How to Spot a Leaky Condo

The leaky condo era was one of the most devastating things to happen to the condo market. In the 90’s when buildings started to be confirmed as leaky, demand for condos plummeted, as buyers were terrified of making the mistake of buying in a building that had water problems. When searching for an older condo, it’s important to stay informed and learn how to spot a leaker. Here are some tips:

Tip #1 – When and how the building was built.
The era that is mainly referred to as “the leaky condo era” is approximately 1984-1998. If a building was built within that era, and was built with the “California Style” continuous stucco on the outside, it would be well within the leaky condo syndrome timeline.

During that period, construction styles that were very successful in warm, dry climates made their way to the wet, rainy, damp west coast of Canada. A combination of not enough flashing on surfaces exposed to water, no air circulation within the building envelope, and the dampness getting into the building envelope and not being able to get out, created a perfect storm. Moisture would get in, and it couldn’t get out. It would then rot the building, sometimes creating mold and an array of other problems.

Tip #2 – What the strata corporation is saying and doing.
A great way to do some preliminary research on whether a building is leaky or not (again, this is not always reliable and much more investigation should take place), is to review the strata documents of the building. The strata corporation is comprised of all of the owners of the building, and they hold at least one meeting per year, at which they are required by law to take ‘meeting minutes’. More and more buildings are putting their meeting minutes online, or you can ask your condo real estate agent to request the documents from the seller.

In the documents, you can review what is being talked about at the strata meetings, and see if anyone has mentioned water ingress or other red-flag terms. Any work that is done to the building is required to be in the documents, so you should be able to view any work done by an engineer, roofing company, or even a handy man hired to re-caulk certain areas of the exterior of the building. General work around the building is to be expected, just keep an eye out for any issues that comes up in multiple units pertaining to water, or that refer to water ingress or seepage anywhere in the building. Your condo-agent can look into any of these issues further, and ensure that everything has been addressed or has a plan in place to be addressed.

Tip #3 – Hire a Condo Expert.
In Victoria, there are hundreds of condo buildings. That sounds like a lot to keep track of, but after going in and out of several hundred condos every year… year after year after year, you get to know the good buildings, and more importantly, which buildings you should stay away from. We have sold thousands of re-sale condos, and have gone through countless sets of strata documents. However, this would only be preliminary information, and you would need to conduct far more investigation and satisfy yourself with any building you are interested in.

Leaky Parkades

There is another, relatively new issue that has started to become more prevalent over the past few years. That issue is water leaking into underground parkades.

Unless you are a fanatic about cars, You may be wondering why you should care about water leaking into parkades. The short answer is that water that seeps in through concrete (which is reinforced with metal rebar) causes the structure of the parkade to break down. How quickly this occurs and how much of a safety issue is this? That is a question that can only be answered by a building inspector or structural engineer. For the purposes of this blog, and for the good of our clients, our concern is the expense that it may cost a client. The cost of repairing a leaking parkade can be significant especially if there is a lot of landscaping or finished common area space above the parkade. It is important to remember that parkades usually cover a much larger area than a footprint of a building does. In turn a lot of water (rainwater or water used for landscaping) can build up on top of the flat surface above the parkade.

Efflorescence – What Is it?

If you are looking to purchase a condo in Victoria, it is important to be able to recognize (or have an inspector that recognizes) Efflorescence.

Efflorescence is the chalky, salt-like substance that is seen on concrete in parking garages. This salt substance is the result of hydrostatic pressure on the concrete.  In other words, it’s due to water pushing on the walls, collecting minerals inside the concrete, and then evaporating on the surface, leaving the minerals visible to us.

Why is this of concern to your building inspector or REALTOR®?  The water pressure that causes efflorescence can lead to other structural issues.  First, if untreated, the efflorescence will most likely turn into a full-blown leak in the parkade, requiring repair. Second, it can be the symptom of a greater drainage issue affecting the perimeter drains of the condo building.

When parking garages get remediated, they usually paint over the old efflorescence.  This is not to try and “cover-up” the evidence, but merely so they can monitor any future efflorescence.  If a building you are looking at has had a remediated parking membrane and there are still signs of efflorescence, ask your inspector about it.  Or better yet, hire a Condo Expert to help you avoid these issues in the future!

Rain Screen Technology

How do I know my condo is protected when it rains?

We are sure you have seen a number of amazing interior photos and glanced at a few exterior photos while searching for your perfect condo! You are looking for a great condo to live inside and out. But, more importantly, the “out” needs to stay that way – that’s where Rain Screen Construction comes in. The key part of this technique is the creation of a gap (about 1”) behind the outside siding. This gap allows any wind-driven water that might penetrate the outer siding or stone to run down the backside of the exterior siding without ever migrating into the building structure. A number of new and remediated buildings have adapted Rain Screen Technology to protect the exterior from moisture build-up (leaky condo).

It is important to remember that when you find a condo or townhouse you are considering, be sure to talk to your Condo Expert about whether or not this is something you need to be concerned with. In the meantime, search through all of the listings available in Victoria here.

If you would like any further information or want to ask about any buildings you are interested in or even the one you own in now, feel free to get in touch with us.

– The Condo Group Real Estate, reimagined as Island Realm Real Estate Crew