The leaky home phenomenon in New Zealand has been much talked about in the last 10 years or so, but there are still a lot of misconceptions about what makes a home leak. It’s commonly thought that the main culprits are plaster homes built in the 90s – however the reality goes far beyond that.
The truth is that all homes have the potential to leak – regardless of their age or the materials used for construction – meaning a thorough inspection is vital. Here we look at some of the most common myths surrounding leaky homes so you know what you might be dealing with…
MYTH: Only homes built around the 1990s leak
The Building Act 1991, which came into effect about 1994, changed building controls and is often thought to be the start, or cause, of New Zealand’s so-called ‘leaky home crisis’. While a relaxing of the rules saw some developers take short-cuts, there were other factors at play; including trends towards Mediterranean-style homes with their complex (often flat) roofs, plastered walls and internal decks and an increase in the use of fibre cement sheet cladding systems that rely on paint as their primary defence against water ingress.
It’s easy to see how problems arose around that time, however those homes are not the only ones with problems. In our line of work, we inspect houses of all different eras of construction and none are immune from leaking issues, even brand new builds being constructed today after all that the industry has apparently now learnt are failing!
MYTH: Only plaster homes leak
While this popular opinion is pervasive, it’s not grounded in fact. The fact is, homes can have leaking challenges regardless of their cladding type; brick and tile, concrete and plaster, metal and steel, and even weatherboard homes. In fact – building on from the point above – many old villas leak like sieves. However, there is often more air moving through the walls of these homes, which helps the timber dry out again. Problems arise when these homes are being retro-fitted with insulation and the walls can no longer breathe. More recently people are finding their old character homes rotting from the inside out.
MYTH: Leaking issues are just a factor of cladding and design
The smallest things can make a home leak. We recently did a reclad in Remuera where we had to replace 70% of the exterior framing of a home. The cause of their issues? External lights that had been screwed directly on to the outside. Water was getting in through the thread of the screws as, in this case, the electrician hadn’t filled their holes with silicone or a sealant during installation.
Unfortunately, this is a very common scenario and, when you think of all the things screwed to the exterior of your home – from downpipe saddles to lights, alarms, shutters or decorative items – you can see how many potential areas there are for water ingress. Even new homes with a cavity are not immune, so it’s worth catching any potential leaking issues early, before greater damage is done.
MYTH: That it’s just about weather tightness, and internal moisture isn’t an issue
We tend to think of weather tightness as being about the external area of our homes not letting rain in from outside. However, internal leaks are also possible, and all to common, and can cause just as much insidious moisture damage, especially around wet areas like kitchens, bathrooms and the laundry. In fact, seven out of every 10 showers are shown to have a leak! A thorough building inspection should include investigation of potential internal leaking as well.
No matter what your home is constructed with, or when it was built, all homes can (and do!) leak both as a result of external moisture penetration or internal moisture leakage. If you have a home or commercial building that you have concerns about, get a comprehensive weather tightness building inspection. It’s far better to know what you’re dealing with – and uncovering the issues sooner rather than later can often save you from further damage (and more costly repairs!) down the track.