Rain seeping inside through concrete block wall above grade (Warning: LONG explanation)

Hi all,
I'm looking for some ideas on where a leak problem might be in our house (mostly because I'm not sure about how concrete block walls are constructed). We have a block house in FL built in 2001 (well, block up to the bottom of the roof line then wood sheathing covered in stucco on the gable ends of the house).
*** The Problem: One of the windows on that wall was leaking water from above it. This happened once before, but only in the same circumstance -- when we have a tropical storm and wind-driven rain is driven at this side of the house. The wall is very tall there as the peak of the roof is straight up from this window (there's about 10 more feet of flat wall abovce this window).
*** My Diagnosis (so far): Anyway, we noticed water dripping in though a hole in the sheetrock used to mount a vertical blind rail. In order to diagnose it better, we removed sheetrock above the window to see the source. The window has a pre-cast lentil above it spanning the window and block all around it. There is at least one course of block above the lentil that I can see (I only removed enough sheetrock to see the start of the leak. Some fo the mortar joints had small holes (approx 1/8") that seemed to be where the water was seeking its way inside.
Looking at the lentil, it has blocks on top of it and there is mortar between the sides of each block and under each block (between the block and lentil). During heavy wind-blown rain against that wall, water is "streaming" from the vertical mortar seams between the blocks above the lentil, and seeping through the horizontal mortar seams between the lentil and the block above it. The problem here is that once it gets onto the house side of the block it gets the sheetrock wet, etc.
We also went into the attic and looked at the roof and wall above this window -- nothing. Everything is dry as a bone during the middle of the storm while the window is dripping. I can't see the top of the lentil from the attic, though, There appears to be some horizontal wood down the wall above the lentil blocking it's view. But everything I can see as far down the wall as I can see is all dry, as well as the roof and attic insulation.
*** What about this? On the exterior wall where this window is we can see some type of horizontal "joint" that stretches the width of the house, about 8 feet up. We think it's either some type of expansion joint or perhaps a weep screed, but I've not heard of weep screeps up that high. In any event, It seem that this joint might allow enough water to enter behind the stucco and (somehow) into the block, but we can't be sure. There must be a lot of water pooling in the hollow block above the lentil because it is dripping at a very fast pace. If you wipe it away it starts streaming again immediately. I event tried squishing rubber silicone sealant onto the holes in the mortar (from the inside) just to temporarily plug the entry point, but the water seeped either through it or around it and still came in at the same pace. It must be a lot of water in there!
We looked for stucco cracks and saw a few "hairline" (at best) cracks running vertically above the "joint" for about 3 ft. in length, but I wasn't sure that such a fine hairline crack would let enough water in to let it get inside the block and drip out like a fast-dripping faucet.
I was half-temped to drill into the block above the lentil just to see if it drains out and see how much water is in there, but I won't dare for fear of making the problem worse! <g>
Can anyone think of what might cause this much water to get inside the block such that it is seeping into the house through the mortar? I've heard it's normal for some water to get behind the stucco, but I thought it was supposed to run down the outside of a water barrier and then out the weep screed (which I thought was at the bottom of the wall). Is it normal for water to get inside the conrete blocks that make up the wall? If so where should this water go when it hits a solid lentil? I'd greatly appreciate any ideas anyone might have as to why something like this might happen.
Thanks, -- Vinnie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Here is a site on masonry construction.
http://www.bia.org /
Basically there are suppose to be flashed weepholes above windows if this is a masonry veneer house. In other words if the block is in front of a wood or metal frame, you should have weepholes for water to get out at strategic places. I know nothing about double block walls but hopefully you will find what you need at this great site in the technical notes.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Can't see your house from here, but based on your explanation (stucco'd frame gable above block wall), I'd say you are on the right track. Somehow or other, they did the block to frame transition improperly, and water is bypassing the moisture barrier and flashing, and building up in the space in the block, then draining out into your room.
I'd do what you can to block the water (nail a tarp over gable end?), and live with it until you can get the wall opened up, once all the contractors get past the workload hump from last 2 storms. Gable end usually isn't load-bearing, so it isn't a huge job, but it will scare you how much they have to open the wall up.
aem sends...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Thanks for the info. Is that transition between block and wall most likely an "expansion joint" or a "weep screed"? I know you can't see my house <g>, but I was wondering if one or the other is unlikely or more likely.
If it is an expansion joint, can it be caulked somehow if that's where the water is infiltrating?
Thanks again, -- Vinnie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

frame walls on top of block are usually a 2x6 (or whatever) treated lumber sill plate, on top of some sort of gasketing material, held down by embedded bolts in the block, with the studs nailed to the treated wood, and the sheathing extending almost down to the concrete. There would (or should) be some sort of flashing up under the tarpaper or Tyvek or whatever, extending down over the concrete, to keep water out of the joint. I suspect since it was so high on the wall, they skimped out on the flashing, figuring the Tyvek or whatever was good enough. Unless you can still get the builder to open the wall up as a warranty/goodwill gesture, I'm afraid you are looking at some money. Basically, once they make a small hole above window to verify if flashing was done wrong, it means stripping that gable and redoing the weatherproofing correctly, replacing any rotted lumber as you go. The stucco itself may be porous, and the water is building up behind it. You didn't notice before, because roof overhang usually protected it pretty well. (rain is supposed to go down, not sideways, after all.)
Of course, not being familiar with usual and customary FL building practices, I may be as all wet as your wall is getting. One thing for sure- the longer you wait for the repair, the worse the damage, unless it stops raining. And Ivan is a week out.
aem sends...
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

went under the stucco to help drain water or condensation under the stucco but on top of the house wrap and allow it to "weep" out the bottom of the wall. I guess I was just wondering if they would put one in the middle of the wall (8 ft. up) or if it was defintely some type of "joint". In the case of a joint between the block and sheathing, it would probably be "sealable", but in the case of a weep screed, it most likely would not be to allow water to drain. But again, I've never heard of a weep screed up high, normally just above grade level to allow water to drain out the bottom if it got behind the stucco. That's just what I've read -- I'm certainly no expert <g>.

(1 yr), but now we're thinking of calling in a home inspector first to get an independent opinion of the source of the problem first. Then he may be able to tell us what *should* be done to fix it. While a warranty repair (if we can get it done as one) would be nice, I'm not certain I even want the builder doing the work again as they may not realize what they did wrong in the first place. (The homebuilder's subcontract labor in this area is....um, questionable... <g>).

learn more about what it *could* be so I can go forward with a bit more knowledge and understanding when the actual repair is made -- hopefully correctly this time <g>.

won't be able to get one out here AND get a repair crew out here all before Ivan comes in. At this point, we're resigned to the fact that if Ivan hits our north side, we're collecting "wall-water" in Tupperware again. At least our rainy season will be over in about another month so we should be out of the worst of the woods in a few more weeks, and then they can take as long as they want to come out and fix it! <g>
Thanks again, -- Vinnie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
If the work was initially a code violation or otherwise defective, even though he only gave you a 1 year warranty, unless you signed a contract that clearly said otherwise, you can sue him in most areas of the country (US) until the statute of limitations (which varies by state). That said, sueing is expensive and often not worth it unless you are talking about a major repair or can do it in small claims court.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Interesting -- well, this may actually become a "class action" suit! We just found out today that about 7 or 8 neighbors (that we know of) had the same problem(s) with water infiltration on the North and South sides of the house. We also had water seeping in under the baseboard on the opposite side of the house after the rain shifted last night when the eye passed. That wall is much smaller and has no expansion joint, so we know that wasn't a cause on that wall. The grade outside is below the slab level so that can also be ruled out.
Most of our neighbors with problems also had water coming in under the baseboard on the North or South sides of thier houses (same as ours since that's where the wind/rain came from). In fact, one of the houses was done by a different builder (but in our same neighborhood), and that homeowner actually had more water infiltration problems scattered throughout the house -- floor and ceiling. I'm starting to think they all have been using the same (unskilled) labor, the same substandard stucco, and/or the same substandard paint. All of these house are simply not "sealed" properly, it would seem. In fact, even with the stucco on the wall, on some houses on our street, you can see the "stairstep effect" of the mortar joints on the walls after any heavy rain, and it's especially visible today. I'm assuming with a good coat of stucco and good paint, water shouldn't make it to the mortar joints and they probably shouldn't be visible after a rain storm.
We've just called an independent home inspector that was recommended by several neighbors in the past (for earlier water infiltration problems) to come in and review our problem and offer some possible causes. My guess is whatever is wrong in our house is the same problem affecting most of our neighbor's houses, although several of them will be hiring this inspector as well to evaluate their houses individually.
Thanks again, -- Vinnie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
You might want to call a professional engineer. You would need his expertise in a lawsuit anyway.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Have you considered that maybe it came in though the soffit vents? We've had the same problem with the homes in our neighborhood during frances. It seemed to be worse when i had horizontal rains parallel to the gable -- so that the rain could enter directly into the holes. We're trying to get inspectors out here as well. I live north of tampa and my builder was Lennar.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.