CONSULTING & RESTORATION SERVICES
The First Thing to Point Out is that ALL Buildings LEAK!
Above are 3 buildings all with wetted stucco. One is over 50 years old, the others about 20. The 20 year old buildings are in trouble because the envelope is not performing like the one on the older building.
Can you tell which is the older building and do you know why the difference in performance? ….. send us an email or Tweet and I’ll tell you why.
If you live in a building built in the late 80’s and in the 90’s…..you may have questions about the performance of it’s envelope. If you don’t, you should. Most buildings built during this period are not what some call a “leaky condo”.
If the building was built before this period, the likelyhood of it having serious envelope problems is far more remote.
If your building is in the higher risk category, it should be a priority to investigate and determine what course of action should be taken for maintenance and possible changes to obtain better perfromance. Many owners fear this and believe that what they don’t know won’t hurt them.
Our experience is that many of these buildings have isolated problems and if carefully investigated can be repaired in phases. Unfortunately, with the law governing warranties and building envelope repairs, engineers are brought in often resulting in total envelope repairs which include new windows and roofing and due to insurance policy terms, it is just about a given.
The “leaky condo” crisis has created a lot of fear with good reason, however, we think owners need to put to rest any uncertainties. To that end, a few drill tests in questionable areas as well as in some areas expected to be good along with the analysis of the roof, flashings, underground parking, windows, external doors, decks, etc. should provide a picture. We have done lots of these and found in most cases the buildings are not “sick” but need remedial work in some areas. It’s tragic that some buildings been totally stripped, new windows, new roofs, etc., when not necessary.
“Bandaiding” such as sealing stucco cladding and improper caulking most often won’t solve the problem and may only make things worse. Want to know why… send us an email or a Tweet.
A realistic approach should be adopted which often can be done in phases placing less burden and stress on the owners.
THE PROBLEM: Wall envelopes will leak when:
- there is water on a wall.
- there is a path for water to penetrate.
- there are forces to drive water inward.
Roofs, decks and foundations are also part of the envelope and can directly affect as they often do, the way a wall performs.
THE SOLUTION: The occurrence of those elements above are cause for concern, especially on what we call “weather walls” in coastal BC, so our focus when analyzing a building envelope is on the following 4 points:
The 4 D’s:
The amount of roof overhang and the direction a wall faces are major factors affecting how much the above elements come into play.
The more they come into play the more critical are flashing design and those details affecting weatherability such as around windows, doors, vents and material transitions.
Flashings are the most important element of any building envelope and can compensate for weaknesses in design and materials if they are designed and installed properly.
Flashings can be in the form of metal or various types of membranes such as self sealing bituminous membranes to sheet and liquid membranes and any combination there of. They can be cap flashings for parapets and rail pony walls to through wall flashings for windows, doors, vents and wall transitions. Metal flashings usually protect membranes and serve as a water deflector. If properly designed and installed, flashings can be all a building needs for proper protection against water leaks assuming all other relevant elements are correct such as roofing, building paper, deck membranes and wall drainage.
Rain Screens are often not necessary but should be considered for weather walls and walls with little or no roof overhang. Tests have been done on coastal BC buildings to substantiate this. Notwithstanding, rain screens are now required for new construction under the new 2006 code. A rain screen provides a capillary break behind the cladding and is typically done with wood strapping which allows for a ventilation space. This methodology can be expensive for remedial repair because it often means new windows and doors and is difficult when working with transitions. There are rain screens available which are designed not only for economy but are great for phased and partial remedial work. With these, it is easier to keep existing windows and doors, there are no or very minor concerns to worry about with transitions and they are quick to install.
We are one of the few “Evelope Renovators” using this method. Importantly, contrary to popular belief, the new building code points out that a variety of products can be used to provide the capillary break “including a variety of non-moisture susceptible, open mesh materials” such as what we have been using since 2001.
Decks: The type of membrane is not near as important as the installation (detail) and adequate dispersion of water (slope). Installing a heavy roofing grade membrane, whether sheet or liquid will not solve problems of improper detail work. We have removed 20 year rated membranes after 5 or 6 years due to improper detailing.
Railings: Fascia mounted railings leave little to chance in that there are no deck surface penetrations in the membrane, however, these (those engineered) are expensive and considered busy looking by many and fascias are difficult to maintain (clean/paint). Economical top mount railings are only risky if the deck is not sloped properly allowing base plates to sit in pools of water. The risk can be reduced with the use of saddles. Top mount is considered cleaner and not so busy looking.
Cladding: Any cladding type works if the wall and the elements around it are designed and built properly. This includes stucco, which next to brick, offers a very strong and durable surface and the older it gets the harder and stronger it gets. Very popular is cementitious siding such as “Hardi Plank” (registered trademark). This siding is extremely stable and resists staining. There are drawbacks: very heavy and dusty to work with.
Roof: Also a part of the envelope including parapets and gutters which have a major effect not only on how walls perform but how the walls should be designed. Roof parapet design is very critical to the performance of all walls. This includes curbs and pony walls.
Weather Sealants: Once a stucco wall or envelope is sealed or coated, it becomes paramount to prevent water intrusion into the wall. Once a stucco wall is sealed or coated with anything, including an elastomeric coating, it loses breathing capacity and cannot breath to the degree it must which means it loses drying capacity, therefore, keeping the interior of the wall dry is “absolutely imperative”. Similar to E.I.F.S.(exterior insulation finish systems), attention to detail, flashings and caulking cannot be over emphasized. This has proven to be mostly impractical and unrealistic especially in Coastal B.C.. There are elastomeric coatings on the market purported to provide a protective barrier to stucco walls. These do breathe as purported but not nearly to the degree necessary for these walls to perform and as such have exacerbated any existing moisture problems.
Water damage restoration is very prominent in B.C. at this time and will be for many years to come until such time as the many factors leading to these water problems are improved such as: design, construction practices, methodology, qualified installers, materials, and materials selection.
Arguably, a lot of this is and has been in place for some time.
Having been in the trenches (bidding) for many years, we have concluded that the primary reason for many of the water penetration problems we are seeing and many other types of problems is due to low bid acceptance at all levels with no consideration given to any other element. Pro Deck Ltd has been involved directly with this very thing as a sub-trade, so we have seen it happen time and time again. We see the results of this on a regular basis…. sad sometimes to see folks having paid once are forced to pay again and even a third time.
There is incompetence and unscrupulous elements at every level, but that’s a simple fact of life.
To begin with……often the sub-trades have to go so low to keep working that they are forced to cut corners, use inferior materials and use unqualified lower paid workers just so they can squeak out a profit… if lucky enough.
Who is to blame? Our opinion follows:
General Contractor? The general contractor is in the same low bid situation so seeks low bid sub-trades.
The architects? They mean well, however, some of their designs require such special methodology and careful detail that they are just not feasible in a low-bid-only situation. If the architect is doing most of the detail design, he should take most of the responsibility.
The engineers? If anyone should take most of the responsibility, our choice is here because this is where a lot of the detail design comes from.
The Building Code? The intention of building codes is comfort and safety and until recently, leaks did not meet the criteria. Our choice for 2nd place in responsibility would be here. Now, of course, the code has finally caught up. Humans are their own worst enemy, forcing authority to barge in, create myriad rules allowing for very little flexibility and a lot of misinformation.
So who’s left? The owner or developer. He accepted the low bid general so that his ultimate profit is greater….so can you blame him? I don’t think so, because he believes everything will be done to code and engineering specs, and that’s good enough for him.
Consequently, authority steps in, slaps everyone’s wrist and places a bureaucracy in motion with regulations and more regulations. Costs go up and who pays? This is another simple fact of life.
So here we are…
What can Pro Deck Ltd. do for you?
First of all,
PREVENTION is our motto. You have a building, it should be looked after on a yearly basis. Have a maintenance schedule. This is your best tool against monstrous costs in the future.
So you’re going to build… Don’t depend on your general contractor to completely oversee all details. Some methodologies and details are too important to let go by without close scrutinization during construction.