How do I find an exterior water leak?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ October 19, 2012 ~ No Comments

Every time it rains, I notice that my carpet is soaked along the wall. What can I do personally to fix this? My landlord won't fix it properly nor do I have the money to hire someone or to move. So is there a DIY instruction that I can follow.

Roberta - Atlanta, GA

Jeffrey Anderson

Roberta, finding the location of a water leak can be a very frustrating experience as the problem is rarely where the moisture is visible. That being said, sometimes luck is on your side and the problem spot is the first place you look. Whether the fix is a DIY project is going to depend on your skills and what is required to alleviate the issue.

Since the water is appearing on your floor, the first place I'd check is the exterior grade where it meets the side of the house -- there should be about six inches of foundation showing under the first piece of siding. The exception would be if the home has a masonry or stucco exterior veneer. If the exterior grade is above the bottom plate line (where the framing starts), water can simply run into the home every time a significant rain occurs.

Check along the entire side of the house as the water may be entering at another spot and following the plate line to where your carpet is getting wet. If this is the cause of your leak, it's a building code issue. That may give your landlord a little additional motivation for correcting the problem.

If everything appears to be okay with the grade, look for any potential problem spots further up the exterior wall. Tops of windows and doors are prime culprits for water intrusion and cracked or loose siding can also cause problems. If your home is one-story where the water is visible, there could even be an issue with the shingles at the roof edge.

Finding the leak might be a trial and error process. If the possible cause isn't readily evident, give the old garden hose leak detection method a try. Start low on the exterior wall with a steady stream of water while an assistant watches the floor inside your home. Slowly work your way up the wall allowing plenty of time for the water to find its way inside before moving up to the next section. When your helper hollers, you should have a pretty good idea of the general location where the water is entering.

Caulking and flashing repairs around doors and windows are usually DIY-friendly. However, shingle repairs should be left to the professionals -- especially since you're renting. If you want to light a fire under your landlord, tell them that the leak may be leading to mold and mildew. Hopefully that will get a response as remediation can get very expensive.

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