Water in your Home – Façade Repair and Restoration

March 2020

Nobody is happy when water leaks in from outside.  High-rise residents expect their home to be protected against the elements.  When your building façade fails over time because of age, damage or wear there is urgency to getting it repaired.

Your building façade, or envelope, is what separates you from the outside.  It protects against weather and intruders but only so long as it is adequately maintained.  Ensuring the façade functions as expected requires inspections, maintenance and repairs to ensure problems don’t reach a point where they affect residents.

The façade is an integrated system comprised on many parts, all of which need to be in working condition.  Roof, windows, caulking, insulation and brick all need to be in order.  Failure in any one part can lead to a major problem, of which water infiltration is one example, which can lead to further problems.  At an extreme, pieces of concrete can separate and fall off the building.

Increases in complaints about water infiltration, peeling paint and rot are indications the façade has been compromised or unmaintained for too long.  All are symptoms of water infiltration causing building materials to degrade faster.  Replacing or repairing damaged areas is only cosmetic.  Without identifying and repairing the source of water infiltration problems will continue to grow in volume and complexity.

A building façade deteriorates because of weather, material quality and age, how the building is used and lack of preventative maintenance.  Problems usually begin small and grow only when not properly addressed.

When problems arise, an investigation should commence to determine if failure is isolated or systemic.  Areas where a roof meets wall or chimney, or wall meets ground, are obvious sections to inspect.  Look for any rot, discolouration, sagging or damage.

Responsibility for maintaining the façade should be a priority for management and the board.  When problems arise a board with inadequate funds may be forced to undertake cosmetic repairs intended to hide but not resolve.  The hope is to keep condo fees low, and avoid special assessments, rather than have owners pay the immediate cost of upkeep.

Façade repairs can be disruptive, complex, time consuming and costly.  It is best to get it done right rather than revisiting the problem in another year.  Work with a qualified engineer who understands what needs to be done.  Inform residents of the problem, what is being done to correct it, and the consequences of failing to act.  Prepare them for noise, dust, odour and any lack of privacy that may result from work and workers during the repair period.  Some residents will be angry.  Be honest with them.  Let them know the work is for their benefit.