Anyone who has a few years of real estate ownership under their belt has dealt with some kind of water-related issue at some point in their career.
Though I don’t have any statistics to prove this, I would speculate, based on my experience, that there is no greater contributor to a property’s wear and tear damage than water problems.
Remember that, given enough time, water was able to carve out the Grand Canyon itself. Don’t expect it can’t similarly chip away at the cracks in your property’s armor.
Luckily, whether you are maintaining or renovating an existing property, or erecting a new construction development, people have been battling water-related property damage for generations before you and I, and humanity has built up some pretty good systems to deal with the problem. You just need to make sure you are working with the right professionals that do things properly.
Through our development company, PWN Development, we’ve both renovated existing structures, often built in prior eras where controls and regulations were lax or nonexistent, that had been ravaged by water over the years and needed restoration, repair, and prevention from future damage.
We’ve also built new construction in flood plain areas and waterfront areas with extremely high water tables. As a result, we’ve encountered pretty much every water related issue that a typical property manager or investor will come across. Here are a few of the key takeaways we’ve found to prevent or stop water damage for property owners and property management companies.
1. Roofs and Roof Weather Systems
Your roof is your first line of defense every time it rains or snows, and the shingles themselves, the ice and water shielding, and roofing system materials work in tandem to prevent any moisture from making its way into the interior of your home.
When installed and maintained properly, all types of roofs should prevent water intrusion, but in our experience you will run in to more frequent issues with flat rubber roofs as opposed to pitched roofs. Flat roofs must be installed and maintained by experienced roofing contractors, as amateur installations will inevitably end up with water issues within months.
That said, all roofs will encounter problems eventually, and all roof types can be installed or repaired improperly by inexperienced roofers, leading to problems. Flat roofs typically last somewhere between 10-15 years, whereas pitched roofs last a little longer, between 15-20 years.
Do not invest in a property with an aging roof unless you are willing to pay for the capital expenditure to replace it in the near future.
One thing to keep in mind is that even if your roof has been performing well during heavy rains, snow and ice damming can expand and shrink improperly installed roofing materials and cause leaks. You and your property management company need to make sure you contract only experienced roofers that you have either worked with before or can provide 3 solid references of past jobs they have performed.
Good roofers, like all good contractors, should be willing to bring you to their past jobs and connect you directly to past clients as references.
2. Siding and Weather Resistant Housewrap:
Similar to your roof, your property’s siding is another key line of defense in the battle against water. If your siding needs to be replaced, or you are building a new construction property, invest in a siding contractor that uses high quality weather-resistant housewrap. Old houses may have minimal defenses beyond the siding material itself, whereas good housewrap is one of the most effective tools in your arsenal to prevent water damage.
3. Repointing Masonry:
If your property is made of brick, or some part of your property has a brick, fieldstone, or similar masonry component to its construction, the mortar will degrade over time from weather related damage. Eventually, water will begin to seep in through the voids that open up in the mortar.
A good mason can help with this problem by repointing the mortar, which essentially restores it to new condition when done properly. They remove the old and porous mortar from the property and replace it with new mortar. This is a necessary component of managing properties with masonry components to their construction that will need to be performed every 25 years.
4. Foundation Cracks and Other Foundation Issues:
Settling cracks in the foundation are common and can present an easy way for water to seep into your structure.
Remember, if the crack in your foundation is horizontal, then you have larger problems to deal with, as these are more serious and may present actual structural issues over time.
More common are vertically oriented cracks, which can be repaired quickly by a professional foundation contractor. Both types of cracks allow water to leak in.
Horizontal cracks can sometimes be caused by poor drainage in the soil and land surrounding your structure, in which case there will likely be pooled water that pushes its way through the crack.
Vertical cracks may or may not have water intrusion, but commonly do. Identifying and repairing cracks, as well as any of the associated underlying causes of them, will prolong the life of your property and reduce maintenance costs.
5. Sump Pump and Other Drainage Systems
Unless you live in an area with a very deep water table, I usually advise new developers that if their construction project includes a basement, they better also be prepared to include a sump pump, or reconsider whether the basement is worth it. It might be the case that water getting in to your basement is a rare event occurring only a few times a year, but without the ability to properly drain that water, you’re literally spiking the concentration of indoor pollutants in your home by providing a breeding ground for mold, as well as damaging your home over time directly with the water itself.
Sump pumps are a really nice “plan B” for your basement to keep that peace of mind that even were water to find its way in, it will be promptly funneled away from your living space and most negative consequences can be avoided. This is a much better scenario than having no pump in place and one day finding yourself under siege by an unexpected torrent of water that had been pooling up for some time, waiting to work its way in.