Fixing A Hole Where The Rain Gets In

Renters often get a bad rap. Stories of homes being destroyed and rent payments being months overdue abound when the subject comes up. To be fair, there are stories about deadbeat landlords as well. My story is a bit different.

When we first rented the house we now live in, we were enamored with the surrounding natural beauty. Hills, trees everywhere, and an area that encompassed hikes of several miles right outside the back door caused us to overlook the sad state of repair the home was in. The first night, we could tell that rats had invaded the walls, and didn’t hesitate to make their presence known. There was no heat, but that was not a surprise, and we’d made arrangements to have natural gas piped in and purchased a heater to burn it.

The bathroom was small, but not a huge inconvenience, but we didn’t realize how damned cold it could get in there until late that winter. We insulated the ceiling, not charging any of the costs to the landlord. It took several years for a leak in the bathroom ceiling to show itself and become a problem.

Keeping the Landlord Informed

Water spots appeared on the walls and ceiling. We tried to locate the problem. Eventually we decided that the tin roof that had been put atop the shed/porch addition that became our bathroom was done poorly. In fact the entire shed structure seemed to have been done haphazardly. We advised the landlord and, being an elderly widow, she told us she’d mention it to her son to see what he thought.

As time went on, we took matters into our own hands and placed a plastic lining over the top of the insulation layer to catch the rain that leaked through. We thought this might solve the problem, in a sense, and it did delay the inevitable. However, minor leakage became major and mold began to grow. We continued to share our concerns with the landlord, but it wasn’t until the walls were threatening to cave in around us that we got fairly insistent.

She sent her son to look things over and he was appalled at the condition of the room. They sent over a repair man and helper to replace the sheet rock, patch the roof and put in a new tub surround. It wasn’t long, however, before the roof leaks reappeared. We reported them promptly and she got a fellow to tar the roof to prevent leaking. Perhaps one or two showers went by without a drop, but soon the leaking again reared its ugly head.

Acquiring New Knowledge

About this same time, I ran into a former tenant of the house who inquired about the “back shed” and whether it was still standing. I told him it was. He seemed surprised and reported that he’d put it on when he lived there. Intrigued, I asked him if he had also put the bathroom in. He said that there had already been a bathroom inside the house when he lived there. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that because I knew that, at one time, the house had had no indoor plumbing the old outhouse was out back. I asked where the bathroom was and he told me it was under the stairs.

The bathroom “under the stairs” had been turned into a laundry, with room for a washer and dryer. I told him that the bathroom at this point was in the shed he’d built. He was almost speechless and asked sheepishly, “Who put that in?” I told him I surely had no idea and he asked, “Does it leak?” I answered, with great vigor, that it did. He said he wasn’t surprised because the shed had never been flashed properly when it was built.

Armed with this knowledge, I approached the landlord again, this time dealing directly with her son. He seemed to be at a loss as to what to do. I mentioned that I had an able-bodied son who’d done all types of construction work and was willing to do the work as economically as possible. He agreed with the plan and we proceeded to attempt to fix the roof after buying various tools and paints which we found we could order directly online.

First Things First

The first thing was to clean the tin, peeling back some of the coating that had been applied during the last patch job. There was much debris – leaves, sticks and water – under the silver coating. By the time the roof was bared, it was obvious that the tin was very worn in many places. Some of the holes were an inch across and six inches long or more.

After tarring heavily over obvious holes and probable spots, the roof was tested by raining water over it. It continued to leak. Having seen commercials for a liquid rubber spray that was said to eliminate leaks when applied properly, we purchased two jumbo cans. One of these cans was applied to the area which we supposed was the major culprit. Using the hose again, no leaks were detected, so, optimistically, bathroom repairs began.

Back To The Drawing Board

It wasn’t long before a heavy rain revealed several areas of water infiltration to the roof portion of the back shed, most especially over the bathroom. In following the pathways of the dripping infiltrates, the source was located above the actual shed roof. We did manage to save the new sheet rock in the bathroom from damage, however, and once the weather improved and things dried out a bit, son clambered atop the roof and inspected the original roofing. He suspected that rusted-out, repeatedly-tarred tin was allowing water to run down the rafters and disburse itself at various places over the bathroom ceiling. We discussed how best to proceed. We decided to remove all the tin from the shed, replace the original, offending house roof section with viable tin and properly shingle the shed.

Happily, after two months of trial and error, this solution worked and we now have, not only a leak-free bathroom but a much nicer back shed area. The entire project came in at under £1000, including parts and labour, and I’m turning the now-dry and cozy extra space into a workshop.