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5 Signs of Water Leaks Inside Walls

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
water leaks inside walls

The problem with hidden water leaks inside walls is the “hidden” aspect. Household water supply lines routed through walls are usually 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch pipes under a typical residential water pressure of 40 to 60 pounds per square inch. A total rupture of a supply line inside a wall becomes conspicuous very rapidly and typically warrants emergency service by a qualified professional plumber.

On the other hand, slow seepage and drips due to leaky pipe joints, internal pipe corrosion, and other small sources may continue unnoticed and unabated for some time. Eventually, however, these initially minor leaks may progress to a major rupture that can’t be ignored.

Unseen water leaks inside walls don’t mean that significant damage isn’t already ongoing. Potential consequences of ongoing water leaks include:

  • Rotted internal wooden structure
  • Deteriorated drywall
  • Ruined insulation inside the wall
  • Damage to electrical wiring and other components
  • Toxic mold growth that spreads contamination to other parts of the home

Here are five initially subtle signs that may indicate water leaks inside walls:

  • Musty odors. Wet wood, drywall, and insulation inside the wall cavity rapidly become a starting point for toxic mold. One of the characteristic signs of mold contamination inside walls is a pungent musty odor that pervades the immediate area and doesn’t go away.   
  • Visible mold on walls. Drywall is absorbent. Moisture absorbed from hidden leaks inside the wall may permeate the material and trigger visible mold growth on the exterior surface of the wall. Mold may appear as a mottled discoloration on the wall.
  • Unexplained stains. Water permeating drywall from the inside may also create noticeable stains or darkening of the wall surface.   
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper. Chronic moisture present inside the wall deteriorates paint and dissolves wallpaper adhesive on the outside of the wall. Peeling paint or wallpaper that no longer adheres in a certain spot can be a giveaway of water leaks inside the wall.
  • Wall deformation. As saturation from hidden water leaks spreads throughout drywall material, the wall may appear to sag or bend. At that point, the drywall may be structurally unsound and in danger of collapsing.

Four FAQs About Ceiling Water Damage

Thursday, November 21st, 2019
ceiling water damage

Ceiling water damage is unsightly. We’ve all seen rooms marred by a glaring brown water stain looming conspicuously overhead. However, it can also be a potential safety issue because ceilings affected by water damage may be structurally unsound, too. Ceiling water damage should therefore never be ignored. Here are some questions and answers to common issues:

Is ceiling water damage always due to a roof leak? In single-story homes, a roof leak is probably the most likely cause, especially if signs such as an enlarging stain or dripping coincide with rainy weather.  However, household water supply lines are frequently routed through the attic, too. Leakage from those pipes can also damage ceilings below. This will usually be a rapidly worsening issue as pipes typically leak 24/7, rain or shine.  

What’s the most common cause of ceiling water damage in a room on the first level of a two-story home?  If the room directly above is a bathroom, the answer is clear. However, leakage may not be apparent in the bathroom itself. A common example is a leaky shower control valve. Because the valve connections are recessed inside the bathroom wall, there is no external sign of a leak. However, leakage from the valve runs downward through the wall cavity and damages the ceiling below.

How does water damage affect ceiling structural integrity?  Ceiling panels are composed of drywall, a material that absorbs water readily and dries slowly. Saturated drywall may not support its own weight and the affected portion of the ceiling may sag or even totally collapse and cause injury to occupants in the room. Wet drywall is also very friendly to mold growth, particularly on the attic side of the ceiling.  Even if the leak that caused the damage is repaired and the ceiling eventually dries, drywall may remain crumbly and prone to deteriorate easily.

What’s required to repair ceiling water damage? Fortunately, the affected segment of drywall can usually be cut out without removing the entire ceiling. After replacing the segment, the joint can be taped and the ceiling repainted with no remaining signs of damage.

Why Even Minor Water Leaks are an Immediate Problem

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

water leakMinor leaks in household plumbing often don’t stay minor. Pipe ruptures which seem to come as a surprise frequently exhibit advance warnings such as dripping and seepage at joints. These red flags can be easy to miss—or simply dismiss as “normal.” However, once a leak becomes a pipe rupture, water damage resulting from a household supply line under typical pressure of 40 to 60 pounds per square inch rapidly becomes both extensive and expensive.

Plumbers agree: no leakage from water supply lines is acceptable. Minor leaks are often indicators of more comprehensive issues that inevitably result in a serious pipe rupture that causes significant damage. All leaks must be evaluated to determine the extent of the issue, then properly repaired. Some of the causes of small leaks that may lead to big water damage include:

  • Internal pipe corrosion. All metal pipes are susceptible to corrosion over time. Corrosion occurs from the inside out, therefore, external pinhole leaks are often the visible evidence of significant deterioration occurring inside the pipe. Factors such as the type of metal and even the amount of naturally-occurring corrosives in the water supply contribute. Galvanized steel pipes once commonly installed in older homes, for example, are extremely prone to internal corrosion. Because eventual leakage and rupture are common, today, these pipes are recommended to be replaced in all cases.
  • Excessive water pressure. Municipal water pressure is often controlled by an adjustment valve at the house water meter. If water pressure has been adjusted too high, excess stress on internal plumbing will result in leakage, particularly at pipe joints or in spans of pipe weakened by internal corrosion. These initially small leaks are likely to progress into a major pipe rupture and significant water damage.

Minor plumbing leaks may also keep enclosed areas of the house such as the basement, crawl space and attic chronically moist. This provides a perfect environment for growth of toxic mold that eventually spreads throughout the house. Small ongoing leakage also rots wooden structural components as well as destroys insulation and promotes insect infestation.

Signs And Symptoms Of Drywall Water Damage

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

drywall water damage on ceilingIndoor water damage often includes drywall water damage. When pipe ruptures, overflowing fixtures, outdoor flooding, or other inundations affect a house, this ubiquitous building material is usually involved. Composed of a layer of gypsum sandwiched between cardboard paper facing, drywall’s water resistance is very dependent on duration of exposure. Once drywall has absorbed water, it may not be salvageable or worth the cost of attempting to dry out and repair versus removal and replacement with new material.

Evaluating drywall water damage

According to Gypsum Association guidelines, if drywall has been affected by Category 3 water —such as from a sewage backup or outdoor flooding—the decision is a done deal: Replace it. Absorbed contamination such as e coli bacteria and outdoor pollutants like fuel, pesticides and other chemicals make drywall a toxic hazard that needs to be eliminated from the house. Here are some other signs and symptoms to evaluate drywall water damage:

  • If drywall shows visual evidence of bulging or sagging, this is a sign of saturation and the material must be removed. A soaked, sagging drywall ceiling or wall is also a safety hazard to occupants. Other signs of saturated drywall include swelling or buckling and/or pulling loose from the mounting screws that secure the material to studs or ceiling joists.
  • If drywall feels wet and/or mushy to the touch and has remained wet for longer than 48 hours before drying procedures could be initiated, mold growth is very likely to occur. Removal is therefore advised, along with any wet insulation behind it. Mold remediation techniques should be applied inside wall and ceiling voids covered by the material.
  • In addition to visual signs and symptoms, a water damage recovery professional will utilize more accurate, definitive methods to evaluate drywall condition after water damage. This includes use of moisture meters with specific settings to measure moisture content inside gypsum wallboard. Based on these readings, superficial residual moisture may be eliminated with standard drying procedures including forced air and heat while saturated drywall will likely be replaced.

Contact Rytech, Inc. for information about the professional approach to resolve drywall water damage.


The Dishwasher Is Leaking! Do This First…

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

leaky dishwasherA dishwasher leak can be an intermittent event that happens only when the appliance is in use. Or, it can be ongoing even when the unit is turned off. If you feel immediate action is necessary due to the severity of the leak, turn off the unit then close the valve in the dishwasher water supply line. Typically, this shutoff valve is located under the adjacent kitchen sink where the water supply line branches off to the dishwasher.

There are several potential causes for a dishwasher leak and associated water damage. First, rule out the less serious suspects:

  • The wrong detergent. Dishwasher detergent is a specific low-suds formula. Using anything else can cause excessive sudsing that may overflow from the unit and appear to be a leak.
  • Door seal leak. This typically shows up as minor pooling on the floor directly in front of the unit. When the dishwasher is off, open the door and inspect the rubber seal around the perimeter. It may be obviously worn or damaged in some way. A very dirty seal may also leak water.

More complicated leakage can occur beneath the unit. Water may conspicuously run out into the kitchen or simply keep the area hidden beneath the dishwasher constantly wet. Unseen leakage can rot the wooden subfloor and/or spawn growth of toxic mold.

  • Remove the kick plate at the bottom front of the dishwasher then use a flashlight to check the dark area underneath for signs of wetness.
  • Dripping when the unit is off could indicate a loose or defective connection where the water supply line attaches to the dishwasher or a leaky supply line.
  • If no leakage is noted, run the dishwasher through a full cycle while observing the area underneath. If leakage happens only while the unit is running, suspect a defective internal hose, a leaking water circulation pump or solenoid valve, or a rusted out tub inside the unit.

DIY dishwasher repair for these issues is not recommended. Call a qualified plumber for full diagnosis and service.


3 Common Home Water Leaks And How To Prevent Them

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

leaking washing machineWhen it comes to home water leaks, there aren’t a whole lot of surprises. Generally, the same leaks occur from a few common sources inside a house and resultant water damage follows a fairly predictable pattern. Here are three of the usual suspects when home water leaks happen and how to prevent them:

Water supply lines. A 1/2-inch indoor supply line feeding individual bathroom or kitchen fixtures is under anywhere from 40 to 80 pounds of water pressure. Slow leakage can silently saturate the immediate area causing structural rot and triggering mold growth. Total pipe rupture can inflict widespread, expensive damage. Regularly inspect all visible supply lines under and behind fixtures. No amount of seepage or dripping, no matter how minor, is acceptable. Contact a plumber if you see any signs of leakage.

Washing machine hoses. Connecting fittings on the back of the washer to hot and cold water valves on the wall, many original-equipment washing machine hoses are cheap rubber. Over time, these hoses become brittle and may crack and leak or, worse, rupture without warning. Don’t wait for signs of deterioration. Replace rubber washing machine hoses now, before damage occurs, with flexible braided stainless steel lines that offer long expected service life and reduce the danger of water damage.

Air conditioner overflows. A central AC unit produces many gallons of condensation on a humid summer day. If everything works, the condensate drip pan under the indoor air handler drains condensation into the household sewer system. If the system becomes clogged, however (algae growth is a frequent cause) the pan quickly overflows and spills water every time the AC cycles on. This can cause substantial structural water damage before the problem is even noticed. Schedule annual AC preventive maintenance including drip pan cleaning. During cooling season, check the pan frequently for standing water—a warning sign of a developing clog. If water is accumulating, shut off the system and contact an HVAC contractor immediately.

For more about how to prevent home water leaks or deal with the aftermath if one occurs, contract the water damage professionals at Rytech, Inc.

Handle Leaks Fast! Damage Can Be Worse Than It Appears…

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

shower leaksAny water leaks inside your home can be damaging, but shower leaks are particularly insidious. A leak from a sink fixture, for example, will typically be conspicuous in the cabinet underneath the sink or as pooling on the adjacent floor. However, because of its configuration in the house structure, shower leaks often go unseen and may cause extensive damage before they’re pinpointed.

Water damage doesn’t take much time or necessarily involve a large volume of water. Toxic mold growth is triggered within 48 hours of exposure to moisture from even a small plumbing leak. Because many bathrooms are upstairs, minor shower leaks quickly migrate downward, soaking vulnerable wooden structure along the way and saturating the ceiling in rooms below.

Shower leaks can occur from several points of origin:

  • Leakage around the shower door frame, through the door channel or the gasket that seals the door may seep through the joint where floor tiles meet the shower stall. Water can then migrate through the subfloor, pool beneath the shower stall pan or penetrate adjacent rooms.
  • Shower plumbing such as soldered hot and cold water pipe joints, the mixing valve and other components are recessed into the wall cavity next to the stall. Leakage from these components drips downward into the wall cavity, where wetness rapidly accumulates and doesn’t evaporate. Mold growth and rotted building materials result.
  • The shower drain itself may leak at a joint in the drain pipe or around the gasket that seals the drain plate to the floor of the stall.
  • Sealed underneath the shower, a liner is installed to catch minor leakage and convey it into the drain line. Made of flexible waterproof material, the shower liner may eventually deteriorate with age and no longer hold water. Leakage directly beneath the shower penetrates the subfloor and structure underneath the shower, causing deterioration. Replacement of a leaky shower liner is usually major surgery that requires substantial dismantling of the shower to access the liner.

Ask the professionals at Rytech Inc. for more about potential water damage from shower leaks or other plumbing fixtures in the home.

Suspect a Water Leak in Your Home? 9 Ways to Locate the Issue

Friday, February 7th, 2014

water leaksBecause home water damage often begins silently and secretly, it’s a good idea to locate a water leak while it’s still minor. Hidden water leaks cost money in higher water bills. At average rates, a single dripping faucet costs you $10 a month. Even worse, that minor leak may turn major and spawn flooding that requires professional water restoration. Before that happens, here are 9 tips to locate a water leak: (more…)