by David Wulff, AIA

‘Sort of a funny title, especially since we have had so much of it this past summer.  It’s something we can’t do without, but also something we don’t want “inside” the house.  That is, unless it’s controlled. And that is what this is about, controlling water.

I had a colleague that when he would design a roof for a building he would play a little game called “rain drop”. He would pretend that he was a raindrop and would place it on the roof and follow it until it dropped to the ground safely.  Many times the roof is designed to “look good” but not to shed water correctly.  If that little drop got trapped somewhere and not find the ground, it would surely go where it was not wanted, like inside the structure.  I have often been called to check water damage in homes and invariably find that the problem is a faulty roof design.  Most often it is a slope roof with a valley that directs water to an adjacent wall and there it ends with nowhere to go but “inside”.  Perhaps that wall didn’t have proper flashing (sheet metal that is adjacent to the wall that’s behind the siding) and the water slowly leaks inside. 

So, to summarize, if you have a leak in your house, or if you are having a house designed, play the little “rain drop” game and see where it will go.  Remember, gravity is your friend and water always goes down.

Now what about controlling water inside?  That’s almost too easy.  When you go away for any length of time, turn off the main shut-off.  I learned this one the hard way.  I moved once and was selling the house.  Left the water on and some prospective buyer flushed the toilet (don’t’ know why people do that) to see if it worked.  Well, the toilet kept “running” and it cost me a $400 water bill. 

Another tip, regularly check your water supply lines for leaks.  Get under the sink and see if there’s any water.  Check the toilet hose line too.  Use the braided metal hose for the toilet.  They last longer. 

Don’t run water appliances overnight or when you’re not home.  A burst hose can pump 600 gallons of water an hour into your home while you’re sleeping or away. 

Stay on top of home maintenance.  Clear gutters and make sure downspouts funnel water away from your home’s foundation.  That water can leak inside quite easily.

Finally, install alerts.  There are higher-end leak detectors such as Flo by Moen that can monitor your water usage, connect to your smart home systems and alert you to problems through phone apps.  Yep, another smart home idea.  

David H. Wulff, Architect Emeritis, is an architect who lives in Lake Lure.