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Why is my building leaking? How Can I fix it?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are questions I am asked frequently, all too often in an incredibly exasperated tone of voice and accompanied by a somewhat worried look.

To the homeowner or resident, a building leak is not only a source of damage to their property, but can be a very traumatic experience. The thought is never far away, particularly if the building is new, that ‘if my building is leaking, what other hidden defects are there going to be’.

Having been involved in the building industry for over 20 years, I would say that leaks in new buildings are more prevalent than they used to be. But why should this be?

It is partly due to modern building trends using external tiled balconies, no eaves, low angled roofing and box gutters. And partly down to factors such as building design, material selection and quality of construction.

Here are my top causes of building leaks based on what we have seen in modern Melbourne buildings over the last few years:

External tiled balconies: Common issues are insufficient grading leading to pooling water (commonly above living areas) and defective waterproof membranes, often the only barrier to leaks. Many leaks are detected around the perimeter of the balcony where they meet up with doors and windows.

Parapet walls fitted with low angle roofing and box gutters: If not designed and installed correctly these lead to water leaking into the building, collapsing plaster ceilings, and causing water damage. Design and quality of construction is key here – and as a rule low angle roofing should have a gradient well beyond the minimum of 1 degree specified by some manufacturers. The shallower the roof angle the more likely the roof is to have drainage problems.

Cladding cracks: These can come from a number of causes. Ground movement, subsidence or simply poor construction. On the positive side, leaks from cladding are relatively easy to identify and trace, and usually straightforward to repair.

Windows and doors: Again, relatively easy to identify but frustrating none the less. All too often the cause is shoddy workmanship during construction or installation.

If any of this sounds familiar, whom do you call? Accurately diagnosing a leaking building requires a high degree skill, knowledge and, perhaps most importantly, building and construction experience.

Once you have done your initial research, make sure to check your leak repairers credentials. I would even go as far as asking them for a customer reference. If they can’t come up with at least a couple, probably best to keep on looking.

Building leaks can be fixed, and all that worry and stress removed, as long as you choose the right person for the job. Of course, it goes without saying, we are happy to provide customer references on request!

All the best, Martin


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