Leaking door, please help

hoosierdocMay 27, 2010

I'll give you the brief rundown. We built a new custom home with a walk-out balcony in our 2nd story master bedroom. Last summer we were in Jamaica and my mom emailed that we had water in our office (directly below the mbr walkout) and the windows were soaking wet as was the trim at the base. Builder came out, said the angle iron above the window wasn't caulked properly. That was it.

Several months go by, big storm, tons of water through our front double entry door, office soaked again, and floor in master bedroom in front of the balcony is soaking wet. Front door blamed on the bottom latch not being secured and wind pushing it in (fine, it was our fault). Water in office blamed on balcony door jamb not elevated up to proper level to make contact with the door. This was fixed and cleanup costs were on us. Trim needs redone in the office downstairs to be covered by builder.

Another storm comes, and I see water coming in through the corners of the glass in our double entry door, and water is coming in through the door handle on our balcony door! Painter comes down and caulks the glass downstairs and handles/deadbolt upstairs.

We talk to realtor about putting house on the market (it's 18 months old) and moving back into town. Two days later (today) another storm comes and now water is coming in our front entry door through the beveled wood sections instead of the glass. Upstairs the door is OK but the subfloor is wet and oozing water where it meets the frame of the door. OSB wet, carpet wet, tack strips wet (and rusted by now). I put plastic tarp up there to help during storms and called builder (no response in 2 hours).

What should I do at this point? I want the front entry door completely replaced (frame OK, just swinging doors) but the company we bought from went out of business. Not sure if they were the manufacturer or not.

The upstairs door and frame assembly I think should be completely removed and redone. The door is getting rough from all the water anyway.

Are these things reasonable to ask? At what point do you consider legal action since the builder's deficiencies are causing us to be unable to sell our home..


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I take it the exterior is a brick veneer cavity wall.

What usually causes water to penetrate at the steel lintel angle over an opening is poorly installed flashing. Some kind of flexible flashing should be well sealed to the sheathing above the door, then it should drop down onto the lintel angle and either have a drip or be sealed to the angle to prevent water from running back under the flashing on the angle until it finds a joint in the angle. Weeps should be installed in the brick joints. Sealant at this point would serve no purpose so I suspect your contractor is either ignorant or dishonest or both.

The flashing can be copper-fabric, stainless steel or modified asphalt laminated to polyethylene (WR Grace) but should not be vinyl because it tears too easily. Horizontal laps in the flashing should be be well sealed.

Water inevitably enters a brick wall cavity (that's why it's there) and should run down to the flashing on the angle where it is supposed to pass through the weeps to the outside of the wall. Check these weeps to be sure they are open. Weeps are often plastic tubes inserted in the vertical joints and can be clogged by insects or sometimes the string was never removed after construction.

Another possibility is that the weather barrier was either installed poorly (torn, no joint tape, etc.) or it is a cheap perforated woven housewrap that leaks. Of course, it's possible the brick is allowing more water to enter than it should or water is entering at the sills of windows or at the roof eave.

OSB should never be used for floor sheathing (unless it is treated like the stuff from Huber). Regular OSB swells when wet and doesn't shrink back.

You should have at least a 1 year warranty on all aspects of he construction. If that has expired consult a lawyer immediately and make a written formal demand that the deficiencies be corrected. Document everything. I hope you have photos of the construction.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 7:22PM
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Thank you for that detailed response. I spoke with the builder today who actually came down with the painter and caulked some areas he thought could be causing a problem. He is convinced that the downspouts are getting clogged and water is backing up in the gutters and then flowing back under the roof, into wall, and out the bottom. I pointed out how odd that would be since we have no trees and there is nowhere else this is happening except at a door that we know has two leaks already. I Asked him to put a hose on the door when done today to show that it is not leaking where I said it was. When I called them tonight (showed up 3h earlier than scheduled and I wasn't there) he said he did not do the hose test. When I got home, I put the hose on the base of the door and water came pouring in.

Besides completely ignoring my suggestion and concern, they also caulked the interior corner of the subfloor and the doorframe. This ticked me off because if there's a leak into the wall I will not see it until it floods the office below. I WANT it to leak onto the carpet so I see it sooner.

If we call a lawyer, what type and what are we looking for?


    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 10:58PM
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In my part of the world we have certified building envelope specialists.

Sounds like you need a consult from one because water entering a home is not a caulk-able thing at all.

I can't comment on the lawyer thing, but you should dig out the Yellow Pages and find someone, a disinterested third party, who holds the skills to ferret out the problem and recommend a course of action. Call home inspectors, engineering firms that advertise inspections, architects, whatever you can think of and ask...someone will be able to recommend someone or be able to do the work.

The kind of penetration you write of kills houses.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 2:14AM
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"I spoke with the builder today who actually came down with the painter and caulked some areas he thought could be causing a problem."

Caulk is not a repair for incorrect flashing.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 4:31PM
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As much as possible limit your communication with the builder to writing; send him a summary of everything that occurs each day including summaries of phone conversations. I like to end with a request that he notify me immediately if he disagrees with anything in the summary. Anything he says in writing can be extremely useful to you later even if it is intended to take issue with your communication. If his disagreement is a good one revise and reissue the document with a revision date. Keep all communication dispassionate, fair, accurate and detailed and hope his responses are not.

When he realizes he's not going to be able to sweep this issue under the rug, he might get serious about finding a permanent solution.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 8:36PM
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