Leaking Water: Detective Work?
Detective stories have always stirred the imagination of America’s entertainment-seeking public. Usually, the plots involve murder and money to make things more exciting. Yet any real-life private investigator will tell you that 99% of their work is very boring and tedious, hardly the suspenseful and mysterious dramatics we see on TV or in the movies.
Yet every week the late actress Angela Lansbury, who played writer, Jessica Fletcher on the famous 80’s and 90’s drama show “Murder She Wrote,” would seem to stumble into one murder mystery after another. She almost always ended up leading the authorities to the real perpetrator among several suspects. Jessica was an outstanding detective. In a more mundane life, she would have been an outstanding water detection professional.
Water restoration usually has nothing to do with murder, but it can involve a lot of money. In many cases, insurance companies pay for the mitigation and repairs when coverage is there for the cause of loss. Sometimes, though, policyholders end up paying out of pocket to get themselves back to pre-loss condition. And while restoration contractors aren’t murder mystery writers like Jessica Fletcher, we often think we can write a book based on the different causes of water damage and the crazy circumstances surrounding it.
We’ve encountered situations where firefighters, property managers, and backup building maintenance officials have no idea how to shut off a main water valves in a commercial building. Meanwhile, hundreds and often thousands of gallons of water spew down hallways. Now there’s a mystery!
A question the public often asks is “Are water losses in homes that common?” The answer is yes. Sometimes the reasons for the loss are obvious. A toilet overflows because it didn’t shut off properly. A pipe freezes and then bursts while the homeowners are in Florida for a week. A homeowner cleans up the kitchen at night, puts the dishes away, and turns on the dishwasher whose water supply line breaks and runs nonstop while everyone’s sleeping.
Most water losses have a clear cause, but sometimes the reasons for leakage are not so obvious. At this point, one does what detectives and doctors do, mainly the process of elimination. I had a personal experience with this “process” with a couple of water losses some decades ago. The first happened during a rainstorm just prior to when I was scheduled for a roof replacement.
Thinking the roof was the culprit, my wife and I decided to go ahead with the interior repairs once the roof was replaced. We had no leaks for about a year and a half. Then after one day of driving rain, water damage occurred in the same location. Suspicious, I took note of the direction the wind was blowing the rain (from the East) and concluded that my leakage was probably from the upstairs, east side window, not the roof.
Was I worried? You bet. Should I have called a leak detection expert, to begin with? Absolutely. I could have spared myself and my insurer that second claim. You’ll be relieved to hear that all this happened very early in my restoration industry career. Now I know better.
Luckily, we had also planned to do some window replacements. I wasn’t 100% sure that was the problem, as water sometimes takes an indirect route in its travels. A few weeks later the carpenter confirmed my prognosis. “Your window was not flashed properly when put in,” he said. “There was a one-inch gap where that water could have entered, and I suspect with an east wind-driven rain, that was your water entry.” Twenty years later, there have been no leaks.
Other people are not so fortunate. Finding the water leakage source is not as apparent, and investigation is needed, and this is where we get back to detective work, especially in the interior of the house behind walls. At Lindstrom Restoration, we know that leak detection is an expertise of its own. We don’t just guess. Yes, we have moisture detection technology, and our expertise and experience often give us a definitive water leakage source. But leak detection is not the business we are in.
Sometimes, things are more complicated and require a water detection specialist to determine the water’s origin. The alternative is to start tearing the structure apart to find the source of the leaking water. It is better and more cost effective to find the localized leakage source and then with precision, do the necessary repairs without going through a lot of unnecessary demolition. It will cost a few hundred dollars more but may save you money long-term. Lindstrom Restoration can recommend vetted companies that are very good at detecting water losses.
Basements are another problem altogether. In this case, the problem is very localized and apparent. Leaking water is coming from some point in the foundation. Cracks and shifts in foundations can be a very expensive repair at worse. Compounding this fact, groundwater (flood) coming through the walls and floors of buildings is usually not covered by most insurance companies. See our February blog for more information on this. Again, consumers should consider going to basement water damage experts. Lindstrom Restoration can provide a vetted contractor to do a complete analysis.
At Lindstrom, we also get calls from homeowners who have developed some type of mold or mildew issues. Most of the time these were water damage losses that weren’t adequately mitigated. The homeowner may have tried to dry things down and didn’t do it fast enough before mold developed. Or home humidification systems aren’t appropriately cleaned. Often, a family member will suffer respiratory issues, and then we get the call. It becomes more problematic for a property manager who is responsible for several apartment or condo units. There can be liability issues from unhealthy environmental problems.
Again, the situation requires a detective, in this case, an environmental engineering firm is needed that employs professional industrial hygienists. They have sophisticated technology that will enable them to test the air for contaminants.
Water restoration companies like Lindstrom can do mold remediation responsibly and safely. This is not something homeowners should tackle themselves. Mold spores can be spread if not properly contained. Leave this work to the professionals. Unfortunately, there may be insurance coverage issues when it comes to mold. Check with your insurance agent on any mold situation that you suspect you have. Do your homework first and find the cause before filing a claim.
Lindstrom Restoration can handle the bulk of your water damage mitigation issues, but like family practice doctors who recommend specialists, there are times when we suggest that home and building owners seek more specific professional expertise to pinpoint root cause problems in structures. Thankfully, we provide home and building owners with vetted professionals who do their work efficiently and professionally. Just give us a call.