The “leaky condo” crisis has ravaged the Vancouver real estate scene for more than two decades now, and while it appears that the majority of buildings in need of substantial remediation have now been addressed, we are by no means out of the woods yet with this issue.
Homeowners, developers, insurance funds, and governments at all levels have thrown in millions of dollars to address water ingress and mould issues in residential buildings spanning from single-family homes, to condominiums to townhomes and duplexes.
The good news is that there are several tell-tale indicators that can suggest a building might be in need of rain screening:
1. It was built between 1982 and 1999. While this rule is not absolutely hard-and-fast, it was during the ‘80s and ‘90s that we began using building materials and building practices that weren’t conducive to our temperate rainforest climate. Fortunately, the building code was amended in 2000 to close up these loopholes and prevent the construction of further leaky condos.
This is an example of a building built in the early 1990s, at the height of the leaky condo era.
2. The exterior of the building is stucco. While stucco-cladded housing is extremely popular and functional in dry and arid climates, unfortunately experience has taught us that stucco may not be the best building material in a city where rainfall is so persistent. Specifically, for many years we applied stucco directly to the main structure of buildings, without a cavity to allow the trapped moisture to escape. Conversely, buildings with brick facades have typically faired quite well in our climate over the years, as the way these buildings are engineered makes it really hard for water to get trapped in the walls.
This is an example of a wood-framed building with a stucco-clad exterior.
3. The building lacks expansion joints with flashings. In rain screened buildings flashings are installed to redirect water out and way from the interior cavity where moisture would otherwise build up. If flashings are not present at expansion joints, it’s likely that the stucco was applied without a breathable cavity underneath.
This is an example of a building where flashings have been included at the expansion joints. As you can see, there is a strip of metal at each break point between floors to allow for water egress.
4. The building lacks overhangs above windows and doors. These overhangs prevent driving rain from making contact in at natural breaks in the wall. Door and window frames don’t always match up perfectly with the surrounding exterior walls, so it’s always beneficial that there is as much protection at these interfaces as possible.
This is an example of a building where overhangs and been included above windows and doors. The added protection provided by these overhangs helps ensure that water ingress is minimized.
5. The building has little or no drainage on roof top decks and balconies. Pooling water on flat surfaces can only ever spell trouble. Water will always find a way of seeping through materials at their weakest point, so the best way to prevent moisture ingress is to have the water flow away through designated channels as quickly as possible.
This is an example of a building with a flat roof where insufficient drainage is present on the rooftop, leading to ample standing water.
While this list of features to look out for when evaluating if a home or condo is leaky is by no means exhaustive, these tips of the trade should give you a better feel if that dream home you’ve been eying might just be a money pit.
If you have questions about the market or would like to discuss anything mentioned in this article, feel free to send me an email or drop me a line—I’d love to chat. I’m a Vancouver Realtor who is an expert in residential real estate and sell extensively condominiums, townhomes and detached homes.
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