View Full Version : Problem with Radiant Heating leak, Gypcrete and wet bubbleinsulation=BIG WET PROBLEM

daniel fortune
11-17-2010, 10:15 PM
I finished building a 3500 sq ft home with contiguous floors on a concrete slab 5 years ago. I had installed a Munchkin radiant heat system for the floors, with a separate system for the domestic hot water.

Big Problem. The run was so long from the boiler at the front of the house to the back, my contractor used copper pipe to supply 6 valves in the back of the home.

The copper pipe cracked, and saturated the entire 1/4" heat insulation blanket, so water soaked the gypcrete. On top of the gypcrete I used a Ultraset Hydroment membrane for the wood and slate tile floors. The wood floors nearest the leak are loose, the slate tiles is still tight, but wet.

We used a FLIR E-45 and it showed the water as black next to the glowing red radiant pipes THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE.

Since the water migrated UNDER the insulation through the holes where the radiant heat piping was shot down I have 3000 feet of wet gypcrete.

With 1.5 million dollars of finish improvements sitting on top of these unstable floors, I do not know what to do.

My contractor says that it is not his fault, and two water restoration companies said that I may have to remove everything down to the concrete subfloor.

The gypsum walls are wet up about 4' where the concentration of water was most active, the rest of the house has wet floors.

Some say that it will dry with no mold, others say that it will never dry.

The gypsum walls are growing mold in a few locations, I have had reading taken and black mold is present.

I have to figure out what to do now - -


Dom D'Agostino
11-18-2010, 05:17 AM
I'd call your hoemowners insurance company, if this is a sudden leak that caused damage. You need to get out ahead of the moisture/mold issues before they spiral out of control. All that trapped water needs to be removed, pronto. The repair bill for this disaster will be huge.

Jim Robinson
11-18-2010, 09:24 PM
Wow. That makes any problem I have currently seem pretty small. You are almost certainly headed to litigation with your contractor I would jump out in front of it and get the best people you can find on your side as soon as possible. There may be more details that make it not as big of a problem, but it sounds large to me.

Bruce Adams
11-19-2010, 06:52 AM
This sounds like something that you need to turn into your Home Insurance Co.. Sounds like you are going to have to replace all the floors and lower sheetrock. The only true fix is to remove all the wet material and replace it.
This may not be your contractors fault. It may be the copper pipe was inferior materials. There has been some copper pipe that was shipped into this country that is bad. I would check with your contractor on where he got the pipe and find out if it is some of the Chinese pipe that has been recalled. And check to see if this is some of the pipe in litigation. Then let your insurance know.

Markus Keller
11-19-2010, 07:20 AM
- Call your Homeowners insurance
- call an attorney
- get any documentation from the contractor
- bite the bullet and rip out the entire floor
The copper cracked? Doesn't sound right. Is that your contractors answer and his explanation for a bad solder joint? Seems odd he didn't use PEX.
If you stop the leak, sure the house will dry out some day. Based on what you are saying though, that could take a year or more. Consider all the ongoing damage during that period.
If you don't tear everything out, you'll never know for sure if you are sick because you picked up a bug at work or if it's the house. Also you'll never be able to sell the house honestly without full disclosure. If something like this were on the disclosure form I would advise my client to ask for a copy of the SE or Arch report stating the house is still sound. That amount of water could lead to wash out and settling at some area of the foundation or floor. The water will find a way to get out. Question is how much soil will it take with it when it goes.
No one noticed the auto feeder kept pumped water into the boiler? I really hate to tell you to sue the contractor but I would suggest taking a hard look at the overall installation.
Resolve the problems 3-9 months
Litigation, payments, etc 2 years
Good luck

Garry Sorrells
11-19-2010, 09:02 AM
You may be up the creek, but you have a paddle.
Tear out the 3000 feet of wet gypcrete and flooring. Should come out relatively easy due to nature of material, just time consuming. Remove wet/damp areas of walls. Remove all saturated material, down to slab and get slab dried out. Treat for mold (visible or not). Any water left will be a future potential cause of mold. Get involved, educated and supervise restoration back to original or pay someone to.

Insurance should cover, but there may be future problems with coverage as result of claim. Also problem with other insurance companies in future also. Sad fact. Be careful what you accept as compensation from insurance adjustment.

As you had the loss, you could just leave it to insurance and fight it out with them. Else, you will have to determine why the break occurred and then develop the evidence with whom the liability falls. It could be the general contractor, installation contractor, designer/engineer, material supplier, material manufacture, God, Devil in the deep blue sea, home owner, etc. It may not be anybody's fault, stuff happens, that's life. Starting shout gun litigation (suing everyone in sight), only harms those not responsible and makes it easier for attorneys. Find out where the failure was, the cause, be logical not emotional.

It will take time and you will be inconvenienced. That's life. Try to take it all in stride.

Bill Hetner
11-19-2010, 09:48 AM
Wow big problem. something to think about for future proactive alert have some kind of leak detector installed so it doesn't spread as far and as easy next time. any water based heating can break down at anytime. there is not a lot you can do to prevent this from happening ever except to remove it. Meanwhile try and learn from it and move forward and see what you can do to prevent the whole flooring from having a huge leak like this go un noticed. Good luck with dealing with it.

Jeff Molloy
11-19-2010, 10:46 AM
Daniel, Sorry to hear about your problem. In any case act quickly! Mold problems can spread rapidly! Mold WILL grow if moisture is present above a certain threshold. When you repair be sure to use mold resistant drywall and other building products. As suggested treat all areas whether there is visible mold growth or not. The last thing you want to do is short cut the repair and have the problem re-occur. Identify the source of the failure and correct that at all costs. While you likely have insurance for the problems caused by broken pipes most people don't have a "Mold Rider" so if you wait too long your insurance may not cover damage that "could have been prevented" if you acted in a timely fashion. Good Luck and have a happy Thanks Giving Day. I'm sure you have many things to be thankful for.

Mike Schulz
11-19-2010, 05:31 PM
Garry Sorrells hit the nail on the head. Document everything. Take pictures of everything and don't let the builder or anyone else touch anything. Have unbiased third party investigate and determine cause. Then let the chips fall where they may.

Glenn Duxbury
11-21-2010, 05:55 PM
Hi, ALL &

Yessirree - sounds like the Restoration guys were 'right-on', by the sound of it & best to remove all...

Some other good points metioned above as well - good comments !


Jim Hintz
11-22-2010, 08:16 PM
This is why you have homeowners insurance. Turn it in and let them figure out where to place the blame. As for ripping everything out, it is the "only" surefire way to go - anything less will always leave you wondering. Good Luck!

daniel fortune
08-07-2012, 09:48 PM
Final result: I hassled with my insurance company for almost 10 months, I lived with my moisture meter, I bought a $5k Flir Infra Red camera on eBay for about 1.5K, after the project was done sold it for $2K. I bought big air scrubbers because the kids and I were sick all winter and into Spring until we finally moved out, once I realized it was mold I got the scrubbers. Utility bills went over $1k per month.

I paid for 3 professional inspections to prove that the water damage was the result of a cracked elbow tube in the copper that ran from the boiler to the back manifold. To prove to the insurance company.

I was passed from claims agent to claims agent, and finally convinced them that the water damage was the result of the broken copper pipe. I got the first check for $50k and started at it.

We emptied the house, and I mean EMPTY, stored in 5 8x10's, four off site and one in the driveway.

I had to have a mold abatement company remove the entire gypsum floor and the walls up 4 feet, they did it with negative pressure, air lock, the whole thing. Peeling up the slate was black nasty dank, soaking wet gypsum. Under the hardwood, since it breathed, the gypsum was dry, but was like powder, it had lost all of its cohesion.

Since the radiant heat piping and gypsum was underneath all of the built in cabinets, ie, the ENTIRE kitchen, built in shelving sinks cabinets in every bathroom, laundry, bathrooms, living, dining, bedrooms, after all of the contents and abatement company were done, this entire massively expensive custom home with slate, granite and hardwood flooring was completely empty.

Just to add more confusion to the 'what does the insurance company pay for' puzzle, we found the following issues.

1. There was black mold under every piece of flooring and everywhere up the gypsum wallboard that was in contact with the gysum radiant flooring. Insurance company only covered 'Mold' for a total of $5000, BUT since they did cover 'Water damage' I did get some compensation.

2. When I built the house in 2004, I spared no expense in flooring, cabinets and all woodworking, I would estimate the flooring alone was $500,000

3. I too have no vapor barrier, the broken pipe was in the 'center of the house,' the water penetration from below - hydrostatic pressure, Pex pipe leaks, all contributing to the mess.

4. When we had the house empty, we were all staring at massive numbers of cracks in a concrete slab that was poured in 2004

Once again I had to figure out what to do with the piping, water and water vapor penetration, never wanting this water intrusion to happen.

a. I installed a french drain all around the perimeter of the home, and on top of that I put a 3' deep trench around the perimeter of the house, a 'french drain' pipe with the holes in it, and a 4" PVC pipe that connected to the roof downspouts, as well as area drains to keep the water away from the home.

b. With the french drain, I had to go 3' deep, of course I encountered all of the buried landscape pipes, buried electrical pipes for power to the waterfall, the fountains, etc. What an expensive nightmare on top of everything else that was going on. Digging out all my beautiful landscaping, cutting my perfect black slate tiles, cutting the concrete, tunneling through areas where there were embedded posts, a brick wall, I ran the drains to the street, my city does not allow you to cut the sidewalk, so I used pop-up drains.

c. Next I found company with a hydro-blaster, an invention of his own that blasted the floor with water, which in turn exposed all of the cracks, and I blasted the entire slab. HUGE HUGE production, mess, massive hoses, etc., but no dust or residual materials

d. I knew I had to keep the water from seeping in from the exterior below grade keystone of the slab, and the exterior of the slab all around the perimeter of the house, so I coated all of the perimeter of the house outside with a solution of materials from from Moxie that I used extensively, from their admix product to their crack patching products. Moxie International - Concrete Admixture, Sealers and Water Intrusion Solutions for Concrete & Masonry (http://www.moxie-intl.com/)

With this excellent waterproofing product that fills the pores of the concrete, all of the exposed cracks were chased, routed out, packed with the waterproofing material, and coated twice as per their specifications.

e. Once all of the Moxie was put down, I double coated all of the wet areas, i.e., bathroom, kitchen, laundry etc. with Red Guard membrane to their exact specifications. The entire house was single coated with Red Guard, again wanting to have the best solution possible.

Throughout this entire process we were conducting moisture tests, and had blowers inside the house going night and day trying to dry out the concrete, and then dry out the new gypcrete. The material I finally used was more concrete than gypsum, so I ended up with about a 4000 PSI concrete/gypsum floor.

My suspicion was that the massive saturation of the ENTIRE concrete and 2" gypsum subfloor was due to three factors, failures of the brass piping, failure of the PEX piping (RED 1/2") in the house, and intrusion of water and water vapor through the slab.

I ripped all of the existing piping out, lo and behold, another elbow had cracked in the garage area and the leak was just beginning.

I decided to rip out EVERYTHING, I ran 1" Upenor mains from the boiler to the rear of the house, supply and return, and 1/2" everywhere else. When we fired up the Munchkin Boiler to test the system, it died on the spot, I ended up purchasing a Triangle Tube boiler. $8.5k for the boiler and install. High, but I was desperate. The final pour over the Upenour radiant heat pipes connected to a new Triangle Tube boiler. With the previous system of 1/2" Pex, on cold nights some of the rooms would not get above 64 degrees, so I had the radiator heaters EVERWHERE. My utility bills have always been obscenely high, hence the 1" mains to the rear.

In hindsight, running the big mains to the rear of the house kept the Great Room where the pipes were, and I am still fiddling with the balancing of the pipes.

Since nearly a year had transpired from when we first moved back, all of the pods holding our clothes and property were kept outside, mildew had developed in everything. Stupid stupid stupid. The ins company did pick up the tab to clean everything, so that worked out. They would not let me take the money it cost to professionally dry, launder and radiate all of the goods, I was left with beds, couches, chairs, all soft furniture and sleeping gear that was still full of mold and the DAMNED COCKAROCHES that arrived a few months after the leak started. I threw everything away and started with all new Ikea stuff, very minimal.

The final kicker was that my house was entirely electronically controlled, lighting, sound, video, 110 V smart switches, motion control, fire control, camera, recording, all damaged by the moisture. Insurance refused to pay on any of these components.

Insurance finally paid on some of the damage.

My advice, Cavet Emptor, read the fine print on your insurance policy and may this never happen to you.

God Bless

Mark Fisher
08-08-2012, 06:58 AM

Thanks for sharing the results.

Micheal Lee
10-28-2012, 06:10 PM
We just bought a house with gypcrete on the top of radiant heating on the 1st floor. I really like to install hardwood on top of it. Can you share some experience?

Daniel, how do you monitor the moisturizer now in your house now?

John A Warkentin
10-29-2012, 07:37 AM
Daniel: in reading the account of your hydronic radiant heat problem, it seems that you still failed to involve a professional familiar with in-floor radiant heat systems. The continuing problem described with getting heat delivered to different areas of your home likely indicate poor design/installation. We nearly always use designated loops for each area, not a "main" with "1/2 branches". Each of these loops should begin and end at a header near the boiler complete with balancing, mixing, pumping and controls that give independent control of each loop. I am confused by one of your references to using copper because the run to the back of the home was so long. Radiant piping is readily available in 1000'rolls. A radiant system with below floor joints is a recipe for failure. Two "cracked" copper elbows is like lightning striking in the same place. What else was going on that contributed to this system failure. What temperature water was(is) being circulated thru your system. From the account I read, your system was poorly conceived and doesn't seem to have been improved during you re-construction.

Tom Rees
10-29-2012, 08:00 AM
Daniel, Thanks for the follow up. You should have done what my buddie did. Abandon the radiant system and install a forced air system. You will have ducts for A/C and never have to worry about this happening again. This is the main problem with radiant hydronic systems, by the time you discover a leak it is usually too late. I was at one time a huge fan of these systems but first hand experience and stories like this have changed my mind. I know a lot of people love these systems because they are a lot cleaner etc. than forced air and warm on your feet. Install electronic mats under tile in your bathrooms to keep feet warm. I will probably be assassinated by the hydronic people but that is my opinion. Does anyone know of any insurance companies that will not cover radiant systems?

John A Warkentin
10-29-2012, 11:21 AM
Daniel, Thanks for the follow up. You should have done what my buddie did. Abandon the radiant system and install a forced air system. You will have ducts for A/C and never have to worry about this happening again. This is the main problem with radiant hydronic systems, by the time you discover a leak it is usually too late. I was at one time a huge fan of these systems but first hand experience and stories like this have changed my mind. I know a lot of people love these systems because they are a lot cleaner etc. than forced air and warm on your feet. Install electronic mats under tile in your bathrooms to keep feet warm. I will probably be assassinated by the hydronic people but that is my opinion. Does anyone know of any insurance companies that will not cover radiant systems?

Another scorched air, can't see the forest for the trees expert. Based on your logic, we would never put plumbing under a floor because something might fail. A properly installed radiant floor system delivers better comfort levels more efficiently than a forced air system. Much like cars that get better fuel mileage, in that we must deal with a higher level of technology, radiant systems require more design/install expertise. They are not good diy projects.:o

Marc M
10-31-2012, 09:54 PM
I took this for insurance claim. Quite-a-bit not working.

Don Hester
11-05-2012, 07:39 AM
Thought here also. I would be getting a hold of a remediation company that uses a super heated drying system.

The local company I know has a large trailer they bring in and can dry out the building in a much quicker time than the normal fan process guys. They pump in very low humidity hot air and can do some pretty amazing stuff when it comes to drying a building out. This is very important to limit mold growth.

Time is of the essence to limit damage.