Seepage is when there’s a leak in a water supply or drain pipe in your home and the water gets into the walls. Seepage has given me much grief and anxiety over the years. Just last night I had a nightmare where I discovered seepage in my flat and woke up covered in sweat.
I lived in a house with a basement when I was young. One thing I remember vividly is that the basement was always damp and smelt funny. I assumed this was normal at that time.
Seepage Woes Part-1
I remember living in a rented apartment in 2015-2017. They had recently painted it and we were the first family to live in it. Within weeks, however, the bedroom wall became damp & the paint began to flake off. This would be the beginning of our long struggle with seepage. We informed our landlady who spoke with the building maintenance who fixed something on the outside drainage pipes, but nothing changed. We continue to press our landlord and she continue to hound the maintenance team but not much happened.
In the meantime, I discovered that seepage always comes in pairs. Our downstairs neighbour started to show up and complain about water leaking into his bedroom from our bathroom. Building maintenance broke our bathroom floor twice and repaired some pipes, but the leak continued. Meanwhile, our bedroom was perpetually covered in flaking paint and PoP. Anyways, this wasn’t my apartment, so I was not too concerned.
Seepage Woes Part-2
In 2017, we bought and moved into our own apartment. We spent a lot of time, thought and effort in designing and decorating it as per our tastes. Once we moved in, to great horror, we started to notice dampness in 2 of the bedroom walls and on 2 of the bathroom ceilings.
One of the wall problems was relatively easy to repair. It was caused by a misaligned awning outside the wall which was trapping water. Fixing it fixed the problem. Within weeks, the wall was dry and I plastered and painted over it myself.
For the ceilings, we contacted the maintenance team who went to our upstairs neighbour. We would soon come to know that our upstairs neighbour (Henceforth referred to as Bihari Bastard) was the biggest un-co-operative piece of shit ever. At first he wouldn’t even allow the maintenance people to look inside his bathroom. After much coaxing and cajoling, when he did, he wouldn’t allow them to make repairs. After much requests/threats they allowed some repairs but it didn’t solve the problem.
Meanwhile, the paint continue to flake off the bedroom walls & plaster continue to fall from the bathroom ceilings. It was heartbreaking to see our new apartment in such a state. Eventually, I reached the end of my tether and offered Bihari Bastard to destroy and re-build his entire bathrooms for him. I would pay for the repair and building and he would pay for the new tiles. Bihari Bastard agreed.
I found a contractor and got 2 of his bathrooms destroyed and old pipes pulled out. The old pipes were in poor shape.
After that, the contractor put in new pipes
After this, the bathroom was re-built and tiles added. All through this process, Bihari Bastard continued complaining what a great source of inconvenience this was for him, completely ignoring the fact that repairing his bathrooms was not my job at all.
Eventually, the job was finished, my walls and ceilings were dry and we painted them over. We thought the process was finally over and heaved a sigh of relief.
Seepage Woes Part-3
We soon found out that our sense of relief was misplaced. One day our downstairs neighbour came up and complained about our bathrooms leaking water into his bedroom. This time we already knew what we had to do.
We called the same contractor and repeated the same process all over again. Tore open 2 of our bathrooms and re-built them from scratch. Eventually, the work was over and there was no more seepage “to” us or “from” us.
I thought our building was especially shitty, but later found out that all buildings (At least in the Delhi/NCR area) have this problem; even expensive/posh DLF ones. Turns out, the builders sub-contract the piping/water work to smaller contractors and not having any liability, they always do shitty jobs.
In Thailand, I see that the bathroom pipes are setup differently. All bathrooms have false ceilings and the pipes of the apartment above are easily accessible by removing panels. In India, all pipes are buried 3/4 feet deep in concrete and the only way to access them is to dig open the floors/walls.
I always advice potential buyers of new apartments to check 2 things:
- Check very carefully (over a time of a few weeks) whether there’s any seepage in that apartment.
- Go and meet the downstairs neighbour & enquire whether there’s any seepage in his flat from above.