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Blog | May 20, 2021

Wall You Were Sleeping

A leaky roof can often be obvious. Ceilings get spots and, if you’re really unlucky, you might get rained on while sitting at your desk.

 

Wall leaks, on the other hand, often go undetected for many years because moisture may remain trapped inside a wall cavity without changing its appearance. If it’s there long enough, it can cause major damage to the structure and other critical building components.

 

Exterior envelopes are composed of many different systems all of which should be considered maintenance items, just like your roof system.

 

But how do you prevent moisture intrusions in your walls? And how do you know when to spend money on a moisture investigation? Read on to learn more…

 

The Three Types of Water

 

Per the IICRC S500 Standards and Reference Guide for Professional Water Damage Restoration, there are three categories of water. They vary in the severity of the damage they can deal directly to humans and animals. That said, given time, they will all cause damage to buildings and their components.

 

Category 1 Water: Referred to as “clean water” – This level of severity presents no significant risk of causing sickness or discomfort but can become progressively contaminated as it mixes with soils on or within floor coverings or building assemblies. Water loss examples include: burst water pipes, failed supply lines on appliances, vertically falling rainwater.

 

Category 2 Water: Referred to as “grey water” – This level begins with some degree of contamination and could cause sickness or discomfort if consumed by humans. Common causes for this level of severity include toilet bowl flow (urine only) and dishwasher or washing machine discharge.

 

Category 3 Water: Referred to as “black water” – This water is highly contaminated and could cause death or serious illness if consumed by humans. Water loss examples include: sewage, rising flood water from rivers/streams, ground surface water flowing horizontally into buildings.

 
What to Do When the Problem is Obvious

 

A facility manager can usually handle the clean-up and repair of a Category 1 event without having to bring in a contractor. This type of damage will be manageable if there is minimal water present in the building structure or if the leak or water damage occurs in an isolated location.

If the water seems to be a category 2 or 3, a qualified contractor will need to respond immediately. Facility managers should always err on the side of caution and contact a professional if they’re unsure about the type of water or extensiveness of damage.

 

A contractor is essential if the water damage starts affecting the walls and structure of a facility. Drying the structure can be a complex procedure and usually requires a seasoned restoration professional.

 

If the water damaged structure is not mitigated properly, it could lead to mold and microbial growth, which can set in as early as 72 hours after an event, and can result in building damage, ventilation issues, and air quality concerns.

 
So, What if It’s Not Obvious

 

There’s no hard and fast rule for checking your walls for moisture and, of course, investigations cost money. Here are some things, though, that a building owner or facility manager should consider.

 
Build or Buy a Well-Constructed Building

 

The first line of defense against moisture intrusion is a building that’s designed to keep moisture out, vent it, or otherwise move it back into the atmosphere. Having the right architects and engineers, the right materials, and the right construction company can make or break a building over the long-term so get to know each one and make sure they’re mindful of moisture and the local climate where the building will be.

 

If you’re buying a building from someone else, do your research and find out who the original owner used for their build.

 

In either case, including moisture analysis in your due diligence process is a small price to pay for peace of mind and is a chance to uncover issues that can be corrected before they turn into big problems later.

 

Include Moisture Investigation in Your Maintenance Plan

 

It’s hard to say how often you should have a professional check your walls for moisture but you should do it from time to time. If you’re in a particularly wet climate, or one with a high dew point that can create the possibility for condensation in your walls, you might do this more frequently than in a dryer climate, but you will want to have a professional on site occasionally, in either case.

 

This is doubly important when you’re considering roofing projects. For example, many building owners are reroofing these days with an overlay. In this instance, the old roof is left in place and can trap moisture from breaches in the new roof.  Large areas of the roof can be ruined before the owner or tenant of the building even recognizes that the roof is leaking.  This also applies to roofs over concrete decks. 

 

Be Aware

 

If your tenants, employees, or guests are experiencing inexplicable illness, especially respiratory issues, of if you notice musty odors concentrated in certain rooms, you’ll want to contact a professional immediately.

 

Moisture Investigation & Leak Response from Mantis

 

Many of our employees have been working in commercial building envelope systems, decades hold certificates from esteemed professional organizations like the International Institute of Building Enclosure Consultants (IIBEC)

 

Mantis provides comprehensive moisture detection/scanning services that are tailored to fit the needs of each specific roof. We field full-time Mantis employees who have training, certification, and licenses to operate our scanning equipment properly and safely.

 

Every roof technician is equipped with hand-held capacitance moisture meter (Tramex). Our walk-behind Tramex Dec Scan moisture machine is available for large scale moisture scans. Additionally, we provide positive verification of any suspected moisture using core cuts and/or capacitance testing as appropriate. Our infrared services can prove valuable in leak detection in building envelope systems.

 

For more obvious problems, Mantis also offers 24/7 Leak Response and has a national network of qualified, vetted contractors that can be dispatched anywhere in the U.S.