Saturday, July 10, 2010

Welcome to Our Parlor, Part II

Water, water, everywhere. I'm so happy it's finally raining today, though I have nightmarish visions of the water seeping into the foundation of our gutterless house and spreading into the dirt of the crawlspace. I'm not sure if there were ever gutters on the home, but the lack thereof and other areas where moisture has been allowed to penetrate have created a breeding ground for the termites who have happily chowed down on beams, joists, and studs. And apparently, these little devils can make quick work of a home. We hired the architect I used to work for, who is much like a building doctor or surgeon, as well as a great designer, to help me troubleshoot some of the problems. I had my guesses as to where some of the water was coming from, but he helped verify my guesses and pinpoint some others.

We first noticed that the moisture was concentrated around the foundation of the hearth in the crawlspace of the parlor. The dirt was damper there than anywhere else in the room, which suggests that the chimney could be a possible leaking point. Though we weren't able to determine this to be the definite source of the problem, I've also heard from other sources that loose flashing (that's the metal stuff that forms a water-shedding joint between the brick of the chimney and the roof...see photo below) can cause water to leak down the chimney shaft. Masonry (brick, concrete block, etc.), for all its strength, is a porous material. Lesson learned here is to get your roof replaced and re-flashed before it's too late. This stuff doesn't last forever, folks.

Apparently, gutters cover a multitude of sins. It may be romantic to watch the rain drip from your roof onto the ground, but there's nothing romantic about the water pooling near your foundation and seeping through the walls to rot the wood structure. Though the crawlspace in general is moist from water not being allowed to shed away from the house, the real issue is at the back patio. Though I'm sure that the patio sloped away from the house when it was built, settlement has let water pool against it and has rotted the band board (a 2x that the joists are nailed into), and we just had to order a new patio door. Since the band board isn't structural, it won't be replaced, though we will have to keep an eye on it. And when we replace the roof and get gutters on the house (which we will do after the structure is stabilized), we'll see if the water continues to pool against the house. If this is the case, the patio and the concrete slab it's built on will have to be demolished. We would then rebuild it several inches lower and over a material that would let water drain back into the ground. Here's the profile of the patio (check out the moss):

And while gutters cover a multitude of sins, j-channel does not. J-channel is that plastic stuff you see around exterior doors, that form the joint between the door jamb and the siding. On the farmhouse, it'd also been used in the valley (low spot) behind the chimney, as you can see in the photo of the chimney above. This joint is another disaster waiting to happen, as this area should be flashed with metal in order to allow water to shed instead of penetrate. J-channel was also used as a joint between the pretty but problematic brick foundation wall and vinyl siding (it's the thin white stuff in the patio photo above). This detail should also be flashed, which would make it not as attractive, but for now we're going to caulk along that joint every year. Byron likes caulk, so that will be a fun new ritual for him.

Finally, I believe water is seeping behind the roof of the front porch. As you can see in the photo below, the windows are sitting directly on the roof, which allows for zero flashing to be installed at that joint. You can caulk there, sure, but caulk is only a temporary solution and needs to be maintained, which has not happened. Water appears on the porch floor below and in the crawl space by the front door. This seems to be the only place it could be coming from, so we're going to raised the sills of the three second-story windows about 8" so that are beneath them can be flashed properly. And of course, gutters will help here, too.

Yup, we have our work cut out for us, but I'm happy we've been able to pinpoint where the problem areas are so this doesn't happen again. After all, we're planning on being here at Green Acres a long, long time.


  1. Interesting on the gutters. We actually never got around to putting them on our house. We have a decent overhang, so hopefully we're not damaging anything. Shame on us!

  2. Make sure the water isn't pooling around the foundation, and the ground around your home nees to slope away from it. And even if your floor level is higher off the ground, if you have one overhang over another, the water dripping off the higher roof can weaken the area where it's dripping on the roof below it. Gutters are ugly, but worth the aestetic and financial costs. :)