What I'm Seeing Now


Investigating A Flat Roof Leak. But, It Wasn't What They Thought!

Reading about my thermal camera on line this homeowner called me about using my camera while investigating a flat roof leak.  But, it wasn't what they thought!

They had a couple of leaks actually, and couldn't locate any of them.

Complaining of a moldy odor in the staircase from middle to upper levels, I found the hardware wall of the master bath shower to be just above the moldy photo on the left.  That moldy spot was discovered by removing a large piece of artwork on the wall!  They did not know it was there.

They thought it might be a plumbing leak causing the odor, but could find no evidence of leaking.  But they had not used the shower in a while for fear of causing more problems.

The moldy spot registered 18% moisture prior to the fabled shower test.  And the thermal image in the middle shows only a little temperature variance or possible moisture.

However, after running the hot and cold water in the shower for five minutes the thermal image on the right demonstrates changes all around.  The blue shows cooler temps and the red warmer.

And the moisture meter registered 100%.

The plumbing is leaking.  The end.

But what of the flat roof?  It's a little balcony roof off the dining room.  It is over the basement office.  Every time it rains dripping happens in the office ceiling, in many places.

Unfortunately it had not rained in a few days.  The homeowners, however, had opened up the ceiling and put a tub under where the majority of leaking was happening.  Water "comes in like a river."

Mighty Mo was ready, but could determine nothing.  But up inside that hole the moisture meter registered over 30% moisture in the underside of the roof sheathing of the flat roof above.  Wood is considered to be saturated at 28%.  So, the wood is wet!

The homeowners had many siding and roofing companies out to resolve this issue.  From each visit they had huge estimates for new roofs, new siding, and new siding and roofs!

A quick measurement from the door to the hole in the office ceiling, and another measurement from the door to the the drain hole in the roof and viola!  I discovered the source of the leak.


Do you see the drain hole in the upper left of the roof photo above?  Do you see the pattern of staining emanating from that hole?  That roof drain hole is directly above the hole in the ceiling.  IT IS TOTALLY CLOGGED.  Since the water cannot get out, it comes in, "like a river."  Easy peasy.

So, class, what is the source of the water problem?  All together now -


Very good class.

I teased the homeowners by offering to clean the drain hole for $100 less than the cheapest estimate they had gotten for a new roof or new siding.

And poor little Mo sat on the desk, watching, and not needed.  But at least he found a leak!

My recommendation:  sometimes the simplest things turn out to be the culprit in what otherwise can be a mystery to some.  Maintenance is just that.  Maintenance.  Maintain, verb, to cause or enable a condition or state of affairs to continue.  Maintaining that drain to enable water to continue to drain AWAY from the house will go a long, long way, and cost less, less money.  Word.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 16 commentsJay Markanich • May 26 2014 02:34AM


Been there.....just yesterday on a pre-listing......and to avoid any foundation issues...the downspouts were unplugged and extended...whew !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 6 years ago

Nice detective work.  It looks 2 problems were solved and glad the roof doesn't need to be replaced.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) about 6 years ago

That's the way to do it S&D.  Far away.

Debbie - there was another window problem they did not know about, but showed up readily with the camera.  I'm glad about the roof too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Wow, what a find.  Great investigative work, though.  I had a similar situation happen with gutters in a corner a while back.

Posted by Chris Griffith, Bonita Springs Listing Agent (Downing-Frye Realty, Bonita Springs, FL) about 6 years ago

Good morning, Detective.... there's nothing worse than trying to find the origin of a leak.... you're a pro with this...

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) about 6 years ago

Gutters are best when they are covered Chris.  And flat roofs when they are swept!

Thanks Barbara.  But poor Mo sat in the corner pouting.  He still won't look at me.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Interesting not to try and second guess them I wonder why they hadn't noticed the drain being clogged, or for that matter anyone else they had called

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) about 6 years ago

Maybe the others DID notice the clog and gave them new roof estimates knowing they could James?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Good morning Jay. Sometimes the worst problems have the easiest fixes! Good eye!

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) about 6 years ago

Jay, you are the Sherlock Holmes of home inspectors. Sometimes a little deductive reasoning is in order!

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) about 6 years ago

Well, I have the usual and obvious question.

"What took them so long?"

Did they believe that the leak would go away all by itself???  THEY NEVER DO!!

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) about 6 years ago

I'm with Lenn on this one Jay, why wait so long? You should have been called long ago. I'm glad the roof was saved and the leaks found. Maybe now they can get that ugly hole fixed 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) about 6 years ago

Jay, Clogged gutters and drains can often be the major culprit to water issues. A little maintenance can save a lot of headaches.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

And this one is an easy fix Michael.

Tom - thanks.  And a tape measure.  I usually measure this kind of thing with my feet, as I did here.

That's a hard one to answer Lenn.  I could say this - the homeowner is a PhD in electrical engineering.  He knows a lot about some things and a little about others.

Tom A. - see answer to Lenn above.  Honestly, I am not in the Yellow Pages under Thermal Imaging.  I was called because a friend recommended me.

This one was pretty clogged too Don.  I told the homeowner he had a regular dam going on there.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Good catch Jay, in our area I would look at this drain as a design flaw with it being frozen when it is needed for melting snows every spring.

Posted by Bob Crane, Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671 (Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities) about 6 years ago

These drains don't work when things freeze Bob, for sure.  A second wouldn't be a bad idea except that it would be above the door!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

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