Water Damage: Do You Think You’re Safe In Your Condo?

It’s not only freehold-home owners who fear the dreaded leak, flood, and/or soggy basement.

While those of us who live in condos don’t have a concrete foundation that sits next to thousands of tons of earth, absorbing rain-water daily, we do still have water, and pipes in our homes. Perhaps that saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” applies here: “where there’s water, there’s a way – for it to damage your property.”

I recently had massive water damage to my condo, but there was no pipe-bursting; no ceiling caving in.  It all stemmed from a slow leak that went unnoticed for a couple of weeks, but by the time we spotted the problem, the damage had already been done…

WaterHouse

Photos can’t do the story justice.

The damage, the source, the result, and the first-world-problem of having to live with damaged hardwood and no cupboard doors.

Oh, my word.  What a travesty.

Take a look…

 

A colleague of mine recently had water damage to in her condo, except unlike in my case, it had absolutely nothing to do with her condo.

The people who lived above her left their bathtub running (probably while out walking the dog – that’s always a good one), and she came home to find water dripping down the walls from the ceiling.

It always starts with a little bubbling of the drywall around the doorframes:

WD2

And then it makes its way down past the bulkheads:

WD03

And eventually, the drywall just starts falling off the ceiling:

WD1

Now comes the fun part: who is to blame?

And who pays for what?

Who’s insurance pays, and for what?

What if you’re a tenant?

Oh, the fun times!

Well, at least you don’t have a crazy neighbour seven levels above you, who feeds pigeons.

Yes, pigeons.

We’re not out in the country, with a bird-feeder that attracts Cardinals, and Blue Jays, and yellow finches.

We’re talking about pigeons; the bird equivalent of a rat, or a raccoon.

And then every five days when you’re finished pressure-washing your terrace, it returns to this state:

 

 

DeckPigeon

18 Comments

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  1. IanC says:

    We had three bidders for a condo job, and The Floor Shop rose to the top. They also suggested 5 inch planks. But if you want to avoid breaks and transition strips in your doorways, I think you’ll need to go with glue down vs a floating floor. I also think tile in entrances and kitchens is more appropriate for condos. Also – if you do get flooded again – there’s less wood to replace…

  2. Joel says:

    The old lady who lives in the other half of our semi also feeds pigeons and squirrels, which is disgusting so I feel your pain there.

  3. Alexander says:

    I can never comprehend installation of wood flooring in the kitchen or high traffic area. Esthetic reasons, of course. Tiles and only tiles.

    1. Condodweller says:

      Many would agree with this, including me, unfortunately, it becomes tricky with kitchens being put literally in the living room these days (in condos).

  4. Condodweller says:

    While water damage is definitely a real concern in condos the sheer amount of possible damage is nothing compared to house owners. My understanding is that damage resulting from flooding can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for houses and to make things worse your insurance company can drop you after one claim if they think it will happen again.

    Dishwashers and washing machines are a common source of leaks/floods in condos. Apparently, those rubber hoses on wash machines like to burst every 5 years or so. Even fridges can leak when their drain clogs.

  5. Francesca says:

    What happened to your floors David is giving me more reason to keep the tile floors in my kitchen rather than do all hardwood like you have. As much as hard wood throughout looks better aesthetically in an open concept condo/house I do think tile in the kitchen is more practical for potential leaks and water damage. I’m glad your insurance is covering the cost to replace them and your island. There was an article yesterday, I believe in the Toronto Star, that was talking about the flooding in the underground parking garage of the condos right on the Harbourfront, the original ones built in the early 80s.

  6. Alexis says:

    David, we’re redoing the floors in our king west condo and looking at options. Assuming you’ve already done the research do you mind sharing? What’s the best place to go to, what type of flooring works best, and what colors are in style? TY!!

    1. @ Alexis

      My pleasure.

      I ended up buying from The Floor Shop, but my guy is doing the installation (for several reasons, notably I’ve used him 5-6 times myself, and dozens of my clients have, but also because I’m doing the work while on vacation and he has no problem moving all our furniture around).

      I went with a Mercier, 1/2-inch, engineered hardwood:

      http://www.mercier-wood-flooring.com/en/products/design/hard-maple/smoky-brown

      It’s “smokey brown,” which should give some contrast to the dark brown espresso kitchen cabinets.

      Satin finish, not semi-gloss, which I find shows footprints too easily.

      The lighter colour will also show less dust than what we have now.

      5-inches wide, rather than the existing 3 1/2 inches wide, as wider is now cooler….apparently.

      Hope this helps!

  7. XO says:

    You have really hairy feet dude.

  8. H. Marshall says:

    Feeding pigeons is a easy problem for the board to fix. They just have to turn that issue over to the corporation’s lawyer. Also, pigeons are not a protected species so the board can call in pest control.

  9. Downtown-er says:

    Also note that some Toronto condos have recently discovered Kitec plumbing which can lead to pipes bursting unexpectedly. In these cases you may need to adjust your insurance to reflect this fact, not to mention pay several thousand dollars to have it replaced.

    1. Marie says:

      Downtown-er, the biggest problem from Kitec plumbing is the panic from real estate agents and media.

      From Carson-Dunlop: http://www.carsondunlop.com/home-inspection-services/the-story-of-kitec-plumbing/
      “We should start by saying that as of January 2016, we have seen very few failure problems with this piping in our inspection area. ”

      From Miller Thomson LLP: http://www.millerthomson.com/en/publications/communiques-and-updates/mtcondolaw-ontario/june-2015-mtcondolaw-ontario/kitec-whats-coming-down-the-pipe/

      “Anecdotally, at least, many property managers of buildings built with KITEC piping will tell you that they have had far more leaks from other piping than from KITEC.

      This may be a case of perception over reality – perception that KITEC piping is more likely to damage. We in real estate have seen this phenomenon before in the context of other construction materials (such as urea formaldehyde foam installation (UFFI)) where an issue is raised over a construction material issue and, once it seeps into the public consciousness, it can be blown out of proportion and create a stigma that is disproportionate to its actual risk.”

      1. Downtown-er says:

        I will be more forthcoming in my reply and say that *my* building has Kitec piping (I am an owner) and we are about to go through a mandatory, building-wide replacement. Owners will need to pay somewhere between $5K and 7K depending on the number of bathrooms in their unit.

        Whether or not there have been more leaks from other types of piping than Kitec is irrelevant. Even if the building decides not to replace it, the status certificate still needs to be updated to reflect the fact there is Kitec piping, which will negatively (and materially) impact re-sale values. Also, insurance companies will likely adjust premiums to account for Kitec piping.

        Also, the fact there was a $125M settlement on Kitec piping and that builders stopped using it in 2007, tells me there is something wrong with it.

        The Miller Thomson article seems to bifurcate the scenarios into ‘the sky is falling’ and ‘wait until something breaks’. I would come down somewhere in the middle and say that there is no need for condos to panic, however a prudent, methodical replacement of Kitec piping is in everyone’s best interest.

        And, as the MT article concludes (which is 2 years old and may not reflect the current thinking): “In many cases, the legal fees that would be spent litigating may be better spent on keeping the Corporation well-maintained and competitive in a busy condominium market.”

  10. Westender says:

    David, what was the damage to the condo below you? Is your insurance covering their repairs too?

    1. @ Westender

      There was no damage to the unit below. It was a really slow drip (that video clip in the middle of my video is what the plumber took), and the flooring and island absorbed the water as it slowly made its way out.

      I would assume that the insurance company would have covered any damage to the unit below.

      1. One Floor Below says:

        We wondered where all that water was coming from (kidding ;-))

  11. Jack says:

    Yes, there is flooding from above, which is kind of annoying. And then there is flooding from below:
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/lake-ontario-flooding-seeps-into-downtown-toronto-condo-buildings/article35270018/

    1. H. Marshall says:

      Large scale flooding of a condo underground parking garage is no joke. First, if the elevator pits fill with water, the elevators are out of commission. Second, if the huge transformer that is in the first parking level gets soaked, it goes out of commission and you could have no electricity for months as the owners at 914 Yonge found out.
      http://bit.ly/2sAv3st

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