Construction Dopers- what to do about leaks?

Mr. Kitty and I have been building our house for what seems like forever. We’re doing a great deal of the work ourselves (Mr. Kitty was in construction for 14 years, and together we remodeled our last house), but for the Really Big Stuff we hired out. Here’s where the problem begins.

The masons who poured our footings did a piss-poor job of it. As a result, the house dropped significantly on one corner. We jacked the corner back up, poured multiple additional pillars under the house, and have managed to at least fix that problem. But stemming from this problem (or perhaps a problem unto itself- we’ll never really know) are leaks at each corner of the roof.

The house is built like two chicken houses parallel to one another, with a hallway connecting them at one end; the middle is an open courtyard. You can see pictures of it on my website if you need a better visual. The (metal) roof leaks significantly at the inside four corners of the courtyard. At first we thought it was a flashing or caulking problem, so we had the builder come back out and caulk the hell out of it. It still leaked, and the builder basically shrugged and said he’d done everything he knew to do. So Mr. Kitty and I got up there and checked the flashing, then re-caulked the area and caulked all along the other corners, but it’s still leaking. We can tell because it’s dripping down the inside walls when it rains heavily (to the point where you can put your hand inside a hole I cut out at the base of one wall and feel soaking wet insulation). Also, when we were up in the attic the other day, there is significant water damage to those areas. I’m having to repair the sheetrock where it’s been damaged, but I don’t want to finish it without solving the problem.

Any suggestions on what we should be looking for as the source of the problem, or what we can do to solve it? We definitely don’t have the money to bring a professional out, so any suggestions would have to be something we could do ourselves (and preferably not involve me having to climb back up on the roof- I HATE doing that).


Too hard to tell from your description & web site. Do you have any pics of the specific problem areas? It could be a roofing problem, flashing problem, structural problem (god forbid), or something else entirely.

It looks like you built on quite a slope, I hope that you had soil tests done & the foundation properly engineered. Differential settlement of the type you described could cause all sorts of problems, including cracks and leaks.

Poured footings? Just curious - do you call the conc. foundations ‘the footings’ in the US? In the UK ‘footings’ are built rough (unseen) blockwork set on top of conc. founds.

You did this after completion (with roof in place), to rectify the settlement problems? Okay.

Timber frame construction I take it? Metal deck roof, you say. Did you use composite panels, fixed to a steel frame or timber rafters, or a copper/ lead tile system?

Preliminarily, It sounds like a problem with the internal corner fixings to the metal deck roof, if it is only seen to be leaking at the internal courtyard corners. The fixing detail must be incorrectly fitted or has been twisted during your propping up exercise. Although it sounds strange that leaks have occured at all corners. Do you have a lead valley down the entire roof junction?

Without having access to more detail, I’m afraid to say it sounds like you are going to have to strip the corners of the roof right back and have a look at the fixing details to see where the source of the leak is. You’ll not have enough access to the eaves internally to get a decent idea of where the problem is.
It can be a thankless and terrible (and expensive) job to search for a leak like this. Good luck.

I’ll put up pics of the internal damage and better pics of the problem roof areas by this afternoon.

We did have soil tests, and an expert came out to compact/prep the area. We thought we had the foundation properly engineered- the masons came highly recommended by the local construction firm, and we checked references- but having now seen the problems (you should SEE the dumb-ass stuff they pulled underneath the house that we’ve had to remedy) we’re not so sure. We didn’t notice the corner drop until we tried to put down tile- I won’t even go into what we had to do topside to fix that.

Yes, sorry about the potential confusion.

Timber construction, composite panels fixed to timber rafters.

Yes… as I mentioned earlier, I’ll get better pics on the website by this afternoon, and maybe it’ll give you a better idea.

:: putting hands over eyes :: I’m sorry- I didn’t hear you. What did you say? LA LA LA LA LA LA LA… :wink:

Thanks for the preliminary advice, gentlemen… maybe the pics will help give you some more ideas.

FYI, the pics are up. Direct link is here.

I’ve repaired leaks and detection is the hardest part for sure. The leak could be a long way from the where you see the evidence. Are there any cracks in the stucco or motar joints on the caps? Could it be coming in around your bell tower window and running? I had a leak that ran down from the second story and trashed the drywall on the ceiling of the garage. It was coming in through a long, almost invisible crack in the stucco on a window ledge, running down inside the wall to the plate, then onto a truss and down to a brace where it dripped onto the drywall a good twenty feet from the leak. We found it by using the water hose, and starting at the eave and working our way up the roof and the walls. I was inside the attic/crawl space to watch for the water.

Good luck!

I may be unfamiliar with construction techniques in the US but the detailing looks a lot different than what we would do here.

My first thought is that it is not leaking in directly from the roof, but from the parapets at either side, or from the copings on the crow-step gable with the bell. (especially if you have checked and rechecked the seals around the roof.)

They (parapets) are a notoriously difficult detail to get right and keep watertight. Water could be getting in under the coping and running down the inside of the wall and only showing itself in the locations you are finding the water stains. What method of waterproofing have you used to these walls and beneath the parapets? Is it a cavity wall construction below them? (necessitating double rows of cavity trays and DPC wrapped below coping.) How are the copings joined lengthways? (I assume it is not one continuous piece)- perhaps a weak joint is allowing water into the inner wall.

If you can find an easy-cleanable water soluble colour and on a dry day pour a little coloured water on various parts of the roof and see if the colour appears on the inside where you see the leak. This way, with a lot of patience, you can maybe find out the area where the leak is originating from.

But, I think you may have to bite the bullet and get someone in to look at it. Sorry.