Can a House With a Cavity System Leak?

Here’s an interesting question that we get asked alot…

“Can a house built with a cavity system and treated timber framing leak?” Yes it can.

Please be aware that all homes leak at some stage… both brand new and old homes. You can either have internal or external leaking problems in the home, no matter what year it was built, and if it has a cavity or not.

Here’s an example of both types…

Internal:  Some new builds will leak the very first time a tap is turned on. We have been called out to plenty of jobs where a plumber hasn’t joined/glued a pipe correctly behind the wall and water has saturated carpets and external walls directly onto the treated timber framing (Normally H1.2 or above).

External: Recently we inspected a house in Albany, Auckland using thermal imaging and moisture testing equipment. The house was signed off in 2008 and had a 40mm polystyrene cladding on a 20mm cavity. The potential buyer was confident the home should be fine because it was required to have a cavity and treated timber. Wrong! The window joinery had failed and the timber frame was absolutely saturated in some sections of external wall.

How can a new home leak? When the weather turns from hot to cold, you then get expansion and contraction within the building envelope… and ‘things’ move and settle… and this can cause problems. The house itself also needs to settle and slight movement can take place… and then of course you have sub standard tradespeople who didn’t pay attention to details such as sealing off area where water can get into the walls… especially with wind driven rain! All these little factors combined can add up to some serious water damage to the property (Preferrably not your house, or the one you’re about to buy).

If you are prepared to spend anywhere from $1 – $ 1,000,000+ on a property, then you should get a leak test done regardless of the price tag and year it was built. Even if we aren’t the company you select to do the job, get it done regardless of the situation… for your own peace of mind (Read this first before selecting any other company).

When it comes to buying a house and pre-purchase inspections etc, the reality is that we are in New Zealand and it rains alot (We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you were looking at a home in the Mojave Desert)… where there is rain, there are leaks. It’s your risk at the end of the day, so we can only tell you about our past experiences with home buyers getting absolutely stung… and plenty of them have been people with experience in the real estate game.

Internal Gutter Leaking

Infrared Thermal Imaging Clearly Identifies Leaking Internal Gutter

Insufficient butanol join overlap causes major headache for home owner!

One of the very common signs that you could have a leak or moisture in your ceiling space (normally flat roofs), is you can see signs of the gib board pulling back down over the screws that are holding it up. Have you seen small round marks on your ceiling the size of a screw head? That could be more than meets the eye.

One of the inspections we did this week detected the exact problem as outlined above, although the home owner had no idea what was ACTUALLY going on. They called us in because they had a damp smell in the room and couldn’t work out where is was coming from.

Here’s what we saw with the infrared leak detection camera the moment we walked in the room…

Those big black round marks are leaks detected as seen through the thermal imaging camera on the ceiling of the ‘damp smelling’ room… and the home owner has absolutely no idea these leaks even existed.

The home owners issue was solved within minutes… but finding the source of the leak in the butanol lined internal gutter was the next challenge. Well actually it wasn’t a challenge at all. Instead of using the standard 100mm overlap at the join of the butanol, the 45 angle in the corner of the internal guttering has caused the issue by flapping up slightly thanks to a shortfall in overlap on the join… not to mention that water that was pooling the area!

On the ceiling you could clearly see the gib fixing screw heads where the water had basically saturated the gib above and under the weight (and gravity) caused by high levels of moisture caused a slight sagging in the ceiling.  What to do next?

Step one is always to fix the source of the leak first. Then it’s probably best to cut the area open and pull out the wet insulation, otherwise all that trapped moisture could cause the ceiling to eventually sag right down and make a mess! It’s always good to have a visual inspection of the area in a situation where a roof has been leaking for some time, as mould growth could be taking place.

Here’s another photo of a leak at the top of a wall thanks to leaking internal guttering. The thermal image is over the top of the visual image how we see it during an inspection…

If you have any ‘visual’ cues that something isn’t right with your home, or an unusual damp smell has suddenly appeared that wasn’t there this time last year, then jump straight onto it and get a moisture ‘check up’ on the house.

Finding Balcony Leaks and Preventing Structural Failures

Leaking balconies can be a serious danger, especially if its been leaking slowing for some time before you notice it.

There are plenty of ‘real’ stories about balconies collapsing under load (too many people standing on it at one time), but the most common cause of balcony issues isn’t the load, it’s the fact that the waterproofing has failed and the joists are suffering gradual leak damage and rot which is causing the failure.

You can see in the above photo the discoloured timber cantilevered joists have completely rotted. So do you think decay and rot may have also spread down the external walls below… like cancer? There is a very high chance this has happened, especially with untreated timber behind the plaster cladding.

If you notice any discolouration on the interior lining at the top of your walls or on the ceiling of the room below a balcony, there’s a good chance it’s a leak. Here’s the challenge to finding balcony leaks…

  • Is the water running back across the joists under the deck from outside edge?
  • Has the tile grouting perished and the water is leaking through a join in the waterproofing membrane under the tiles?
  • Has the joinery of the door leading out to the deck failed?
  • Is the base of the cladding touching the deck? Water can potentially ‘wick’ back up into the bottom plate of the timber wall frame.
  • Has the waterproofing membrane been correctly installed underneath the door frame to prevent wind driven rain getting up underneath the door and down into the wall below?
  • Is the water coming down from the roof and running down the external walls?
  • Any cracks in the plaster cladding around the balcony or external walls in the area?
  • What about where the balustrade butts up against the cladding… is the area sealed correctly?
  • Is the deck level the same as the floor level inside the house, or is there a step down of around approx 100mm onto the deck? (The latter is the correct way to build under the current building code).
  • Is the leak visible on the under side of the balcony?
  • Is the balcony drain blocked, or some kind of plumbing failure occured in the area?

Our thermal imaging and moisture detection services can go along way towards detecting balcony leaks through a process of elimination… and might save you from accumulating a few grey hairs in the process!

The one thing you need to make sure of, is that you don’t leave the leak go ‘unsolved’, because the longer you leave it, the higher probability the moisture is eating into your external load bearing walls. Not good.

We find balcony leaks and determine if moisture has penetrated your walls.

Leaks Repaired But Wall Damage Continuing?

Can a small bathroom leak really be that destructive? 

Absolutely… here’s what most home owners don’t realise:

In the infrared photo below, you will see two different leaks on the same kitchen ceiling… and neither could be seen visually. Here’s what the scenario was with this inspection.

There was a bathroom directly above this ceiling, and when you walked across the bathroom floor it was very squeeky. This instantly alerted me there could be water under the tiles and waterproofing, and possible swelling in the particleboard floor that can’t be seen.

When you have a shower up against an external wall, it’s not just a matter of fixing the leak, but what damage has it caused to the timber framing in the wall in the meantime? What about saturated insulation holding moisture in the wall (will take months, if not years to dry)?

Wall damage will continue long after the leak has been repaired if you don’t do an invasive moisture test to confirm the water hasn’t tracked down the external walls below the shower (if on a 2nd floor), and penetrated into the timber. Treated timber will also get damaged if exposed to a gradual leak from and extended period of time.

You can see the track of a leak from a toilet to the left side of the infrared image, and you can also see a seperate shower drain leak captured by the thermal imaging camera (dark spot). The leak tracking across the ceiling on the left was also running down the external wall to the left of the window frame… leaving wet untreated timber in it’s path.

The home owner will not only need to repair the leaks, but also remove the wall lining to assess insulation and let the timber dry out or be replaced if decay and rot hasn’t already set in.

If this home owner had a regular infrared moisture check up of their home, they could have avoided needing to rip up the bathroom flooring etc ($9000 fix!).

Ring today for a free thermal leak detection scan quote of your house!

DIY – How to Fix a Leak… All Kinds!

Finally – The Launch of Fix A!

Due to client demand, The launch of our new website has now taken place and is live! This website outlines simple and easy ways to fix common types of leaks… fast and cheap! This is a free service.

Why did we start this new website?

We do all types of leak detection and leaky home checks all over NZ, and the first natural question people ask us when a leak is detected, is “Do you have someone who can fix it?”. The answer is “No”, because we don’t want our clients to feel they are being ‘sold’ further add-on services. We have always been an independent inspection company specialising in locating leaks, and will continue to operate that way.

The new ‘Fix a leak’ website is for people who already know where the source of their leak is, and simply need it fixed.

Take a look around and see if you can find info on the specific type of leak you have. If you can’t find any info on it, then you will very soon! Although the website is work in progress (We have a team working to build the site up with useful information as we speak), there is already info and live video demos for you waiting right now. Visit Fix-a-Leak Here


Are you in the business of fixing leaks with at least 5 yrs experience in your trade?

You can now advertise on the site in your area for a small fee. Not many home owners have the confidence to fix a leak properly, so they usually need help to get the problem sorted asap.

The typical types of calls we get are for:

Roof leak repairs
Deck and butanol waterproofing leaks
Toilet and shower
Plumbing leaks, including underground.
Window flashing and joinery failure causing leaking into walls.
Cladding failures
Leaking gutters, including internal gutters
Flat roof leak repairs
Swimming pool, spa and hot tub leaks

….Just about any type of leaking problems you can have with a house, we get calls for it!

Hit the ‘Advertise Your Business’ button over on the website if you have any questions… we would like to see your business listed on the website!

Shower Leaks Causing Damp Smell in House

Do you have a musty or damp smell in certain rooms of your home?

Is the source of the problem obvious?

On a regular basis we get calls from home owners saying they have noticed a damp musty smell appear in their home. If you have noticed this in your home, there is a problem somewhere… as these smells don’t just appear for no reason. If you leave these smells go undetected for an extended period of time, the problem can be compounded if gradual leak damage is taking place where you can’t see it happening.

Sometimes it may be due to rising damp, internal plumbing or bathroom leaks, or leaky cladding/window where water has found it’s way down your wall and onto your carpet under the skirting… without you knowing anything about it.

Recently a home owner of the North Shore called us in to find the source of their damp smell problem. There was very little visual evidence of leaking problems within the house, but our infrared thermal imaging camera instantly discovered the problem.

How to find shower leaks?

The dark area in the above thermal image is water on the carpet. On the back of the wall is a shower that is leaking. The home owner had a book case pushed up against this wall, therefore they couldn’t feel the wet carpet… and you certainly couldn’t see it with the human eye because the carpet is a very dark blue colour (as you can see in the righthand photo above).

We took this infrared photo so the home owner could use this visual evidence to back up his insurance claim for the shower leak. In addition, the carpet was very slightly discoloured, so he may now be able to claim carpet water damage as result of a plumbing leak through the insurance company!

Can’t detect the source of a ‘suspect’ bad odour or smell in your home? Call us in for a look… we can normally find the problem quickly and easy using thermal cameras and advanced moisture meters.

Difference Between Leak Finder and Leak Tester

There have been a number clients recently who have commented that it must be frustrating at times being a ‘leak finder’…

The answer is simple… after doing many many inspections and seeing many different scenarios, it becomes easy. This would be the same as asking someone who fixes computers how easy it is to extract lost computer data out of a hard drive… it’s easy for them, but only because they know what they are doing.

Leak detection techniques aren’t complicated as such, it just takes logic and the right diagnostic tools in most cases. You also need other devices to help you confirm the findings. The most technologically advanced leak testing equipment available for sale should give you all the correct signals that will indicate your ‘on the money’ when pinpointing the water entry point, as long as your operating them correctly and can interpret (and confirm) the read outs.

You need to detect the leak before you can test it, but the interesting part is that you will miss most of them without infrared in most cases… especially on high ceilings.

If you’re buying a house, and you think that going out and buying some kind of ‘leak finder’ equipment or moisture meter will be sufficient to diagnose any hidden problems, then please think again. If it wasn’t for using an infrared camera as an additional tool for finding signs of defective windows, roofs, cladding, ceilings etc. , then many of the problems could have been missed… because you simply can not scan a non-invasive leak tester over a huge surface area of ceiling effectively (and you would be there all day). Good luck convincing the real estate agent to stay with you for 6 hours while you test the house!

Leave this type of work to us. We are leak detection experts (Here’s the proof)

You simply can’t afford to miss obvious problems when testing a house for leaks. Taking the DIY approach could work out to be more expensive long term, as opposed to getting the job done correctly and professionally! In addition, the reality is that you won’t actually ‘see’ the majority of anomalies with the human eye.

To answer the question, a leak finder is someone who knows how to find a leak, and a leak tester is the equipment used to indicate the areas where water has penetrated.

Leak Detection Methods and Services

Using the right leak detection methods can save lots of time with any type of leak!

This week I was called out to a leak detection job in Whitford, and when I arrived, the client told me they had been chasing this leak for 5 years! They had a deck replaced and re-waterproofed, roof flashings replaced, roofers in to seal everything they could… and as a result the leak ‘appeared’ to be fixed.

Not to be. With some driving rain, the leak reared it’s ugly head again 6 months later and made its way back onto the loungeroom floor through the ceiling above. Long story short…

I found the leak in 15 minutes flat… on a sunny day!

It all comes down to the method of leak detection you use… simple as that. Like any other profession, you see the same issues over and over again in houses once you’ve been in the game long enough, and this was a classic example of the home owner doing things the wrong way around.

Wouldn’t you agree that it makes sense to find out where the leak is coming in before calling a waterproofing company to look at your deck/roof? Of course they are going to sell you their service. Our leak detection services here in NZ are independant, meaning we don’t sell you remedial services once we find the problem.

In this case the thermal imaging camera was used to pinpoint signs of the leak location, and experienced ‘leak detective’ methods were employed.

We have a process of elimination leak detection system and methods that logically takes us to where the leak is coming in… all without needing to damage any part of your house… no holes in the walls!

How to Find Leaks in Waterproofing Membranes

Detecting water leaks in waterproofing membranes with pinpoint accuracy has just become a reality here in NZ thanks to the latest electronic field mapping leak detection service.

Flood testing used to be the only effective way to determine if/where a membrane was leaking… but there are plenty of downsides to using this method of leak testing. What if you have a roof surface area of 1000 sqm? That’s a lot of water to flood test!

Electronic advances in NZ have now made is much easier to find a membrane leak.

New and Proven. Electronic field mapping will detect any breaches in either new or old membranes with pin point accuracy (excluding black butanol), by ‘charging’ the surface area with low voltage, thus creating a potential difference on conductive and non-conductive surfaces like decks, which is earthed or grounded. Water is still used as the conductive medium with this method, but there is no need to flood the area. The advanced leak detection device then reads the electronic flow across the surface and will pinpoint any ‘vectors’ (where the leak(s) is occurring).

This is an excellent option with new installations to assure the client of quality workmanship before signing off on the job.

What type of applications can this method be used for?

Leaks under a roof garden, Roofs with ballast, Tiled decks, Leak detection through paving stones, Insulated and non-insulated roof structures, Structural decks, Swimming pools, Vertical walls and many more.

For those of you in the construction game, you know perfectly well how hard it can be to track down a leak in a building you’ve built… especially under flat roofs. The problem with water is that it takes the path of least resistance which means the leak and the leak source can be up to 30 meters apart (ugly)!

What if there’s a large building over the top of an underground car park leak? This would normally take lots of trial and error, ‘theories’ from multiple contractors you have to pay for, and your time to nut out the leak penetration point. No more! These types of leaks can now be ‘express’ detected using electronic leak mapping.

Got a waterproofing warrantee that’s about to expire?

Get a check up for any pin holes or breaches in the membrane before the expiration date!

This new method is a simple and logical way test new installations for leaks before covering the membrane over, and finding tricky leaks… and there is only one company with the exclusive rights to this high tech leak detection technology in New Zealand, and the field mapping technicians are internationally trained.

Other services: Waterproofing leaks in concrete, waterproofing bricks, resealing water seeping into basements under block, waterproofing leaking block walls and more.

Roof Leak Repairs – Companies Who Fix Roof Leaks

With so much rain in NZ, roof leak detection and repairs are the most common request we get!

To start with, you need a company who has specific knowledge about how to repair roof leaks, not just a roofing company who only sells complete re-roofing options!

Simple. A roofing company could try to sell you a complete new roof, but a specialised roof repair company will most likely do a target fix. You MUST ask the right questions if you are serious about finding a company who fixes roof leaks cheap, without giving you the hard sell!

Make sure their website is tailored towards solutions about how to fix a roof leak, not total reroof options. You should quickly be able to establish what their ‘angle’ is… keeping in mind that some companies who repair roof leaks in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and anywhere is NZ could give you an initial consultation free… then they’ll climb your roof and give you a quote etc etc… normally painting the worst possible picture they can paint. MAKE SURE you get 3 quotes!

Here’s why…

Many home owners simply don’t have time to wait around to get 3 quotes, and if the first roof repair company looks good, they’ll take it! Seriously, the difference between quotes could be up to $3000 on an average size home (200sqm), so tread carefully. We don’t sell solutions to repair roof leaks, as we are independant inspectors with no vested interest to sell anything beyond what we are hired to do… and that’s to find the leak.

A thermal imaging roof inspection could detect the leak within meters of the origin of the issue, before a ‘roof specialist’ even arrives… giving you a more accurate idea of where the leak is entering the building envelope.

Take care with your home, and take the logical path to find leaking issues in your building before accepting any quotes. Infrared leak detection could narrow down where the leak is coming into your home, giving you more ‘bargaining power’ against the contractor who you hire to execute the repair.

Insurance companies hire us to find leaks… so should you if you require an unbiased approach and reporting.