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Leaks in brick wall due to missing drip edges?

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  • #748455

    I’m an architect, not a contractor. But more relevant to my question, I’m a homeowner who’s trying to figure out the best way to address leaks that are happening at some window heads of my condo building.

    One masonry contractor that has reviewed the building is convinced that the lack of drip edges at thru-wall flashings of the parapet wall copings is the main culprit for leaks. He mentioned having seen a video that showed how rainwater can easily get under the flashing and into the wall when the drip edges aren’t present. (Fyi, the wall construction is brick veneer over CMU, with no air space. Not ideal as it is, I know. The building was constructed in the late 1990’s.)

    Four other masons have also looked at the building. Between them they have various ideas about what’s causing the leaks and what should be done about it – but NONE of them brought up this concern about the drip edges at the coping flashings.

    My own understanding on this issue is that drip edges are of course “best practice” for thru-wall flashing, but that they aren’t crucial, and that leaks are definitely not inevitable without them. After all, drip edges been omitted from countless buildings historically, including in recent decades. But I don’t have the practical experience that a mason does – and I haven’t, for example, seen the video that the one mason mentioned.

    Would appreciate any insight people might have on this.

    #748456
    ChadM
    Moderator
    East Palestine, Ohio

    I could see that the lack of drip edges could be the issue but I agree that it does not make leaks inevitable. Would you happen to have any pictures?

    Chad

    A Working Pro since 1993

    Member since 12/07/2013

    #748458
    kurt@welkerhomes.com
    Moderator
    Owatonna, MN - Minnesota

    A couple of photo’s would be helpful.

    As for not having a “drip edge” or some sort of turn down, to cauls the drip, I can see moisture getting pulled back in under a flashing and it migrating back toward a wall via capillary action. While this is possible, I think the problem is probably further within the wall.

    In a lot of situations I have seen, the problem lies with the waterproofing / weather resistive barrier behind the brick. The building codes require 2 layers of grad “D” paper, which most commonly 15# roofing felt. behind the brick. In many cases I have only seen one layer or sometimes none. This should all be installed shingle fashion and with proper end laps. Many times, cases the end laps are almost non existent. there should also be weeps at the flashing at the head of the windows, which I would guess that they don’t exist either since you do not mention them.

    Again, photo’s would be very helpful to see the types of windows, the type of brick, lintel type and age of building.

    #748529

    Thanks for the input. Pics are attached.

    First pic is an overall wall view. It’s the top two floors of windows that have leaking at the heads. Second pic is a closeup of the top of the “gable end” wall, including the precast coping (the material under the the coping and the head course of brick is cast stone / Renaissance stone). Then another pic of the top of the wall. Last pic shows the back of the parapets.

    #748534

    A couple of photo’s would be helpful.

    As for not having a “drip edge” or some sort of turn down, to cauls the drip, I can see moisture getting pulled back in under a flashing and it migrating back toward a wall via capillary action. While this is possible, I think the problem is probably further within the wall.

    In a lot of situations I have seen, the problem lies with the waterproofing / weather resistive barrier behind the brick. The building codes require 2 layers of grad “D” paper, which most commonly 15# roofing felt. behind the brick. In many cases I have only seen one layer or sometimes none. This should all be installed shingle fashion and with proper end laps. Many times, cases the end laps are almost non existent. there should also be weeps at the flashing at the head of the windows, which I would guess that they don’t exist either since you do not mention them.

    Again, photo’s would be very helpful to see the types of windows, the type of brick, lintel type and age of building.

    Thanks for the response. See my other reply for pics.

    As far as I know, the exterior walls don’t have a weather barrier of any kind! None is called out or shown in the original building drawings (from 1996). And as I mentioned, it’s also apparently solid masonry (brick/CMU ) – no air space.
    If all of that’s true, the building is prone to leaks from bad detailing/construction. But most of the building’s window heads don’t leak, and even the ones that do (at the top two floors at the wall in question) have only started doing so in the past year, during the worst rains.

    The course of action I had been planning on was to replace the head flashings at the windows of the top floors. The windows currently have head flashings, but you are correct that they don’t have weeps (or drip edges). I would bet they don’t have end dams either. The other thing I thought I’d do is have a roofer wrap roofing membrane up the back of the parapet walls and over the tops of the precast copings. This is not as good as having properly done under-coping flashings, but I figure it would be good enough, and improvement, while costing considerably less.

    #748538
    Doobie
    Moderator

    Hi Justin,

    I’m not a real pro on this forum, the other two respondents so far of Kurt and Chad truly are, but I’m thinking of a couple of other questions here to MAYBE help narrow this down as I know water infiltration is a mighty tricky issue to solve.

    Is this the only window this is happening to?

    Are there other windows below what looks like the top floor you are on per your pics of windows this is hapening to below, or do you know?

    Any other windows this is happening to elsewhere aside from the aforementioned?

    Is this side of the building the most subject to prevailing winds during the year?

    Where are you seeing the leakage issue exacerbating and obvious on the inside, if any? Pics again please of so.

    How long has this been noticeably been happening and has its nature changed over time?

    Was there any roofing work done in the last few years, or any install or replacement of rooftop mechanicals done?

    Were there any cladding or structural repairs or alterations done to that area of the structure?

    I now leave it to the pros. Carry on guys.



    @mechitar

    I’m gonna try to bring in here a guy who hasn’t participated on the forum in a while but who I know works on this kinda stuff.



    @utopia78

    He does outside swing stage work doing primarily exterior outdoor brick and veneer restoration. He might be a good source. Let’s see if our old BTP friend Chris chimes in. Fingers crossed!

    #748630
    kurt@welkerhomes.com
    Moderator
    Owatonna, MN - Minnesota

    I am curious as to the location of this building as your profile does not state where you are from.

    If there is no weather resistive barrier on the building, replacing the head flashings of the windows does very little as to deflect the water outward, as there is nothing to keep the moisture directed toward the flashings.

    wrapping the parapet flashing over the caps, while being a sound idea as it relates to moisture intrusion, may create some negative aesthetics issues.

    I think I would carefully examine the parapet flashing for small holes ore tears above where the leaks are, in addition to a close examination of the masonry above to look for cracks in the mortar or the units themselves.

    It seams to me that there is probably a contributing factor like one of those above if the start of the leaking is recent. Something that may be better addressed by a roofer or some tuckpointing.

    #748639

    Are the leaks on the second floor or first floor windows or happening on all windows .

    Always willing to learn .

    #748643

    Are the leaks on the second floor or first floor windows or happening on all windows .

    The leaks are only happening at one of the building’s exterior walls – the brick wall in my pics. The other exterior walls are the same assembly as the brick wall, except they have split-face CMU cladding rather than brick. Those walls do not have parapets, as shingle roofs occur above them. Which may well be relevant as to why their windows don’t leak, while the windows at the brick wall (with parapets) do. Especially since split-face CMU is so poor at shedding water.

    Anyway, at the brick wall, it’s just windows at the top two floors that have leaks. The windows of the two floors below that haven’t had any issues.

    #748645

    Are the leaks on the second floor or first floor windows or happening on all windows .

    The leaks are only happening at one of the building’s exterior walls – the brick wall in my pics. The other exterior walls are the same assembly as the brick wall, except they have split-face CMU cladding rather than brick. Those walls do not have parapets, as shingle roofs occur above them. Which may well be relevant as to why their windows don’t leak, while the windows at the brick wall (with parapets) do. Especially since split-face CMU is so poor at shedding water.

    Anyway, at the brick wall, it’s just windows at the top two floors that have leaks. The windows of the two floors below that haven’t had any issues.

    Has anyone tried doing a water test with a garden hose at the locations of concern .

    Always willing to learn .

    #748646

    I am curious as to the location of this building as your profile does not state where you are from.

    If there is no weather resistive barrier on the building, replacing the head flashings of the windows does very little as to deflect the water outward, as there is nothing to keep the moisture directed toward the flashings.

    wrapping the parapet flashing over the caps, while being a sound idea as it relates to moisture intrusion, may create some negative aesthetics issues.

    I think I would carefully examine the parapet flashing for small holes ore tears above where the leaks are, in addition to a close examination of the masonry above to look for cracks in the mortar or the units themselves.

    It seams to me that there is probably a contributing factor like one of those above if the start of the leaking is recent. Something that may be better addressed by a roofer or some tuckpointing.

    The building is in Chicago. It’s the north building wall that has issues, and prevailing winds are from the northwest. Though as I mentioned in my voice above, the north building wall differs from the other building walls in terms of material (brick rather than split-face CMU – though the brick should perform much better than the CMU) and configuration (the brick wall is topped with parapets with precast copings, vs. gutters and fascias below shingle roofs at the other walls).

    True, thru-wall flashings are to some extent meaningless in a wall with no weather barrier. But the flashings do something, mainly managing water running down the face of the brick without penetrating into the wall beyond the brick.

    I can check the roof membrane that was run up the back face of the parapets. It’s a newer installation, from last year. I reviewed it after it was installed, and it seemed fine. But maybe there are smaller issues that I didn’t see. Reviewing the flashing under the actual copings is a different story, since it would involve removing the copings.

    #748647

    Are the leaks on the second floor or first floor windows or happening on all windows .

    The leaks are only happening at one of the building’s exterior walls – the brick wall in my pics. The other exterior walls are the same assembly as the brick wall, except they have split-face CMU cladding rather than brick. Those walls do not have parapets, as shingle roofs occur above them. Which may well be relevant as to why their windows don’t leak, while the windows at the brick wall (with parapets) do. Especially since split-face CMU is so poor at shedding water.

    Anyway, at the brick wall, it’s just windows at the top two floors that have leaks. The windows of the two floors below that haven’t had any issues.

    Has anyone tried doing a water test with a garden hose at the locations of concern .

    No. One mason did suggest a water test, although they didn’t exactly sell the idea. None of the other masons brought it up, so I put it out of mind. It doesn’t help that we don’t have a water connection on the roof, so it wouldn’t be easy to do such a test, but maybe we’ll line one up.

    #748648

    Hi Justin,

    I’m not a real pro on this forum, the other two respondents so far of Kurt and Chad truly are, but I’m thinking of a couple of other questions here to MAYBE help narrow this down as I know water infiltration is a mighty tricky issue to solve.

    Is this the only window this is happening to?

    Are there other windows below what looks like the top floor you are on per your pics of windows this is hapening to below, or do you know?

    Any other windows this is happening to elsewhere aside from the aforementioned?

    Is this side of the building the most subject to prevailing winds during the year?

    Where are you seeing the leakage issue exacerbating and obvious on the inside, if any? Pics again please of so.

    How long has this been noticeably been happening and has its nature changed over time?

    Was there any roofing work done in the last few years, or any install or replacement of rooftop mechanicals done?

    Were there any cladding or structural repairs or alterations done to that area of the structure?

    I now leave it to the pros. Carry on guys.



    @mechitar

    I’m gonna try to bring in here a guy who hasn’t participated on the forum in a while but who I know works on this kinda stuff.



    @utopia78

    He does outside swing stage work doing primarily exterior outdoor brick and veneer restoration. He might be a good source. Let’s see if our old BTP friend Chris chimes in. Fingers crossed!

    Hey, thanks for the response and the troubleshooting questions. I answer some of them in my previous replies today. As I note in one of them, there was in fact new roofing work done. And the roofing was done before the leak issues came to light. Suspicious, eh? But I took a good look at the new roof work at the time, and reviewed it with the roofer, and was mostly confident that the roof work wasn’t causing the leak issues (it’s also unclear when the leaks really began; there’s some evidence that it’s been going on, undetected, since before the roof work).

    #748667

    Are the leaks on the second floor or first floor windows or happening on all windows .

    The leaks are only happening at one of the building’s exterior walls – the brick wall in my pics. The other exterior walls are the same assembly as the brick wall, except they have split-face CMU cladding rather than brick. Those walls do not have parapets, as shingle roofs occur above them. Which may well be relevant as to why their windows don’t leak, while the windows at the brick wall (with parapets) do. Especially since split-face CMU is so poor at shedding water.

    Anyway, at the brick wall, it’s just windows at the top two floors that have leaks. The windows of the two floors below that haven’t had any issues.

    Has anyone tried doing a water test with a garden hose at the locations of concern .

    No. One mason did suggest a water test, although they didn’t exactly sell the idea. None of the other masons brought it up, so I put it out of mind. It doesn’t help that we don’t have a water connection on the roof, so it wouldn’t be easy to do such a test, but maybe we’ll line one up.

    Just run the hose up the side of the building to the roof from the hose connection on the side of the building . If you choose to try it out .

    Always willing to learn .

    #748984
    utopia78
    Pro
    Toronto, ON

    Are the leaks on the second floor or first floor windows or happening on all windows .

    The leaks are only happening at one of the building’s exterior walls – the brick wall in my pics. The other exterior walls are the same assembly as the brick wall, except they have split-face CMU cladding rather than brick. Those walls do not have parapets, as shingle roofs occur above them. Which may well be relevant as to why their windows don’t leak, while the windows at the brick wall (with parapets) do. Especially since split-face CMU is so poor at shedding water.

    Anyway, at the brick wall, it’s just windows at the top two floors that have leaks. The windows of the two floors below that haven’t had any issues.

    Has anyone tried doing a water test with a garden hose at the locations of concern .

    No. One mason did suggest a water test, although they didn’t exactly sell the idea. None of the other masons brought it up, so I put it out of mind. It doesn’t help that we don’t have a water connection on the roof, so it wouldn’t be easy to do such a test, but maybe we’ll line one up.

    I think a water test would be a great idea! Make sure of course to start low and to water test the areas for a lengthy period of time. Any jobs we do that has leaks, requires water tests to ensure we are locating and fixing the issue properly.

    A Working Pro since 2004

    #748987
    utopia78
    Pro
    Toronto, ON

    Weird, I just replied about the importance of a water test but can’t find the reply now :S

    Water tests are our first thing we do. Make sure to water test low and work high. also it could take an hour or longer of constant soaking to start to see the leak.

    Also, I wanted to add that if you think the water could be migrating through masonry/stone or the masonry joints you can use a simple method called the Rilem Tube Test. It will mimic the force of rains depending on how far you fill the tube. Then after several tests in different areas you can see how much water has absorbed through the surface you selected.

    A Working Pro since 2004

    #749001

    Weird, I just replied about the importance of a water test but can’t find the reply now :S

    Water tests are our first thing we do. Make sure to water test low and work high. also it could take an hour or longer of constant soaking to start to see the leak.

    Also, I wanted to add that if you think the water could be migrating through masonry/stone or the masonry joints you can use a simple method called the Rilem Tube Test. It will mimic the force of rains depending on how far you fill the tube. Then after several tests in different areas you can see how much water has absorbed through the surface you selected.

    I saw your earlier post in the email notification I got for it, but like you I don’t see it here on the forum – weird indeed.

    Okay, the water test is sounding like a good idea, and feasible for us to maybe do ourselves. I’m familiar with Rilem tests. The contractors I’ve talked to (except for one) made their diagnoses based on what they could see and guess, rather than suggesting these tests. Now I wish they had!

    #749007
    utopia78
    Pro
    Toronto, ON

    Weird, I just replied about the importance of a water test but can’t find the reply now :S

    Water tests are our first thing we do. Make sure to water test low and work high. also it could take an hour or longer of constant soaking to start to see the leak.

    Also, I wanted to add that if you think the water could be migrating through masonry/stone or the masonry joints you can use a simple method called the Rilem Tube Test. It will mimic the force of rains depending on how far you fill the tube. Then after several tests in different areas you can see how much water has absorbed through the surface you selected.

    I saw your earlier post in the email notification I got for it, but like you I don’t see it here on the forum – weird indeed.

    Okay, the water test is sounding like a good idea, and feasible for us to maybe do ourselves. I’m familiar with Rilem tests. The contractors I’ve talked to (except for one) made their diagnoses based on what they could see and guess, rather than suggesting these tests. Now I wish they had!

    Yes, A water test you could do yourselves. Start low and have your areas mapped out. Each area should have 60min+ to make sure its not a slow leak. If you can shut windows, block off the door area with outgoing fan and tarp the rest of door to create a seal, then you may be able to create negative pressure inside which will allow the leak to enter faster.

    A Working Pro since 2004

    #749108

    Weird, I just replied about the importance of a water test but can’t find the reply now :S

    Water tests are our first thing we do. Make sure to water test low and work high. also it could take an hour or longer of constant soaking to start to see the leak.

    Also, I wanted to add that if you think the water could be migrating through masonry/stone or the masonry joints you can use a simple method called the Rilem Tube Test. It will mimic the force of rains depending on how far you fill the tube. Then after several tests in different areas you can see how much water has absorbed through the surface you selected.

    I saw your earlier post in the email notification I got for it, but like you I don’t see it here on the forum – weird indeed.

    Okay, the water test is sounding like a good idea, and feasible for us to maybe do ourselves. I’m familiar with Rilem tests. The contractors I’ve talked to (except for one) made their diagnoses based on what they could see and guess, rather than suggesting these tests. Now I wish they had!

    Yes, A water test you could do yourselves. Start low and have your areas mapped out. Each area should have 60min+ to make sure its not a slow leak. If you can shut windows, block off the door area with outgoing fan and tarp the rest of door to create a seal, then you may be able to create negative pressure inside which will allow the leak to enter faster.

    That’s a great idea on the fan to try and pull the moisture in during a leak testing . Is that a common practice during curtain wall testing Chris for large scale building product knowledge .

    Always willing to learn .

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