Transition is often times a confusing issue for condominium associations run by Boards populated with unitowners who are not attorneys and who have no prior experience going through the process. Upon transition of control of the condo association board of directors from the sponsor-developer to the unitowners, a key responsibility of the Board is to engage the services of an engineer or architect to conduct an inspection of the common elements and building design to determine if there are any deficiencies. One of the most important considerations for the Board in transition, is spending the Association’s money wisely when it comes to engineering investigations. This is the first in a series of articles designed to help condominium associations focus their efforts to investigate the condition of the common elements in a cost effective manner. This first article focuses on investigations of builds clad with brick and cast stone.

Many condominium buildings are clad with brick and/or cast stone. It is important to understand how the designers of the buildings intended the brick and cast stone systems to be installed. The construction drawings typically have details showing at least the rudiments of the design intent for installation of the brick and cast stone. Brick and cast stone are porus, and therefore, most designers inted for there to be a weather resistant barrier wrapped over the framing sheathing of the building before the brick and cast stone are installed.

That weather resistant barrier is usually 15 pounds felt paper or Tyvek. Typically, there is a 1 or 2 inch air cavity between the weather resistant barrier and the brick or cast stone. This, coupled with the flashings installed at key locations, allows water to drain out of the system through weep holes in the brick and openings at the bottom of the system.

An experienced engineer or architect can look at a building and see deficiencies in the installation of a brick/cast stone system that may lead to water infiltration inside the wall cavity that could damage the sheathing and framing under the masonry cladding. They normally look for missing or blocked weep holes, missing or improper flashings, deteriorated or missing sealants and mortar in joints in the system. Efflorescence (a white deposit on walls caused by salts in the materials leaching out through exposure to water) is a possible indication that water cannot escape through the weeps and flashings and instead is forced to work its way out through the face of the brick or cast stone. If this is true, it is also possible that the water is working its way back inside the building.

What the Board needs to understand is that it should focus its investigative efforts and resources on documenting the extent to which water is infiltrating inside the building and damaging sheathing and framing. As fiduciaries, and as a matter of good common sense, the Board shuld be doing this. However, there is a practical reason why this needs to be the focus of the Board’s engineering investigations.

The sponsor-developer is almost certainly an LLC or corporation with no assets once the last unit is sold. The subcontractors who constructed the common elements are also very likely to be small companies with no assets of any significant value. Therefore, the only way the Association is getting paid for the deficiencies it finds in the construction of the common elements is through insurance policies insuring those responsible for the deficient construction.

Analysis of those policies is beyond the scope of this article. For purposes of this discussion, what the Board needs to understand is that the insurance will often not cover your claim unless you can show proof of damage to sheathing and framing. You need to understand this and direct your engineers/architects to focus their investigation on finding this damage.