Category Archives for Condos

Coquitlam Drone Roof Inspection Photos

This weekend we were able to launch the New Drone at a Townhouse complex in Coquitlam, BC.

This roof would be impossible to inspect using conventional methods such as ladders or binoculars, due to the slope of the property and height of the roof. However – using aerial photography we can see not only the roof, but inspect small details using high-resolution photography:

Flying the Drone at the height of the ridge line, we snapped a few detailed photos in the evening light. In the following photo we can see a broken grill on the flashing (circled).

The strata will be getting a roofer to repair this and the clients were thrilled to see part of the building that would normally be unknown!

Call Today to Get Your Home Inspected Right – 604 395-2795

Fake Electrical Outlet in Langley Townhome | Featured Home Inspection

This week’s featured inspection is a Townhouse in Langley. The development was constructed in 2004, so it was just out of warranty. These townhomes usually feature a 2/5/10 warranty (2 years mechanical, 5 years envelope/leakage, and 10 years structure).

The rear balconies were in poor condition, particularly for a young building. There was extensive rot and deterioration of the balcony railings and trim, and in several units the actual deck posts were damaged – a safety concern.

The roof was a typical, asphalt “laminate” shingle, which have a service life of about 20 years. Note how the downspouts are extended so they run down the roof, into the gutters, instead of directing water onto the shingles. This will extend the roof life and is optional – the BC Building Code does not require these! I always point these out as a positive when I see them.

These units are typically heated with electric baseboard heaters. As part of our thorough Home Inspection, every baseboard heater is checked using an IR Thermometer. Electric baseboards provide reliable heat that rarely needs maintenance, which is perfect for a first-time home buyer.

The kitchen island featured a receptacle on the side, however when tested, there was no power to it.

A quick look inside the cabinet, and we can see that it’s a “dummy” receptacle which wasn’t even connected! The owner had started to install one (including drilling a hole through the floor for the wiring), and never finished. This is why we always check every receptacle when possible. (Note: The island was not installed permanently; it was free moving and could be slid around on the floor. Be careful to check if your island is secured before you buy).

Finally, the garage door was completely hacked to pieces. The owner explained that they had cut it in order to fit a storage rack in the garage – a strange repair and one that I have never seen before. The only way to fix this is to replace the door.

Outcome: The sellers negotiated a slight reduction on the price and will be moving in next month.

Call us for your next Langley Townhouse Inspection! – 604 395-2795

What’s Included in a Condo Inspection in BC?


Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here talking about building inspection with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver. How’re you doing today David?
David: I’m doing great Mark, how’re you doing?
Mark: I’m good. As you can see I’ve got a little bit of sun this morning. I was doing some building inspection on my home, building repairs, I guess. So we’re talking about condo inspection today, so what’s the difference? What’s included in a condo inspection when you do it here in BC?
David: So what we do with our Condo Inspection is very similar to a Home Inspection, Mark. We’re obviously we’re going to concentrate on seeing things that are going to be important to the person moving into the property. So one of those, you know, you’re going to test all the components of the house just like you would, you know like your heating system, your plumbing system, your bathrooms, your kitchen. One of the things that we do a little bit differently that not all home inspection companies do is test appliances and that’s with all our home inspections; testing the stove, the garburator, dishwasher, can even do the microwave oven. So these are the kind of thing we are looking at especially in a condo and we’re going to inspect the areas that surround the unit like for instance if you have a balcony, if you’ve got a roof top deck, any of these limited common areas. I’ve actually run into a couple of condos where there’s an attic. You don’t see it a lot, there’s actually a couple in Burnaby and they actually have full attic space that you can open up the attic and it runs all the way down the length of the condo and of course that’s part of the inspection. So everything that we can get our hands on, the more we can learn about the condo the better for you.
Mark: So, do you like flush the toilet and run water into the tub and the sinks and those sorts of things?
David: Absolutely, we test what we call functional drainage and functional flow, especially when you’re on the thirty-second floor of a high-rise building. We want to make sure your water pressure and your hot water is going to be available so when you move in there that first shower, you’re not calling me, cursing my name, so this is the kind of stuff that we want to make sure, we’re in the business of surprise mitigation. We want to make sure there’s no surprises when you move in.
Mark: So, what about common areas like parking garages and outside drainage of the building, or the building envelope, those kinds of things, since we had all those leaky condos here in BC.
David: Exactly, and our Condo Inspection includes all the common areas, so that’s your roof, parkade, your boiler room, your electrical vaults, your elevator room. Myself, I’m a Commercial Certified Inspector so I do commercial buildings inspections as well, I know what I’m looking at with these large buildings and if we can get access to those areas from the strata and not always, you know, sometimes they’ll say well o.k., we can’t let you in there right now or we can’t get you on the roof due to liability reasons, that’s fine, but if we can get access that we also have a look at it. I also like to go to the storage areas and the parking stalls to make sure there’s no moisture problems down there because that the thing you may not find out about until you’ve moved in. So, if you’ve got a, you know, a huge oil in your parkade and the strata’s going to assign you or you know, there’s a leak above your car, you know, it’s the kind of stuff we want to find out ahead of time.
Mark: Yeah, so how about strata minutes and that sort of thing. Are you checking into those?
David: Yeah, it’s part of the Condo Inspection, yeah, a free strata minute review. It’s just a, if you have an engineering report or a, you know, a depreciation report or anything like that and you may read through it and may have, maybe there’s a red flag in there and you don’t know what it means, you know, I speak English and I speak Strata so I can translate it for you and go through and help you out with that. Obviously you know, time permitting, you know, the sooner you can send it the better. I always prefer if you can send it ahead of the inspection but, absolutely, that’s something I do on a regular basis.
Mark: So, I guess that’s where you might see things like depending on, like I mean there’s all sorts of, and types of strata like, we lived in a strata for a while where we had, they were like duplexes essentially and there were only twelve units or sixteen units in the complex but there was a budget and a time frame where we had to replace the roofs for all the sixteen units.
David: That’s a big job.
Mark: So that, but it’s in the strata minutes of well we’re in year ten and at year twenty we’re replacing all the roofs and here’s the budget number. So are you looking for those sorts of things as well as kind of ongoing maintenance or surprises?
David: Yeah, exactly, yeah, I think you pretty much hit it on the head, you know a roof assessment, you know, you pretty much assume that in every building’s life, every twenty to twenty-five years there going to put a new roof on, so we want to know how old the roof is and if you just have your strata minutes, you know, there might be just a mention in there of o.k., you know what, you know, we had a leaky roof and that might kick off a roof replacement that you didn’t know that so, you know, so if you can get your hands on a depreciation report like you’re saying where it’s actually broken down by year, o.k. you know what, in 2018 we actually going to put a new roof on; let’s start saving now. That’s usually a good sign actually, that shows that you’ve got a proactive strata. But, if you’ve got reactive strata they’re going to panic in 2018 and put out a huge levy on everybody as they weren’t prepared, right? So, that’s the kind of stuff we’re looking at and the strata minutes usually supports where that’s going to turn up, you know, so obviously we’re going to do our visual inspection, but you want to go behind the scenes and find out what the problems are.
Mark: So, what’s the best way to make sure I don’t buy a leaky condo?
David: There’s two ways to do that, you’re going to, you know with every, even just looking around at different condos you’re going to want to enlist a trained person who knows what to look for, that’s a home inspector, realtor who has experience with that, and you’re going to want to get your strata minutes, and your engineering reports. These are the kind of things that are going to help you determine if there’s a leaky condo problem. So, get it inspected every single time, get an inspector who’s familiar with commercial building construction and who’s familiar with leaky condo and envelope issues who can maybe point out a, you know there might be a problem here, why don’t you go look at your strata minutes and depreciation report and have a look at it and see if there’s any talk of maybe you know, redoing one of the elevations and you know that can be pretty expensive. So that probably the best ways to surround yourself with people who are familiar with that type of building and to read your minutes, read all your strata minutes, every single line, everything you can get, you know sometimes it’s every two years, get more if you can, look through everything, you never know what’s hiding in there and it’s going to be a huge financial difference for you, possibly, right.
Mark: So what would, like let’s talk about that. Maybe not everyone is familiar with the whole, cause it’s kind of died down a little bit, so what is, what’s the ramification if you buy a place that they suddenly they find that it’s leaky and what are we saying, what are we mean by leaky and then what are the ramifications, what could they be as big as, say, financially?
David: Yeah, good question. I should elaborate on the leaky condo crisis. There was a problem that lasted from about 1982 to 1998 in Vancouver where we built buildings that leaked and they had huge, huge moisture problems. You know, a lot of them were designed similar to the buildings they had in California where there was a lot of, you know you had a lot of, interfaces, usually like a California style stucco, low rise, four story building with a, you know, a flat roof kind of looks like a cube with a bunch of stucco on the outside of it. Kind of risky buildings that, they get really spectacular failure, you know, they leaked, we had mold, they had structural rot in a lot of these buildings and we were looking at multi-million dollar repairs and it’s been a problem, only recently sort of tapered off around 2000 and prior to that, if you’re looking at a condo let’s say you want to look at a condo that’s built in 94, you know, in the Fairview Slopes area, that was a bad area; you definitely want to get a depreciation report, find out if there’s a rain screen installed which is the solution for a leaky condo and also call around. Call a home inspector, have the place inspected, ask a realtor, you know, these are the kinds of things that . . . . .
Mark: Awesome, and in some cases this was, that could be, you know, you can throw numbers like millions but it could have, in some cases it was two, three, four hundred thousand dollars per unit to get repaired.
David: Yeah, I think the highest, the highest that I ever had direct experience with was a hundred and twenty thousand dollars per unit. In some cases in Port Moody there’s a building that they actually, the strata went bankrupt, they became insolvent and they actually, everybody just sort of left the building, they walked away from the mortgage. The bank bought it, did the work they needed to do and resold it, where they took it back. So, go to Google, we’ve got a great article on our blog, ‘How to Identify a Vancouver Leaky Condo’ and there’s a lot of good information if you go to Fairbairn There’s a blog post on there that’s going to show you exactly, you know, what a rain screen looks like, why you need one and you know, if you educate yourself a little bit you’ll be able to walk down a street and actually go hey o.k. maybe that one’s got a rain screen and maybe that one still needs it and you know, if you can educate yourself on this issue, especially type condos in the Vancouver area in that time period, you know, you could dodge bullets, so . . . give me a call anytime. My number, I think I forgot to put that number but you can go to our website, email or phone number and give me a call. Happy to help you out.
Mark: So, we’ve been talking about condos and what’s included in a Condo Inspection in Vancouver, BC with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn You can reach him at 604-395-2795. Next time he’ll turn his little ghost machine on so he has his number on there. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark, talk to you later.
Mark: O.K., bye.

Under the Tarp: Photos from Inside a Vancouver Leaky Condo

We had a look at a construction site in this leaky Yaletown condo last week. The building was constructed in 1994, and experienced major leakage of the building envelope. A Realtor took us for a tour of the remediation work – here’s some highlights:

Here we are at the rooftop. The building was 24 stories and full enclosed in scaffolding. During our visit the building was in the final stages of the project.

The wall assembly was on full display. This wall’s cladding, when finished, will consist of Georgia-Pacific DensGlass sheathing, a rainscreen cavity, expanded polystyrene boards, and stucco base and finish coats. Stucco over polystyrene boards is better known as EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System).

Here the sheathing installation has been finished. The yellow boards visible are the DensGlass.

A photo of a balcony. Part of this project involves re-coating all balcony surfaces with a liquid-applied traffic coating (similar to parking garage membranes).

When the EIFS siding was originally installed in 1994, it was installed without a rainscreen. This led to water becoming trapped behind the cladding and seeping into the suites. This new rainscreen installation should perform much better.

Leakage stains visible in one of the suites. Although dry now, this suite had a number of moisture/seepage problems prior to the repairs. Even the flooring was damaged!

When the project is complete, it should provide a long-term, quality solution to the leakage.


A Guide to Vancouver Parking Garage Leaks

Are Parking Garage (Parkade) Leaks a Serious Problem?

Throughout my career inspecting buildings, I have never seen a parkade (parking garage) without at least one moisture stain, or active leak. It’s very common for parking garages to leak, and when they do, the stains left behind are often not removed. This may scare off a potential buyer, when in reality the leak may have been solved already.

Here is a list of what to look for when inspecting a parkade:

Efflorescence Staining

Efflorescence is a chemical salt that becomes drawn out of the concrete when moisture passes through it. It’s commonly described as a white, chalk- like substance. It stays behind, even after the leakage problem is solved. When inspecting these stains, look at the pattern of the staining. If you see small, perfect circles on a ceiling, you can bet that water has been dripping at some point. A pale, whispy stain with no soft edges is probably left over from construction, and is likely not a concern.

Shrinkage/Settlement Cracks

All concrete, during curing, will crack and shift slightly. New, small cracks may form as the live load of the building changes. These most commonly appear as vertical cracks on the exterior foundation walls, and are a common point of water entry. One or two of these can be normal, however, if a wall is cracked in multiple locations and all are leaking heavily, an expert should be called.

Some water ingress at side walls may be caused by improper or defective waterproofing at the exterior wall.

Drain Pipes

Leakage around drain lines is common, particularly below landscaping and patio decks on ground floor units. Some cast iron drain lines may corrode and leak in the slab, leading to cracks and staining around the connection in the garage. Repairs usually involve removal of the drain base, and part of the cast iron stack, and replacing and waterproofing as necessary.

Membrane Failure

Parkade leak - this garage membrane had failed.

Widespread leakage, or heavy staining around the parking garage may indicate a waterproofing membrane failure. This is a potentially expensive repair – a building with complete membrane failure may need to remove significant amounts of the landscaping  above, and torch on a new membrane. Repairs sometimes involve destruction of landscaping, concrete walkways and patios. The photo above is from a building in Vancouver – they ultimately dug up the entire courtyard and re-waterproofed.

Waterproof Membrane

Cutaway view of a waterproof membrane above a parking garage


Perimeter Drain Failure

Perimeter Drain Failure

The image above is from a condo with a failed perimeter drain. We can see the rust colored sediment leaching through, as well as a water stain running along the base of the wall. Since the pipe was completely plugged, no water was being carried away from the base of the foundation, into the storm drain, and instead seeped into the basement. The rust color is due to the oxidization (rusting) of the iron in the soil.

Epoxy Injections

Concrete Epoxy Repair

Epoxy injections are a popular solution for concrete leaks. They can be identified by small injector plugs that follow a crack line, usually along the ceiling of a parkade. Epoxy repairs will remain forever and cannot be cleaned/removed to hide the repairs. When inspecting these areas, consider that they may have been done recently or long ago – it’s very difficult to determine.

Repairing heavy leaks using epoxy injections is not the best method – the source of the water should be eliminated before any action is taken.

Crystalline Waterproofing Products

As an alternative to Epoxy Injections, products such as the Kryton Krystol waterproofing compound, can be used with good long-term performance. One advantage to these products is that the finished result looks much more professional – with no visible epoxy residue, oil or injection plugs left over. The installation involves chipping or “routing” out the crack with a chipping gun and packing the product into the trench. The product expands and “follows” the water source, effectively stopping the ingress.


Garage leaks are common, and knowing what to look for can greatly help buyers differentiate between small repair jobs and larger issues. A certified home inspector can help you identify any issues in the building. And, of course, always read any strata documents provided by your seller.

Updated July 12/2016:

Due to advances in waterproofing technology, we have added information regarding the Kryton waterproofing system (an alternative to epoxy injections), as well as improved the general readability of the article.

6 Tricks to Understanding Strata Minutes (and what to watch out for)

If you’re buying a condo or a townhouse, you’re probably going to be dealing with a Strata Corporation. A Strata is an organization that is set up to govern a multi-family residential complex, such as a condo tower or a group of townhouses.   The law in BC is for the seller to provide two years‘ worth of strata minutes to a potential buyer if an offer is accepted.   Looking through these minutes can be quite confusing if you’re not sure what to look for. Here are some tips on navigating these documents:

Condos by the Water


1. Read the AGM Minutes first.

AGM (Annual General Meetings) occur every year in a strata building, and, unlike monthly meetings, all owners of the building are encouraged to attend. If there is a big, hot-button issue or a major project coming up, this is where it will be discussed. Have a look at the AGMs first to get a summary of any large cost items.

2. Look out for SGMs.

SGMs (Special General Meetings) are one-off meetings that are called, usually as a result of some major repairs/remediation, or emergency issue that has come up. Examples include leaky condo remediation, lawsuits/litigation, or emergency (large fire, flood, etc.). Although not always bad news (every strata has had one at one point or another), if an SGM is called,  it’s probably a very important issue you should know about.

3. Read Depreciation Reports.

Depreciation Reports are required in BC for strata corporations as of 2013. A Depreciation Report is a unique report, prepared by a team of engineers and specialists, that outlines the health of a building’s large systems such as building envelope (siding, windows, roof), plumbing, heating system and structure. It also outlines how the strata will be paying for any future repairs / replacement, and when the repairs will occur.   It’s a great way to know what upcoming costs / levies you may need to pay over the next 5, 10, and even 20 years.   Note: A strata may choose to waive doing a depreciation report if more than three – fourths of the owners vote against it.

4. Look for weasel words:

Some stratas may try to hide embarrassing or serious issues by using weasel words:

“Due to elevated moisture levels in the dry board at the 4th floor, ABC Painting will be attending to provide quotation on treatment”

Translated: “The roof leaks on the 4th floor”

I’ve seen this countless times – if it looks fishy, ask someone on council.

5. Watch Out for Strange Behavior.

I recently came across this:

“The depreciation report is now in its 4th draft stage. We will be meeting with XYZ engineering company this month to have them add information about the great maintenance program we are implementing, and to revise some wording.”

Translation: “The engineer’s report was too critical, and we are having them re-write  the report until it looks friendly to potential buyers”. A strata that gets the engineering company to re-do the report five times may have something to hide!

6. Get a professional opinion.

Realtors, Home Inspectors and other industry experts can assist you with reading these minutes and may be able to point out red flags or areas of concern. If you don’t know the answer to a question – ASK! It may make all the difference – especially on the biggest purchase of your life.

Pinhole Leaks in Copper Pipes

I inspect many condominiums and large buildings here in Vancouver. Often the inspection of the boiler room will reveal failure of the copper pipes, in the form of corrosion and pinhole leaks. This recent condo inspection turned up leakage on the hot water supply piping for the building:

Pinhole Leaks Copper

A failing hot water pipe in a mechanical room

Corrosion like this may indicate a chronic problem throughout the building’s plumbing lines. Pinhole leaks are unfortunately a common occurrence for many homeowners, and, from my experience, there is a lot of misinformation regarding this problem.


What is a pinhole leak?


Cross section of a leaking pipe

Cross section of a leaking pipe

A pinhole leak is the breakthrough of the pipe wall when the pipe is undergoing “pitting corrosion” or simply “pitting”. When enough pitting occurs in the interior of the pipe, it will break through and water will begin to travel to the exterior of the pipe.


What causes pinhole leaks?

Pinhole Leak Copper Pipe

Corrosion in the boiler room of a condo building.


Pitting corrosion (pinholes) are directly related to water chemistry. High or low pH balance and water softness/hardness (high/low mineral content of the water) will directly affect certain types of copper piping, and can cause accelerated corrosion. Vancouver, for example, has extremely soft water.  The low mineral content has been blamed for poor protection from corrosion. For instance, in a hard-water region, the minerals in the water will form a protective layer on the interior of the pipe. Vancouver therefore suffers from greatly reduced copper lifespans.


What kinds of pipe are affected?


Hot water and heating supply lines are statistically more frequently damaged by pinhole leaks. The high temperature of the water can accelerate corrosion. Certain types of pitting will not occur in low water temperatures.

TIP: If you are inspecting a home or condominium, always have a look at the hot water lines near boilers/hot water tanks. Typically the hot water lines will fail before the cold lines.


What are the solutions?


Although there are several fixes for failed piping, the most obvious solution is to re-pipe the building. However, this is also the most expensive and destructive of the options. With the advent of flexible, easy-to-install PEX (Plastic piping), it is easier and more cost-effective than replacing with new copper lines, however significant damage to the interior walls is still often necessary.


Epoxy coating is a newer method that coats the interior walls of the pipe with a sealant. The system is shut down, water drained, and the coating pumped in. The advantage to this system is the lower downtime needed VS replacing the pipes. It is also less costly than re-piping.

UPDATE: After posting this article, I was contacted by Randy at CuraFlo BC, a company that specializes in epoxy coating. He answered several questions about epoxy lining, including addressing the common perception that the epoxy linings will fail prematurely. According to CuraFlo, there was some faulty product used prior to 2004, however their newest lining material, “CuraPoxy” has an extremely long service life up to 50 years. I will be providing more information on this system in a future blog post. Thanks Randy!


Wateryte Chemical Injection System

A chemical water treatment system.


Water treatment is the lowest-cost option. A chemical injector is installed on the water lines which injects a corrosion-inhibitor into the water as it passes through. This is a popular option for large buildings where re-piping would be extremely costly. Although it will not repair existing holes, the companies selling these products claim it will stop further corrosion from occurring. The downside to this system is the ongoing cost for injector and chemicals. It is also unclear whether these systems are a reasonable long-term solution.

One company offering water treatment in Vancouver is Hytec Water Management. I see many of these systems installed and strata owners seem to be happy with their performance.


What else can I do?


One word of advice: NEVER drain a copper pipe suffering from pinhole leaks. Draining and re-pressurizing a copper pipe may cause debris / mineral deposits sitting in pitted areas to loosen and cause a multitude of new leaks.


Further Information

For more information on this subject, visit the EPA website at

CuraFlo BC – CuraFlo BC

Buying a Condo in Vancouver

Buying a condo in Vancouver can be exciting and confusing. If you are ready to purchase a condo, have a look at the information below – it may save you time and money!

Commercial Building

1. Consider only an Independent Inspector who is not related to any party involved in the buying process.

2. Please provide your inspector with the MLS listing #. We consider it as important to review the listing agent’s description of he property. This is important, because, you may come along descriptions, such as new “rain screen” wall design. However, when inspecting the exterior walls it is sometimes discovered that only one single wall got repaired. The buyer may face the danger of facing eventually large unexpected assessments to pay for these deficiencies.

3. We recommend that you receive a copy of the Property Disclosure Statement (PDS), since this is an important document. The PDS will tell you in writing what your entitlements (e.g. locker / parking space) are. The PDS will also advise you who to contact on council if you require more information before removing your subject clauses.

4. We highly recommend that you review the Information Certificate (Form B). This is a very important document. It will advise, amongst other things, how much money is in the Constituency Reserve Fund (CRF). This is an emergency account. Under the Strata Property Act the owners are obliged to contribute a certain percentage of their maintenance fees, to cover large expenditures. Some examples would be re-plumbing, asbestos removal, building envelope repair or roof replacement.

You may be informed that there is a large emergency fund. You may learn that the STRATA has the amount of $X. We always recommend a simple test to determine just how much money is available in their CRF per unit.

Divide amount in the CRF by the number of units.

Number of units: 200

CRF = $250,000

Available per unit: $ 1,250

5. We also consider an additional figure for many condo buyers, purchasing a home where they actually want to live in, as extremely important. How many renters are living in the complex and is there a bylaw in place to regulate renting. This must also be considered as important in case you are looking for an investment property.

6. We recommend to our clients that you kindly ask your realtor to write into your Contract for Purchase that you are to receive copies of all Engineers and “Other Contractors” reports that have been submitted to the STRATA council over the last six (6) years.

7. We would like to advise you to read all minutes carefully. Please note that The Homeowners Protection Office recommends that for older buildings and especially for structures with face sealed stucco and the once which already got partially repaired, the STRATA should have an annual building envelope inspection performed by a professional building envelope specialist.

According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) buyers who did not request and read all the documents mentioned before, received notice for special assessments up to $200,000 within one year of purchase. CMHC also says, that many first time home buyers did not understand many of the information they were reading. Please ask your realtor any questions you may have. He is the professional who deals with these subjects on a daily basis.

8. We advise you to be careful in case you come along a realtor who advises you against an inspection. In case a realtor is trying to influence you, please be aware and follow your instinct. You want to protect the largest investment you probably make in your lifetime.


Author David Fairbairn has years of experience with Strata corporations, Leaky Condo remediation and commercial buildings. Trust him to perform your Condo Inspection! Call 604 395-2795 or email him at

How to Spot a Vancouver Leaky Condo From the Street

Leaky Condos are infamous in Vancouver, and rightfully so – they’ve cost homeowners, businesses and developers millions of dollars and caused heartbreak and frustration for almost twenty years. Here’s five minutes worth of reading that can save you countless hours of frustration.

Everything you need to know about Leaky Condos:

1). Leaky condos were built between 1982 and 1999. The building code changed around 2000 to require rain screens in stucco buildings.

2). Most leaky condos have stucco cladding. Stucco was popular during the Vancouver housing boom. The only problem is that it was installed face-sealed, which means it was installed tight against the building, with no cavity for water to drain from.

3). Leaky condos lack a rain-screen assembly: A rain-screen assembly is a thin cavity between the building and the stucco that allows air and moisture to flow – and not get held against the building to cause rot.

4). They kept being built because it took a long time for the problem to show up. By the time the industry realized what was going on, years had passed and thousands of buildings had been built with this faulty design.

5). Vancouver has high annual rainfall. This is key – in California there are many similar building designs – but with much less annual rainfall, their buildings tend to perform much better.

6). Problem buildings are easy to spot from the street. Take a look at the below photos.


A condo with a partial rain screen

In the above picture we can see expansion joints with flashings on the right-hand wall, between the floors.


A non rain screened elevation on the same building

In this picture we can see another wall from the same building – but no flashings.

The wall in the right side of the first photo has been rain screened. The wall in the second photo has not, and is face-sealed EIFS (Exterior Insulated Finishing System, also known as “Synthetic Stucco”)

This particular building had the east wall fail (and leak), but the strata elected to only remediate the one wall, instead of the entire building. However, this may be postponing the inevitable, as the other walls could eventually fail as well, and they will need to be repaired.

Rainscreening an entire building like this would cost millions of dollars, which will need to be paid by every owner. It is not uncommon to see strata owners have to pay enormous special levies for these types of projects.

Hopefully this article has helped you identify a rain-screened building. Knowing the difference will be beneficial when house-hunting in Vancouver.


Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has spent years working with Stratas on leaky condo projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC. Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection?

Call 604 395-2795 or email today!