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Advice on cleanup of recurring Window leak


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I have just discovered that a window in my parent's house has been leaking for years. It has gotten to the point that the drywall under the Window has started splitting and the paint peeling. I didn't discover this until I moved a piece of furniture and saw it. When I questioned them about it, they said they noticed it a few years ago.

With that said, I am going to have to assume that there is a nice biology experiment going on behind that wall even though there is no smell or visible mold/mildew evidence on the interior walls. They have also been complaining about little bugs called Springtails being found on the upstairs bedroom wall that is right above this leaking window. When examining the window I saw that there were quite a few of these bugs evident around the cracks in the window moulding and drywall. As these critters like damp places and live off fungus, I guess this is where the nest is located.

I obviously need to fix the window leak, but at the same time will need to open the wall to find the leak. This will then expose the house to whatever is lurking (mold, bugs, etc) back there. I also assume that once I fix the leak, I need to open up the wall and let it dry out completely before sealing it back up?

Can anyone provide some advise on the best way of tackling this so that the mold is contained? Do I contact a mold remediation service first, before fixing the windows? Do I fix the window and then bring in a mold remediation company?

If there is mold, do I assume I will need to remove all drywall that even looks compromised until I see no evidence of mold, throw it out, let it dry, reinsulate, and seal it back up? When using a moisture meter, there is only one little area that is showing high moisture. Is it possible that it has not spread all over the place in there?

Any suggestions and advice?

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First, fix the leaking window. Remove mold damaged drywall. Clean up that which can be cleaned. Put it all back together. Paint it.

Or, call a mold company. Be subjected to scientific concepts unknown outside the mold companies sales brochures, be prepared to enter Hazmat operational status, transfer funds out of your retirement account and watch them evaporate into unforeseen additional costs, and spend the next year wondering if you really had to go through all that crap to address something that's otherwise really simple and easy.

It all depends on what you choose to believe.

What do you do when you find a pile of moldy something or other that's in the back of the refrigerator where you keep all your food? Do you toss it out and move on with life, or do you empty the 'frig, sanitize the entire kitchen, and entirely restock your food supply?

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I am not scared to admit it. When it comes to mold and bugs, I am a squeemish 13 year old. With that said, I swallow my fears and deal with it so my kids don't turn out like me and I do the right thing by my parents who can't do it for themselves. Costco had a cheap moisture meter/infrared thermometer sale going on last week so I picked em both up for $30. I have also been reading up on this before I did anything so I don't spend unnecessary money. I am by no means a do it yourselfer.

Thanks Kurt for the very blunt and straightforward answer. It's what I needed. I think I will avoid the hazmat suits and just clean it up with a local handyman on my end. I assume removing the affected dry wall, removing insulation, rubbing down exterior walls with bleach and sealing it backup should be more than sufficient? Is it necessary to dry the space out for a few days before I seal it up or with the leak fixed should it dry out on its own?

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I recommend that you check all of the caulking at the exterior of the window. I have seen the smallest of gaps allow moisture to get in. Also, what type of window is it? Aluminum/vinyl? Could it be a leak or humidity? Have seen both over the years.

As Kurt stated, the "remediation" outfits charge a small fortune for what is really a simple clean up. Be sure to have an anti-microbial(Kilz) around to seal the area within the walls after stopping the moisture issue.

I would leave the area open long enough for it to dry out, and long enough to ensure the issue was fixed. Put a fan on the area when it's open, will speed up the process.

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A person generally makes use of his knowledge and experience with houses to find out what's causing an issue.

If the leak baffles you yet still you feel compelled to find it's source, ask a home inspector to take a look at it. You don't need him to complete an entire home inspection, just look for the leak.

Marc

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Thanks all.

Rob, I think it's a wooden casement window. Vinyl siding. I was told the best way to find the leak was to open the wall where it is damaged, which is in the lower left below the window, and spray a hose at it starting from the bottom. When you see moisture building it, you have the general area you need to focus on sealing. Thoughts on this?

The windows on their first floor were going to be replaced in Sept or Oct. They want to wait till then to deal with this, while I think we should fix it now regardless of how long the leak has been there.

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Thanks for the advice Marc. To be honest, I never knew home inspectors could be hired for those one off types of things. Thought they were primarily for entire home inspection.

Will try and find a home inspector in my area who would be willing to do this.

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Show us a picture of the window. Take an establishing shot, then a couple close ups along the top, at corners, and along the bottom. Try to present the conditions as accurately as possible with your photos. Most of us could give you a high probability answer just from seeing the window.

Window problems are almost always related to flashing, or lack thereof. Caulk can't fix flashing.

Since it's vinyl siding, I can almost tell you what's wrong without a pic. There's probably no drip cap flashing. I'd bet the underlying house wrap isn't taped, or it's even possible there's no house wrap. It's almost certainly something under the siding that wasn't done right. It's really easy to install windows so they don't leak; if they leak, someone was a moron.

My first sentence was "fix the leak"; don't do anything until you fix the leak.

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Hi,

If it's a wood casement window installed before the advent of aluminum or vinyl window with the nailing flanges that most idiots think are widow flashings, it's probably splined on all sides with heavy asphalt felt splines and should have a metal head flashing above the window. If you're lucky, they put a pan flashing below the sill. If the sill is cracked or the joints where the sill and casing sides meet are un-caulked and dried and separated, water might be getting in that way. If there is a pan flashing beneath the casing it could be leaking.

Perform a pick test on the wood window casing and the jacks and rough opening and framing below the window. Replace - do not sister - any wood that the pick test indicates have incipient rot or worse. Don't leave any rotting wood there or you'll be sorry later. If the sloped sill is rotted out, do not replace it with a 2 by 6 laying flat on its side. Find some milled sill material with a drip kerf at a wood supplier someplace. If there are flashings incorporated into the wall plane under that sill and they are rusted out, replace them.

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I have uploaded a bunch of pictures to a flickr set:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/88603773@N ... 217410352/

While taking these pictures, I think I found the problem but not sure. It appears that the upper right external side of the window is actually coming out of the wall and that there is a large gap there, but I was not able to get close enough to really check. You can see this photo here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/88603773@N04/9084537753/

9084537753_a1ca018973.jpg

Would it make sense though for the water to be coming in at the external upper right , but only affecting the drywall on the internal lower left side?

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Also, is that white external trim purely decorative or is it there to protect the window from water? For example, can I take it off, fix the window, and leave it off until the window is ultimately replaced? Or do I need to add it back?

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Also, is that white external trim purely decorative or is it there to protect the window from water? For example, can I take it off, fix the window, and leave it off until the window is ultimately replaced? Or do I need to add it back?

It looks like j-channel, a vinyl product that supposed to do the job of flashing as well as exterior window trim. I think you've found your leak.

Vinyl cladding lets a lot of water get past it, so much that it's good practice to assume it will happen. You should avoid depending on it to keep water from getting inside the wall cavity where it can do damage like in your pictures.

Marc

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That's a Pella. The sash is rotten. You can see it is no longer square and drags on the bottom. Given the crappy caulk job on the interior I bet it's been that way for a while.

The good news is that because it's an operating window you can replace the sash. The bad news is that you have single pane glass with an interior storm panel in NY. That inefficient assembly will have copious amounts of condensation between the panes of glass and the replacement will rot out too.

Expect to spend around $300 for a new sash, and another couple hundred for the paint and plaster. I wouldn't open anything up unless other windows exhibit similar damage-that would indicate jacked up flashing details. Be warned that siding cannot be removed mid-wall without damage and must be removed from the top down then reinstalled. That's a lot of siding to take down for flashing repairs (read as 'this is going to be expensive').

Marc, Vinyl siding is a rain screen. Up to 20% of the water that hits it will end up behind it. None of the vinyl accessories in those pics is supposed to function as flashing. The silicone caulk schmutz isn't helping anything either.

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Thanks for the comments.

I am not sure I see what your seeing. Can you point out how you can tell the bottom sash is rotten? Is the sash the actual window pane? Also what do you mean by an operating window?

The only thing I saw was that gap at the top right behind that vinyl trim as shown in my attached image above? Is that what you mean? Or is that something else.

I wouldn't open anything up unless other windows exhibit similar damage-that would indicate jacked up flashing details.

What do you mean by this?

To fix this is this something I should contact Pella about and have them replace it or can a local handyman take care of it?

Sorry for all the questions, but I do not have much experience here as you can see.

Thanks again

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Thanks for the comments.

I am not sure I see what your seeing. Can you point out how you can tell the bottom sash is rotten? Is the sash the actual window pane? Also what do you mean by an operating window?

Operating means that it opens and closes. The sash is the frame around the glass. Look at this pic. Click to Enlarge
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The bottom member of the sash is bowed and is hitting the frame. The gap around it should be uniform. I assume it's rotten because that is typically the cause of the deformation. I have seen windows that look nearly perfect inside and have rotted so bad the metal cladding falls off.

The only thing I saw was that gap at the top right behind that vinyl trim as shown in my attached image above? Is that what you mean? Or is that something else.

That is a loose piece of J channel. It's job is to cover the cut edges of the siding. The gap you see in the siding is necessary for expansion and contraction. Water is getting behind the siding there. It could be contributing to the damage, or not.

I wouldn't open anything up unless other windows exhibit similar damage-that would indicate jacked up flashing details.

What do you mean by this?

To fix this is this something I should contact Pella about and have them replace it or can a local handyman take care of it?

Call the local Pella dealer and have them look at it. They'll tell you what parts you need, assess whether the frame is leaking or not, and probably be able to recommend a handy man to fix the paint and plaster.

I don't see anything that would make me want to tear open walls looking for mushrooms. It isn't that bad.

Sorry for all the questions, but I do not have much experience here as you can see.

Thanks again

No problem, just tell me where to send the bill[;)]

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Thanks again Tom.

Whether or not that window is operating is open for debate :) I tried and cant open that window at all. In fact many of the windows in their house get stuck or have difficulty opening.

So a rotten sash can be a leaky sash? Does it make sense that I cannot see the water coming in around the window when it rains hard?

Once the leak is repaired, do you see a need to open the wall to dry it out? Or will it dry out on its own. Not sure how tight these houses are and if it becomes a closed system. Would putting a dehumidifier in the room for a week or so do the trick once the leak is repaired?

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Be warned that siding cannot be removed mid-wall without damage and must be removed from the top down then reinstalled. That's a lot of siding to take down for flashing repairs (read as 'this is going to be expensive').

Why are you saying that vinyl siding can't be removed mid wall without damage? They make a tool specifically so that siding can be re- installed after removing it "mid wall". Since I know you know this, it's just got me curious.

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...Be warned that siding cannot be removed mid-wall without damage and must be removed from the top down then reinstalled. That's a lot of siding to take down for flashing repairs (read as 'this is going to be expensive').

Brandon's right. I bought such a tool not long ago. Works well after you get used to it. Doesn't damage the siding. Just not sure if it'll work on that particular vinyl plank.

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Marc

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