How to spot a leaky home

leaky home auckland

If you’re looking for your next home in Auckland, you’ll know that many houses built from the mid 1990’s until early 2000’s suffer from leaky home syndrome. Here’s how you can spot which homes might have problems.

If you’ve purchased a house and discovered it’s a leaky home, there’s not much that can be done. It has to be repaired, and they are often expensive fixes. The best solution is to do thorough due diligence and avoid the problem altogether.

What is leaky building syndrome?

Broadly speaking, a leaky home is building that has experienced a series of poor building practices, which has resulted in water ingression. The water enters the house through poor water-tightness, and then due to no ventilation or drainage in the walls, it gets stuck there. It soaks into untreated timber framing, and causes rotting, mould and a range of other problems.

The problem is more pronounced in Auckland because of the weather. The wet, warm climate means it’s perfect for water to be introduced, and then rot sets in easily.

What years were leaky homes built?

There were a series of decisions made at a government level that caused the leaky homes crisis. In the 1980’s, panel and stucco cladding was introduced, replacing our traditional brick or weatherboard exteriors. Then, in 1995, the government relaxed the rules around building materials, allowing untreated timber to be used in house building.

Then, to save money, people started using untreated timber. That, combined with the 1990’s designs with flat rooves and smaller eaves, meant that water entered homes, and rot started in the untreated timber.

The rules changed in 2003 and required timber to be treated, but any home built between 1998 and 2003 may have leaky home syndrome.

What is weather tightness?

One of the most important things a building does is keep the weather outside. This is water tightness. Things like roofing that doesn’t leak, large flashing and eaves that stop driving rain from entering crevices, and the angle of weatherboards or other external cladding help keep water outside and drain if it does enter the house.

NZ’s weather can be dramatic, so things like large eaves and angled roofing help to keep water out. When homes started being built with a Mediterranean influence, our climate and the design functionality did not match.

External design features that may contribute to leaky homes include:

  • Flat roofs or parapets
  • Pergolas affixed to an external wall
  • Roof-to-wall joins
  • Handrails on balconies that go into the wall
  • Lack of window flashings
  • Decks over living areas
  • Cladding that doesn’t have clearance above ground
  • The interior floor level is lower than the exterior level

These features don’t mean the house is leaky, but make it more likely to be.

What are leaky home symptoms?

There are a range of symptoms of a leaky home. Some are immediately noticeable, and some are not. It’s recommended that before buying a property, you get full testing carried out that measures the amount of water in the walls.

Some things to look out for include:

  • Leaks in the windows and doors, water marks underneath
  • Sagging ceiling
  • Floor surfaces that aren’t perfectly flat
  • Swelling skirting and windowsills
  • Delamination and cracking in plaster
  • Nails and screws internally that are rusty and corroded
  • Visible mould, mildew and fungi
  • Musty smells, often from rotting timber and carpet

I purchased a leaky home. What do I do now?

The MBIE can assess your house and see if you are eligible for assistance under the Weathertight Homes Resolution Services Act 2006. This gives you options including negotiation, mediation and adjudication. However there are no longer any financial assistance packages for leaky homes.

Leaky homes can be fixed, but it can be a long and expensive process. If you’ve found damage early, then the repairs may be relatively inexpensive and could only be limited to certain parts of your home.

Contact us to talk about the options available to you. We will happily visit your property and inspect the damage. There are options for partial reclads, full reclads, as well as various changes that can be made to the home to make it water tight. These modifications, such as larger eaves and flashings or increasing the airflow within the walls, help to arrest the problem and stop any further rot.

Some homeowners take the opportunity to do extra work on the house at the same time. It could be time for a facelift anyway, so we can work to improve the street appeal or make a more modern and water-tight cladding choice.

Every home is different

There’s no right or wrong answer, but we understand that this can be a stressful time. Talk to us and we’ll help make your home weathertight, hopefully increase the value and ease your stress.