Leaky building owners may not have the will or financial means to consider a remediation project, especially where no legal remedy to recover repair costs is possible (for example, the building is outside the 10-year eligibility requirement for litigation or a WHRS claim). In general, the designer should advise the owner that doing nothing or carrying out temporary repairs to limit further damage is not a recommended remediation option and should clearly outline the risks with either strategy.
There is often a significant time period between a leak occurring in a building, the first knowledge or acknowledgement by the owner that a building might be leaking and the commencement of repairs to the building. It is not unusual for this to be months or years, particularly if the owner chooses to resolve the issues surrounding liability for and cost of repairs before undertaking those repairs. In a number of cases, owners have been unaware that their building has been leaking.
The longer a building leaks, the greater the extent of the damage and the cost of repairing that damage. If repairs can be undertaken, it is recommended this occurs as soon as possible to mitigate potential losses.
If temporary repairs are undertaken, they must be done to a specific plan designed and fully documented by a remediation design specialist. They are not a seal and patch option (which has been done in a number of cases). Unless the repairs are properly targeted at the actual cause of water entry and the water entry is halted, they may make the problem worse.
It is also important that the owner does not see temporary repairs as a final remediation design option because the potential damage to the building has not been addressed. If temporary repairs are undertaken, the designer needs to ensure that their agreement with the owner clearly defines the work being undertaken and that it does not constitute a remediation solution and that the designer has no liability for damage as a result of the original failures.
The extent of the repairs must be declared to any subsequent purchaser of the property.
- Stopping the water entry may slow or limit continuing deterioration.
- Limiting initial costs.
- Allowing time to implement a repair plan and/or obtain funds for a full remediation solution.
- The damage that has occurred is left unrepaired (and if the repairs are not successful, damage may be increasing). The building may not be structurally sound due to timber deterioration.
- The occupants may be exposed to a damp mouldy environment with potential health effects – especially if there is exposure to toxic moulds.
- The work is not likely to restore a building sufficiently to obtain a Code compliance certificate, where this has been withheld.
Temporary repairs that have been seen to provide some benefit in slowing damage include:
- adding flashings to parapet and balcony walls, provided the walls are structurally adequate (there may still be significant framing damage that will need to be addressed)
- replacing membranes to waterproof decks
- lowering ground levels around the base of claddings to provide clearance and allow drainage
- sealing known points of water entry such as holes in flashings or cracks in claddings
- replacing failed joint sealants
- ensuring maintenance (such as clearing blocked downpipes) is carried out
- installing an adequate stop-end to a raked apron flashing
- structural propping to prevent collapse.
Updated: 9 September 2014