Ahh rain. Raincouver. Rainy season. Umbrellas. Rain Boots. Leaky Condos. Wait.. What?! “Leaky Condos” is a term known in Vancouver thanks to some unfortunate condo building leaks back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Improper construction and poor building materials lead to a high number of buildings being unprepared to handle months worth of rain – leading to leaks, mould, and deteriorating buildings. Luckily for current and future homeowners in Kitsilano (and Vancouver as a whole), standards have been put in place to ensure proper construction with all buildings since 2001, and many older buildings have undergone big upgrades to install the proper systems to protect against rain.
We don’t like to use the term “Leaky Condo” thanks to it’s obvious negative connotations. Instead, we refer to buildings as being rainscreened (or having rainscreen technology), partially rainscreened or not rainscreened, indicating the type of construction and how well the building will withstand years of our rainy climate.
What is a Rainscreen?
A rainscreen is a moisture barrier consisting of two sheets of plastic within the exterior walls of a building, with an air space between them to allow excess moisture to collect, and air out or drain through horizontal gaps in the exterior, before it gets a chance to absorb through the walls of the condo. All buildings built in Vancouver after approx. 1998 (when building standards were changed) will be rainscreened. Some buildings are partially rainscreened, meaning only certain walls have the proper systems to deal with rain (typically the walls that get hit with rain the most). Balcony’s also have rainscreen technology to protect the units below from the excess water that can build up.
How to Tell if it’s a Leaky Condo or Rainscreened
Though you can’t tell from the exterior if a building is a leaky condo or rainscreened condo, there are a few visual clues that may help identify a building that was not built to withstand rain very well, these include:
- Short or no overhangs above windows and doors, thus the building lacks protection in it’s vulnerable spots
- No (or barely there) metal flashings around the doors and windows. This is a piece of metal that sits above the window or door to direct water away from the building
- No drainage on roof top decks and balcony’s
- Exterior materials: though Brick is a natural rainscreen (since it’s breathes), stucco can absorb water, which can lead to problems. Not every stucco building is a “leaky condo” , check to see it it has overhangs and metal flashings to help direct water away from the building
If a leak is discovered in a building, an Engineering Company is brought in to investigate the source, damage and potential future damage. They will provide recommendations, of which the Strata Corporation will vote on to decide what the next step should be (a bandaid solution, a partial rainscreen or a full rainscreen).
Fixing a “Leaky Condo”
Even though a building wasn’t built with rainscreen technology, the building can be corrected to protect against future damage. This is a expensive, time consuming and major building upgrade, which the building owners will have to pay for (through special assessments). This major procedure consists of:
1. Removing the exterior cladding (the exterior material) and most likely the balcony’s as well. At this point the building will be covered in blue tarp with construction workers
2. Installing the rainscreen on the walls and balcony’s.
3. Replacing the window and door frames, which often leads to replacing the windows and doors.
4. Installing metal flashings around the doors and windows.
5. Repairing the balcony’s and exterior walls
The good thing is, once a building is rainscreened it’ll have a long term warranty, with new windows, doors, balcony’s, possibly a new roof and won’t need major upgrades to these components for years.
Conclusion: Should you Buy Into a Building that Hasn’t been Rainscreened?
Of course, a building being rainscreened is never a bad thing, though don’t feel like you have to stay away from non rainscreened buildings. Due diligence can help determine the status of the building – read Engineering Reports and Strata Meeting minutes to see how much the issue has been discussed.
If you’re specifically looking for a rainscreened condo, take a look at the current active listings in Rainscreened Buildings in Kitsilano. This will list every condo that the Listing Realtor marked as “rainscreened”.
Buying a condo is a big financial decision, and no one wants to be saddled with a large special assessment and months long construction a few years into living in a condo. We’ll help you prevent that.
Next time you take a walk in Kitsilano, take a look at the condo buildings around you – you’ll notice the difference between the types of construction and exterior design.