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Water leakage through windows / doors, stucco or roofing systems can be frustrating due to the circuitous route that water will travel. Identifying the area of moisture infiltration can be methodically approached to insure the proper area is identified and the appropriate fix accomplished. Considering that leakage problems in New Mexico are mostly related to stucco, we offer repair solutions specifically for the architecture in this area.

The natural reaction by the untrained person is to identify the leaking area as the local area of entry on the inside of the building, and assume it correlates directly through the wall to the exterior. This approach generally does not yield an accurate diagnosis and leads one to believe that a window or crack in the stucco is directly responsible for the problem, when in reality it may be a roofing problem or leakage in a completely different area.

In the case of a leaky window or a vertical crack in the stucco, it is believed in some professional circles, that water is actually sucked or drawn into the house, rather than being driven through the wall by low pressure inside the home. Although there are conditions when wind driven rain is forced into and through a breach in the wall or window.

The sixty-four thousand-dollar question is always, where is the leak occurring? Once the leakage area is identified, a proper procedure for repair is always available, sometimes very economically and other times more expensively.

Testing is the first step to identify the area of moisture infiltration. Much of the testing procedure was adopted from the book, “Idiot’s Guide To Water Testing Windows” by Daniel Urroz. One can purchase this book by calling 1-800-655-9349 or by the Internet at www.buildersbasement.com.  For homeowners that are willing to dedicate a few hours, Urroz’s book is a wealth of information for leak identification.  At Reule Sun Corporation, we agree with much of the testing procedure and offer amendments to the testing for accelerated results. It is important to conduct the testing from the bottom to the top of the wall. The order of the following testing is important to isolate the leakage.

Test procedure #1: The object of this test is to test the window proper while isolating the stucco and the window to stucco interface out of the loop.  Shut and latch the window. Using duct tape and 3m masking film or landscaping plastic, tape the plastic at the edge of the window frame and lap the plastic onto the stucco two to three feet. Tape the outside edge of the plastic onto the stucco.  Strips of plastic can be used, starting horizontally at the windowsill, sides and top, making sure to overlap the sheets like shingles of a roof. Tape all of the overlapped plastic joints to create a seal. Make sure to keep the plastic film flat and avoid wrinkles in the film while applying the tape; so as to create a watertight seal. Apply a second layer of tape over the first layer and onto the stucco around the total perimeter to insure adhesion.  Spray the entire window, assimilating a heavy rain for 20 minutes. Observe the interior of window and localized areas, around, under and along the baseboard, for moisture infiltration. Wipe off and dry window and frame.

Test procedure #2: The object of this test is to isolate the window out of the loop and focus the test on the transition of the stucco to the window frame. Shut and latch the window. Using duct tape and 3m masking film or landscaping plastic, tape the plastic film onto the frame of the window, around the entire perimeter, right up to the edge were the stucco meets the window frame and cover over the entire window. Make sure to keep the plastic film flat and avoid wrinkles in the film while applying the tape; so as to create a watertight seal. About one inch of contact of the duct tape onto the window frame is adequate. With a water hose turned on with moderate pressure, start flooding water at the bottom of the windowsill and move the hose along the sill for ten minutes.  Observe the interior of windowsill for moisture infiltration.  If moisture is observed, tape a two-foot flap of plastic onto the bottom of the windowsill to span from the windowsill and over the stucco. Continue the test individually on each side of the window for twenty minutes each, and next the top of the window for 30 minutes.  Urroz offers a great tip by utilizing a strip of plywood with a clamp to hold the hose in place. Continue with the observation on the inside for moisture infiltration. Next the water can be run onto the stucco wall above the window for 20 minutes, while paying particular attention to flood any areas of the stucco that show cracks.  Again, observe the interior for moisture infiltration.  It is important to conduct each step of the test methodically and by the times prescribed above so as to find fault or eliminate each individual area.  If no moisture infiltration is evident, proceed to the next step.

Additional Procedure: If no moisture infiltration is evident in either of the above tests, an additional step can be performed to insure absolute results for the testing. By creating a negative pressure on the inside of the window, it can aid todraw the moisture inside. Utilizing the previously described plastic and masking materials, mask over the entire opening at the inside of the window and onto the interior sheet-rock or plaster wall, making sure that the entire window is encapsulated behind the plastic.  Apply a second layer of tape onto the wall and just overlapping the existing tape to insure adhesion. Utilizing a vacuum cleaner hose, cut a hole in the plastic, place the vacuum hose through the hole and tape to seal the hose to the plastic.  Turn on the vacuum and conduct the above tests. If there is no moisture infiltration, you can safely conclude that the tested areas are leak resistant. Only a slight bit of vacuum is required. It is best if a restriction in the hose can be made so as to create a realistic negative pressure on the inside.  If a “Fan Door” is available for testing, a 15 Pascal pressure reduction to the interior of the building is adequate to conduct testing.

Test procedure #3: The object of this test is to focus the test to a flat roof parapet cap.  Once the above Tests are conducted and it is proven that there is no leakage, then testing of the parapet can take place.  The procedure is to flood the top of the parapet for twenty minutes, vertically above the area of infiltration.  Considering that water can easily migrate for ten feet or more, the flooding of the parapet should occur laterally ten feet on either side of the vertical alignment with the leak.  Care should be taken to keep the water off of the roof in this first step.  If no water infiltration occurs, then the backside of the parapet should be flooded.  Please note that by this second step, while flooding the backside of the parapet, water will flood onto the roof as well.  If water infiltrates into the wall, it is inconclusive whether the water is infiltrating into the parapet or by a leak in the roof.

The fix: Fixes for water leakage can be as simple as utilizing a caulking product, to more elaborate sealing methods and finishing of the stucco or synthetic stucco products.  If it is diagnosed that the window is leaking, with a top grade window, generally the fix is straightforward and involves replacement of weather-stripping or caulking. With wood or aluminum clad windows, it may be necessary to replace a defective sash or in extreme cases, the entire window.  If the transition of the stucco to the window is leaking, the fix can involve more than just caulking and usually requires that the window be removed and reinstalled properly or replaced with a new window, if required.  For problems relating to your specific window(s) brand, contact the manufacturer representative, which is customarily listed on the internet. If you suspect the roofing is causing the problem, contact a qualified roofer of your choice such as Rome at Cornerstone Roofing at 505-842-1113 or Mike at A 2 Z Roofing at 505-319-2670 for a free evaluation and consultation. For problems relating to your stucco or synthetic stucco product, or if you choose to upgrade to a high quality window or door product such as Andersen Windows and Doors, PlyGem PremiumVinyl Windows or beautiful Semco Wood Aluminum Clad windows and doors, please contact Reule Sun Corporation at 505-345-3200 for a free evaluation and consultation.



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