Leaky Condo and How to Avoid it

If you are considering buying a condo in the Vancouver area, be aware that there is still a number of leaky condo in the market, despite lots of them have been remediated. You need to be very cautious or you will be buying into lots of trouble because the cost to remediate the ongoing structural and moisture issues associated with leaky condo is astronomical.

What is a Leaky Condo?

With the leaky condo crisis, we are looking at buildings built between 1981 until around 1998. The crisis was caused by poor building design and shoddy construction work during a building boom. Those buildings are wood-framed and usually low rises (we have also seen problems with high rise buildings). Leaky condos were built with a “catastrophic failure” of building envelopes which allows water to penetrate the outer cladding and become trapped within the building walls, leads to wood rot, rust, decay and mould. Those damages would eventually affect the structural integrity of the building. In some cases, moisture damage could be found in the interior of individual units, causing bad impacts on the health of the occupants.

Leaky Condo in Vancouver. Image by Vancouver Sun
Tips for Avoiding Buying a Leaky Condo
1. Consider the age of the building

Typically the majority of problem buildings were constructed between 1981 until around 1998, after which the building codes were changed to address the crisis and rain screen system were then required in all new buildings.

2. Check if the building has been rainscreened
Diagram of Rainscreen System. Image by Tom Diamond and Garland Industries 

Rainscreen is the solution to Vancouver’s leaky condo crisis. It is an exterior wall construction where the cladding is separated from the wall by an open-air cavity. This provides a capillary break and allows drainage of moisture that penetrates past the cladding and allows ventilation through the cavity to further promote drying. The air space effectively increases the durability of both the cladding and the wall assembly. Field study shows that rainscreen walls are generally working well in Vancouver’s coastal climate.

3. Check if the building has overhangs
Adding an Exposed Eave. Image by Finehomebuilding

Overhang is a simple yet effective feature that prevents rainwater and moisture from getting into the wall and causing structural damage. They are found on the roof and above windows.

4. Read the strata documents, engineering and depreciation reports

Obtain all the available documents (strata meeting minutes, engineering and depreciation reports, envelope assessments, warranty reports) before you write an offer. Reading through the strata documents will give you an idea of the strata’s past, present, and future work on the building. Be extra cautious if the reports have mention of the leak, moisture issues or mould.

After all, getting a quality home inspection is the best protection you can get.

An experienced home inspector not only helps to identify building problems but also allay your concerns and give you the confidence to make an informed purchase decision.

Our Inspectology home inspector is familiar with construction practices and helps to identify leaky condo issues before you buy. Contact Us today to book an appointment for a condo inspection in Vancouver or throughout the Lower Mainland.

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