By Shane Darville, P.E.
It only ever happens when everyone is either away or sleeping. With no one to hear splashing and gurgling, a building can flood within a matter of hours and a returning home or business owner is horrified to find water raining down from the garage as the door opens or a small wave greeting them at the door from what started as a small water leak. Suddenly, the ‘quick fix’ that the owner used because either money, time, or motivation wasn’t there has now become a ‘not so quick fix’.
Catastrophic floods can be the result of a self-induced accident through failing to notice that the toddler left the tub running or by forgetting to insulate the new, exposed water line before the freeze came. These can also be caused by poor maintenance such as when a clogged sewer line combines with a faulty automatic toilet valve and several stories of a downtown high-rise are suddenly uninhabitable. Then sometimes there is just no way to prevent them, as when a solenoid in the front load washer gets stuck open and spews water into the second-floor utility room and subsequently the rest of the house.
Floods are incredibly stressful and traumatic, so it is very easy to not notice exactly where the water is coming from when the only concern is getting the water turned off and rescuing as many valuables as possible. Because of that, it is extremely important to have an expert come in to inspect the situation. An expert forensic engineer can trace the water leak back to its original source then conduct failure analysis at the place of origin to determine the failure. An expert engineer’s job is to learn and tell the story of the event from the perspective of the object in an effort to help the people involved fully grasp the situation.