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Addressing hidden damages in condominiums

Apr 11, 2024 | Public | 0 comments

The life cycle of a condominium includes five stages, each presenting unique vulnerabilities and budget challenges directly tied to the aging process.

In the earliest stages, the building envelope is particularly susceptible to direct damage that, when not detected early enough, causes indirect damage that is slow and progressive until it penetrates the interior. Condo corporations face ongoing costs as a result of what gets overlooked. Inspections play an essential role in effective management throughout the life cycle, providing insights into hidden damage risks and helping to address high-cost deficiencies.

Condo managers who understand a condo’s life stages, hidden damages, and inspections are more likely to develop effective reserve fund plans with logical budget allotments. Here, let’s explore how condo buildings are vulnerable at each stage of the aging process and why building envelope inspections are critical budget items early on. When funding is used to address early direct damage repairs, condos incur lower costs in the later stages while avoiding costly, secondary damage.

The pre-natal stage

In the first year, buildings are vulnerable to minor issues. Because everything is new and under warranty, common element fees can fund inspections. Although pre-natal inspections are unlikely to find anything, any minor discoveries are addressed a) while under warranty and b) before they develop into severe issues in a year or two. With low maintenance costs, investment in inspections is manageable, saving money in the first five years of the building’s life.

The childhood stage

In years one through 16, inspections continue to play an essential role in spotting necessary repairs that can extend the life of exterior materials and interior systems. You can include the most vulnerable building elements in a preventative maintenance plan, and ensure you leverage warranties before they run out. Inspections and reserve fund studies every three years reveal the need for replacements, such as: water heaters, circulating pumps, garage gate motors, sump pump overhauls, exterior sealant replacement, aesthetic upgrades, such as exterior painting, and hallway improvements.

The adolescent stage At ages 17 through 29, expect to face bigger ticket items despite investing in ongoing maintenance and repairs. Vulnerabilities lie in a deterioration of assets where inspections contribute to reliable reserve fund study planning. New calculations will address funds for higher ticket items including: new roofing, elevator updates, heating boiler replacements, new plumbing distribution systems, and window replacements.

Adulthood

As the building ages, costs become less manageable, spanning 30 to 49 years. A healthy reserve fund becomes critical as you encounter your most expensive asset replacements with vulnerabilities related to items you replaced in the adolescence stage, as well as: updating fire alarm panels, entire exterior cladding upgrades, concrete and paved roadway replacement, and major common area renovations/redecorating.

Old age Buildings over age 50 mimic the same vulnerabilities as childhood, experiencing a repetition as replacements complete the same aging patterns. As a result, it helps facilitate budgeting accuracy, as a condo can rely on the same predictive budget and project prioritization. However, the original budget won’t apply in dollars and cents and instead must include the following considerations: advancements in materials, increasing or decreasing costs, and efficiencies and life cycles of modern envelopes and building elements.

The unexpected impact of hidden damages

Building inspections are also the best way to address the most insidious types of hidden damages. They provide insights into what is most likely to cause high-cost deficiencies so appropriate preventative steps can be taken. Hidden damages cause unexpected impacts on the building and operations, including:

Moisture: Water damage spreads slowly, leading to severe and costly interior damage. This includes damage to materials used in units and common elements.

Air leakage: Air penetration damages envelope layers, impacting your HVAC’s effectiveness and wasting energy as residents put more demand on the system. It can also lead to dangerous carbon monoxide levels from garage car exhaust.

Thermal movement: Thermal movement breaks down materials, causing breaches and failures, such as cracks in sealant, serious separation of envelope layers and interior degradation over time. Again, it is that critical tie between life stages and inspections that help predict and avoid hidden damage.

How inspections help prevent indirect damage

Building envelope inspections identify deficiencies and life stage vulnerabilities that contribute to energy loss, deteriorating interior comfort, and aging building aesthetics. Recommended repairs prolong longevity, providing the following benefits:

  • Smart maintenance strategy in the pre-natal stage when maintenance costs are still low,
  • Leveraging warranties in the childhood stage,
  • Reducing occupant complaints regarding unit comfort, value retention, air and water leaks, energy efficiency, etc. as the building ages,
  • Reducing risk for secondary damage to unit walls, floors, furniture, etc.,
  • Ongoing advice and expertise to avoid envelope fatigue and prevent secondary damage,
  • Reduced interior leak damage costs for secondary interior damage in units and common areas,
  • Facilitating a preventative strategy to further cost-effectiveness,
  • Eliminating a reactive maintenance strategy, handling damage before it leads to severe issues like concrete deterioration,
  • Effective risk management to avoid costly litigations related to accidents and property damage, and
  • Maintaining a transparent audit trail tracking the proper steps taken to protect the building, occupants, and community.

Condo managers can make far more accurate cost predictions based on what will likely impact building damage at the pre-natal and childhood stages of the building than they can at the adulthood and old age stages. However, building inspections help inform predictive maintenance plans, budget allotment, and reserve fund planning through the whole life cycle.

As a result, managers can create effective reserve fund plans with more accurate fund allotment at each life stage. This helps contend with advancements in materials, increasing costs, and the efficiencies and life cycles of modern envelopes in old age.

Vadim Koyen is the President of CPO Management Inc. CPO Management Inc. is a full-service property management company specializing in residential and commercial condominiums in Toronto and the GTA. With over 10 years in the industry, CPO offers a wide spectrum of services from strategic and financial planning to accounting, building maintenance, and capital improvement. For more information, visit: https://www.cpomanagement.ca/

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