Water Damage But No Signs of Water

Part of owning a recreational vehicle or travel trailer is keeping up with the maintenance. Owners of these types of vehicles know that they must make sure that sealed seams remain sealed so as to prevent water leakage. When water leaks occur, the signs are usually obvious: water stains will appear on ceilings, walls, and floors. In addition, when water has a chance to collect, spongy floors can be the result of rotting plywood. But, what about those times when the damage is there but the cause isn’t so obvious. Case-in-point, spongy floor but no water stains anywhere. This was an actual case that was recently encountered. Once the titled floor was removed from the damaged area, it became obvious that water stains were present and that water had caused the plywood subfloor to rot. Since there were no indications that the water came from outside the trailer, it had to have come from within. It was later determined that water lines had been routed beneath the floor where the damage had occurred. It then became clear that one of the lines had to have been leaking and caused the floor damage. Photos of the damaged floor and rotten subfloor are shown below.

Damaged floor adjacent to exterior wall
Title floor removed from damaged area, water damaged plywood subfloor found rotted

Water Damage and Frost-Proof Faucets

Many homes and businesses are now equipped with something called a frost-proof faucet.  These devices are nothing new and have been around for several years.  They have all but replaced the old style water hydrants that had to be wrapped or covered and protected during winter months to keep them from bursting.  But, in order for a frost-proof faucet to work properly, it must be installed properly.  You would think that a plumber would be especially mindful of the consequences if they didn’t do the job right.  In any case, frost-proof faucets do rupture and the resulting water leakage can cause damage, either in a crawl space or inside a wall.  The photographs below show how the copper tube expanded at the point of rupture indicating where the water turned to ice and stressed the tube to the point of failure.  In order to understand what happened, it is necessary to understand that the faucet is equipped with a long stem that runs from the valve handle to the end of the copper tube where the water line is connected.  This is where the valve seat is located.  The valve seat is actually the part that stops the water flow when the valve is turned off.  If the faucet is installed horizontally or pitched upward, water will stay inside the copper tube instead of draining out of the hose connection end when the faucet is turned off.  The faucet must be pitched slightly downward with the hose connection end lower than the water line inlet end. Even if the valve seat is leaking, water must be allowed to drain out of the faucet.  In the case of the faucet in the photograph, when the water froze, its tendency was to expand to approximately 9 to 11% of its volume.  However, because of the enclosure within the copper tube, the ice could not freely expand.  As a result, the tube wall was stressed to a point where failure occurred.

Failed Water Hydrant
Expanded copper wall shown as bulge just to left of water line attachment
Area of copper tube wall failure

Leaking LG Refrigerator

LG is the manufacturer of a French door refrigerator equipped with a bottom drawer that leaks water.  We recently investigated a case where the homeowner purchased an expensive LG refrigerator and used it for approximately three months before noticing water dripping and accumulating under the right front corner of the unit.  The model number of the unit is LFXC22526D/01.  Upon researching, you find that LG would like you to believe that the water leakage is due to a clogged defrost line.  However, with a refrigerator as new as this was, there should not have been any problems.  Moreover, the refrigerator was clearly under warranty and LG and the Lowes Home Improvement store where the unit was purchased should have addressed the situation promptly.  Instead, the homeowner had to battle both the manufacturer and Lowes for over a month before finally getting Lowes to agree to an exchange.  The refrigerator in question is shown in the photographs below.  It should be noted that the homeowner’s insurance carrier will replace the kitchen floor and is likely to pursue subrogation against the manufacturer in order to recover its costs for the repairs.

Defective LG Refrigerator

Area of Water Leakage and Damage to Floor

Roofs Shouldn’t Look Like This!

Anyone who has lived in a home with a shingled roof knows that at some point in time, the roof will have to be replaced. Whether the home is a manufactured (mobile) home or a permanent structure, all of the elements play a significant role in the wear and tear of the shingles.  When it’s time to select a roofing contractor, be careful! Make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable company.  Ask for references if necessary and check them out.  Don’t ever give anyone any money up front because in all likelihood, you’ll never see them again.  The photos shown below are just two examples of what a newly installed roof should never look like.  The first photo shows how wavy a roof can appear if there is a problem with the roof decking.  The decking must be repaired or replaced BEFORE the felt and shingles are nailed down.  The second photo shows caulking that was applied to valleys alongside a gable because someone recognized a problem, usually water leakage.  Using caulking on a newly installed roof is never acceptable.  If the roofers didn’t install the valley shingles correctly the first time, the roofer should have to redo the work again.  However, getting the roofing contractor to tear off the shingles and then reinstall new ones might be easier said than done.  It is possible that a roofer would rather apply a caulking or some type of mastic beneath the shingle rather than re-shingle the area.  If this seems like an acceptable solution, again, be careful.  If a leak occurs in the future, getting the roofer to fix it under warranty will be next to impossible.  One way to test a new roof is to spray water on the roof with a garden hose then check the attic for signs of water leakage.  Don’t wait until it rains.  The sooner a leak is detected, the easier it will be to hold the roofer responsible if an adversarial situation arises.


Note wavy Roof


Caulking used on valleys

Recurring Product Problems

Recently, we have been engaged to investigate failures of products that we have seen in the past. The first product that has been reencountered is the In Sink Erator water filter, model F201R. This filter is part of an In Sink Erator, under sink, hot water dispensing system. On two separate occasions, the water filter housing was found to have been cracked on the bottom. In both situations, the water filter had been in use for between 0 and 5 years. Obviously, if the resulting water leakage is not immediately stopped, there can be a substantial amount of damage to floors, cabinets, walls, carpets, and furniture. Although the water filter housing appears to have been made of some type of plastic material, the properties of the material remain unknown. As a result, an engineering analysis of the stresses involved cannot be completed. However, it also appears that that the major contributor of the stress is the water pressure to which the interior surface of the filter is subjected. The shape of the water filter is simlilar to a bell and the stress causing the failure appears aas a crack on the bottom side, approximately 2 to 3 inches long. When viewed microscopically, smaller stress cracks are visible along the main crack.

We have also recently encountered another instance where PEX piping has been used in the plumbing system of a residence and leaked. This subject was covered in earlier blog post of July 21, 2012 and January 8, 2013. PEX piping is known to fail when exposed to certain levels of chlorine and ultraviolet light. Manufactures say that the levels of chlorine in city water supplies are too low to cause the failures. However, there is no way to be sure that plumbers are taking precautions to keep the pipe out of the sunlight when traveling between jobs. Regardless of the cause, the failures are most notably occurring when the lines are installed in the hot water supply lines leading from the water heater into the home. We are also seeing failures that occur when the pipe has been in use for less than 10 years.

Earlier this past week, we received a phone call from a builder in Houston Texas about a failed Vortens toilet tank, see news entry entitled “Toilet Tank Failures” on our website http://www.rjhill.com/news/toilettankfailures.html. Apparently, a tank had failed in an upscale residence and caused significant damage. According to the builder, it was thought that the housekeeper had broken the tank and would not admit fault. Then however, the builder heard of another instance involving a plumber friend and began to question the cause. That’s when the article about the Vortens toilet tanks was found on our website. All this to say that some Vorten’s tanks are still out there and at least two were in the Houston area.

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