Builder and Plumber challenge moisture finding

Just got a call from a client from last week where I found a small leak in a downstairs room. I believe the leak is from a toilet above. I checked the area multiple times both before and after repeatedly flushing the toilet once I suspected it. I also confirmed the finding with a moisture meter (the picture shows 23% but it was actually higher - camera snapped at wrong moment)

Builder and a plumber came out and after looking at the ceiling stated “we GUARENTEE that there is no leak there. If plumbing leaks you can see the problem IMMEDIATELY in the sheetrock. ALL leaks will make a stain.” My client, a first time buyer, tried to disagree. So the builder pulled out the classic “Well we can cut the sheetrock to check if you want. But if we don’t find any water, you have to pay for everything.” Trying scare him out of doing anything.

I just sent an email to the client with the raw pictures and the more explaination and said have the builder call me if he wants to for me to explain the technology to him. I also decided to use the builder’s stratagy on the builder. I said that I would be happy to schedule a time to come out and recreate the scan. But the condition was that if I could confirm the moisture for them the builder would agree to pay my regular moisture scan fee, if I couldn’t then there is no charge.

I am actually kind of amazed and disappointed. It is one thing for them to pull this kind of crap when it is missing insulation, but for a leak!??!?! To just blow it off amazes me.

Notice how in the second IR picture, after the repeated flushing, there is a dark line of water trickling from the spot across the sheetrock. Also notice that the HVAC register in the first picture is cold (AC running 90 + degrees outside) and in the second picture the register is hot (heat running) thus eliminating the possibility that the anomaly is the HVAC ductwock touching the ceilng.

What say you? Did I make the correct call based on the information?

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Nice find! I guess it would be too easy to drill a small hole and use a borescope or find draining water to verify this (not a typical hi service).

Also, you should see a Dr. about your hand. yikes!




Just curious…what are you using to put your moisture meter on that high ceiling?

Is that a telescoping device?



I use a painting extension pole thing with a threaded paint scraper on the end. I put velcro on the scraper and the moisture meter. I still need to bend the scrapper to closer to a 90 degree angle, but it works fairly well and is a lot easier than lugging a ladder around the house.

Where did you find the threaded paint scraper? I’ve looked at the local big box stores, but couldn’t find them.

Amazon has them LINK

Wal-mart. Just happened to see it and be thinking about it at the same time.

Just saw some at Lowes; even comes on the extension pole.

Kevin forget about the extension, stick to your guns you made the right call Flush the builder.

I see it that way, too.

Let the others put their opinion in writing and give it to the Client.
When the problem gets worse, they will go after them, not you.

Indeed. Ask the builder and plumber to put, in writing, their promise to fix everything, at their expense, if any “stain” forms within the 1st 12 months.

Simple, really.

Good call Kevin!!
BTW The builder should be thanking you not challenging you!:shock:

Yeah, that’s what I thought too. The bath above is basically in a toddler’s room, so is not used much. The stain will come…

I am disappointed because I thought this was a decent builder, but now I may have to rethink that. It is one thing to be skeptical of a technology you don’t understand, but to try and completely blow it off, especially when it was backed up by a traditional moisture meter - I just don’t get it. It does not take a rocket scientist to decide that any indication of elevated moisture directly under a plumbing fixture should at LEAST be investigated further.

Will call the client tomorrow and see where things stand.

Keep us posted Kevin!!

Not always will it make a stain, I know this for a fact. If it is only a little water, (it appears so) it would only grow mold in the floor joists. I agree with the small hole with a borascope. Could be worth the 200 bucks right there.

Have the client flush the toilet excessively until the a stain appears through the paint.

Nice catch. :smiley:

Have the client pour two boxes of Rit red dye down the toilet and flush it two times. :mrgreen:

Nuff Said!

Kevin - I do a lot of pre-drywall and then final inspections on new homes. People often ask me if this or that is a good builder. My answer is, “it depends on the supervisor on site every day and the sub contractors they use.” The same builder can vary in the product they put out from development to development. Your rethinking on your opinion of the builder might not have to go deeper than the illustrious supervisor or plumbing sub.

Stick to your guns - you have evidence that needs no disclaimer. The other guys are right - get it in writing!*

  • Good luck getting them to PUT it in writing…

Oh definately. But I have found that some builders in this area are better across the board than others. That their company policy is better or more customer service oriented. Likewise, there are some that seem to have a poor company policy toward customer service (these also seem to cut more corners.) As you say, there are exceptions both ways for different neighborhoods and crews. Most really seem to fall in the middle. This was one that I thought was a little better than average, but I have been having some indications that they may be lower on the chain, lately.