Leak above wooden window frame

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Hi - I have been battling with intermittent leak for almost 6 years now, due to the intermittent nature it is very hard to determine where the leak is coming from and also if any work done to fix the problem has had any effect.

The leak is above the frame of a ground floor window in a 1906 semi. The window is in the west facing gable wall which is extremely exposed to the weather. During winter the gable is frequently lashed with driving rain and it is only during winter weather that the leak occurs. The history of the issue and what we have done is as follows:

On the day we moved into the house in February 2014 during a period of very wet weather we first spotted the leak. It was emerging from the wooden internal architrave above the window opening which was flush with the internal wall. The leak went from a drip-drip to almost pouring in during a particularly heavy downpour. We looked outside and could see the stone lintel immediately above the window frame was poorly pointed, we got up on ladders and could actually push a screwdriver down the left hand side of the lintel. We therefore re pointed around the side of the lintel and we had no more leaks for the rest of 2014 - problem fixed?

During winter of 2014-2015 the leak returned, this time in a slightly different location and less severe, dripping water emerged across one side of the top of the window frame. Close to the first leak location but this time immediately above the face of the window.

I got a builder out who was not very keen but he went up a ladder and claimed to see some issue with the pointing above the top of the lintel, for free he applied some silicone sealant to the top of the lintel and said we needed to point it properly. This had no effect and I called the guy back but he had no interest.

I then spotted that the rendered 1st floor section was showing some defects immediately above the lintel. While the underlying render seemed solid the surface pebble dashing and many layers of point had blown with moss growing behind. Being immediately above the leak location and at the base of the first floor rendered section I considered if this might have been allowing water running down the wall to enter the render at this point and get in to the wall above the lintel. I did what I could to patch up the flaking pebble dash for the 2015-2016 winter but it leaked again during extended wet periods.

During 2017 we had the house repainted including the render, lintel and window frame. The painter scraped off the loose pebble dash layer immediately above the window and repainted directly onto the underlying render. A bit of a bodge but looked fine from ground level.
Success:)!! The winter of 2017-2018 passed with no visible leaks!

Winter 2018-2019 the leak returned:(. Up on a ladder I could see that the paint applied to the defective rendered sections had blown, I concluded it had lasted a year and water had penetrated again so I decided to do something more fundamental and had a series of rendering companies out to look, I could see that there appeared to be a repair line running along the base of the render approx 0.5 m above the ledge all along the gable.

I had this section of render cut out and replaced back to the brick hoping it would cure the issue for good. Sadly this week the leak returned absolutely no different to before the work was done. Im really pulling my hair out over this which has been going on for far too long now.

Ive attached pictures of the window and would appreciate any thoughts, the work down so far would indicate that defective render at the base of the 1st floor level was not a source of the leak at least, which leaves me with the following possibilities:

1) Water is entering the gable wall cavity somewhere above the repaired section and running down to the window opening. Would this not lead to damp problems in the wall above the window? The leak is confined to the window frame opening, even immediately above the window frame internally there is no evidence whatsover of damp or anywhere else in the wall. Fix - re render the whole gable end?

2) Water is being driven through the lintel and/or brickwork and ledge immediately above the lintel and entering the window frame. Fix - check all pointing, re paint lintel, yearly?

3) Water is penetrating the window frame directly. Fix - re seal around window frame.

I must admit we havent considered #3 before as other defects above the opening were more obvious, looking at the window it is fitted with external architraves very flush to the opening without any obvious sealant used. Its hard to know if water could penetrate but applying window frame sealant around the edge is something perhaps we should have done right at the start. I will get this done asap at least to rule out this possibility.

Ive attached numerous pictures:

- Showing rainwater dripping down exterior.

- Window, with lintel and brick ledge above. Render repair visible as unpainted section.

Closeup of top edge of external windowframe.

Closeup of top of lintel and ledge.

Internal leak location.

Looking up the wall.
 
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Is the wall cavity or solid?

If cavity, do you know the depth of the lintel? -if there is a leak path across the cavity, its possible there needs to be a cavity tray,

It looks like the wall is a gable end and they get hit by weather, so in wind and rain will have lots of water running down
 
Hi,

It is mistly a cavity wall turning to solid in the loft space. Yes it is a west facing gable which gets battered with driving rain in winter.

The lintel is probably sandstone to the outer wall and timber internally.

How would a cavity tray be retrofitted to an old house? Where would it be placed exactly?

Cheers

Andy
 
Hi,

It is mistly a cavity wall turning to solid in the loft space. Yes it is a west facing gable which gets battered with driving rain in winter.

The lintel is probably sandstone to the outer wall and timber internally.

How would a cavity tray be retrofitted to an old house? Where would it be placed exactly?

Cheers

Andy

normally a cavity tray is fitted directly above a lintel (or in the case of a catnic lintel, the lintel is the cavity tray).

Generally what happens is that water gets into the cavity, runs down the inside face of the outer skin until it hits an obstruction -usually a window or door lintel.
That appears to be the problem you have here -if water is coming out internally between the liner and the architrave, that is where it would show.

It would be pretty difficult to fit a cavity tray with the transition you have from sandstone lintel in painted brickwork to a moulded detail and render above.

You have got to the stage where I think you need to investigate deeper -possibly removing the architrave and the window liner which would expose the lintel -you should be able to see where the waters coming in.

Being you probably have an inner and outer lintel, maybe the cavity would be exposed when you remove the top liner, in which case you might see up the cavity and get a clue.

The external architrave around the fixed light window frame is just a cosmetic detail -easy enough to remove and fit new, making sure you seal carefully.
 
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normally a cavity tray is fitted directly above a lintel (or in the case of a catnic lintel, the lintel is the cavity tray).

Generally what happens is that water gets into the cavity, runs down the inside face of the outer skin until it hits an obstruction -usually a window or door lintel.
That appears to be the problem you have here -if water is coming out internally between the liner and the architrave, that is where it would show.

It would be pretty difficult to fit a cavity tray with the transition you have from sandstone lintel in painted brickwork to a moulded detail and render above.

You have got to the stage where I think you need to investigate deeper -possibly removing the architrave and the window liner which would expose the lintel -you should be able to see where the waters coming in.

Being you probably have an inner and outer lintel, maybe the cavity would be exposed when you remove the top liner, in which case you might see up the cavity and get a clue.

The external architrave around the fixed light window frame is just a cosmetic detail -easy enough to remove and fit new, making sure you seal carefully.

One of the builders I've had out did suggest fitting a cavity tray with weep holes into the rendered section above the ledge. I guess that would keep out any rain penetrating the render and getting into the wall but wouldn't work if the water is penetrating at the ledge or below.

I'd have done it but he was quoting that as an extra job i asked him to look at as part of a driveway job. He was very expensive for the drive so didn't use him.

Generally it is very difficult to find builders interested in this type of problem.

Stripping off the internal woodwork would confirm if the water is dripping down from above I guess vs coming through the frame. But if it did where would I go from there?

Cheers

Andy
 
I found this slimline cavity tray system online:

http://www.cavitytrayman.co.uk/cavity-trays.html

Looks like this system may able to be slotted in irectly above the lintel by cutting out a line of mortar. Has anyone any experience with it?

The guy has a patent for it and lives fairly local to me.

Andy

Yes Ive used them a few times -its a great system. It works out expensive for me being in the South.

That could be a great solution for you as it would avoid loads of disruption to the external skin.
Their system is not a full cavity tray, it doesnt connect to the inner skin -but that does matter, 95% of water runs down the inner face of outside skin.

However your problem, as youve already pointed out, is where to position it....

If you send them a few pics they can advise if it would work and cost

I do reckon your ongoing leaks are due to water in the cavity.
 
Yes Ive used them a few times -its a great system. It works out expensive for me being in the South.

That could be a great solution for you as it would avoid loads of disruption to the external skin.
Their system is not a full cavity tray, it doesnt connect to the inner skin -but that does matter, 95% of water runs down the inner face of outside skin.

However your problem, as youve already pointed out, is where to position it....

If you send them a few pics they can advise if it would work and cost

I do reckon your ongoing leaks are due to water in the cavity.

Yeah, I've sent them an enquiry with pics. If it could be fitted directly above the lintel that sounds like it would be the best option.

As previously noted another builder was suggesting placing one within the render so I'm guessing because it is not practical to fit a normal tray directly above the window.

I'll see what they say.
 
In case anyone is interested I contacted Martyn at the above link, provided some photographs and my location and received a prompt quotation with a 10 year guarantee. The price was less than I had been quoted to install a traditional tray into the rendered section above my window.

They have been out today and fitted the tray directly above the existing stone lintel with minimal fuss and it looks a very neat job, the tray is barely visible from the ground.

Being such an intermittent issue only time will tell if it has worked but it does seem like a very good system for dealing with this type of ongoing water ingress issue where we have failed to fix it by making repairs to pointing and rendering around the opening.

Luckily they were only about 30 miles away but they do seem to fit them nationwide, although at greater cost I presume.

Andy
 
Hi Andy, I have been dealing with exactly the same problem for the last 3 years. We have had numerous builders out (federation of master builders, Trusted Trader etc, tried them all) and nobody has been able to stop our leak. We have also spent quite a bit of money to date trying to resolve this. Measures taken to date:

- A company checked and re sealed all possible areas on the external walls above the leak area
- Have replaced the guttering and checked the roof tiles which are all good
- Have had the stone mullions replaced in the entire bay window and resealed all joints around the window
- Have had a leak detection company out who could not find any damp within the walls anywhere on the front of the property (ground or 1st floor)
- Have had a cavity tray fitted (the builder removed 2 brick courses above the bay window to fit this)

All without success - The leak returned a few weeks ago. We get days where there is heavy rain and no leak appears, it generally comes back when there is heavy wind and rain combined. It has got to the stage where it has effected my health and sanity. There must be somebody somewhere out in the Blackpool area there who can fix this without trying to make a fast buck!

My next move is trying to find somebody who can replace the internal timber architrave (possibly with a plastic one). This is not a big job but it will also allow us to inspect the inside of the leak area.If you know anybody who could do this, please let me know as I am at my wits end. Attached are a few pictures. I can be contacted using PM

Cheers - Joe
 

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Joe,

I certainly understand how you feel. Builders are not keen on these jobs I guess because it is so difficult to know where the water is entering.

You didn't post external pictures, was the cavity tray installed directly over the lintel?

The first builder to suggest it for us wanted to put one several courses of brickwork above because of the decorative ledge. I don't see how a cavity tray would stop water penetrating below it in that case. The smart tray in the link above was fitted directly above the stone lintel.

It's early days but the leak did not return during the recent stormy weather and the window was being battered by driving rain. It was hitting so hard it was forcing water through the leaded joints in the stained glass which shows the pressure driving rain can exert as there are no visible defects in the leaded joints and no drafts can be felt. The leak from above didn't return though so fingers crossed it has worked for us.

The smart tray people are in bury so not so far from Blackpool.

Andy
 
Hi Andy,
The cavity tray was installed where the brickwork meets the top of the bay window (the lowest possible position) as per the attached picture. When the leak returned, the builder came back and put in some "weep" holes. Despite this, the leak remains intermittently. Apart from replacing the internal architrave, I will have a look at the smart tray people - cheers/Joe
 

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Hi toiletduck,

We are considering using the Smart Tray, and I'm interested to know how you're getting on now that it's a year or so since you had them installed. Are you still leak free?

Many thanks.
 
Hi toiletduck,

We are considering using the Smart Tray, and I'm interested to know how you're getting on now that it's a year or so since you had them installed. Are you still leak free?

Many thanks.

Hi,

Just a few weeks after installation during February 2020 we had some extremely wet and stormy weather. It was heavy driving rain for long periods onto the the wall where the cavity tray was fitted. I kept a close eye on it and it stayed completely dry inside. I was very happy with this as the window had been leaking in December 2019 just prior to the tray being fitted with much less severe weather.

I kept an eye on it all year and Im fairly confident although its hard to tell for sure that I could see water exiting the external weep points during periods of very wet weather so I do think it is working. It stayed completely dry internally throughout 2020. And then during Storm Christoph last month I was a bit gutted to spot a small leak after 3 days of relentless rain (there was flooding in the local area).

The leak was small but definitely there, previously we had a line of buckets and bowls under the window in similar weather, this was just a few drops.

Im wondering if as the tray was fitted above the stone lintel rather than directly over the window frame (see picture) some water can penetrate the face of the stone lintel below the tray itself itself after so much rain (3 days non stop) and allow some water through?

Certainly it has improved the situation significantly though.

Cheers

Andy
 
Hi Andy,

Thanks so much for coming back on this, that's really helpful. Sounds as though it's broadly been a success so that gives me some reassurance, I've struggled to get any real world feedback from people who have used it.

Thanks,

Emma.
 

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