|The leaky building crisis is an on-going issue in New Zealand, with many thousands of houses, apartment buildings and commercial buildings built in the 1990s and 2000s suffering from severe weather tightness issues. Due to the very wet climate of most parts of New Zealand, this has led to many houses becoming unhealthy to live in, or in extreme cases, beginning to decay at dangerous rates. In Canterbury the cold and dry climate has meant that potential leaky properties have not deteriorated as quickly, but we are still affected.
||The Cause of Leaky Buildings
There are many reasons behind why buildings leaked in the 1990s to 2000s period. One factor was that in 1998 the New Zealand Standard for Timber Treatment was changed to allow untreated timber for wall framing. As the timber got wet it started to rot, and with the increased amount of insulation being used over this time the moisture that came into contact with it was slower to evaporate.
Cheap Monolithic claddings were approved during this time. These claddings are a textured plaster finish over the top of fibre or polystyrene material. Sometimes these claddings were not used within their specifications or not installed correctly. Many buildings built in the "Mediterranean" style used these types of cladding. They also had features such as recessed windows, flat roofs, minimal eaves, multiple storeys, complex roofs, solid balustrades, balconies and penetrations of the exterior cladding, all increasing the likelihood of water infiltrating the structure.
Architects and building designers were allowed to specify weather tightness without drawing how they would make it so. Some builders weren't able to make a weather-tight structure without these details. 70% of New Zealand builders have no formal qualifications. When adding this to the undetailed plans and lack of knowledge you have a higher possibility of mistakes, and it only takes one mistake before you have a weak point for moisture to get in and start eating away.
Some might ask why this wasn't picked up on Council building inspections, but at the time they weren't required to have the building knowledge to ensure weather tightness, and even if they had, they weren't aware there was an issue.
In a nutshell - poor legislation, poor design, poor building practices and poor products were responsible.
||Identifying the Problem
This one is a bit tricky.
If you are in any doubt get us to do an initial check - you are under no obligation to act on our advice or use us in any future repair work.
The following does not form a complete list but is designed to give you some ideas as to what to look for;
Visually if your property;
You can obviously ignore it - but it will get worse. Damp conditions affect many people and can worsen the symptoms of illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis and other breathing disorders. Damp insulation within the wall framing dramatically reduces the insulation's effectiveness, making rooms harder to heat. Damp conditions cause fungi to grow. The most dangerous fungi is Stachybotrys, a black mould that is both allergenic and toxic. It is a serious health hazard and it is associated with health problems with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, sore throats, watery eyes, skin irritations and memory problems. When you think about how long we spend each day working, that is a lot of time to be in the presence of these conditions.
You could sell the property but you would need to disclose that it has leak problems. If you give a buyer false or misleading information about the property you can be liable for breach of contract. If it is found out later that you knew there was a problem and told a buyer there wasn't, it amounts to fraud. This could cost you more in the end. Additionally, as of 2008, the Real Estate Act states that Estate Agents are now liable to ensure a property's soundness, meaning if you don't disclose, they likely will.
Alternatively you can get the property repaired. Remediation work is difficult, time consuming and must be documented fully, and we are experienced in this. We also recommend you talk to a lawyer, they will be able to tell you what options you have for covering the cost of repair - we are in contact with a legal specialist in leaky properties and can put you in contact with them.
||What's Involved in Repairs
Many of you will be making a claim for some of the costs of repair work. For evidence, all repair work must be well documented and inspected.
We do not get involved in patching and Band-Aid style repairs. It's bad for you and bad for our reputation.
In most cases a full reclad will be required and some modification to the roof, windows and doors.
We generally start at one corner of the property and work around each face stripping the old cladding and rebuilding it properly.
This gives us an opportunity to check, upgrade or replace any insulation and to check the bracing of the framework if the owner wishes. There is also an opportunity to undertake any additional alteration work you have been thinking about.
Generally it's possible for the property to be occupied whilst work is going on but we do require some co-operation.
It is also worth bearing in mind that if you do intend to sell the property at some stage, the buyer is likely to ask you which company did the repair work; this is where you want to be able to name a reputable and experienced company.