New construction massive water damage

riddeiAugust 21, 2007

Purchased a new construction home in three'ish years ago. Window was leaking on the day we moved in. Complained to the builder, he caulked and played with flashing... Windows continue to leak on and off over the next couple of Springs "wind driven rain events".

Couldn't take it any more. Called a second contractor for what I thought would be a fix to the one leaking window. Found massive water penetration, soaking wet OSB with holes in it, rotten framing. Not just on the one wall, but around the house, all windows...

Windows not flashed properly. 100K estimates for complete removal of all cedar siding, replacement and repair of all rotten sheathing, insulation, framing, windows, etc., etc...

Builder out of business with housing market downturn.

We will be rebuilding with best practices used for house-wrap, and window installation. We will look into the modern "drain-wrap" (DuPont, Valeron, Benjamin/Obdyke/BBA Fiberboard, Pactiv, etc.).

Bottom line is, don't skimp on providing the best building envelope you possibly can! This was a beautiful (to the eye) home. No-one had any idea what was happening beneath.

I have learned more about water intrusion than I ever imagined.

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davidandkasie

sorry to here that. even though he is out of business, i would still hire a lawyer and go after the owner(s). if the business was not setup properly to shield them from any liablility, you can hold them responsible. you may even have a claim on THEIR umbrella insurance since they were still in business at the time of the screw up.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 1:45PM
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riddei

Yes,

We have a lawyer and are negotiating... I don't want to say too much on that front. It appears we may get "some" of the money back, but there are exclusions in the policy. He is in a bad place economically (minimal assets).

Everyone who looks at the house says the same two things:

1. "I'm sorry" (whether they had anything to do with it or not).

2. I can't believe that that much damage could happen in 3 years!

There are other details that led to the water penetration, but a lot of it was due to the Bituthene being applied the the outside of the house-wrap (instead of the other way around). On top of other faulty installation "mal"-practices that led to water getting behind the house-wrap and not being able to drain (other than into the walls).

I just wanted a forum to vent. I have never been in a lawsuit before, and this is extremely stressful... :-(

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 2:16PM
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klimkm

Thanks for the heads up!

Wasn't there a county or town inspector handling this? Why didn't they flag anything questionable?

Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 2:19PM
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sue36

You might want to cross post this to Building a Home, maybe with some pictures (they can be closeups so people can't identify your house). It would be a good for the people over there to see how quickly damage like this can occur.

Good luck. I hope it all works out ok for you.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 3:20PM
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moonshadow

I was just thinking what sue36 said. There are so many people at BAH forum here, it's quite active, they could surely benefit from your experience. Hope you get it all resolved!

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 7:26AM
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riddei

"Wasn't there a county or town inspector handling this? Why didn't they flag anything questionable?"

Yeah, the same city building inspectors didn't catch the fact that the master bath was missing a "P-trap" in the tub drain!

The smell of sewer gas after we moved in, made me remove the sheet-rock under the bath... which revealed a straight pipe into the sewer line! Pluming has it's own licensing inspectors by the way "rolley-eyes".

Forget about the general building inspectors. Maybe now that the new construction housing boom is over, they'll have more time on their hands to look properly... In fact, now that I know what to look for I see MANY NEW HOMES BEING BUILT WITH THE BITUTHENE OVER, INSTEAD OF UNDER, THE HOUSEWRAP. It amazes me! And you would never know once the siding goes up. This was a spec. house, we were not involved with the beginning stages of the game. Not that I would have known that anything was wrong at the time. In fact, the funny thing is that the main building subcontractor that built the house for the guy we bought it from actually has a really good reputation.

I'll see about posting some pictures on the BAH forum in the near future. Especially after the repairs get underway.

Before this, I had no building knowledge at all. In fact, my wife & I would joke that I would call an electrician to change a light bulb. After the last few months, I have learned a bunch about home engineering (an expensive education!).

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 10:06AM
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lkplatow

We had the exact same thing happen to us in our not quite 6 year old home, except that we never had any leaks at the windows and thus no sign of water intrusion. When our house began to smell like mold inside, we started investigating and found a mess. $140K later, we're finally done. None of it was covered by insurance and while we've filed a suit, it is taking forever and has already cost upwards of $10K in lawer fees alone. (In our state, you cannot recover the lawyer fees even if you win the suit.)

I'll include the link to our sad sad story. Feel free to contact me at the email on my website if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone who has "been there". Good luck - you'll need it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Our house saga...

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 3:51PM
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nycefarm_gw

It has been mentioned before over in BAH to hire a structural engineer to do periodic inspections, NEVER count on the building inspectors as they are only looking at the minimal building standards (if that).

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 5:09PM
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riddei

Just an FYI, I did post this in the BAH Forum and it seems that was a good suggestion. There are more responses there, than here.

Here is a link that might be useful: BAH Forum Post

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 11:46AM
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klimkm

"I know what to look for I see MANY NEW HOMES BEING BUILT WITH THE BITUTHENE OVER, INSTEAD OF UNDER, THE HOUSEWRAP"

Good to know.

Thanks for the followup info!!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 5:32PM
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snidelywhiplash

There are other details that led to the water penetration, but a lot of it was due to the Bituthene being applied the the outside of the house-wrap

Care to elaborate on this? AIUI, Bituthene (aka Grace Ice & Water Shield), being a roofing underlayment, is a bit large for the application stated.

Is the stuff you're calling Bituthene a window flashing tape (i.e. Vycor or similar)? That's what it sounds likepect. If so, the practice is that it's to be under the housewrap only on the window/door header. On the sides of the window, it's *supposed* to be installed over the nailing flange & housewrap.

Are you saying that the put on the peel & stick flashing over the wrap even on the headers?

Jason

Jason

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 7:34PM
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riddei

QUOTE: "Are you saying that the put on the peel & stick flashing over the wrap even on the headers?"

Yeah, I am using Bituthene as a common term... The "peel and stick tape" was on the outside of the housewrap 360 degrees around the window. Top included. (headers).

This, among other details, was wrong on this application.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2007 at 9:16PM
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gertie2u2

All I can say is lots of luck to you. Our one experience with contractors is you could probably do a better job doing it yourself, and most certainly you will have less aggrevation. If we eventually build a house, and we think we will, it will be strictly diy. We certainly couldn't screw it up any worse than the contractors have screwed up our house.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2007 at 9:37PM
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riddei

It's been a long time. We finally settled out of court. This got dragged on far too long! Our builder is out of business, they are auctioning his foreclosed residence next week. We had to pay a lot of money to our lawyers to extract our case from the bankruptcy court. His insurance company counter-sued his primary builder.
When it was all said and done, we paid $100,000. We settled on $64,500 from the two insurance companies.

It was an expensive lesson learned! It would have been much worse if the builders didn't have builders insurance (which is not required in our state).

Read this thread and learn from it.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 12:56PM
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braytonak

I don't understand the whole process, but if you had to pay $100k in legal fees and had a return of $64k, doesn't that leave you in the whole even worse?

We bought our 25 year old home last April. (Zero Lot Line) Our neighbors said that the former owner wanted to replace the roof the year before, even though they didn't want to. Turns out that the former owner really took the cheapest 'contractor' he could find. Crooked rows of shingles that disappear under another row, no mastic on the chimney top, poor flashing, nails right through the exposed portion of a shingle, only four (instead of the required six) nails per shingle, ripples in the shingles that could be caused by old nails still in the roof. I filed a complain with the BBB after getting the info from my neighbor. The company has gone out of business, which is of no surprise. There were other complaints against them, too.

In my case you get (or inherit) what you or someone else paid for. In your case it sounds like the builder danced around the problems until the company was gone. I really hope your damages were partly covered. If that happened to my home I'd be sunk.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2008 at 7:00PM
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fa_f3_20

I assume that riddei meant that their repairs cost $100K and their return on the suit was $64,500, leaving them out of pocket for $35,500. Still not satisfactory, but better than nothing.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2008 at 2:34PM
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lumper20

Why not look into hardiplank or vinyl siding? How big of a house is this? 100 K sounds like a huge home.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2008 at 6:48AM
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