How Water Leaks into Your Home

Are you concerned water might be entering your home?

The purpose of this page is to describe how homes are intended to shed water. From this basic knowledge you can better understand your particular home, and better understand what you are up against, and better understand what someone might offer as a solution.

We will look at home water shedding components individually.  We will talk about those areas which create most of the problems.

Most leaking issues are related to home design. Design issues, coupled with inadequate application of water shedding materials, are all the ingredients needed for water leaks. Then you just add time. You wait for weather and seasonal changes to make water leaks visible.

Your basic home design is intended to shed water off the roof, over the siding and off onto the ground where it is supposed to drain away from your foundation.

Every part of the exterior must shed water. The roof sheds water into gutters or off the drip edge. The drainage plane behind the siding and all window flashings must shed away and off the walls. Surface water and home runoff must drain away from the foundation. Let’s look at each of these water shield layers in detail.

When all these components are working properly your home is dry and will provide you a  reliable and long lasting structure. Lets see what we can do to move towards dry and reliable.

  • Roofing
  • Siding and the drainage plane
  • site drainage

We all have a good idea what the roof is and what roofing materials look like- you look up and you see a sea of sameness- you drive up to your house and see a pattern of walls and windows that looks like home. These components, working together, keep water out, or not. Let’s figure out what might be happening.

Let’s take a moment to talk about roofing.

Roofing sits up there impassively. It looks monolithic. But what you do not see at a distance determines how well your roof sheds water. The critical parts of the roof are under the broad exposed surface. How well the underlayment was placed, how the shingles or tiles were arranged.

Often issues with leaks through roofing are associated with the flashing details  of the roof where good judgment is needed for lapping roofing materials and flashing materials around protrusions, along sidewalls and through valleys.

When water comes in inside through the roof, someone screwed up. Quality roofing materials placed properly do not leak. They might eventually wear through but that is seldom the case.

It take prodigious effort for water to actually make it into the living space. It has to meander through at least two layers of roofing materials- shingles or tiles and then the underlayment-  spill onto an absorbent wood deck and then find a crack to then fall down onto insulation and  then soak down or spill onto a sheetrock backed ceiling and soak that up enough for it to expand and droop or dry a bit and stain the interior ceiling, and then suddenly you can look up and be stressed that you have a leak.

Now, if you want to get picky
Water can hit a brick chimney- a chimney with brick its full length- with a defective counter flashings that allows water to get behind the step flashings in the roofing assembly. Water here can run down the side of the brick chimney and miss the woodwork because of the chimney chase and stain the very edge of your sheetrock where the finish detail comes right up against the brick. No wood structure or insulation was wetted in the rain escapade. This is the only type of roof leak which can skirt wood and insulation. More on the details of brick chimneys and framed in chimneys here.

This is an exceptional case. In most cases, when water comes in the roof, it is wetting the superstructure long before you see a leak and the conditions are set for mold growth and rotting and health issues and big divots out of the family fortune.

.It is critical that you have a trustworthy roofer and that the people they put on the roof are watching out for you- knowing that the care they take might not be understood and appreciated but that they are doing the right thing. We talk about all things roofing, in detail here.

Let look at the walls of your home

You may be surprised to learn that your siding- your brick veneer- your stucco maybe- is not a water control layer. Bricks are not waterproof. What actually keeps water out of the walls of your home is your drainage plane- the water control layer of your walls. It is behind the brick.

Exterior siding, your brick veneer, your stucco, your siding- is not intended as a water control layer but rather to protect the water shedding layer from weather damage, and to make your home look pretty.

the drainage plane is placed before the brick. This is an example of a housewrap. Drainage plains can get much more sophisticated but housewrap or building paper is probably what is under your siding right now. This wall drainage plane is what keeps your the water out of your walls,or not. You can see the cut opening for a door... maybe... here.

The drainage plane is placed before the brick. This is an example of a housewrap serving as a component in the drainage plane. Drainage planes can get much more sophisticated but housewrap or building paper is probably what is under your siding right now. Your home’s drainage plane is what keeps the water out of your walls… or not. You can see the cut opening here waiting for the flashing installation for the window opening? door opening?

Housewrap is usually used in North Texas as the main component in the drainage plane. A critical component of the drainage plane is a detailed flashing specification for windows and doors. Window flashings and door entry flashings need to be followed closely to make sure water sheds away and not into the structure. But housewrap is another of those things hid away, and people get in a hurry and mess it up. We go into much more detail on proper specifications here.  We discuss keeping water out of walls here. 

How does this information impact you the homeowner who is not planning on building a new home, and you cannot see the drainage plane under the bricks or the stucco?

The quality of your existing drainage plane dictates whether a small brick crack leaks water onto your drainage plane or into your structure. Since you cannot see your drainage plane, your options are to investigate the risk in other ways. This process could start with a walk around the house to assess risk and a walk around the house after a big rain to see what is happening with your siding.

It also make your siding, your stucco, your brick veneer-  a critical component of keeping water out of your walls. You therefore need to keep an eye on your cladding material and make sure you keep these surfaces tuned up and shedding water as best as possible. Are your walls well protected by roof overhangs. This really helps. Or do you have maybe a high wall with window openings and little overhang. This area is worth keeping an eye on. The two links above are critical in the process of evaluating your existing walls. You just need to have a clear understanding of what walls are at risk if there is an issue with the drainage plane, which are lower risk and what your options are to keep water at bay as best you can at the cladding layer.

Lots of people like to replace their existing windows.

This is a dubious idea that needs careful evaluation which we do here but replacing windows means you are cutting into your walls and changing the drainage plane, and you want to make sure your window replacement contractor is properly trained, has the manufacturer’s specifications for flashing details, that he has a plan to match your drainage plane to the specifications with aplomb and expertise, and that he has shown you how this is going to be done.

I suggest you get them to give you a digital picture of each window flashing before the actual window is installed. This will  save you a big headache and help you find a contractor that is proud of his or her team’s expertise and who cares about homeowners and being in business for the long term.

And it is not just window replacement contractors, any remodeler cutting into your home needs to offer you a written plan for making the critical transitions between existing materials, and existing services into any addition. When the remodeler shows up, his emphasis is on pretty to catch your eye- to stay on your good side as the many bits must go into place at an efficient pace and get the work done so the $$$ checks flow.

Is that rude? Well let me pick on homeowners too-  not you, but most of the other homeowners in the marketplace. They like to get more and more for their dollars. And when they do not know the details, or the fundamentals, they end up concentrating and being happy with all the pretty stuff and take the important but hidden stuff for granted. A great deal on this subject can be learned around of potential remodeling mishaps. The fundamental parts here cover any remodeling issues that touch on the structure and the mechanical components of your home.

We all have our priorities- often the hidden stuff- the stuff tucked away that is taken for granted are the parts that are most important…. We talk about the TO DO list before hiring a remodeling contractor here.

If you do not ask, do not expect it to be done properly unless you have and know you have chosen a company with a great reputation and they have brought up these issues themselves. If no one brings it up, you will get something less- not less expensive- there is nothing more expensive that poorly executed repairs- you just get to defer the day of judgement.

Drainage Issues are next.

Water needs to drain away from your home foundation whether it is a slab, has a crawl space, basement or full foundation. Moisture around a foundation can be the source of several problems. We talk about these issues and solutions here.  LINK Foundation and Drainage Issues – google doc

We need to mention plumbing problems- too often non-plumbers can be used to install refrigerators or faucets or dishwashers or new toilets even sinks and dumb things can go wrong. Issues with water leaking out inside the house is discussed here.

What can we do to prevent or head off this kind of problem?

The powers of observation pay off here. We explore your options to understand what is happening here. 

You also need a path forward to getting the right professional assessment and repairs. The issues in not urgent but important. You need repairs that solve problems not treat symptoms. You need to substantiate the problems and you need repairs that match the scope of the issue. We discuss this critical issue here.

Find the Money…

Any questions are comments. Feel free to add your thoughts below.

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