The Downside Of Toronto Terrace Living

Are you ready to throw up your morning bagel?

If you are, then watch this video, where I show you the downside of terrace living.

I’ll give you a hint, folks: it involves some elderly lunatic on the 21st floor of my building feeding pigeons like it’s going out of style.

As embarrassed as I am to show you the mess on my terrace, I figure it’s a good discussion point…

Gross, right?

Well, I may have said, “…one a month,” in my video, but to be quite honest, I’m out there weekly in the summer.

The warm weather this month represents a double-edged sword: I can use the exterior hose, since it’s still warm enough to avoid any freezing pipes, but the warm weather also means some birds have forgotten to fly south for the winter.

The result: I’m out there, days before we turn the page to December, washing birdsh!t off my deck.

My terrace is fantastic.  It’s the reason I bought this condo, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But having spent five wonderful, bird-free summers on that terrace, all I can think about is this past summer, when the torrential downpour of birdsh!t began.

So while I don’t think the “downsides of terrace living” cancel out the upsides, I figure I’d provide the following list of the top five issues you’ll encounter when owning a large, outdoor space in a downtown Toronto condominium:

1) Cigarette Butts

This is, always has been, and always will be, reason number-one.

I’ve written about this time and time again, and nothing will ever change.

Putting up notices in the elevators won’t work.

Sending out group emails won’t either.

When you have (and I’m really going to stereotype here), some greasy, 20-something, wearing too much cologne, hosting a “pre-drink” at his 1-bedroom condo, and he’s leaning over the railing talking on his phone to his ‘bro, while hacking a butt, the chances that he suddenly thinks, “Hey, I shouldn’t be the asshole that I am, and flick this cigarette butt outwards as though I’m in a hot air balloon overtop of a pit that sinks down to the centre of the earth,) is slim to none.

You can’t stop an asshole from being an asshole.

And people who smoke on their balconies, and flick cigarette butts, will always smoke on their balconies, and flick cigarette butts.

2) Midges

I alluded to this in the video, and showed a screen-capture of a few midges on the glass window.  But when things get really bad in September, that entire window would be peppered with midges.

The severity seems to vary throughout the downtown core, but suffice it to say, there are some buildings in Toronto where you literally cannot walk outside in September without getting a midge in your eye, up your nose, or in your mouth.

They only seem to dominate your outdoor space for about a two-week period, usually mid-September, but trust me when I say you’d feel the effects.

3) Dust & Dirt

I would like to believe that we live in a relatively “clean” city.

We’re not exactly walking around with surgical masks like the folks in some cities across the globe, where the air quality is poor.

But one constant in the downtown core is construction, and while you might not be living right next door to a large pit in the ground with a crane extending into the sky, the dust and debris has a way of spreading through the air, and onto your terrace.

If you’re hosting friends for a dinner outside, try running your index finger along the glass table as you set up the plates – you might be able to write your name on that glass.

As with the midges, and everything else on our list, it varies from area to area.

My terrace is open air, so I don’t get that much dust.  It would seem the terraces that are a bit more cramped, covered, or adjacent to other buildings/walls/structures get the most dirt as wind seems to love blowing through small spaces!

4) Dirty Window-Water

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t blame the guys cleaning the windows.  They have one of the scariest jobs out there.

But I do blame every property manager, in every condo, where window-washers are hired to clean 20-storeys worth of windows, and squeegee all of the dirty water off the windows, and let it rain down on the terrace below.

I understand, there’s probably no other way of doing it.

But I’ve lived in two condos with large terraces, and both times I’ve experienced the torrential downpour of dirty water onto my terrace.  Both times, of course, I told property management, “It sure would be nice if you told the window-washers to tackle my windows, to make up for the fact it’s been raining muddy water on my terrace for ten days.  Would you believe that both times, the property manager failed to think outside the box, and recited a paragraph from the Condominium Declaration about “inaccessible versus accessible windows?”

Anyways, that’s my rant, my problem, and my opinion.

But residents with terraces, and often balconies, have to be ready for both dirty-window-water, as well as water dripping down from people (over)watering plants.  Just because you don’t have several hundred square feet, and you’re tucked away underneath a unit or balcony below, doesn’t mean you’re safe from your neighbour that, much like the guy flicking cigarette butts, has no idea where the water goes, once it leaves his balcony.

5) Bird Crap

I think we covered this one in the video, no?

It’s 5th on the list because it’s really not all that common.

But honestly, folks – I’ve never understood the attraction to pigeons.

They are the bird equivalent of a squirrel, which is just a rat with a tail.

Would you put out food to attract rats?

If you live in the country, I can see having a bird-feeder to attract blue jays, cardinals, finches, sparrows, hummingbirds, warblers, sparrows, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

But attracting pigeons to your condo balcony?

You have to be just a little bit crazy.

You’ll probably find the odd beer can on your terrace once in a while.

And I’ve twice had somebody drop their cell phone, and come knocking on my door (once at each condo).

I had a guy come by looking for his “throwback Canucks hat” last year.

My building hired a company to cut away all the excess rubber that was around each exterior window (I’m assuming this was the sealant they used to install the windows), and it rained rubber strips onto my terrace for three days – none of which, the razor-happy workers picked up.

If you’re really unlucky, you’ll live below a lazy young’in who lets his or her designer teacup dog piss on the balcony, only to have it drip down onto your patio set.  That happened to a client of mine last year.

The window-washers often tie their ropes to, and around, things on your terrace.  Don’t be surprised if they break something.

They might also use your hose, make a mess, clean their shoes and/or tools, and almost always leave the hose running.


I think the theme here is that if you combine people, the earth’s creatures, the elements, and mother nature, you can find any number of pitfalls on a large, outdoor space, in the downtown core.

But as I said from the start, none of these issues can trump owning, maintaining, using, and enjoying a terrace.

Developers are building fewer and fewer of them, and when we do see large terraces in new developments, they’re almost always in unaffordable penthouses.

Now, as for my bird problem, are any of you a crack-shot with a pellet-gun?


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  1. Paully says:

    Pigeons have no night vision and do not fly in the dark. Leave out some tasty pigeon treats to convince them to roost on your terrace and head out to collect them after dark. Bam! Squab for supper!

  2. Max says:

    i Guess that’s why they only build them for penthouses now so there’s nobody above you .

  3. GinaTO says:

    The cigarette butts alone are enough for me to not want a terrace. People at my former condo constantly had their patio furniture burned by cigarettes. And the dog poop falling from balconies. My friend had entire (cooked) chicken and fish fall on her terrace.

  4. Condodweller says:

    I have a 1000sqft terrace and fortunately, cigarette butts haven’t been an issue so far. My biggest issue is my condo crop which won’t let me do anything out there.

    Generally, though the biggest problem is bodies on your balcony. Apparently, people are more considerate than others and instead of jumping in front of the subway train they do commit suicide at home instead.

    We had someone die on one of our ground level patios which I believe was foul play due to the police tape. Unfortunately for the owner, I don’t think it was instantaneous either as he/she only fell a few floors.

    I would prefer to clean up bird sh!t over human blood any day! Keeping my fingers crossed neither happens anytime soon.

  5. downtown says:

    I wonder how much of the dust you attribute to construction is actually fine particle dust from car tires. There have been studies that show a strong correlation between asthma and proximity to traffic. When I lived on Yonge St (in the 90’s when there was no construction in the vicinity), my window screens and window sills would collect black dust that I would periodically have to wash off. I noticed the same thing (but much worse) when I visited a friend living in a very industrialised area of Japan.

    1. ed says:

      My theory on the dust is particulate from car exhaust and diesel trucks. My back deck was one block from Bloor/427 in Etobicoke and the amount of dust in the summer was brutal. Also bad in spring but that was pollen, different story.

  6. Gwen Van Kleef says:

    At a patio restaurant on Lake Erie, I saw a brilliant handling for seagulls and other birds. They had tightly strung fishing line criss-crossed along the railing up toward the wall of the restaurant. NO BIRDS. Cheap and works.

  7. Joel says:

    I live in a semi and my neighbour is an old lady who spends her whole day feeding pigeons and other disgusting animals, so it is not just condo terraces that have that problem.

    I am hoping that future generations can get rid of this ‘habit’

  8. Francesca says:

    I lived in a condo with a good size balcony where the upstairs owner would let his dog pee and poo on the balcony and then he would sweep it off his balcony and it would end up on mine. For about 3 weeks I had to come home every day from work and take photos to document the poop and send it to the property manager. Luckily it was handled quickly and it never happened again but geez how inconsiderate can you be? The condo had townhouses around the perimeter of the building that had terraces and I often wondered how much crap they would find from the condo balconies upstairs. Considering the weather we have here in Canada in my opinion it’s almost not even worth having a balcony or terrace so as not to have to deal with all these issues! Besides I would imagine there would be a considerable noise factor to deal with in the summer time too with people entertaining outside late and being able to hear that in adjacent units.

  9. JP Terrace says:

    I’ve got about a 1100sq ft terrace in the core and the midges are insane during that 2 week time in Sept (and there also seems to be about a 2 week period in the spring). I would add that you can mitigate most of the other problems if you happen to live on the roof of the building as opposed to the pedestal base.