Water Leaks Caused by Hurricane Irma


While media coverage of the devastation following Hurricane Irma focuses on catastrophic wind damage, flooding, and power outages, a much more common and sometimes equally as devastating effect from the storm is often overlooked: water leaks. The costs of the damaging effects and necessary repairs due to water penetration into a building’s supporting structure and interior finishes are one of the leading causes for insurance claims. Building owners and property managers are faced with the difficult task of finding a solution to these issues quickly after the storm.

The historic hurricane brought along with it violent winds and torrential rains. One result is water which can attack a building’s envelope in nearly all directions. The building envelope is essentially the building interior’s line of defense against the exterior elements. It includes the exterior walls, windows, doors, roofing system, and below grade systems (foundations, basements). These systems must be designed, constructed, and regularly maintained to ensure the building interior is kept dry. Buildings in Florida are subject to some of the harshest conditions in the country.

Following the storm many building owners and property managers will find themselves with water leaks and related damage. The damage may be due to previously recorded leaks, or may be due to new leaks which presented themselves during the unusually high winds and rains during the storm. While the obvious damage to interior finishes can be easily repaired, it will continue to reoccur until the original source of the leak is found and repaired.

Determining the exact cause and extent of these building envelope leaks can be a complicated task. Contractors are often well intentioned but lack the comprehensive knowledge of all the different systems that comprise the building envelope and how they interact with each other. Oftentimes we find extensive unnecessary or ineffective repairs are recommended to owners because of the uncertainty of the exact source of the problem.

An experienced forensic investigator specializing in the building envelope is most qualified to address these issues. The professional will perform an analysis based on a review of the building service history, observations made during a detailed site inspection, and their knowledge of the relevant industry standards and codes. The analysis will address the cause of the leaks and often provide recommendations to remedy the issues. The result is a building owner or property manager who will have greater confidence that the exact source of the problem is being addressed without any unnecessary or unsuccessful repairs.

GCI Consultants is available to assist with forensic leak investigations. GCI can assist building owners in developing a repair program to address any building envelope for the long term performance of their building.  For more information, please call 1-877-740.9990.

By Jason Bondurant, EI
GCI Consultants, LLC