Water Intrusion

First, I’d just like to say thanks to everybody who has called, written, tweeted, or messaged me wishing us well. I really appreciate your kindness.

We’re doing fine.

It has been two days since we noticed that water had found its way into our house at the base of an exterior wall in the master bedroom. Since the initial discovery, we also found water intrusion in two other areas of that room, as well as in three other rooms, all on exterior walls.

As I type this, there are three Atlantic LGR Dehumidifiers in place in the most heavily affected rooms, along with a total of five Phoenix Axial Air Movers, which are industrial strength fans, brought in by a company who specializes in these kinds of things.

The LGR’s aren’t too loud, but the air-movers create a whole lot of noise. All four of our bedrooms (one of which is my office) had water intrusion and now have fans and dehumidifiers in them. It’s like a crazy, loud, wind-tunnel in those rooms, and I’m probably using enough energy to power a small country.

The whole house is turned upside down, furniture hastily disassembled and moved from one room to another, doors pulled from their hinges and leaned against walls. There’s a makeshift baby-changing-station on the floor of our living room.

My wife and 8 month old baby boy are sleeping on a mattress on the floor of our dining room, and I have an inflatable twin-size mattress on the living room floor. If my boy were about 4 or 5 years old, he’d probably love this. I recall building many forts from sofa cushions in my childhood and wanting to “camp” there at night. But right now, it’s a moment-by-moment challenge keeping him happy and out of harms way. A sleeping baby in your living area makes the time after he goes to sleep and before you go to bed a bit of a challenge as well.

All in all, though, things could be much worse.

I Am Jack’s Water Intrusion

Our house wasn’t flooded. We weren’t wading through puddles of water, or canoeing down the road to get to the store, as people in neighboring counties have had to do (you may have seen the footage on television).

According to the company we’re working with, almost all of their dozens of service calls over the last few days have been to help with exactly the same problem we’re having. Regardless of the age, style, location, or type of house, the problem is the same.

Here in our house, and in many houses in our neighborhood and across Central Florida, we have what’s called water intrusion. This is where a volume of water gets in to your house, usually through a point where the foundation meets the exterior wall. It gets the carpet wet. It soaks the carpet pads through. It causes the drywall to swell. Baseboards separate from the walls where the drywall absorbed water. You may see paint bubbling or peeling. This is what’s called a Class 2 intrusion.

In a Class 2 intrusion, you have water entry at ground level in several places. You’re in real trouble if you have anything above a Class 2 intrusion. A Class 3 intrusion involves water coming down from the roof and through the walls. A Class 4 intrusion usually occurs when people have evacuated and return some days or weeks later to find that not only has mold set in, but permanent damage has been done, usually requiring the full-on gutting of the affected areas of the structure.

I know this because Tyler knows this.

Cause and Effect

From my research and in talking with the company helping us out, this isn’t a result of bad construction or flawed design. This is a result of Tropical Storm Fay dumping between 15 and 20 inches of rain on Central Florida over a period of about 48 hours.

The Florida ground is able to absorb quite a bit of water, typically many inches of rain over a short period of time. A heavy summertime rainstorm might dump several inches of rain in a few hours, and very seldom does this cause any real problems.

But in this case, the ground had become saturated, and was holding water against the house for an extended period of time. Although most homes are somewhat water-tight, none are really waterproof, and almost any house will leak at the foundation if water sits against it long enough.

There was nothing we could have done differently to prevent the intrusion, nor was there a way to stop it once it had started.

You just take steps like peeling up carpet, sopping up wet carpet pads with towels, and doing anything you can think of to start the drying process. Although these measures work pretty well to dry carpets and carpet pads, there’s not much you can do on your own to dry out the drywall, insulation, and baseboards.

Although many people might touch the walls and say, “yeah, that feels dry now,” they’re asking for trouble. Worse than the lingering odor, dampness, and mildew, there’s mold formation to worry about.

Mold: A Homeowner’s Nightmare

With a Class 2 intrusion, you have about 96 hours before mold sets in. Mold is bad. You don’t want it. Preventing it from forming in the first place is critical, because cleanup and remediation is difficult and costly (we’ve been through it once in the past).

So do you take a chance and hope that the wall dries out on its own, that it doesn’t trap moisture long enough for mold to set in?

Maybe, but I’m not taking those chances with my house and family.

Right Now

The carpets and walls are drying out and hopefully in another day, the dehumidifiers and fans will be removed and we’ll be able to start putting our home back together.

My digital humidity gauge was reading about 20% in the rooms with the dehumidifiers in them – down from about 45% (normal for well-insulated Florida homes) in the rest of the house.

This morning, when I woke up, I could hear my little boy happily calling out to me, saying “Dada!” over and over again. He’d had a rough night but was awake right on schedule and ready to play. So I took him to the family room and made towers from plastic toy cups for him to knock down, zoomed the car around on the floor, and laughed and read books together just like we would on any other morning.

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