Entropy 101, or why leaks matter

Entropy at work

I was creating some graphic headers for this site and realized that I had just made a whole bunch of pictures of entropy in action. I could do a complicated discussion of the second law of thermodynamics, but you can read that here if you’re interested. From our real world perspective, entropy is iron rusting, roofs sagging, paint peeling, and all the other signals that what was once orderly is becoming chaotic. The effects of gravity, rain, freezing, and other natural processes are at work on our buildings from the day they are completed. We only need to do a few things well to keep our shelters functioning well. Here’s your short list of absolutely positively should do tasks.

Shingles gone from half the roofStay Dry. It’s a simple command. Harder to do than it sounds, however, since nature is hard at work trying to sneak water into your building systems. Rain, flood, groundwater, low house elevation, and high winds work on bad shingles, missing ridges, clogged gutters, improper flashing, leaking doors and windows, bad weatherstripping, ineffective corner trim, bad building paper installation, and I’m just getting started with the external threats. Actually, that’s almost a complete list, but most of your major water problems are going to start with something in the first half dozen items. What’s illustrated very clearly in this photo is a roof with half the shingles missing. When the rain starts falling directly on your plywood, you are looking at some serious entropy, baby. I’d rather have a blue tarp than a shingle-less roof.

Missing WindowsThis sad structure is missing more than one window. The roof could be in perfect condition, but open windows are going to let in the rain and once that starts, it’s not gonna be good. What happens is that the wall and the floors both start to suffer expansion and contraction and materials like wallboard (sheetrock) and cheap trim materials start to decay almost immediately. It doesn’t take very long before structural damage to wall studs, floor joists, and subfloor materials starts to happen.

Entropy is done with this framingThis is a great example of a floor and wall framing intersection that has suffered a catastrophic amount of water damage. Click on the image (or any image on this blog) for a large image of rot that’s beyond repair. Water did this. It does it all the time. Stay Dry!

One of the saddest things we experience in the real estate business is a building collapse due to the inability of heirs to make decisions on maintenance issues. There are frequently urgent needs for roof repairs that were deferred during the final years before someone passes. Some heirs want to sell and others may want to fix and others just don’t know and before anyone notices, the building has already fallen into complete ruin. Everybody loses when that happens, so if you find yourself arguing about what to do with Grandma’s house some day, just remember entropy and get the blue tarps ready.

1 thought on “Entropy 101, or why leaks matter”

Comments are closed.