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Question DetailsAsked on 3/24/2014

Water Intrusion through living room walls

The condo we live in had been orginally built in 1970. The condo (at 2nd floor) had a balcony initially, which was enclosed into an extended living room area. During heavy showers, the water leaks through the walls/windows(which was orginally the balcony area) . There have been cracks noticed in the stucco and attempts were made to fix it. But even then the water intrusion happens during showers. Also the unit above seems to have a similar issue.

One of the Water intrusion experts mentioned this could be caused because of the improper rain gutter installation on the roof, which in turn created cracks in the stucco. We are not 100% sure this could be the cause and are hesitant to proceed with the recommendations as the price quoted is high.

Any thoughts/ideas on how we could proceed? and also recommendations on who could help on this?

This issue has been persistent for more than 10 years.

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1 Answer


Interesting - is it possible this other post here is from your upstairs neighbor ?

One first indicator would be if it occurs on days with vertical rain or rain coming from the other direction, so the wall that leaks stays totally dry - if so, then that pretty much rules out doors and windows, and the upper floor balcony living space if its roof slopes away from the house and is not a flat roof. Also, the cracked stucco may just be a reflection of wood swelling from water in the wall, or could be a source, Generally, simple small cracks in stucco can lead to interior wall damage, but except in driving or prolonged rains generally do not result in water getting into the interior of the house. This of course assumes the felt or housewrap was properly carried down outside the lower plate of the wall to drain back outside the wall.

There are several ways to track this down, most of which require coopeation of the upper level tenants also, from

1) individually (on different days) testing with spraying water for an extended period of time on the walls and windows, the extended living room/balcony, its roof, and into gutter to see which wetted area causes the wall leak, to

2) starting at the leak expression in your wall and drilling about 1 inch holes to feel/look inside the wall for dampness,

3) to tearing out drywall upwards chasing the wetness to its source,

4) to thermal infrared scanning to trace the leak non-destructively.

You do have a number of possibilities - and if there are water intrusion issues upstairs at the same time as you have them or just hours before, then the problem is almost certainly at the roof/gutter or upstairs level, above your condo.

It is also possible, depending on your condo rules and agreement, that this is a joint issue (especially if possibly from roof) that the condo association should be looking at, not you individually, or at least once you trace the wetness to a point above your condo using methods 2, 3 or 4 above.

If you want a professional level investigation and a neutral party giving you recommendations, then I would get agreement with all the potentially affected condo owners - and their insurance companies if applicable - on a structural/civil engineering firm that does residential/condo damage investigations, to have them take the lead and track down the source and come up with a solution. Probably $500-1000 range plus cost of any contractors they use to tear into walls/roof and then repair inspection openings.

A cheaper initial way - probably about $150-200 to trace leak only, which should give you a good idea of source location but might not define the exact point source down to the inch, is getting a company with a thermal infrared scanner (usually energy auditors, and some flat roofing companies) to come on a pre-arranged on-call basis for them to come on short notice when it next happens, and trace the wet zone in the walls while it is soaking wet - within 24 hours of visible leakage if possible. Good short video on the technique here, lots more on Youtube if interested:

This might be a good initial approach for you as it is non-destructive, assuming you can get approval for access into all the upstairs condos and the attic and roof at the same time to track the wetness upwards. Some of these type contractors will do night or weekend calls to allow for coordination with adjacent owners, at same or not exhorbitantly higher cost.

The cheapest but more destructive way is to trace the wetness upward from the highest visible leak exposure in the wall by drilling about 1 inch holes and feeling inside for wet drywall or insulation and/or using fiber optic camera, and track upwards till no more wetness is found, then open up about a foot hole there to look around for the source and entry point. This is what I would do myself on my house, but then I can fix the damage for nothing too, using my stock of left over patching compound and wall paint and such, so this might or might not be what you want to do. If doing this in a neighbor's condo, certainly you would want either an iron-clad agreement with them on damages and repair responsibility, or better yet get them to do the holes themselves to help track it and then share the hole repair costs, which could be merged into the leak repair job maybe.

As to source - while poor gutter installation or design could certainly be the cause assuming you have a flat or zero-overhang roof (very unlikely if you have overhanging eaves butnot impossible), or even a roof leak migrating to the walls, or a poor window or door installation on that wall somewhere above where you see the water, my first guess would be the interface between the condo wall and the roof and walls of that living space bumpout onto the balcony, especially if it has a flat roof.

Since you say has been going on for 10 years, the insurance company might or might not be any help - long-term damage, especially if you had cause to know about it, is generally not covered Ditto for any mold or rot in the walls/roof/ceilings because of the leak.

Feel free to provide more info or ask followup questions using the Answer This Question button right under your question, and hopefully some of the contributor contractors on this forum will jump in with comments too.

There are also other prior questions similar to this in the Home > Windows and Doors section in Browse Projects, at lower left.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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