Home Cleaning Tips Sneaky Leaks: A Cautionary Tale of Water Intrusion

Sneaky Leaks: A Cautionary Tale of Water Intrusion

by Catherine

Hi, Hi!

This week I had a little cleaning for mold encounter that I wanted to share. It definitely complements the post I wrote a while back–Easy DIY Projects to Prevent Mold Growth in Your Home. Here is the LINK to that post if you would like to refer to it.

Anyway, this week, as I was using the sink in our downstairs powder room, I noticed sort of a mildewy/musty smell in the bathroom. I had not noticed the smell before, so I immediately started poking around the bathroom to find the source. Since mold and mildew can only occur when there is a water source to feed it, I focused my search on the toilet and the sink–in other words, on the most obvious potential culprits for leaks.

When you suspect a leak, start looking in the obvious places, like around and under sinks...

(Note: Anytime you encounter a new mold or mildew smell in your own home, start in the obvious water source/water-holding places, like sinks and toilets. If you eliminate those as the offenders, then you can move on to the inconspicuous places, like pipes, under the sink, behind the washing machine, etc. You definitely don’t want to open up any walls, or pull up any flooring unless you have to.)

Like my previous article linked to above encourages, I had recently done my monthly check beneath that sink for any signs of moisture intrusion or leaks, so I was very surprised to find a good bit of water sitting in a puddle in the bottom of the vanity. I had found my water source!

It was hard to get a great picture, but if you look closely, you can see where the water dripping into the cabinet from the leak warped and discolored the laminate inside the bottom of the cabinet.

It was hard to get a great picture, but if you look closely, you can see where the water dripping into the cabinet from the leak warped and discolored the laminate inside the bottom of the cabinet.

But, where was this water coming from? I felt the pipes—no moisture. I felt where the pipe attached to the sink—no moisture. Then, I turned the sink on, and while the water was running, I got up under the sink with my flashlight to watch and see if any water would start dripping down. (Sometimes pipes only leak when they are filled with water.)

Well, not until I took my sponge and fully saturated the countertop did the source of the leak expose itself, but it did. And, when I shined my flashlight up to where the drops were coming from, I immediately found the mildew smell. There was a ring of mold up underneath the countertop, all around the edge of the sink.

I had to really get up under there with my flashlight, but after looking around...
...I found the discoloration from the water damage and the beginnings of mold growth on the seam of the sink and countertop intersection.

Looking at the mold pathway, my guess was that when the sink was set into the countertop, it wasn’t properly sealed to prevent moisture from coming through. So, when the sink ran for any period of time, or I cleaned the top of the countertop, water would seep through where the sink lip was in contact with the counter. Since this was a slow leak and did not create enough moisture to drip down into the bottom of the cabinet immediately, I never noticed it when I checked under the sink. Sneaky, right?!!! Unfortunately, that’s how water can be. It can get in, even where you least expect it.

Needless to say, I decided to address the problem ASAP, so that it wouldn’t get any worse and send my or my family’s mold allergies into overdrive. To prep, I pulled my HEPA filter into the doorway to properly ventilate the room (I use and highly recommend the IQ Air HealthPro Series), and put on my 3m mask and some disposable rubber gloves, since I would be up underneath the cabinet in a confined space while cleaning the mold. Then, I got up under the cabinet and used the EC3 Spray and a coarse brush to clean the mold from under the countertop–where you see the visible mold in the picture above. I also dried up and treated all of the areas inside of the cabinets with the EC3 Spray where the water had dripped as well. I did not close the cabinets, but then, moved a box fan into the bathroom to fully dry the cabinet out and to dry out the area where I had cleaned. I also made a sign and taped off that sink, so that my family members wouldn’t use it again until I could get the sink sealed to prevent water from coming through again.

The IQ Air is my go-to filteration system. Mine is also on wheels, so it is easy to move around the house.

(Note: You may need to hire a contractor or handyman to do this for you, if the area is very large, or if there is any demolition, like tile or stone needing to be cut. It’s very important that it is done properly, but it is not hard to do. Luckily for me, my husband is a former builder and extremely handy, so he was able to help me.)

The final steps were to pull the sink out from the vanity, to further clean with the EC3 Spray around the edges, and to reset the sink and properly seal it with silicone, so that no more water could seep through the gap into the vanity cabinet below. I also took the further precaution, since we are so so mold sensitive, of using my Sanitizer Cold Fogger to fog the entire bathroom and under the cabinet with an EC3 Mold Concentrate and distilled water solution. Click this LINK to read more on how to cold fog.

We used silicone to seal all around the faucet hardware.
We also sealed the gaps between the the sink and the granite countertop. It was crazy how much water was getting through.

Now, for the bigger picture.

The purpose of this post, more than just relaying my experience, is to support you in your efforts to stay on top of the little things, like checking under your sink cabinets for moisture intrusion on a monthly basis. Maybe, especially in a home that is new to you, also do periodic checks around your sinks and tubs, to make sure they are properly sealed. Sealing is of utmost importance, because it keeps the water in the sink and on the countertop, away from the wood or materials that are extremely porous and can maintain moisture, thus harboring mold. When caught early, these are things that you can fix and treat, many times on your own, without a large price tag. Like the old adage says, “An ounce of prevention…” Because, after all, when it comes to mold, mold is the symptom and water is the sickness that creates it.

Take care and be well!!!

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