New study finds that water runs down hill! Who knew?

Today is a day that will live in infamy as the discovery that water runs down hill was announced by a previously unknown kindergarten teacher in Seattle, Washington (obviously not the other Washington).

The teacher’s class of kindergartners, using standard garden hoses, Odwalla fruit juices and hamster slides, showed beyond a reasonable doubt that water does in fact run down hill. Before this day, this fact was obviously not known.

Because of how recent this discovery is, it is projected that there are still thousands of builders constructing homes unaware of the new information.

Many builders have expressed surprise at the way gravity affects water. Some even reacted with denial and accusations. Many were heard to say that the kindergartners, “don’t know what they are talking about—obviously!” Others remarked at how this information will be costly in the building of new homes from here on out.

Others called for further studies prior to jumping to rash conclusions.

Still others argued that government meddling in a free economy was likely involved. After all why shouldn’t someone be able to build a house any way they want regardless of what water does or does not do?

The very notion that flashings would now be required over any trim boards that are nailed on top of siding, above windows and doors, seemed just preposterous. But the fact that water was now known to be affected by gravity seemed difficult to reconcile with the industry standard of not installing any flashings at all. Is it any wonder that builders everywhere are crying foul?

Head flashing is missing

Head flashing is missing

Some builders, when shown pictures of the problem, merely argued for more caulk–although that did not seem to impress the kindergartners very much.

And caulking won't be good either

And caulking won’t be good either

It remains to be seen how this new information will affect home construction. Many experts belief that the information will be ignored and standard building practice will not be affected at all.

Only time will tell

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Male and Female role reversal can really mess things up!

Perhaps the title got you to start reading, but I think to avoid getting kinky real fast, I will let the double entendre end with the title.

This post is about how a simple assembly issue with a downspout on a home has resulted in significant visible water intrusion resulting in water damage in the crawl space. Of course there is also a good possibility (or should that be bad possibility?) of hidden damage in the house wall structure as well.

The problem is compounded by missing flashings between the top of the brick wall and the trim board that sits on top of the wall. For a wall to shed water properly, all changes in types of siding and trim should either lap over the surfaces below or counter-flashings should be provided at these transitions. Under normal rainy conditions the installation “might” perform just fine, but under driving rain conditions or improper assembly of downspout components, these connections may allow water to get behind the brick where damage to untreated wood structures can occur.

So take a good close look at the following picture.


Can you see how the downspout is on the “outside” of the elbow instead of “inside” the elbow (circled in red)? Because it is on the outside, water can run outside the elbow and onto the brick ledge at the top of the wall and then under the trim board where it can then find its way to the crawl space. With enough water, the water will even find its way up the gentle slope of the brick.

In this next picture you can see where the area in the crawl space is obviously wet and damaged. Proper flashings will have to be installed—and of course the downspout connection will need to be repaired. Someone will have to make a decision as to how to deal with the possibility of hidden damage and whatever repairs might be necessary.


I will leave that decision to the contractor hired to make repairs. Damage could be minimal and will likely be fairly localized—but who really knows until someone starts to take things apart.


By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Houses can be theme parks

It is hard to not notice that houses seem to have “themes.”

Just like Disneyland, the US Congress or other theme parks, homes too can be united by common features. This post however is not about the “houses of horrors,” befitting any Halloween night, that have become common with short sales and foreclosures.

Many missing flashing details

Many missing flashing details

It is more about the “little things” that are common in homes. For example if a house has one defective GFCI receptacle it is likely that there will be more than one. If there is one junction box with a missing cover–there will be many. If one of the windows has a broken seal it is likely that there will be others with broken seals. If one door sticks–others will stick. If one chrome trap is at the end of its expected life, so will others in the home.

Now there are several reason we have these themes in homes. Firstly, the age of the house is a factor. If everything in the home was installed at the same time–it is likely they will come to the end of their life at the same time.

Secondly, often work was done by the same person. If they do something wrong once–it is highly likely think that they will have done it the same way at other locations in the home. If there are missing flashings in one place there will be missing flashings somewhere else–even if the flashing serves a different purpose.

Take the previous picture. How many flashing issues can you spot in the picture?

Well of course there is obvious cavernous opening where the top of the brick work at the corner of the home never got completed. This is on the South side of the home–the direction from which we get a lot of our weather in the Northwest. There is a pretty good chance this is going to become a water collection point.

In this next picture I have done some overlays to show where there should be flashings, caulk and other seals installed to prevent moisture from damaging the structure.

Missing flashings, caulking, sealing

Missing flashings, caulking, sealing

At “A” there should be a flashing to prevent moisture from getting behind the horizontal trim board.

At “B” the light fixture does not properly cover the junction box cut-out in the siding.

At “C” one can see there is no flashing across the top of the doorway horizontal trim (also the vertical trim is not caulked).

At “D” the wire penetration is not sealed.

And at “E” of course the brickwork is not finished.

Like any good theme park, here we have lots of similar repeating issues that could be conveniently gunny sacked into one photo. There were many other flashing issues around this theme park.

Sometimes home even have multiple themes.


By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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