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Rain entering wall. Suspected window problem.


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Thanks in advance for your help!

During driving rain in a specific direction, I get water entering my basement. It appears to be coming into the front wall of the house, running down the wall, and then hitting the top off my basement wall and running down into the basement.

The wall in question is brick veneer and has one window on the second story (first story is covered by a garage). Upon looking at the wall, I noticed cracks in the caulking around the window. I took a hose and sprayed water all around and on the window for a while and was able to reproduce the problem.

Now, I have no problem resealing the window with new caulk, but here are my questions/concerns:

1/ The house is relatively new and the caulking is already badly cracked. I worried this may be due to the width of the gap being caulked. It seems VERY wide. Is there a minimum standard for the space to be caulked around a window?

2/ Assuming water was able to penetrate the caulk, should there not be some sort of window/sil flashing to direct the water back out?

3/ Assuming water penetrated the caulk, and there was no window flashing, and the water enters the wall. Should the through-wall flashing of the brick veneer not catch this water and direct it back out via weepholes? Does it seem normal to have the ater run all the way down into my basement?

Thanks.

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In a correctly installed window, no caulk is necessary. Maybe as a final touch after everything else is done if it makes someone feel good, but if it's the primary moisture barrier, something is way wrong.

Can't tell anything without good pictures, but the high likelihood is the flashing is wrong, or nonexistent.

This is an extremely common problem, epidemic in fact.

The fact that the water is getting all the way to the basement tells me several flashing details under the brick veneer are also completely wrong.

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I agree with Kurt and Mike. What you have to understand is that, in a brick veneer installation, the *back of the brick* is a drainage plane. Water will get behind brick. It'll go through cracks, between the bricks and the mortar, around window & door openings, over rowlocks, etc. Brick veneer does not just get wet in the front. It's part of the nature of a brick wall that water will get behind it. From your questions about caulk, I suspect that you, like most brick installers, believe that the solution to your problem is to prevent the water from getting behind the brick. Round things roll; square things don't. Trying to prevent water from getting behind brick is like trying to make a square thing roll.

So, it's very important that there be an intact drainage plane behind the brick. This drainage plane should include through-wall flashings that prevent the water on the back of the bricks from running down into your basement. If you look at the links that Mike provided, they'll show through wall flashing above the windows, under the windows, and at the first course above grade.

Your house lacks this through-wall flashing. If you want to solve the basement water entry problem, you'll have to create a viable drainage plane behind your brick. Sometimes its possible to do this with the existing brick veneer, but it's usually better to entirely replace the brick.

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For some more information about how rain is kept out of masonry walls you can take a short online course here. Click on "Free Online AIA/HSW Continuing Education" and then register (it's free).

The course you want will be in Division 4 - Masonry.

David, to answer your question, you can find a course on 3-coat stucco systems at this site in Division 9.

Hope this helps.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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David,

Besides the course above, if you need help with any stucco or EIFS systems here in the Northwest the Northwest Wall and Ceiling Bureau in Seattle is a great resource. They authored The Stucco Guide which is the bible for the 3-coat stucco industry and they've been helping builders in the Northwest for half a century. Their website is here and you can order a copy of The Stucco Guide here $10 cheaper than you can get it if you order it direct from the Stucco Manufacturers Association.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thanks all. The home was build in 2006, and per the building code in Ontario there should be through-wall flashing in there. I see weepholes, but I'm not sure of the integrity of it or if there were shortcuts taken in places.

So would you recommend I focus on the brick, and not the window repair?

I'm not in construction so I'm trying to determine my next move. I.e. Call a window company, call a masonry company, or call a home inspector to have a better look and make recommendations.

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Focus on the brick.

Those walls are supposed to be built so that window can be replaced with new windows without compromising the integrity of the wall system.

Direct a hose at the face of a solid brick wall and wait and about five to ten minutes later the back of the wall starts to darken and a few minutes later water begins trickling down the backside of the wall - even without window openings. If the flashing details are wrong in that wall assembly, water is going to drain into the house just like you are experiencing.

Go to the link I gave you above and spend an hour taking that course so that you'll better understand the issues and then get yourself a decent contractor. If you bought the house new, consider getting yourself a decent lawyer.

Don't hire any home inspector unless you can verify his/her experienced/expertise through references and he or she really knows brick.

Hell, it's not that far to fly. If you really want good answers hire Kurt to fly up there. He's a friggin brick god.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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We are experiencing a decline in masonry quality due to a couple things.......flashing installed wrong and mortar incompatibility with a particular brick. Both things are epidemic, and when you put them together water, floods into houses.

From what it sounds like, you have both, so we could fast forward a bit......

You will doubtless get a bunch of recommendations to apply sealant; it's the go to advice for all those folks that don't know how to build a brick wall. It might temporarily stop water from entering the basement, with the emphasis on temporary, but you'll still have a wet wall that's growing mold or otherwise damaging the structure.

If it's like every other leaker I look at, the bottom of the cavity is full of mortar which usually negates the benefit of flashing. That's not fixable without some dismantlement.

I think you're going to be removing the lower 4 courses of brick to get the base flashing right, and the brick around the window so you can get the window flashing right.

There's no such thing as an easy fix for improperly constructed brick walls. Sorry to have to tell you.

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Thanks. A bit more info/background....

Originally I tried hitting the bricks under the window with water and was not able to reproduce the problem. Similarly I had my builder out many many times, and they water tested in the same way and said everything is fine. They also removed a small section of brick (per my repeated requests) under the window and said it looked dry. They installed what looks like some sort of metal through-wall flashing in there now, but again ..it's just one small section.

It was only when I recently hit the window/caulk with water that I could reproduce the problem. Very strange.

P.S. MY builder has since refused to come out any more saying they have done everything they could, and nothing is wrong. They also stated that caulking is a "home maintenance issue", not a warranty issue. So I'm on my own to figure this out now. :S

Thanks for all your help and advice, it has been super helpful.

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So you had the place built and have a history of the builder bungling repairs since 2006, and now he says that water leaking into the basement from a second floor window is a 'maintenance' issue and not 'warranty'. It's not surprising he can't fix it, he didn't build it right in the first place. Your neighbors probably have similar problems.

You need a lawyer.

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So you had the place built and have a history of the builder bungling repairs since 2006, and now he says that water leaking into the basement from a second floor window is a 'maintenance' issue and not 'warranty'. It's not surprising he can't fix it, he didn't build it right in the first place. Your neighbors probably have similar problems.

You need a lawyer.

I am contemplating legal action. But first I'd like to confirm the problem definitively, and get estimates on the repair costs. Then I can quantify the "damages" should I decide to pursue this in court.

But more than anything I just want to get this fixed ASAP. Worst case is I've water water in my walls for 5 years, which can't be a good thing.

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The thing I know for sure is....

If there's flashing installed correctly, they don't leak. Doesn't matter what you do, they don't leak.

I'd bet a tooth there's no end dams, not likely to have back dams, the house wrap/moisture barrier is unlikely to be detailed correctly, and the bottom of the cavity is full of mortar.

I'd bet the tooth because that seems to be the way everything was built up until about 8 months ago. Now, folks know what I'm talking about, but until now, not at all.

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Yeah, maybe. Sometimes.

I've had more than a few where it seems like a slam dunk fix for seemingly simple reasons, we do the fix, then it still leaks. When it all comes apart eventually, it's always mortar at the bottom of the cavity and the house wrap lapped under the through wall flashing.

Otherwise, how the heck could water get to the basement.

He doesn't need me....he needs a good brick guy to fix the flashing.

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If the leak is occuring only at one window it seems to me that the problem should be fixable for a reasonable cost. Maybe you and the builder can agree on a third party to evaluate the problem and determine a solution. I vote that you hire Kurt.

That approach assumes that the total extent of the problem is the entry of visible water into the basement. Unfortunately, most damage from faulty brick occurs without such obvious symptoms. If he's getting visible water in the basement under one window under certain weather conditions, it's very likely that he's getting concealed water entry in other places as well. Without doing destructive testing, it's nearly impossible to ensure that a partial repair will be sufficient.

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Thanks. A bit more info/background....

Originally I tried hitting the bricks under the window with water and was not able to reproduce the problem. Similarly I had my builder out many many times, and they water tested in the same way and said everything is fine...

If this is the guy that built the house in question then perhaps he has a vested interest in not finding anything wrong. Get someone more knowledgeable and impartial to say it to the builder's face. Maybe then he'll be convinced and you won't need litigation.

Marc

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Thanks everyone. If you know of a reputable brick company in the greater toronto area let me know. I've been calling around and I've spoken with a few brick guys, and I'm not getting the sense they can help me. Based on their websites it seems most of these companies focus on chimney repairs, and/or brick replacement and restoration.

I have a couple guys coming out to have a look. Wish me luck.

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Good luck.

Understand, us folks have businesses because not many trades understand how to do their job. Don't be surprised when you receive all sorts of recommendations that don't have to do with flashing, i.e., expect a lot of caulk and sealant proposals.

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Thanks everyone. If you know of a reputable brick company in the greater toronto area let me know. I've been calling around and I've spoken with a few brick guys, and I'm not getting the sense they can help me. Based on their websites it seems most of these companies focus on chimney repairs, and/or brick replacement and restoration.

I have a couple guys coming out to have a look. Wish me luck.

Find a mason who mostly works with commercial buildings.

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