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Posts tagged ‘rainscreen’

Strata Mondays #6 – Leaky Condos Part III

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

A building awaits new landscaping after membrane replacement.

A building awaits new landscaping after membrane replacement.

Q. I’m considering buying a condo in an older building here in Victoria, BC – it was built in 1978. Do I need to be worried about leaky condos and expensive repairs?

[Read Part I of this post here, and Part II here.]

A. Yes and no. While older condos built in the ’70s and ’80s are not usually subject to the systemic problems that caused premature building envelope failure, there are still things you need to know. First, “leaky condos” were caused by premature building envelope failure – with an older building there might be problems with the building envelope related to its age, necessitating a renewal project. Hopefully, over the life of the building, the strata corporation has been doing the necessary preventative maintenance.

Increasingly common with buildings of this era are problems with the underground parking garage. Leaks develop and water slowly trickles down through the suspended slab of the parkade roof and into the garage. You might wonder what the big deal is; there are always drains and no one lives down there. But over time, if left uncorrected, the water will corrode the reinforcing steel embedded in the concrete, causing concrete decay and eventual structural damage – and the condo building is built upon the garage, after all.

The footprint of the building is smaller than the footprint of the parking garage, like this:

Finally, a use for MS Paint.

Finally, a use for MS Paint.

When the building was constructed, the parking garage was built first, and then the foundation of the building on top of the suspended slab roof of the parking garage. To prevent water leakage, a waterproofing membrane was attached to the sides of the building and over the top of the parking garage. On top of the membrane, the finishing landscaping and walkways, etc, were placed:

No, I didn't even TRY to draw a car.

No, I didn't even TRY to draw a car.

Over time, depending on the quality of the membrane originally installed, leaks will develop. Roots from trees could penetrate the membrane, there could have been small holes when it was originally installed, or it could just be breaking down after so long. The only real solution to the problem is to replace the membrane. The only way to do this is to dig up all the landscaping and other surface finishing, tear off the old membrane, replace it and then re-finish the landscaping. As you can imagine, this is not cheap – it’s not like you can re-use the  the excavated trees, concrete, and dirt – there’s no room on the property. It all has to be trucked away, and then new landscaping trucked in. I know of one building in Victoria whose residents had to shell out $20,000-$30,000 to have this done.

There are cheaper “solutions” sometimes floated by strata councils who don’t want to bite the bullet and replace the membrane. If the source of the leak can be identified, the area can be excavated, and the membrane patched. However, this is a temporary solution that may or may not work, and it will only prolong the inevitable, pushing up the cost when there are no more patches to do.

So, as a condo buyer, you should carefully examine the strata council minutes and find out if parkade waterproofing is an issue. If there has been an engineer’s report in the last few years you should carefully examine it. If there is no evidence in the strata records, you should specifically as your property inspector to have a look at the underground parking for potential leaks. You could also ask your REALTOR® if he or she knows whether or not the parking waterproofing has been replaced.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Strata Mondays #5 – Leaky Condos Part II

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

A leaky condo undergoing repairs

A leaky condo undergoing repairs

Q. I’ve heard that most of the systemic problems that caused the leaky condo crisis in the 90’s have been fixed. What’s changed since 1999? Are there still leaky condos being built?

A. [Read Part I of this post here] Changes in building design and technology and the building code have come into effect since the end of the 1990’s. Instead of thinking of the building as one system that needs to be sealed up to prevent air loss and thus reduce energy costs, we now consider two separate systems: the exterior wall and the building envelope. The building envelope includes the roof and exterior cladding. Building codes now require an airspace between the exterior cladding (such as hardi-plank siding or stucco) and the exterior wall (covered by a water-tight membrane like building paper or Tyvek®). The idea is to allow airflow in behind the cladding to dry out  any accumulated moisture, while at the same time creating a means by which any wind-driven rain can drain out via gravity. See below:

You may hear the term "Rainscreen" in new or remediated buildings.

You may hear the term "Rainscreen" in new or remediated buildings.

It should be noted that you can’t blame the leaky condo crisis in BC entirely on the building code. It has been discovered in many court cases regarding leaky buildings that the exteriors of some buildings were not built to the code that was in place at the time. However, it certainly was a contributing factor.

Many of the leaky buildings built during the leaky condo era have been remediated at great expense to the owners. Typically they now employ some sort of rainscreen construction as detailed above. Most will be without problems, as long as a regular maintenance programme is put into place and followed. In fact, the warranty that comes along with a remediation is usually contingent upon a proper maintenance schedule.

When shopping with a REALTOR® for condos, especially those built in the 1990s, you should ask whether or not the building has undergone remediation, and inspect all documents that lead up to the work being done, including the engineer’s report. There are some buildings in Victoria and vicinity that have not been remediated, but instead opted for a “preventative maintenance” programme that will end up costing them more money in the end.

In British Columbia, anything built with a building permit filed after July 1, 1999 must come with a ten year new home warranty. Usually these come in a 2-5-10 or 2-10-10 format: 2 years materials and labour on the home – this would cover things like nail pops, cabinetry, and other deficiencies. 5 or 10 years on the building envelope system, the exterior cladding and weather barrier of the home, and 10 years on the major structural components of the home.

What about condos built these days? Do they still leak? Hard to say. I’d tend to reason that if there was still widespread and systemic premature building envelope failures happening in modern construction, we’d be hearing a lot more about it on the news. I’m sure there are probably a few recently built buildings where there has been water ingress issues, but nowhere near the magnitude experienced last decade.

Check back next Monday for Part III, when we’ll talk about another type of leaky condo you don’t always hear about!

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

Your comments are welcomed and encouraged!
Just use the form or link below this post.

You can bookmark this post using the button below,
or subscribe to this blog for free updates using the big buttons on the sidebar!