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MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com

Mystery Leak

Click for full size
Hello all,

Anon in Miami, FL checking in. Bought a new this month, which was built in 2008. I have noticed an infrequent 2' x 2' "wet spot" on the ceiling of 1st floor dining room. There appears to be drywall patchwork from the previous tenant at the wet spot site. From my observations, it gets wet once maybe twice per week, and is always dry the next day. Water does not leak through.

Called a respected plumbing company last week to assess situation. He walked around the house and determined there was no way it could be a water/sewer issue due to the location of the wet spot. There are no bathrooms right above on the second floor(see floorplan), in fact all bathrooms are on the right side of the home.

We had the water running from all sinks, showers etc in the house and the wet spot did not grow.

The plumber told me he thinks its only two possibilities:

1. Water heater - location garage. This is my #1 choice because its located in the southwest corner of the home and feeds hot water to all locations, including to the kitchen for sink and dishwasher.

2. Condensation from AC vent - doubtful to me, but a possibility.

The plumber needs to cut a hole in the drywall to see for sure, but I was hesitant until I got more information. I really, really do not want to do any patchwork but it seems its the only way to fix the issue.

Please see the attached floor plan. The leak location is the red circle.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Sorry for the long explanation.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT

Is it in sync with the rain? If yes you may have water coming from the attic and dripping along a wall. Easiest is to check the attic...



Msradell
P.E.
Premium
join:2008-12-25
Louisville, KY
reply to MIA_Leak

The following the plumbing layout and rooflines of your home it's difficult to give an informed decision. However since that area has gotten wet multiple times the sheetrock is going to have to be removed any way. You're better off to just have the plumber cut the hole now and correct the problem instead of waiting until more damage is done.


medbuyer

join:2003-11-20
kudos:4
reply to cowboyro

said by cowboyro:

Is it in sync with the rain? If yes you may have water coming from the attic and dripping along a wall. Easiest is to check the attic...

if it did then the OP should have seen something in the bedroom closet upstairs....since it looks like the closet is above that dining room....

I would cut a hole to see what's behind that drywall....patching it should be an easy job just to fix a leak that might damage the whole ceiling later...


Ken
Premium,MVM
join:2003-06-16
Markle, IN
reply to MIA_Leak

Do you have a water softener? If so is it in the garage by the water heater, and do you have a floor drain in that location? My neighbor had a once a week leak and it was the water softener drain that ran up through the attic and then back down to the nearest drain pipe. Water softener only puts water in that drain line when it recharges which for her was once a week.


garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI

1 recommendation

reply to MIA_Leak

Definitely open up that ceiling and take a look at what is really above it. I'm betting there's a leaky pipe there. You ought to replace the damaged drywall, anyway.



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to cowboyro

OP here, this is not a roof issue. The spot does not get wet when it rains.



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to Ken

OP here again, I do not have a water softener.



sempergoofy
Premium
join:2001-07-06
Smyrna, GA
Reviews:
·AT&T Southeast
reply to MIA_Leak

I can't follow the floor plan for sure, but would that be the laundry on the 2nd floor between the two bedrooms which would be over the dining room on the first floor? And is it the case that clothes are washed in the cycle that correlates to the wet spot?
--
nohup rm -fr /&


medbuyer

join:2003-11-20
kudos:4

1 recommendation

said by sempergoofy:

I can't follow the floor plan for sure, but would that be the laundry on the 2nd floor between the two bedrooms which would be over the dining room on the first floor? And is it the case that clothes are washed in the cycle that correlates to the wet spot?

that's a closet that's sandwiched between two rooms....

OP's laundry is in his garage, upper left corner of 1st drawing...

robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1
reply to MIA_Leak

Where is the HVAC closet located.



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to sempergoofy

I should have made a legend for the floor plan, sorry!

The water heater, washer and dryer are all in the garage:

W/H: water heater
WA: washer
DR: dryer



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to medbuyer

Unfortunately asjamias I think you are correct. The only way to know for sure is to cut a hole. Time to explain to the wife!



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

said by MIA_Leak :

Unfortunately asjamias I think you are correct. The only way to know for sure is to cut a hole. Time to explain to the wife!

What's to explain to the "wife"? Cut a hole see what's leaking. Fix whatever is leaking and repair and repaint the ceiling.

medbuyer

join:2003-11-20
kudos:4
reply to MIA_Leak

said by MIA_Leak :

Unfortunately asjamias I think you are correct. The only way to know for sure is to cut a hole. Time to explain to the wife!

repairs like that doesn't need explaining to the wife...either she's on board or she's on board...you get it??

this is not in the same category as honey to do list....

Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
·Comcast
·CenturyLink
reply to MIA_Leak

Does the leak occur whenever you use the shower or tub? You might have a small leak around the tub or shower calking or tub or shower drain that runs down the drain line inside the wall or under the floor, and hits a coupling and drips off of the line at that point, since the leak cannot run past the coupling. Run water in the fixtures in the bathrooms to see if running water in any of them cause the wet spot to appear.


robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1
reply to MIA_Leak

You may want to consider finding someone with a FLIR (thermal imaging) camera. Just because you are seeing a wet spot in one area does not necessarily mean that's where the leak is or that spot is all that is wet. My understanding is that a skilled operator can "see" damp areas and may be able to better locate the trouble spot before cutting holes.



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to robbin

The air handler is on the second floor, in front on the bottom (guest) bathroom



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to Mr Matt

There is no correlation between bathroom usage (sink/tub/shower/toilet) and the leak.


Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
·Comcast
·CenturyLink
reply to MIA_Leak

How does the condensate drain line run from the air handler? Does it run over the area where the wet spot is. When cold condensate runs through the condensate line the outside surface of the line gets cold and collects condensation. If you have enough condensation you can have drips and a wet spot.



ropeguru
Premium
join:2001-01-25
Mechanicsville, VA

said by Mr Matt:

How does the condensate drain line run from the air handler? Does it run over the area where the wet spot is. When cold condensate runs through the condensate line the outside surface of the line gets cold and collects condensation. If you have enough condensation you can have drips and a wet spot.

I was thinking along the same lines as you are with the exception of maybe a leak in the condensate line.

Either way, the ceiling really needs to be opened up and checked. The cost to repair that size of a spot is really not that much money in the scheme of things.

iknow
Premium
join:2012-03-25
reply to MIA_Leak

I also agree on opening up the ceiling, it's probably moldy, and the drywall is probably damaged anyway. you may be able to see what the probable cause is that way. maybe a pipe or duct you don't know about. although it could have ran from a higher point in the ceiling to that spot, which may be lower.


MaynardKrebs
Heave Steve, for the good of the country
Premium
join:2009-06-17
kudos:4
reply to MIA_Leak

A few thoughts...

a) Do you notice a correlation between the exterior temperature and when the ceiling gets wet? My thinking here is a condensation issue, which *might* arise if there is a big enough change in the relative humidity/temperature between the inside/outside of the house which occurs relatively rapidly. *If* you have any water supply pipes running in this area, and *if* there is a poor insulation job on the exterior wall in the ceiling cavity, you might get condensation occurring on the pipes from time-to-time. This is Florida, right?....land of super cool a/c and lots of thunderstorms/high humidity and rapid temperature drops as a result??? That might just be enough to get condensation happening.

b) It's possible that water is running along PVC/ABS drain pipes to a 'low' spot or a fitting located where you're wetness is.

It's not uncommon for a poorly glued PVC/ABS joint 'upstream' to weep a small amount of water. Say you have a horizontal run of pipe with a coupler or a wye-fitting and it's glued well except in the upper side of the joint. With small amounts of water running through the pipe (hand washing) you don't get a leak, but when a large amount of water drains all at once (bathtub, or maybe a toilet), then the pipe gets momentarily backed-up and water can leak through the faulty glue job. The water would then adhere to and flow along the underside of the pipe until it reached a low spot or a fitting where it begins to drip.

c) You might be dealing with a bad solder connection on a water supply line. Small drips of water running back down the line on the outside.

d) Where is the plumbing stack from the 2nd floor located?

Best solution is to open the ceiling up and look around. It's only drywall and that's easy to patch & repaint - you'd never know it was repaired if done properly.

Open the ceiling and wipe all visible pipes with dry paper towel, then go upstairs and run water one fixture at a time. Wait at least 10 minutes between fixtures to let water flow to that suspect area if it's wicking along the outside of the pipes.


Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom
·Embarq Now Centu..
·Comcast
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reply to MIA_Leak

If you decide to cut an opening in the ceiling, you might consider doing what I do if I have to cut an opening in a wall or ceiling. In a wall I used a two or three gang blank outlet plate to cover the hole. In a ceiling I install an AC vent with the back covered with black plastic sheeting. Cut the hole slightly small and used star fasteners to retain the plate of vent. Keep the drywall you remove if not damaged so you can use it to patch the hole when you are satisfied the problem is corrected.



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to MaynardKrebs

OP here. I monitored the wet spot again this past weekend and did notice a potential pattern-

The area gets wet midday and dries at night.

Therefor this could be a condensation issue as you mentioned because the temperature difference between inside and outside the home is greatest at noon. I bet its a pipe that is "sweating" right onto this spot.

On Sunday the wet spot got pretty bad, and the drywall started to bubble. Today I called the plumber and someone will be out later this week to cut the drywall and see whats going on.



ropeguru
Premium
join:2001-01-25
Mechanicsville, VA

Please let us know what they find.


garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI

said by ropeguru:

Please let us know what they find.

Yes, take a picture!

MaynardKrebs
Heave Steve, for the good of the country
Premium
join:2009-06-17
kudos:4

2 edits
reply to MIA_Leak

said by MIA_Leak :

OP here. I monitored the wet spot again this past weekend and did notice a potential pattern-

The area gets wet midday and dries at night.

Therefor this could be a condensation issue as you mentioned because the temperature difference between inside and outside the home is greatest at noon. I bet its a pipe that is "sweating" right onto this spot.

On Sunday the wet spot got pretty bad, and the drywall started to bubble. Today I called the plumber and someone will be out later this week to cut the drywall and see whats going on.

If it's truly only pipe sweating (condensation related) and not a pinhole leak (when the ceiling is opened, plan on leaving it open for a few days so you can investigate all possibilities), then insulate all the pipes and elbows and tee's you can reach, and tape the joints between the pieces of insulation to keep moist air away from the cold water pipes.

Also look through the ceiling hole towards the exterior house wall and see what kind of insulation you see up against the rim/band joist. If you don't see any, consider getting a few cans of spray foam and spraying at least 2" thick against the band joist. This will help prevent moist air from getting into that joist cavity from outside.

One other thing I forgot to mention, but also condensation related..... your a/c ducts.

Some ducts are lined with noise reducing material. In climates where there is a high differential between the indoor/outdoor relative humidity (ie. Florida) and that the a/c air is really cold in order to control the temperature of the inside rooms, as the a/c cycles on/off there is a high potential for water vapor to condense inside the ductwork. Couple this with the material which duct liner is usually made - some type of mineral wool or similar woven material - and you get a ready made reservoir for water to condense into.

No duct is installed completely level, and every duct run has a couple (or more) joints - some hardfit, some with flexible 'boots' - but both have the potential to leak accumulated water from inside the duct (even if there is no duct liner). The flexible boots can crack over time - from vibration of the duct and the constant cool/warm cycle, so you may have to take a really close look at all your a/c ducts and their joints in and around that area too.
You may need to install a condensate drain if your duct has a low spot.

Assuming that it is condensation in the ducts and even if you can isolate the leak to just one boot you replace, you still may have an ongoing condensation OUTSIDE the duct. You may have to insulate/wrap the outside of the ducts to try to keep moist air from contacting the cool duct surface. Place like Florida NEED to have insulated ducts - ie. foil backed insulation wrapped around the entire duct to prevent external condensation on the metal duct.


leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
reply to MIA_Leak

Don't assume that the condensation (if that is the cause) happens at the same time that you notice it on the ceiling.

It does take time to penetrate the drywall (more if there is insulation absorbing moisture above the drywall) and the water may have traveled a considerable distance before reaching that spot.

If you see wetness midday it might be condensation that occurred in the morning.
--
Got some spare cpu cycles ? Join Team Helix or Team Starfire!



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com
reply to MaynardKrebs

OP here, given the possibilities of the actual root cause, and you all had to make a choice, would you call a plumber or AC repair?

I chose to have a plumber come out in a couple of days. My thinking is that there is nothing wrong with the AC system, and any issues with condensation/pipes/insulation a plumber should be able to handle.

Am I right with this assumption?