The Importance of Dealing With Water Issues Promptly

A cautionary tale from the trenches.

A few weeks ago an incident occurred that reminded me of the importance of dealing with potential water leaks promptly.

A familiar West Vancouver address.

I received a call from an engineer who asked me if I could go and take a look at a house in West Vancouver with him. I thought the address sounded familiar and realized that I had been to the property a couple of years before to give an estimate for a kitchen remodel.

At that time, I commented on the awesome view of Bowen Island and Howe Sound. The owner said it looked even better from the deck. We walked out onto the deck and as I turned to come back inside I noticed some water staining on the wall around a downspout and that the exterior was badly in need of a paint.

I said to the owner that she should get the gutters and downspouts cleaned out, investigate the cause of the water staining and have the exterior of the house repainted. I think that the home owner thought that I was trying to generate more work but I was actually just trying to save her from a large repair bill down the road.

Fast forward.

Fast forward two years and I am now back at the house to estimate the cost of repairs to rectify the now serious water damage. The house had been totally renovated on the inside but nothing had been done to the outside. We started to go over the engineers report and the first item was that the south west corner of the house was now 3 inches lower than the rest of the house. A structural beam was rotted due to water penetration. Upon further investigation we found that not only the beam rotted but so are some of the exterior wall studs and plates in the wall and floor joist ends.

A quick fix turns into trouble.

Now instead of just cleaning out the gutters and downspouts, and painting, which is a handyman job, the repairs require the removal of the new kitchen, flooring, sub floor, drywall, insulation etc. In other words, we have got to undo the work which the homeowner has done over the last two years.

First, we have to get a specialist scaffolding contractor in to construct a scaffold to allow us to work safely and efficiently due to the extent of the work and difficulty of access. Next, we have to demolish and rebuild the south west corner of the house. And then, when all these repairs are completed we have to reinstall the kitchen, flooring, master bathroom and repaint everywhere.

Costs mount up.

The cost of these extensive repairs, which are not covered by insurance, will now be approaching a six figure sum. In addition, it has already cost the home owner the sale of the property as it came up on an inspection report. The original maintenance item cost would have been a handyman for a day and a further two days painting.

The problem with picking the wrong contractor.

During the inspection the homeowner approached me almost in tears and said that she had chosen the another contractor years ago because he was slightly cheaper. Also, he could start a few weeks earlier and she thought that I was simply trying to generate more work by commenting about the water staining.

She had mentioned my comments to the other contractor and he told her not to worry about it. She then added that by the time the kitchen was finally finished it actually cost more than my estimate because there were several items that the other contractor had missed. On top of that, although he started sooner the job actually took longer because of the delays caused by the contractor.

Watch for water problems and address them right away.

The lessons to be learned from this story are: one, walk around your house every few weeks and look for signs of water problems; two, clean out the gutters and downpipes on a regular basis; three, if you suspect a problem have it checked out by a professional contractor before the minor problem turns into a major problem; and four, don’t judge a contractor by his price.

For tips on dealing with contractors please see our blog titled “Finding The Right Contractor”.