Finding and Fixing Leaks When Water Gets In

Back in the late ‘80s, pop stars Milli Vanilli once had a hit song called  “Blame It on the Rain.” And while ‘it’ for the singing duo was about heartache and lost love, the rain can bring a very different kind of pain to the board and residents of a co-op, condo, or HOA. The costs associated with repairs to a leaking roof, exterior wall, ceiling or floor are not only financial; they can include a host of health risks associated with the mold that often appears in the presence of water infiltration. 

The best defenses against these miseries are a well-maintained building exterior and plumbing system. But even if preventive measures are taken, waterproofing a building is tricky business. “It is very difficult to confirm that a building is either 100 percent waterproof or 100 percent water resistant, whether it is from groundwater or from rainwater,” says George Doukas, president of the Long Island City-based waterproofing company CGI Northeast Inc. But boards and managers must try, or risk damage to their buildings and even potential liability. 

The Envelope, Please

A building built and covered with newer conventional waterproofing systems has a better chance of remaining leak-free than more vintage construction, says Doukas. These new types of construction focus in part on roofing, waterproofing behind facade brick, or curtain walls and/or below-grade rubberized membranes, such as the soil-side of foundation walls as well as below-floor slabs in cellars and sub-cellar locations.

“Older buildings that are not built or covered with these systems are definitely more water intrusive,” says Doukas. “However, even in new construction, it is almost impossible to keep out 100 percent of the water, especially with groundwater in lower sub-cellar elevations within the groundwater table.”

Traditional mechanisms in a residential building that prevent water from seeping in during or after precipitation include state-of-the-art roofing materials, properly caulked windows and flashed shelf angles, window lintels and sills, air conditioning sleeves, and concrete around the building’s perimeter.

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