leaky window mystery

dgmarieApril 11, 2008

I discovered last night a leak in a casement window in our home. The carpet was wet under the window, but the window itself on the inside, as well as the wall, were dry.

I opened the casement window this morning and noticed the mechanism that moves the window is VERY rusted, and obviously water is getting in as the box encasing the swing arm still had water in it from the day before. These are aluminum clad exterior casements with wood inside and the box holding the swing arm is also wood.

I assume water enters through a faulty seal on the outside, leaks inside the swing arm box and then through a crack maybe in the wood, down the inside of the wall and onto the floor. The carpet and padding then soak up the water. I doubt there is a pan sill or proper flashing else this wouldn't occur.

I'm also not sure how to fix this, save loading the inside of the casement mechanism box with caulk.

I plan to call a window guy out but was wondering if anyone had any suggestions.

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Who made the window? Age of window? Odd that the mechanism rusted, they're usually stainless steel.
Loading with caulk is never the proper solution.
Can you post a picture, both interior and exterior?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 11:08AM
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The windows are made by Norco, now part of Jeld Wen. They were installed in 1997.

The metal bar moving the window is definately rusted.

Here is a photo of the area inside the house. The corner is where the carpet was wet. I've since dried it with a carpet vac.

Here is the window open:

Here is a shot of the inside of the casement arm box:

The window is completely caulked all around the edges on the outside. The house is a brick facade.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 11:18AM
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The way it looks from the pics w/ the water traveling in through the unit itself, I think your assumption of a faulty seal is correct. If you have a reputable window outfit,regardless of the brand they sell but one who deals with casements, you might get advise there. You might also try jeld-wen, but good luck with that! In the maen time, if it is threatening rain, you might want to tarp the window off with some plastic until the rain susbsides to keep the damage from getting worse.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2008 at 2:21PM
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I concure with your diagnosis as described in your post. Remember where you see the physical water is not necessarily where the leak is originating. I would close the casement window tightly and latch it. Now from the outside, see if the gap around the full perimeter of the sash seems to be constant and/or wider in any area. This could be the source of the leak. Additionally I would look to see that the sash is plumb with its' jamb when closed and latched.

Keep in mind that casements need to be latched for the best effectiveness against water transfer. If you are just closing the casements without latching them, that could be the source of water leak as well.

Your photo resembles a moist chamber where the Truth hardware (or similar) is housed presuming that that is the resting place for the water leak until it seeps through the gap in the bottom of the casements' master frame and makes way to the carpet.

Although it is probably leaking from the window, I would still take a close look at the outside of your home in that corner. Check Gutter, the leader and anything else as a source before narrowing it down to the casements.

You want to be sure. If you don't find anything, then its probably the casement windows. Occasionally I've found that the outside perimeter sash weather strip in an older window sometimes shrinks or cracks in the corners allowing an open area for water penertration. I've also seen window jambs drop (creating an opening) and knock the sash out of plumb and level. You'll be able to see that for self upon your outside inspection.

The above information may help you be better prepared before the window installer comes out to look at the job.

Remember window warranties have an exclusion section that says its' warranty is null and void due to, most commonly, improper installation. So good luck,

All the best,

The PorchGuy

Here is a link that might be useful: My album

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 10:53PM
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Thanks Porch Guy.

I do latch the casements so it is probably a gap. I thought windows were installed such that water if it entered was to run back out somehow. But that obviously isn't the case here! No sill pan that I am aware of, although I didn't build the home. We had a driving rain of course to push water everywhere!

I checked a lot of other casements windows to see if the closing mechanisms were rusty and found they weren't.

My home has a brick veneer. Can you give me an idea of how this could potentially be repaired? If the window is not sealing properly,I assume it is a matter of new weatherstripping?

The caulking all around the exterior of the unit is new as of 2006 and it looks completely tight.

I am frankly pretty scared someone will want to remove the window and surrounding brick. I don't have any idea what to expect it to cost either.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2008 at 11:08PM
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hello dgmarie,

Three things come to mind.

No. 1 Is the brick veneer outside sill pitched to the outside adequately?

No. 2 Carefully look at the casement sash weatherstriping and compare it to another one that doesn't leak. Do you see any weather strip differences?

No. 3 If sill is pitched and weather stripping looks OK then I would apply a bead of clear silicone to the outside of the glass where it meets the aluminum cladding. Apply it to both sides, top and bottom.

Unless the weatherstripping is visibly defective to the eye, replace it. If not, use the clear silicone.

Keep an eye on it thru a few downpours and see.

Good luck,

The PorchGuy

Here is a link that might be useful: My Album

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 9:03PM
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Thanks Porchguy

The guy from the window/glass repair place is coming out on Friday to check for us. I will write back as soon as I find out the solution he recommends.

Aplying the caulk, assuming this is the route we take, is this considered a long term solution or will I be re applying it every year? We are in the Chicago area and it gets pretty cold.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2008 at 9:43PM
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How about if you cover the 'glass only' of the window
with something that won't let light through, (black
construction paper comes to mind). Then, at night,
focus a bright light on the inside of the window
and go out and see if you can see where the light
is shining through?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 9:49AM
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Caulking is a temporary fix at best and should never be relied on, especially when it comes to openings. Hopefully the window outfit will be honorable and get the seal replaced to mfgr's specs and offer a permanent solution.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 10:13AM
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If the window is not flashed properly, then how do they repair this on a brick veneer home? Remove the window, reflash and reinstall?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 11:53AM
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Similar to stucco, brick veneer w/ windows, doors, siding transitions are dependent on the underlayment/flashings to keep the framing members/ inside cavaties dry. If your windows are bumbed up to the brick and trimmed out with brick mold and caulked, it's the flashings/underlayments that are addressing moisture issues. The caulk does sheild, but is more cosmetic and should be periodically maintained as an insurance buffer. You stated yours is in pretty decent shape. Running caulking on the suspected area of the pane on the window will only serve as a temporary fix and should be addressed by a window outfit knowledgable about your window type, leaving alone the fact that it is set in a brick veneer application. If it is concluded that it isn't the window itself, but a flaw in the opening, then yes the window should be pulled in order to investigate a possible inner problem w/ flashings/ underlayment. Brick would be pulled as a last resort.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2008 at 12:33PM
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The window guy is still coming Friday but wanted to add that last night Dh and I spent a few hours with the ladder and flashlight in the basement going under every first floor window in the house. I could either see/touch the floor directly under the windows, or get right into the framing and feel around the insulation bewteen the first floor and basement(Thank god for drop ceilings!). The framing and floors and insulation are bone dry, pristine like except for some dust, and no sign of any leak. I can see the OSB attached to the framing and it looks clean. I have a huge window in my office that sits on a 2 x 12 like board on the sill of the foundation(the window is only inches off the floor) and that board is like new. I was always afraid it leaked as I'd seen some carpenter ants there one time but I pulled back the insulation and nothing wrong.

So at least I'm not looking at some complete water intrusion disaster (fingers crossed). I spent an entire day freaking myself out looking at internet photos of homes that leaked like seives or were mold infested. I'm pretty sure if we had that kind of problem I'd have seen it. Could it be just a simple window leak? I hope so!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 4:20PM
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The window guy suggested a new seal for that window. He is trying to locate one from Norco.

Additionally, we noticed that this bank of windows is a three unit window, if that makes sense. Two casements on either side open, the middle is fixed. On the outside, the middle, non moving unit is surrounded by rubber weather stripping or some type of black rubber gasket. We are having his seal this completely all the way around with caulk. We had this done on another, similar, window that leaked and the problem was solved. The gasket there had been inspected and found to be a problem (old or worn out I think).

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 5:02PM
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The water in the hardware trough and the water found inside the house are not necessarily from the same problem. Often a problem is discovered when the another one presents itself. I would always suspect a clad casement of leaking below the exterior sill since most of them have no sill overhang and water can roll over the frame and enter the wall system behind the wall cladding after the original caulking fails. This is prevalent when a flat trim piece is added below the sill "picture frame style". I saw this happen in hundreds of windows in a condo complex.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 9:55AM
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Hi all.

Well interesting things here. In April we'd spoken to a window company that recommended replacing the weather stipping on the sash to make a tighter seal. Jeld Wen told them this would be a big problem since they'd need a special jig etc and would probably not make a difference. We didn't go that route. Then I called back Jeld Wen this summer and said look, these windows have some problems, send me the best window guy that services warranty issues. The guy came out and said he had a client with similar issues. He installed a exterior black plastic weather stripping around four sides of her windows (currently the exterior stripping is only at the top) and this helped, so we were intrigued.

Also, I did my own experiment and pooled water very carefully along the caulked seal of the exterior cladding in the corner, being careful to not get it into the hardware trough (which is wood). Turns out the caulking was not good (it did not look bad) and water came in at the floor after about ten minutes(I had pulled back the carpet to watch it and placed a papertowel under the wallboard to see.)

I also tried pour water into the hardware trough. Water came in from that, too.

Then I also tried around the alarm sensors, which also appeared caulked just fine. Same thing occurred.

So my husband and I spent an entire day recaulking all the exterior corners of the cladding and around all the alarm sensors. We also had the warranty guy install 4 sides of weather stripping on three suspect windows to test if that worked. Of course we haven't had a blowing rain since then (early October) to see what it does, but it can't hurt and it isn't expensive.We did wet test it and it seemed to work.

We also had all the stationary windows caulked all around to seal them. Also inexpensive.

Well you can't fault us for being attentive homeowners!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 10:31AM
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caulk is inexpensive and temporary

    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 12:49PM
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It's 30 year caulk and a lot cheaper than all new windows. These are 10 year old windows and we have a minor problem in a few of them. What would you suggest? Rip out 50 windows and replace them all?

    Bookmark   November 8, 2008 at 3:55PM
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Just count on redoing it every 5 years and you'll be fine.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 7:59AM
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What is the window brand and model, what is the exterior cladding, what is the trim, and what is the climate? the biggest mistake people make is assuming there is one solution that works for all windows.

A common mistake is not sealing non-integral applied nailing fins especially at the corners.

Jeld-Wen has the best overall instructions and Andersen has good ones for the 400 Woodwright double-hung (but not for the 400 Tilt-Wash even though the frames are the same).

WR Grace has good instructions and they know more about waterproofing than any window or housewrap manufacturer.

ASTM 2112-07 is the definitive survey of installation methods but it is difficult to read because it tries to cover all possibilities. It is also expensive unless you are a member of ASTM.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 12:34PM
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Imo, mfgr's claims of 30 year caulk, 20 year paint, 50 year roofing is bogus because it is dependent on geographical locations and how these products are effected by the elements. Just like window mfgr's voiding warranties if their install specs aren't followed, these products have similar statements to follow their directions. Unfortunately they aren't always the best avenue for every situation.

I would take M.A.'s advise and at least do a detailed inspection of the caulking every 5 years, better just to go ahead and replace. For what this will cost every fifth year might prove miniscule should you have undetected weeping causing mold and rot issues unseen until it's too late.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 1:09PM
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Yes agree. Thank you. My testing of the window shows that I have identified two areas of sealing failure (the caulked joints of the extruded exterior sills and around button sensors for the alarms. Of course I would have loved to have the proper sill flashing to have avoided this in the first place, but am glad to have a solution that works. And this is only in a few problem windows so we can keep an eye on those. The house and windows are 10 years old and we've never seen any indication of rot or mold anywhere.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 1:14PM
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