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September 2015

Question

Recently I had a new bathroom installed. It would appear that the soil pipe, which was enclosed prior to the installation of the bathroom, is no longer enclosed and has been repositioned into the wall. Recently I noticed that the soil pipe has become dislodged and that a damp patch has appeared on the ceiling of the bathroom, which is quite close to where the soil pipe used to run. Is there a connection between the dislodging of the soil pipe and the appearance of this damp patch? Furthermore, what should I do to remedy this situation?

Answer

The first process is to try and identify the leak. There are a number of considerations to take into account. The soil pipe you mention has been moved and this will often cause leaks if it has not been re-installed correctly. The first thing to establish is if the soil stack is serving another floor above your new work (bathroom) or if it is exiting as a vent out through your roof or wall. If the pipe has not been installed properly (sufficiently strapped or fixed) along its length it will move with use. By its nature it is rigid and any movement will occur at the joints resulting in a loss of seal and therefore resulting in leakage.

This is very common in runs over two storeys where there is poor support and/or poor workmanship. The cause may be a cracked pipe, poor connections of wastes into the pipe, or a poor flashing where the pipe exits the building fabric. Other factors may be as simple as a missing seal (rubber gasket where the pipes join).

Your first option is to contact the contractor or firm who installed the new bathroom and ask them to reinspect the completed work as this is probably a snag item. Generally speaking, if the defect has appeared within a 12-month period it will be covered by a warranty. It is quite likely that the area will require opening up to both identify the leak and to fix the problem. This can lead to a lot of work in terms of reinstatement and decoration (if the area is plastered and tiled). The work must be carried out by a competent contractor or person.

If the level of repair works becomes complex or contentious you are advised to appoint a chartered building surveyor or similar to oversee same. This will ensure that the works are completed to a satisfactory standard.

Robert Patterson is a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.

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