Despite rain being essential to life on Earth, the consensus is that it’s mostly a bummer. And the only thing worse than rain outdoors is when it gets indoors. In a multifamily condo or co-op property especially, where one leak can affect the daily life of an entire community, waterproofing a building or complex is paramount. Water infiltration can lead to structural damage, a multitude of safety hazards, or the buildup of mold and mildew, which in turn can cause illness.
Leaks can stem from a wide array of sources, from the roof to the plumbing to the foundation to the exterior envelope, so not only can identifying the root cause be difficult, but deciding what type of qualified professional is best-suited to handle solving the problem can be daunting as well. Also, materials and manufacturers vary widely, both in regard to how buildings are constructed and to how they’re fixed. A smart, proactive board should have a number of trusted consultants to which it can turn both before a leak happens—to ensure that the property is adequately resistant—and after, to guarantee that the issue gets taken care of immediately and thoroughly.
The first step in leak maintenance is identifying that a property does in fact have a leak. While the indicators may seem obvious, they’re not always – and it pays to know what to look for.
“If something’s leaking, the residents are going to see it,” says Chris Heintz, owner of Atlas Restoration in Franklin Park, Illinois. “Let’s take a finished drywall, for example; you’re going to have moldy smells emanating from behind it, and it will appear to change color. In regard to the foundation, water may pool on the outside. If gutters haven’t been functioning properly, you should check inside, as they may be causing infiltration at those problem spots. A lot of waterproofing is actually just mitigating water.”
Scott Baryiewski, vice president and owner of South Shore Construction in Bridgewater, New Jersey, observes that water will often stain the surroundings of windows or ceilings. “And look for efflorescence on the outside of bricks,” he notes. Efflorescence is the migration of salt to the surface of a porous material, where it forms a whitish or greyish, powdery stain.