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ropeguru
Premium
join:2001-01-25
Mechanicsville, VA
reply to Mr Matt

Re: Mystery Leak

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
·CenturyLink
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.
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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?



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

Actually, I'd probably cut the hole myself to see what's going on and then call a plumber or HVAC person depending on need. It's a problem with just condensation you can probably fix it yourself. You're going to probably have to call a sheetrock specialist in either case to fix the hole unless you can do that also.


garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
reply to MIA_Leak

Ditto on cutting the ceiling open myself. I'd want to know right away what I'm dealing with, leaks can add up to big money quickly.



MIA_Leak

@tracfone.com

There is no way I am cutting up the drywall myself.

After calling around a bit, I think an AC company will be better suited for this job.

Multiple plumbing companies told me they can only help if there is a clogged pipe- which is more than likely not the case here.


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

said by MIA_Leak :

There is no way I am cutting up the drywall myself.

Just wondering, why not? It cuts easily (especially if damp) with a box cutter.


Corehhi

join:2002-01-28
Bluffton, SC
reply to MIA_Leak

I had the same issue and what was wrong was the copper pipe to the air handler was missing a few inches of insulation which in the hot weather caused condensation on the pipe that dripped down onto the dry wall. In my case I could just go into the attic and see the problem.

Dry wall is easy to cut just use a circular saw or trim saw set for a 1/2 cut, zip zip easy enough.



leibold
Premium,MVM
join:2002-07-09
Sunnyvale, CA
kudos:10
Reviews:
·SONIC.NET
reply to garys_2k

I understand that cutting drywall is easy, but when I don't know what is behind (or in this case above) it I rather leave it to someone that has the experience.

OP, your plan to get a plumber to investigate and take care off this issue was a good one. Like you however I found that some plumbers (especially highly recommended ones) are getting so much business that they can cherry-pick the types of issues they are willing to take on. You may want to try a few more plumbers instead of getting a HVAC specialist for an issue that may not be HVAC related. If you can't get any plumber to help, consider a general contractor that will also do the drywall repair when the problem is solved.
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cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse

said by leibold:

I understand that cutting drywall is easy, but when I don't know what is behind (or in this case above) it I rather leave it to someone that has the experience.

Come on, really? A simple hammer will do... just make a small crack enough to rip more, if there in nothing to be damaged then cut with saw... sheeessshhhhh...

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

I would recommend trying to find a handiman who does small jobs and can repair sheetrock. Once the sheetrock is cut then you can determine the proper "expert" for the repair if it is out of the skill set of the person who cut the sheetrock. At this point, without knowing what is causing the water damage, you really don't know what skill sets are needed to complete the repair but you do know that the sheetrock will have to be fixed, so start there.


garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
reply to leibold

Slit the paper into the board (cut it into a neat rectangle) and smack it. No need to even penetrate all the way through to break it away and get your eyes on what's leaking.


nonymous
Premium
join:2003-09-08
Glendale, AZ
reply to MIA_Leak

said by MIA_Leak :

There is no way I am cutting up the drywall myself.

After calling around a bit, I think an AC company will be better suited for this job.

Multiple plumbing companies told me they can only help if there is a clogged pipe- which is more than likely not the case here.

I hate patching drywall yet I would cut a neat access to see who I needed to call if anyone. Then get a cheap drywall person to patch it up. Or maybe even patch myself depending on the texture.


jjoshua
Premium
join:2001-06-01
Scotch Plains, NJ
kudos:3
reply to MIA_Leak

Open it up with a utility knife and take a look. What could possibly be up there?



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

It's not that difficult to cut the hole and you'll save yourself quite a bit of money! After all this is a DIY forum so, "do it yourself"!


nonymous
Premium
join:2003-09-08
Glendale, AZ
reply to leibold

Even if you do not know what is above it then it is still easy to cut. Even a box cutter and a straight edge. Just have to go deep enough to have a straight edge not even all the way through. Then carefully remove the drywall. If it is damp or wet heck the center part would probably fall apart.
Not telling you to go through it many inches deep with a saw then hit something.


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

said by MIA_Leak :

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?

1) Get a strong magnet, and a heavy duty utility knife
2) Get a ladder
3) Get up on ladder with magnet, a pencil, and a ruler
4) Move the magnet around on the ceiling in the leak area until it 'grabs' a screw. This indicates that there's a joist in this spot. Mark the location. Do this over and over until you've found the boundaries of the area you want to cut out and all the joists in the area. Draw cut lines using your ruler centered on the screws long the joists.
5) Carefully cut the drywall out of the ceiling.

Then do everything I and others have suggested to look around yourself and test things out. Then you'll know whether you need a plumber, a/c guy, roofer, or some combination of all three.

When watever is wrong is repairs, find a handyman (with references and call them) who will patch your ceiling and paint it for you. if you don't want to do this yourself.


MIA_LEAK

@comcast.net
reply to MIA_Leak

Click for full size
Click for full size
Click for full size
OP here. AC guy came and cut hole in drywall.

Right above the cut is a dryer exhaust line 90 degree elbow.

So the dryer is in the garage, the exhaust goes through the ceiling in the dining room. At the wetspot location, there is a 90 elbow and the exhaust goes up to the attic.

The elbow is the low point, and condensation collects there and drips on the ceiling.

The dryer exhaust was cool to the touch, probably from the night before. AC guy told me the dryer exhaust is poor design, because hot air and lint goes all the way up through my house, instead of simply to the left and out to the left of the garage.

Solution: He is going to remove as much of the dryer exhaust line as possible in my house. Then he is going to create a new exhaust line in my garage.

I took some pics and also updated the floor plan with some detail.

medbuyer

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

so the first owner had a dryer vent that went from the garage and vent out through the roof?

that's a very dumb**s move....

instead of venting it out sideways to the nearest wall....

did you get the house inspected before you bought it? I would think that any house inspector would see that and suggest relocating the vent nearby...but then again, inspectors can be like a box of chocolates...



MIA_LEAK

@comcast.net

I agree. Its very very very bad design.



mattmag
Premium,ExMod 2000-03
join:2000-04-09
NW Illinois
kudos:3
reply to MIA_LEAK



There are two ducts in the picture. What is the second one for?


zippoboy7

join:2006-06-18
USA

said by mattmag:

There are two ducts in the picture. What is the second one for?

If I had to guess based on the size and location its most likely from a bathroom fan that they tied into the dryer duct exhaust, whoever designed that mess really did not have a clue. I just hope that the dryer is electric and not gas, I would hate to think of how much CO leaked out of that mess over the years.


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

said by mattmag:

There are two ducts in the picture. What is the second one for?

Oooh. I want to know the answer to that question, too.
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