puddles on the floor near walls
Once you’ve confirmed a leak, you’ll need to determine the source. Where the moisture or water may be in a different place than the leak, this can take some investigating.
Water Leak Repair: Interior Plumbing
To know if your leak is coming from damaged plumbing, switch off all appliances and faucets that use water in your house, and take note of the number on your water meter. Check the water meter again after waiting at least 3 hours.
If this number increases, more water has been used during the waiting period, which usually indicates a leak from your indoor plumbing.
This method may not be very effective in homes where faucets drip or toilets constantly run, as the water meter will show a small increase in the number written down.
Exterior Above-Grade Problems
If the issue isn’t with your indoor plumbing, take your inspection outdoors. Check for downspouts, compromised caulking, and clogged gutters, and assess the flashing on external penetrations, such as chimneys, doors, windows, and vents.
Exterior Below-Grade Problems
There may be exterior below-grade problems if the leak comes from a lower level. This leak is commonly caused by inadequate drainage from downspouts, damaged sprinkler pipes, or grading or French drains slopping toward the home.
If you did your investigations properly, you have successfully identified the leak’s source. The next thing to do is fix them.
If you identified water leaks within your walls, this is a more complex plumbing repair and is best handled by professionals. After cutting the wall open, they’ll determine where the leak comes from and replace the bad sections.
Next, they’ll patch, sand, prime, and paint the wall. You’re better off contacting a professional contractor if the leak is behind bricks or tiles or if you have plaster.
Exterior Above Grade Leaks
Caulking: Begin by scrapping out the existing caulking. Ensure you have the right type – this is normally a butyl-rubber caulk for exterior projects. Cut the tube open, load it into the caulk gun, and then apply slowly and consistently at an angle of 45 degrees.
Clogged Gutters and Downspouts: Clean gutters and downspouts once or twice a year to ensure they’re free from debris. Even if you have gutter guards, inspect gutters regularly to ensure a free water flow through the system and debris is redirected from the house.
Flashing: This is a metal blockade installed at the meeting points between the roof and any vertical wall, like roof vents, skylights, or chimneys. There are three main kinds of flashing: counter, step, and base flashing. Chimneys use all three to prevent water from seeping in through the roof.
WARNING: Most homeowners can repair this leak, but you should get a professional if it involves steeply pitched rooftops or extreme heights.
Water Leak Repair: Exterior Below Grade Leaks
These leaks are usually the hardest to diagnose and fix.
Downspouts: Water should be redirected from the foundation and house when coming through downspouts. You can adjust the downspouts or buy extenders to channel the water flow to the right places.
Sprinklers: This issue will be solved by replacing a pipe section in your sprinkler system. If you don’t know anything about plumbing, you should contact the sprinkler company to handle this repair. Otherwise, the easiest way is to use compression couplings.
Grading: Gradings are meant to slope away from the house. Repairing the grading is more challenging than loading up dirt at the foundation.
You’ll need between 6 and 8 inches of clearance between the foundation and siding to avoid structural damage. Proper grading may tear up your entire lawn and can require permits. For this reason, it’s best handled by a professional landscaper.
Basement Waterproofing: You may require a complete waterproofing system on your lower-level walls. In some homes, installing this waterproofing in one or more exterior walls may be prevented by patios, driveways, decks, or neighbor’s homes.
Here, you can move the system inside by trenching out the floor, adding floor drains and a sump pump to divert water after entering.
Homes require prompt maintenance to prevent future leaks. This way, you can identify potential issues even before they happen. Ensure you do the following:
- Clean gutters and downspouts
- Test your sump pump
- Assess and replace exterior caulking where needed
- Blow out your sprinklers once a year (before winter in colder climates)
- Replace any absent roof shingles
In addition to routine maintenance, you can do the following:
- Use PEX piping where possible
- Monitor your home’s drainage patterns
- Backup your sump pump with a battery
- Keep your water pressure within 40-60 PSI
- Insulate pipes on external walls to prevent freezing (in very cold climates)