Leaky Condos

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Although definitions vary, for the most part a leaky condo syndrome appears to be caused by high exposed stucco walls, lack of roof overhangs and proper parapet wall flashings, poor flashings over doors and especially windows, as well as the application of stucco directly onto building paper and wall sheeting without any gap or rain screen to allow moisture to escape from the wall system. Also there are often no flashing breaks at each floor level to prevent moisture from the entire wall face accumulating down at the foundation wooden sill plates.
Of course a rainy climate is the overriding factor that makes this type of construction unsuitable.
In addition, these buildings built in the 80’s and 90’s, unlike older buildings, use building codes that call for a plastic vapour barrier on the inside walls which is meant to stop most vapour diffusion but also effectively stops warm air from entering the wall system. This used to help with the drying out of the wall cavity. The net effect is that moisture enters through the wet porous stucco and soaks the wall sheeting and structure for long periods of time without a chance to dry out, causing wood rot and mould to eventually grow inside the wall cavity.

Some buildings seem to have all the attributes for a case of ‘leaky condo syndrome’ but none of the problems.
Conversely other buildings which don’t appear to have the same construction techniques that normally cause a moisture problem, have severe rot and mould. Extenuating circumstances may also contribute,  such as those caused by poor building construction details, building location, local terrain, wall heights, exposure etc. 
The only way of knowing for sure is to have an engineering firm perform a Building Envelope Inspection (BEI) and actually look inside the walls for damage.
Remediating buildings is big business. There have been reports of firms convincing stratas that they have a leaky condo and so must undergo a 1 or 2 million dollar fix. Once underway anecdotal evidence from sub-trades has indicated in some cases there were no moisture problems found in the walls. Stratas should insist on a BEI with actual wood moisture levels and proof of any rot or damage found. It may be the case in some instances that good replacement siding, flashing and windows will fix the problem although building insurance companies may have a say in what transpires.

A Home and Property Inspector cannot and should not comment on whether a building has ‘leaky condo syndrome’ unless he has been specifically provided with a Building Envelope Inspection Report. To do otherwise leaves the inspector in a position of possible legal action from the condo unit owner, buyer and/or strata.

A prospective buyer of an older condo should always review at least 2 years of strata minutes and any building engineering reports, as well as talk to someone on the strata council regarding any unreported problems.

Please note if you are the owner of an older condo that may have this problem. – Some stratas are having a BEI done and if the damage is manageable and not too extensive, to avoid large assessments they are building up significant contingency funds which also bring in investment income, until they can afford to undertake a remediation. In the meantime they are being proactive with building maintenance to mitigate any immediate problems.

For further info. click on the following CMHC link.   http://www.cmhc.ca/publications

Provided courtesy of Fleetwood Building Inspections