What I'm Seeing Now

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How Decks Leak Water Inside

As I do a home inspection, I usually start outside first.

I walk around the house a couple of times, usually before the client arrives.

Making notes, and when we get started, I can explain what I have come up with.

When I saw this I knew we had a problem.

Can you see what it is?

The ends of the decking have been caulked where they abut the house.

And the gaps between the decking boards have also been caulked, outward about 4".

This deck is about 15 years old.  That caulking is not so old.

How did I know this was a problem?

From underneath you can see that there is no deck flashing.

The through bolts are rusty and where the hose bib service line exits the house you can clearly see staining.

Is water getting in?

Even not going inside yet I knew that it at least had been.

WATER GETS IN VIA THOSE THROUGH BOLTS AND THAT PLUMBING TUBE.

There is a slight gap between that ledger board (the one you are looking at bolted against the house) and the house itself.

Water wicks inside on those bolts or tubing.  It is a regular water highway.

Hence the caulking!

Someone noticed that water had been getting inside and caulked things up.  While it is not a permanent solution, it probably worked.  But I would know more indoors.

Conveniently the homeowner had removed the insulation there, I guess to handle this problem.

Stains can clearly be seen around the through bolts on the left. 

And even though the plumbing tube was caulked inside as well, water was getting in between that stabilizing board and the rim joist that the homeowner actually put a rag there to soak it up!

More staining can be seen to the right.

So this was an active leak.

It was not wet at this time though, even though it had just rained. 

So for now the caulking is working, and maybe had been for a number of years.

What would have been best practice?

Deck flashing!

I have posted this before, but deck flashing is that small piece of bent metal, sometimes called "Z flashing," seen in the circle to the left.

It is installed UNDER the siding and OVER the ledger beam so no water can enter the house behind that ledger beam.

That way the bolts are just that and not waterways.

Many people, homeowners included, have never heard of deck flashing.

I had a homeowner once call me and call me names because I mentioned the lack of deck flashing on his report and said that he had never heard of such a thing and I had "just made up something to put on the report!"  Yes, he said that, very loudly!

Deck flashing, had it been present, would clearly have been visible in the second photo above.  Caulking would not have been needed.

DECK FLASHING IS BEST PRACTICE!

My recommendation:   when you look at the underside of a deck, look for deck flashing.  It really does demonstrate the difference between a professional deck installation and one that is not so.

How often do I see it?  I don't know, but would guess less than 10% of the time.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 42 commentsJay Markanich • December 21 2010 05:51AM

Comments

Good morning Jay. Funny you should mention this. There was one property where the expansion and contraction of the copper pipe wore a pin hole in the tubing. Who wudda thunk...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Jay, I love the detail you have in this post.  It's obvious you know your stuff!  I have a great home inspector in Miami but he doesn't blog.  lol  I am subscribing to your blog.  I love learning from others when they obviously know what they are talking about.

 

Posted by Maggie Dokic | Miami, FL | 305.81.HOUSE (46873), GREEN, CDPE, SFR, Pinecrest | Palmetto Bay | (eXp Realty LLC) over 7 years ago

Gee, Michael, copper pipes do that?  They put the bleeder valve just outside the beam above, but it had not opened up yet.

Maggie - welcome aboard!  I post one way or the other nearly every day.  Look at my tags and you will see that I am very eclectic.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good Morning Jay

Thanks for the post and information on best practices in regard ti deck installation and the use of deck flashing. Have a great day.

Posted by Patrick White, Driven to bring New Yorkers home (Home Driven Realty, Inc) over 7 years ago

Thanks Patrick.  I hope that's info you can use!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I guess it really pays to hire a professional.  Nice post and picts.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Thanks Debbie.  When I am doing an inspection I am thinking a thousand things most people don't even know to look at!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good morning Jay;  Great information again, Thank you.  When I did an expansion on my house 10 years ago, the GC put a metal flashing around the first piece of wood, (sole plate?) and said something about being a termite guard, just relating to the deck flashing.  Always looking to learn something new.

Posted by Kenneth Cole, NYS Licensed Real Estate Salesperson (Weichert Realtors Appleseed Group, 2043 Richmond Ave. S.I.N.Y. 10314. office phone 718-698-9797, Appleseedhomes.com -) over 7 years ago

If you look at the diagram Ken, that might have been the red line, or metal membrane, behind the ledger board.  The sole plate is the 2x4 at the bottom of your basement walls, nailed into the slab (or the bottom of the first floor walls as well).

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay,

This is one that drives me nuts.  It is so easy to do deck flashing right, yet flashing is so often missed.

That house seems to be in pretty good condition compared to too many in this area.

And you think you see it less than 10% of the time?  Ouch.

Posted by Mike Jaquish, 919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate (Realty Arts) over 7 years ago

If I had to guess Mike.  I have heard that from other inspectors also.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Very good advice for home owners. Thanks for sharing. I will post this on my Facebook business page.

 Happy Holidays!

Posted by Roy Kelley, Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs (Realty Group Referrals) over 7 years ago

Jay, Pretty sure the people that put our deck in with the previous owners didn't flash it the way you list.  We've been lucky and no water intrusion though.

Posted by Liz and Bill Spear, RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton) (RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com) over 7 years ago

Roy - thanks again!  Glad you enjoyed this post so much, again!

Bliz - and it may not, depending on the side of the house it is on.  But it may!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Good Morning Jay. You always have the most informative post. I have on a ccouple occasions pointed out to my client an area I had noticed because of reading your posts (and one of those areas was missed by the inspector). Keep up the good work and I will keep reading.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 7 years ago

Missing ledger board flashing, as common as short downspout extensions around here.

Posted by Vince Santos, Southeast Michigan Home Inspector (StepByStep Home Services LC) over 7 years ago

Jay - Lots of homes have no deck flashing and it is a big problem; and of those that do, many times it's incorrectly installed.  Good to warn the buyer of a potential problem.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 7 years ago

Water is nature's way of letting a home owner know what shortcuts were taken in building the home. If the owner is lucky, they can find it early and can be addressed the right way, which is not always the easy way.

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 7 years ago

Jay, I see deck flashings on less than 5% of decks---new and old

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Less that 10% of the time, YIKES!  Thanks again for the tip.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) over 7 years ago

Jay, another good thing to know.  I've seen decks with flashing and decks without and never thought about the difference the flashing makes.  Now I know!  Thanks!

Posted by Menlo Park Real Estate and Homes for Sale, WendeByTheBay.com - 650.504.0219 - SF Peninsula (Wende Schoof) over 7 years ago

I hope the homeowner did the repair rather than pay a professional to do it.

Did i say professional, how we throw that word around after so many of your informative inspections

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) over 7 years ago

I hope the homeowner did the repair rather than pay a professional to do it.

Did i say professional, how we throw that word around after so many of your informative inspections

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) over 7 years ago

Great post Jay.  Good explanation for the homeowner.  A clearer one I haven't seen.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 7 years ago

Jay, you just hit on one of my pet peeves and illustrated the point so well. I would say that on at least 4 out of every 10 inspections I run into damage due to lack of flashing. A lot of these are on professional construction jobs. You'd think it was a new concept. 

Posted by Suesan Jenifer Therriault, "Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own". (JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team) over 7 years ago

Excellent illustration and explanation. I see this so often and wonder why it still happens so consistently. Flashing is not a new practise, but here in the Poconos I see a lot of damage caused by lack of proper flashing.

Posted by Michael Therriault, The name to remember when you want it done right. (Michael Therriault Contracting - M.T. Contracting) over 7 years ago

Wow, thank you Randy!  I hope I can keep writing so you can keep reading!

So Vince, the same guy here does your downspouts there too?  Wow, he gets around...

John - I have seen a couple of builders put a rubber gasket kind of thing behind the ledger board and say that it acts as deck flashing.  I do not know how effective it is.

Ed - this house is 15 years old and the deck probably as old as the house.  So this problem has been there a while.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Charlie - that could be the percentage here too for all I know.  Good to know the less practice (not best practice) is the practice out there as it is apparently everywhere else.

OK, maybe it's not good to know that...

Justin - my guess overall.  Could be as Charlie says!

Wende - really it makes all the difference.  Sooner or later, if there is none, it will become a problem.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Don't know Don, but it does look like a homeowner job.

Thanks Jack.  Some things are hard to describe.  Good thing there is Google and the ability to look up diagrams!

Sue - and flashing in all of its forms!  What is so difficult about understanding that water needs to be diverted?

Michael - there are forms of flashing on old Scottish castles!  So it has been around for a while!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Your supposed to flash the ledger board!? Wow I never would have thunk it.

The other thing I look for is flashing material. On newer decks it should not be aluminum. I think Mr. Jays knows why. ;)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

But what if the aluminum used as an antenna Jim?  Then the longer the better, right?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay thanks for the education. Good write up and very good photos.

Posted by George Bennett, Inactive Principal Broker, GRI (Inactive) over 7 years ago

Water is a real issue here at the beach...infact wind blowing sideways can cause a leak that may never happen again. Eighty mile an hour winds are not uncommon.

That is why you need to get a professional to do the inspection who had an eye for these things.

Posted by Robin Risley, CRS, GRI, Principal Broker (Kamali Sotheby's International Realty) over 7 years ago

You're welcome George.  Stop in any time!

Robin - I often run into leaks that happen one time and not again.  Sealing is important all around, as you suggest.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay:  I like the complete lesson on the need for flashings.  Water is the dreaded enemy of houses.  Thanks.

Posted by Valerie Zinger, Home Organizer (House Proud Ottawa-Ontario-Canada) over 7 years ago

It's the biggest enemy Valerie.  And there are more places for flashing than just on the roof!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Water will get you every time....!  Our deck is flashed....and since lots of folks have them off their patio doors here...have to wonder if 10% is  high number...the require permits here but I am guessing the city inspectors may not have the "flash of brilliance" that would include that in the construction !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (Keller Williams 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

And you may be right Sally.  They aren't looking for particulars usually!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I don't think I have ever seen deck flashing but will have to take a look next time I sell a home with a deck.  Thanks for the info.

Posted by Gene Allen, Realty Consultant for Cary Real Estate (Fathom Realty) over 7 years ago

Gene - it is an under-appreciated but very important deck feature!  And rare!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Well Jay, you've explained it well but, probably because we don't get to see it to often, you've left out what's happening to the outside of the house rim joist.

Courtesy of Igor Smetaniuk, Top To Bottom Inspections, Glen Spey, NY comes a picture taken during the repair process of one of those "missing flashing repairs".

Notice how the outside of the house rim joist is heavily rotted.  This damage may not be visible on the inside of the house rim joist but that don't mean it's not there!

Lexington Kentucky Home Inspector, rotted house rim joist

A few years ago, Igor gave me permission to use this photo on my websites cockamamie home inspection photos web pages.

Posted by Erby Crofutt, The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY (B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com)) over 7 years ago

Wow, Erby, that is yu-u-u-u-ummie!  Yeah, rot happens, even where it gets real cold!  It's amazing too how few deck flashes I see.  You too probably.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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