What I'm Seeing Now

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Eight Years Having "Repairs" Done - And It Was Something Else?

How would you like to be a homeowner for eight years having "repairs" done - and it was something else?

From the moment these folks moved into their new house, when wind drove rain from the north, they had leaks all over the house.

The front of the house has a brick facade and faces due north.  Those are two important clues.

The builder, and then various contractors, for eight years, have returned time and again to caulk, goop caulk over caulk, goop more caulk and add counter flashing over the counter flashing.  NOTHING WORKED!

Finding me on line, they called and asked if I could evaluate the problem.  Sure!  They live about 300 yards from me!  It had rained four days earlier and they had leaks.  It's Saturday evening, and I don't work Sundays, so, not wanting to wait until Monday and have things dry out more, I went right over.  My thermal camera, Mighty Mo, was good enough to go with me.

Examining the outside first, I noticed that the wood trim of every single window was rotting in every lower corner.

BIG CLUE!  Water is coming from the inside out.

Each window had been caulked many times, all around the trim.  So many times it was ugly.  Obviously that did not solve the problem.

I wanted to see the windows, top floor first.

They said that nobody had ever wanted to see the windows before.

WHY NOT?  THE WINDOWS ARE THE PROBLEM!

The brick work had been put right up to the windows.  Each window was framed with wood trim. 

Each window has a drain hole in the track that the sash comes down into.  BUT THERE WAS NO WHERE FOR THE WATER TO GO!  Look how the water fills up the track before it slowly drains away!

No window had provision for the water getting into the hole to escape.  If water cannot escape where does it go?

INTO THE HOLE AND DOWN!  Why?  Because gravity works.

 

Imaging from outside, and then the inside, the story becomes clear.

The left image is the wood framing just outside the window hole in the photo above.  Every corner of every window looks like this image.  The center image is the wall inside and under that same hole.  The right image is the ceiling of the garage below.

For the purposes of this blog, cooler temperatures (and therefore, in this case, moisture) are represented by lavender, blue and dark purple colors.

THIS IS FOUR DAYS AFTER THE RAIN.

The moisture meter registered >30%, indicating active moisture intrusion, with moisture still present, in every window sill and every wall under the windows.  Imagine what it is like during the rain!

The homeowners report that as soon as the rain stops, the dripping stops.  And it drips under every window in the house.  That should have been a clue to every "repair" person who came to the house. 

So what is the problem?  THE WINDOW INSTALLATION!  From day one.  Will the builder fix it now that eight years have passed?  Likely not.

My recommendation:  if after many visits to "repair" a problem, and the same "repair" is repeated over and over, it might just be that the "repair" isn't working!  IF THE PROBLEM ISN'T WHAT EVERYONE SAYS IT IS, IT HAS TO BE SOMETHING ELSE!  Call a home inspector!  Especially one with Mighty Mo!  He might just be able to figure it out!  Thermal imaging is best practice!  And remember, all thermographers are really cute.


 

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 51 commentsJay Markanich • September 16 2012 02:01AM

Comments

A friend of mine is a window installer and says that 95% of windows are installed incorrectly.  I don't know if that's true, but I do know that most people don't follow written instructions!

And every window has manufacturer installation instructions.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Whether or not the builder will help depends on the builder and the type of warranty that came with the house.

Has the owner looked at their warranty???  This appears to be structural and should be covered. 

This is one where the owner should follow up with the builder in a very vigorous manner

At this point, in a resale, the house isn't worth $0.10.

Builders use various warranty carriers that are really an insurance policy and usually up to 10 years.  One builder I know covers structural for 5 years.  Another I know is self insured for 20 years.  These are things that new home builders need to know when buying the home.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 8 years ago

I agree with all that Lenn.  My house had a 10 year structural warranty.  I am going back to this house next rain to compare the images during a rain storm to what we found four days after.  With those images they intend to pursue the builder.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I hope that the builder does the "right thing" by these people....the second time it did not work, they should have looked elsewhere for the answer IMHO

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 8 years ago

How much caulking does one have to apply before they realize that it isn't the problem?  

I hope the builder is still around Jay!

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 8 years ago

Hi Jay.  How did they cover the weep holes?  This is perfect definition of insanity.

Posted by Conrad Allen, Webster, Ma, Realtor (Re/Max Professional Associates) over 8 years ago

Morning Jay it would seem to me the people should have called you right after the first time it didn't work.  But that is just me. 

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 8 years ago

 Unbelievable...did they think that a different brand of caulk would solve the problem....if at first you don't succeed...don't try the same solution !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 8 years ago

LOL on Tom's comment.  Reminds me of the definition of insanity.  I'm glad they found you and your sidekick Mighty Mo.  Nice detective work.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 8 years ago

Jay...

Back in the days when I did repairs, I always tried to determine what caused the problem in the first place. If you don't know the root of the problem, how can you repair it?

Posted by Richard Weisser, Richard Weisser Retired Real Estate Professional (Richard Weisser Realty) over 8 years ago

Maybe they should have tried a different color caulk... there's no doubt that would have worked ;)

Posted by Robert & Leslie Lang (Weichert, REALTORS® - McKee Real Estate) over 8 years ago

Jay wish the home owners had  called home inspector early on... My second guess say, if builder was smart enough they would have investigated and resolved the issue in the first few years of this incident happening.

Posted by Ritu Desai, Virginia Realtor-Fairfax/Loudoun/PW-703-625-4949 (Samson Properties) over 8 years ago

I hope the builder will make the repairs. It is good to have a home inspector in the neighborhood.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 8 years ago

Wallace - duh.  You and I think that way.  Others don't and/or are trying to make money.

Tom (GQ Boy...) - um, by the looks of it, about one tube per window!  Not kidding really.  This caulking is ugly.  I bet they have other problems too, with repeated wetting for so many years.  My next visit, when it rains, will show more water.  With that I intend to add to their report that I think there may be structural rot and/or mold and that the builder would be responsible.  I also think they need new windows.

On the outside Conrad, with the window molding and caulking!

James - the builder was coming!  It didn't occur to them to call me until someone mentioned thermal imaging.

 

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

S&D - no doubt!  Gradual progression - latex, siliconized latex, silicone, etc.  I don't know.

Mighty Mo Fan - he is a great sidekick!  It was easy once I was told all the clues!  I think...

Richard - which is why the cliche came about - "Do you know what happens when you assume?"

R&L - maybe they did!  Each time it was dutifully painted over.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Ritu - if it is happening here, where else is it happening?  You know they installed the windows the same all over!

Gita - the home inspector should be the go-to guy for this neighborhood, I agree!  But not because he's cute.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, What a shame for those poor homeowners. The builder should do the right thing and replace the windows.  After all he was the one who installed them incorrectly to begin with.  I wish them luck! Thanks for sharing

Posted by Amada Slade (Island Realty of the Lowcountry) over 8 years ago

I agree Amanda.  That case will be made on the second visit.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Your first comment after the blog says it all. There are very few windows that I ever sold, and I sold a bunch in my years in sales, that were defective. Even the worst windows will keep the rain out, but only if they are installed correctly. IR painted a very colorful picture. Too bad no one along the way evem loked at the cause instead of trying to cure the symptoms.

Posted by Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector, The Home Inspector With a Heart! (SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno) over 8 years ago

Totally Scott.  And I think they have other problems going on behind the drywall, not visible.  Many problems!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Funny you post about this! I had a listing this year where the builder did this exact thing.  All the windows had rot.  It was not an easy fix.

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 8 years ago

Kathryn - I think when all is said and done this will not be an easy fix either!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, it's too bad they didn't find you when the house in that first year warranty period.  This kind of craftsmanship is unfortunately too common.  Happy Sunday!

Posted by Mike Cooper, Broker VA,WV, MD, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 8 years ago
Did the owners find out if the builder had a warranty to cover the damage? Very sad.
Posted by Cynthia Grimes, "With You Every Step Home!" (Coldwell Banker Realty) over 8 years ago

Hi Jay - A friend discovered that all of his windows were installed incorrectly. His issues were major as they caused black mold to creep its way into e walls.. Luckily for him, he was able to sue the larger company that had employed a sub contractor, and  he basically ha his home completely renovated with even possessions replaced, and hotel costs covered. He was one of the lucky ones monetarily BUT he has had health issues ever since...

Posted by Gay E. Rosen, As Real as Real Estate Gets! (Julia B. Fee Sotheby's International Realty) over 8 years ago

Jay, as always a good report with some stuff I find interesting.  What a nightmare for the homeowner.

Posted by Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI, REALTOR and Broker (Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates) over 8 years ago

Hi Jay,

You mean to tell me that after eight years of trying to repair the leaks no one had accomplished the task? What kind of contractors are working around there? Did they just call Uncle Bob to take a stab at it.

Amazing to say the least. Were the windows not installed correctly? This is what I'm thinking. They probably did not wrap the flange with a water shield / barrier when the install took place. Do this and problem is solved.

Have a good relaxing day in Bristow, Virginia.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 8 years ago

Mike - I think it is still under the structural warranty period!  Boohahahaha!

Cynthia - this builder gives a 10 year structural warranty.  That's a hint as to where I will take this from here.

Gay - I would suspect similar problems here, though no health issues to date.

Gary - this is exactly that.  Hopefully we have it nailed.

Clint - these windows have exterior weep holes built in.  But when they are covered no weeping goes on!  Not reading instructions (or English) the "installer" did not know what he was doing.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Wow, this is alarming! That all those contractors over the course of 8 years could not figure this out.   I hope they don't have mold...that's where my mind goes.

Posted by Coral Gundlach, Real Lives. Not Just Real Estate. (Compass) over 8 years ago

Jay, this is a case where a quick fix solution just didn't work. Hopefully, it will be covered under the warranty to get the repair done right. Mighty Mo saves the day again.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 8 years ago

It's a big yikes Coral.  My mind too, along with structural issues.  I don't know how often there is a driving rain from the north, but when there is I told them to call me.  They are in the neighborhood next to mine!  So I can jump right over.

Do I think I am 100% on home inspections?  No, for sure not.  But I give them all my best shot.  For sure I miss stuff.  But I think I have this one figured out.  We'll know more when it rains and I can get some comparison images.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

I love Mighty Mo, Mike.  I wish I could still get the other Mighty Mo from the Hot Shoppe!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

My home inspector uses the infrared camera and it finds stuff like this all the time.

Posted by Harry F. D'Elia III, Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR (RentVest) over 8 years ago

You're amazing, Jay! Great story - thanks fir sharing these poor homeowners' lesson!

Posted by Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl, The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate (Samsel & Associates) over 8 years ago

Great story and something I'll remember.  Water is the enemy of every home so it's best to know where and how to deal with it before anything starts. 

Posted by John F Muscarella, Broker/Owner, Venice, FL, Florida's Suncoast (RIVER FARM PROPERTIES, LLC) over 8 years ago

Harry - it is the sharpest arrow in my quiver!

Thanks W&J - I hope they have a great resolution.

John - it is THE enemy!  And this is a big problem, I think.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good morning Jay and good call. You and Mighty Mo to the rescue. The other great thing is your online presence is good enough for them to find you. Win/win on your score card.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 8 years ago

Those folks apparently never had the definition of insanity explained to them.

 

They finally woke up and tried something different. Voila! You and Mighty Mo removed the blinders from their eyes.

 

After eight years! Sheesh!

Posted by John Juarez, ePRO, SRES, GRI, PMN (The Medford Real Estate Team) over 8 years ago

Do not leave home or buy a home without this man.....These eyes and ears earn their keep when at work..good post and thank you Jay

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 8 years ago

I love your blog post here. I really think from what I see you are an inspector who cares...we need more of you.

Posted by Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty, Florida Space Coast Homes (Waves Realty) over 8 years ago

Good catch the weep holes are there for a reason. I don't understand why people feel the need to fill them up with goop. If good goop doesn't work the first time it won't work the next 8 years worth. The thermal imaging can be very valuable in the right hands and this proves it.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 8 years ago

Obviously depends on the builder as to whether or not they will do the right thing. Many of the upstanding national builders will agree to repairs if the problem was because of their faulty installation. Reputation IS critical.

Posted by Nan Jester, Realtor, Exit Real Estate Gallery (Exit Real Estate Gallery Jacksonville Beach, FL ) over 8 years ago

Sometimes one's thinking cap must be worn when making evaluations :)  I love it when the weep holes are on the top---because as we all know---water is not only affected by gravity---it must also run up hill!

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Randy - that presence is good!  I don't know any other thermographers in the area, so that might be part of it.  The other, of course, is being cute.

John - the guy said to me that he never thought it could be the windows!

Richie - thanks, and hopefully I actually figured out the problem!

Thanks Jeffrey too!  I would do this for free if I could.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Rob - thermal imaging is plain fun.  But still, it's a serious tool and my sharpest arrow.

Nan - this builder does not have a good rep in our area, I can tell you that!

Window Shadow - didn't the Roman aqueducts go uphill mile after mile?  Pretty sure.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Jay, finding the root cause before attempting the repair seems intuitive, but I guess it is not so for everybody.  Glad to see they found you.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 8 years ago

Chris - they did the "obvious" I think, which is a form of busy work.  Why one keeps doing it is unknown to me.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Why is caulk though of as a repair? Or if a little doesn't work, add more. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

And read the label!  It says that any more than 1/4" is less effective!  And should silicone be used with mortar and brick Jim?  Why do they always use silicone?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Thermal imaging guns are a life saver!  We use them on all of our inspections and they have made a pretty big difference!  Excellent post!

Posted by Spectrum Inspection Group (Spectrum Inspection Group) over 8 years ago

Thanks Spectrum.  I really love mine.  While I can't say I use it on every inspection, I consider it the sharpest arrow in my quiver.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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