As we go about our busy lives, we often forget about the plain facts of life here on this spinning globe: gravity creates an unceasing tension in the materials we assemble into buildings and other structures. Whether or not we are paying attention, all of matter is reacting to gravity’s pull, and those forces can result in small tears or holes in facades, roofs and other parts of a building.
Over time, such stresses can result in a hole in a roof, oftentimes at a plane change area, such as where flashing surrounds a skylight or a chimney. Even if it’s just a pinhole leak to start, if it is left undetected for very long, that dripping water can cause serious damage to a building and even adversely affect its structural integrity.
Water leaks are the bane of many homeowners and many condominium building engineers or superintendents. But unlike a drippy faucet or a drafty window, which often can be simply fixed, water leaks sometimes can be very difficult to find and remedy. Many different technologies exist to help find the source and the extent of leaks and other technologies can help minimize the damage these leaks cause. Knowing what makes leaks happen, the ways that they are found, and how they’re repaired is essential for anyone living in a multifamily building. Because after all, such a leak might happen in nearly anyone’s unit and still affect everyone in the condo because of a costly fix that all will have to pay for.
A longstanding leak might signal the need for a major building improvement project, but it might also require a less invasive solution, such as a spot replacement of just part of a roof. Knowing what solution to use is the contractor’s bailiwick, but understanding something about the fixes for water leaks, and the best practices for finding the source of the leaks, is the responsibility of each building resident.
Water leaks in a condo building are generally of two kinds: rain-related or plumbing-related. “Rain-related leaks are any type of water intrusion that typically occurs only when rain occurs during storms. It’s when rain is forcing water against a window or against a roof. It’s usually related to a heavy rain and wind blowing,” says Karen Peterson, co-owner of American Leak Detection, the franchisee that covers Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. “Plumbing-related leaks are constant. The way you can tell if you have plumbing-related leak is to take a look at your water meter. If the water meter is spinning when no water is being used that means you have a leak in your potable plumbing. That’s the plumbing that goes from the water meter to the water fixtures. It’s your hot and cold water line and that plumbing is always under pressure, when you go to turn on your faucet you get water immediately, that’s because it’s under pressure. The water meter doesn’t know the difference when you turn on a faucet or if the water is coming out of a leak. The water meter will move when no water is being used if you do have a leak.”