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By The Time You See A Leak, There May Be Serious Water Damage At Your Home

Removal of siding reveals extensive mold, delamination, and rot in the OSB (particle board) wall sheathing.

If you see evidence of water intrusion in your home, condominium unit, or commercial building, you should never delay in taking action.  That’s because it can sometimes take years for water to make its way from the outside of your home – as a result of a construction defect or any other condition on the exterior of the building – to the interior of the home where it is visible to the casual observer.

Water can cause many kinds of immediate and long-term damage.  For example, the sheathing and framing of the house can suffer from deterioration, delamination, and rot.  Mold can grow on the back of sheetrock, in attics, crawlspaces, and elsewhere.

Let’s take a look at some of our many clients’ homes where, by the time an interior leak was discovered, extensive, underlying damage had already occurred at the home.  Here is an investigative opening made in the exterior stucco on a home that looked fine from the outside.  Problems only became apparent when carpenter ants – which thrive on rotting wood and had formed a huge nest in the walls of the home – swarmed into the interior of the home.

Man Cutting Panel Off Wall
Investigative cut made in the exterior stucco . . .
Water Rott in Wood
. . . . reveals underlying rot and decay in the wall framing and sheathing.
Water Meter
Moisture meter used to measure the percentage of moisture in the wood.

At this next home, our clients noticed a little bit of water pooling on the sill of their ground-level window. When the contractor removed the exterior siding that looked just fine from the outside, it revealed that enough water had made its way behind the siding and weather-resistive barrier to cause substantial mold and decay in the walls. And the client had only just discovered the first interior leak!

Removal of siding reveals extensive mold, delamination, and rot in the OSB (particle board) wall sheathing.
Removal of siding reveals extensive mold, delamination, and rot in the OSB (particle board) wall sheathing.

Another one of our clients who bought a brand new home soon noticed cupping of the hardwood floors near the backyard patio. When floors cup, it is typically a sign of excessive humidity – that is, moisture.

Hard Wood Floors damaged by Moisture
Cupping of the hardwoods is apparent by the offset shadows and light.
Cupping of Hardwood floors
A level or other straight edge readily reveals the cupping hardwood boards.

As a result of the improperly waterproofed exterior and an inadequately sloped patio, water was making its way around and under the sliding glass door, soaking framing members and pouring into the crawlspace below the brand-new hardwood floors.

Water soaked crawl space
Water soaks the framing and pours into the crawlspace

In fact, so much rainwater was making its way into the house that, right below the hardwoods, water poured out of the ducting onto the ground below:

Foundation damage

Many of our clients first notice mold near their baseboard, or wet carpet. When the carpet is pulled back, there are often wet padding and tacking strips. In this photo, you can see the wet carpet pad and tack strip as well as mold on the interior wall above the baseboard, on the left:

Water under the carpet

Poor drainage and groundwater can combine to cause standing water in the crawlspace, which can go undetected for whole rainy seasons or even years. Standing water causes excessive humidity and can cause mold in insulation backing as well as mold in the framing lumber. One of our clients noticed that her windows fogged up on the inside of the house when she had the heat on the winter. We investigated and quickly found the cause: There was such poor drainage that she had a “lake” in her crawlspace, creating excessive humidity in the home and mold:

Water Damage under foundation
Wet Crawl Space

These are just a few examples from the many hundreds of insurance claims, construction defect cases, and real estate disclosure disputes we have handled over the past 35+ years. But there is one lesson that is apparent: Do not delay if you see signs of interior water intrusion. Call legal counsel, have them get an expert involved, and investigate. This is the best, first step to preserve your claim and maximize your chances of a recovery.