As we city dwellers go about our busy lives, we often forget about the plain facts of life here on this spinning globe: gravity creates an unceasing tension in the materials we assemble into buildings and other structures. Whether or not we are paying attention, all of matter is reacting to gravity’s pull, and those forces can result in small tears or holes in facades, roofs and other parts of a building—a fact that’s never too far from Wayne Bellet’s mind.
“Nobody wants to appreciate that the earth is moving. And when you have a plane change on a roof, that causes stress on the spot where the two planes meet,” says Bellet, owner of Manhattan-based Bellet Construction.
Over time, such stresses can result in a hole in a roof, oftentimes where planes intersect, such as where flashing surrounds a chimney. Even if it’s just a pinhole leak to start, if it is left undetected for very long, that dripping water can cause serious damage to a building and even adversely affect its structural integrity.
Water leaks are the bane of many apartment owners and many building superintendents. But unlike a drippy faucet or a drafty window, which often can be simply fixed, water leaks sometimes can be very difficult to find and remedy. Many different technologies exist to help find the source and the extent of leaks and other technologies can help minimize the damage these leaks cause. Knowing what makes leaks happen, the ways that they are found, and how they’re repaired is essential for anyone living in a multi-family building. Because after all, such a leak might happen in nearly anyone’s apartment and still affect everyone in the building because of a costly fix that all will have to pay for.
A longstanding leak might signal the need for a major building improvement project, but it might also require a less invasive solution, such as a spot replacement of just part of a roof. Knowing what solution to use is the contractor’s bailiwick, but understanding something about the fixes for water leaks, and the best practices for finding the source of the leaks, is the responsibility of each building resident.