SWIPE … that’s easy to remember, right? Because that’s exactly what you don’t want anyone to do to your hard-earned cash. If you don’t want your money swiped, then remember this acronym:
Systemic Water Intrusion Problems Everywhere
Some houses just don’t keep the water out the way they should, and those houses can be a major problem for you if you end up as the unwitting owner. Let’s look at the acronym one word at a time to help really paint the picture. Obviously, this is a watercolor painting.
I’ve been into dozens of houses over the years that suffer this horrible malady. Unlike the common issue of one or two places getting water where it shouldn’t be, these houses have dozens of them. Water leaks in the roof, water coming under doors, water leaking through basement walls, leaky pipes, etc.
A house with systemic water problems usually has not been maintained well in eons. Often there are trees around the house in such number that the roof is completely beneath the canopy.
A house with systemic water problems usually has not been maintained well in eons. Often there are trees around the house in such number that the roof is completely beneath the canopy. The ground level is usually sloped incorrectly so rainwater is directed toward the walls rather than away. Rotten areas near windows and doors have been left unaddressed and have created bigger leaks that lead to even more rot. Often the structure itself has significant water damage.
Rain, sleet, snow, or hail … Houses really aren’t as waterproof as we’d like to believe. They rely on well designed and maintained systems to keep the structure and interior dry no matter how wet it is outside. Precipitation is especially tough on a leaky house because it comes in intervals. A few hours of rain might be just enough to saturate some building materials that should never get wet, while falling just shy of flooding the floor. Since it didn’t get so bad as to require action, owners often think “it’s no big deal, I’ll get around to it.” But these recurring wet/dry cycles wreak havoc on the building materials and the damage spreads with each rain.
The sky isn’t the only source of SWIPE water. Leaky plumbing can be even worse. Much like the rain water that doesn’t make such a stink that it has to be dealt with “now,” a leaky toilet can be the same way … except usually there is an actual stink. Yuk. A leaky toilet leaks around the base every single time it’s flushed. Yep. Leaky shower pans let out just enough water each time you shower to be destructive without being noticed until it’s too late. Leaky sink drains don’t put water on the kitchen floor, but one day the cabinets are shot.
Groundwater is the third amigo. Leaky basement walls, wet crawl spaces and exterior walls that are meant to be above grade but aren’t are all ways groundwater can ruin a house over time.
The key difference between SWIPE houses and healthy houses isn’t exposure to water. All houses are exposed. Rather it’s the inability to keep the water where it’s supposed to be that’s the problem. The water intrudes into areas that just can’t handle getting wet. This is why you’ll see many professional service companies offer “waterproofing” as a clearly defined service. It’s not just one thing. Waterproofing in general is a system-wide approach.
The major intrusion areas are roof, walls, windows and doors, but keep an eye on the other areas mentioned above.
A SWIPE house in critical condition isn’t a pretty site. The results of long-term neglect are visible seemingly everywhere you look and usually these are more than just eyesores. The long-term intrusion of water has usually created real problems. Rotten framing, potentially dangerous mold growth, windows and doors that don’t close properly and so much more. I’ve literally seen houses that were total losses as a result of this kind of systemic failure.
It’s a real shame when it happens and it can be prevented. If you own a home, simply being aware of a few of these common areas where water tends to infiltrate “just enough” to cause damage without creating a right-now emergency will help you to identify and stop the problem. If you’re house hunting and shopping for fixer-uppers, hopefully you’re now armed at least with the understanding that houses with Systemic Water Intrusion Problems Everywhere do exist and they will SWIPE your cash. So just be on the lookout and don’t let that “I’m sure it’s not that bad” wishful thinking cause you to make a six-figure mistake.