Water Intrusion: Your Home's Worst Enemy

Home Inspector with Inspect It 1st

Water Intrusion: Your Home's Worst Enemy

The past year has been fascinating in the inspection business. As a national company, we've dealt with water intrusion issues in virtually every possible scenario, from unexpected freezes in Arizona to massive snows and rains in the Northeast to tornados and hurricanes in the South, our clients' homes have been hammered with lots of moisture issues. It's something we know a lot about. Here are some lessons we've learned as successful home inspectors.

Lesson #1:
Most residential water damage is the result of improper drainage. Before you spend lots of time worrying about getting water out of your basement, worry about letting water in. Too many homeowners spend their time and energy trying to figure out how to pump water out of their basement sump pump versus trying to prevent it from entering in the first place.

Simply put, basements are natural places for water to collect. Most basements or crawlspaces are at least partially below grade. This means that water at grade (grade refers to the soil that is placed against the home) level from rain or melting snow will permeate soil and attack foundation walls. Most foundations simply can't handle massive levels of water without seepage. As a homeowner, you must do your best to minimize this water flow. Here's how:

  1. If you have a gutter and downspout system, make sure the gutters are clean. Clean gutters increase water flow to the downspouts and minimize water flowing over the gutters and flooding the perimeter of your home.
  2. Make sure that all downspout elbows have extensions and that all downspouts are directing water AWAY from your foundation. A good rule of thumb is that the elbow and its extension should slope away from the foundation at least ½ inch for every foot of length. We recommend downspout extensions be installed at every downspout and extend away the home.
  3. Make certain that you have a battery back-up sump pump installed for every electric sump pump installed in your home. Many homes in the Midwest experience regular power outages due to an unstable power grid. A power outage during a storm will render an electric sump pump useless. Once the pump crock pit fills with water, your basement will flood.

Lesson #2

Check the grade around your home. Grade refers to the soil that is placed up against the home. The grade should be 6-8" below any cladding on the home such as vinyl, aluminum or wood siding, stucco, or masonite. This will help to prevent these materials from drawing up moisture. If necessary, remove some of the soil or adjust the slope so that the grade slopes away from the home.

Lesson #3
Remove and relocate any trees or bushes that are very close or in actual contact with your home. Trees and bushes can damage exteriors and their roots can penetrate drain tiles (the tiles that carry groundwater to the sump pump and away from the home and its foundation walls). For example, many homeowners have experienced major damage to their drain tile system as a result of the weeping willow tree. A willow tree is beautiful, but it loves water and its roots can extend for hundreds of feet. A damaged drain tile system can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars to repair.

The same is true for your lawn. If it's located too close to the structure, watering it to keep it healthy may have a very negative impact on the structure, especially if water is performed by sprinklers.

Lesson #4

Check the location, timing and pattern of automatic sprinkler systems at your home. Sprinklers that are near the home can spray exteriors and soak foundations. Leaking sprinklers underground can do even more damage. Damage to concrete structures can occur very quickly, as concrete is quite porous.

Lesson #5
Check the slope of any non-permeable surfaces near your home such as walkways, patios, driveways, etc. When it rains, does water route away from the structure or is it flowing against the building? After a number of years, concrete surfaces installed in colder climates often shift due to frost heave. The frost heaves the concrete in such a way that water is now routed towards the house instead of away from it. Make any repairs necessary to improve slope so that water runs away. In some cases a simple solution such as trimming grass that borders a concrete walkway will dramatically improve drainage.

Lesson #6
Put on your raincoat. The next time it rains, go outside and take a look at your home. Pay close attention to the roof and how water is handled by your drainage system. You'll learn a lot about which sections of the roof handle the most rainfall, which sections are most protected, where rain actually ends up and what might be done to improve the drainage system. You'll learn which areas of the foundation receive the most water, how that water is handled and how long the area stays wet. While you're looking, make diagrams with notes and create a master map so that you can explain it clearly to someone else when it isn't raining. Start making contact with home professionals such as roofers, plumbers and landscapers so that you can complete a project quickly, if needed.

For more great ideas on how to improve your home's drainage, don't hesitate to contact us.


This entry hasn't been re-blogged:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
Pennsylvania Delaware County
before you buy or sell
have us inspect it 1st

Post a Comment
Spam prevention
Spam prevention
Show All Comments
Marvin Iavecchia
LeakingStanleyMartinHomes - Woodbridge, VA

October 17, 2008




Division of

Building Development

RE: Brick Veneer Installation

Dear Mr. Iavecchia:

Thank you for inviting me to your home on October 15, 2008 to observe the installation of

the brick veneer on your home.

The house was constructed in 2002 by Stanley Martin under the 1996 Virginia Uniform

Statewide Building Code and the 1995 CABO, One and Two Family Dwelling Code. Based

on the partial and limited area of brick veneer removal above the first level window to a

height below the second level window, the following observations were made:

1. Section 703.7.2.2 Weather-resistance sheathing paper

Tyvek® material was used over the sheathing, and the Tyvek® material

complies with this code section. This code section also requires that a one-inch

air space between the backing and the brick veneer. However, the actual

conditions varied from 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch. This condition does not meet the

minimum code standard.

2. Section 703.8 Flashing

Flashing shall be provided at the top and sides of all window opening and sills;

however, there was no evidence of flashing being installed around the windows.

There was flashing at the bottom of the window sill; however, the installation

did not appear to be a code compliant application. The code section provides an

exception that allows self flashing windows to be used to satisfy the flashing

requirement; however, the manufacturer's installation information for the

window was not available to validate the window type. This condition does not

meet the minimum code standard.

An Equal Opportunity Employer

3. Seetion 703.4 Weepholes

Weepholes shall be required immediately above the flashing for the brick veneer

installation. There were no weepholes installed above the masonry lintels for the

opening or under the window sills. This condition does not meet the minimum

code standard.

Subsequent to the field meeting, you provided a photo of an exhaust vent that was not

properly sealed and does not comply with the minimum code standard. The applicable code

section is:

4. Section 703 Exterior Covering - General

All exterior walls shall be covered with approved materials designed and

installed to provide a barrier against the weather and insects to enable

environmental control of the interior spaces.

This report concludes my finding for the brick veneer installation. Please contact me at (703)

792-6940 if there are any questions.




Code Enforcement Branch Chief

Attachment: Photos

C: Dave Duggar, Stanley Martin


Oct 20, 2008 04:40 PM #1
Marvin Iavecchia
LeakingStanleyMartinHomes - Woodbridge, VA

October 17, 2008


Major Marvin Iavecchia

13777 Ulysses St.

Woodbridge, VA  22191


Re: Water Intrusion  


Dear Marvin,


I visited the property at the above address on October 15, 2008 regarding the water intrusion.  This was a follow up to my previous visit on September 18, 2008, and this report supplements my report dated September 27, 2008.  I gathered information from the Owner (you), the mason Mark Holmes, Jim Collins of Prince William County Building Department, and made visual observations.  Also present was Dave Duggar from Stanley-Martin.  The following is a summery of my observations, analysis and recommendations.  No further invasive tests were performed, and no guarantee is made as to the correctness of the analysis, or the effectiveness of the recommendations.


•1.      Observations

See the previous report for a general description of the wall construction. Brick had been removed from one area between the head of a first floor window and the sill of a second floor window, exposing the cavity, moisture barrier and lintel.  The sheathing on the stud wall is covered with Tyvek brand moisture barrier.  The cavity is of minimal dimension and encumbered with mortar.  Flashing is installed under the sill of the second floor window, with minimal overlap over the Tyvek, but does not extend through the masonry.  No flashing was installed over the lintel above the first floor window, and the Tyvek passes behind the lintel.


Nails and staples within the cavity are rusted, indicating the persistent presence of moisture.  The Tyvek had been damaged by the removal of the masonry.  The mason expressed his opinion that the mortar used was either type S or M, rather than N.  This could not be confirmed without laboratory analysis.


•2.      Analysis

See the previous report for a general discussion of code requirements and good design practice for preventing water intrusion through masonry veneer walls.  The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC) in effect at the time of the house's construction (2001) incorporated the CABO residential code.  The requirements for air space, flashing and weep holes were the same as the IRC 2006 paragraphs quoted in the previous report with the following deviations.


Air space.  CABO paragraph 703.7.2.2 calls for "approved paper" or allows as an exception an air space instead.  Approved paper might have included Tyvek, if approved by the building official.  In that case, a 1" cavity was not required.


Flashing.  CABO paragraph 703.7.3 has the same requirements as IRC 2006 R703.7.5.


Weep holes.  CABO paragraph 703.7.3 has the same requirements as IRC 2006 R703.7.6.


The wall, as constructed, appears to be in violation of two of these code requirements, for flashing and weep holes.  Water that gets through the masonry veneer will travel down the face of the Tyvek, and instead of being directed out of the wall over the lintel, will pass behind it to the top of the window frame.  The gap between the lintel and the window frame is caulked, and the water takes the only path available into the interior of the house.


•3.      Recommendations

The wall cannot function as it should without properly installed flashing and weep holes over the lintels.  The following steps are recommended to correct the known deficiencies. 

  • Remove the masonry from above the lintel for the lintels full width (including bearing length) and at least 12" above the lintel. 
  • Install flashing extending from the outside face of the masonry over the lintel and up at least 8" behind the Tyvek, adhering it to the sheathing.  Lap the Tyvek over the face of the flashing to prevent moisture from getting behind the flashing. 
  • Repair any damage to the Tyvek, or replace it with asphalt saturated felt (mason's recommendation.)
  • Reinstall the masonry with the required weep holes. 
  • If this condition is typical of all the windows, similar measures should be taken at each of them.


The mason recommended in addition to the above, the application of a water repellent sealer to the masonry, such as Dayton Superior Silane.  I am not familiar with this product, and can't comment on it one way or the other.


The masonry had not been removed from around the vents when I was there, so I was not able to observe the situation at the vents.  Obviously, the connection between the duct and the vent should be made air-tight, and the vent flashed into the Tyvek to prevent compromising the integrity of the moisture barrier. 


Please do not hesitate to call or email if you have any questions or need further assistance.   Thank you for giving me this opportunity to work with you.







John Hugh McLeod III, Architect, LLC                   

John McLeod, Member

Oct 20, 2008 04:41 PM #2
Post a Comment
Spam prevention
Show All Comments

What's the reason you're reporting this blog entry?

Are you sure you want to report this blog entry as spam?


Chris Earley

Ask me a question
Spam prevention