Earth, Wind, & Fire! And Wind…

Condos | November 1, 2012

I’ll bet there’s one element of condo living that you’ve never once considered: the wind.

It won’t make or break your purchase decision, but it might break some of your stuff…

I actually started writing this post last week, but saved it as a draft and planned to come back to it.

Well, with Hurricane Sandy blowing up to Toronto on Monday night, I witnessed first-hand just how bad things can get on a condo terrace, which was far, far worse than I ever thought…

There’s a common misconception in Toronto that waterfront condos come with high-winds, especially on the higher floors, and that this is exclusive to Queen’s Quay.

Well, after a year of living in my not-so-new condo, I can tell you from experience that it’s not just on the waterfront, and it’s not just on the higher floors!

I was with a couple clients at Spire the other day, and one of them nonchalantly said, “Yeah…we lost a couple patio tiles last night…”

Patio tiles?

Really?  It was that windy?

“Oh yeah,” my client said.  “It doesn’t matter if they’re heavy or tied down – once the wind gets under them, it’s like a sail!”

This was on the 25th floor, but it’s not like the balcony is wide out in the open!

On the contrary, my patio is completely uncovered, and wide open.  We get a lot of wind up there, but it took us a while to realize just what could happen…

I was sitting inside one day last summer, and my fiancée came home and said, “I was just walking on the street two minutes ago and I saw this patio cushion that looked just like ours!  I swear – it could have been!”

I asked Jenna, “So…..did you pick it up?”

She paused and kind of smirked and said, “Ummmm….well, do we know it’s ours?”

We immediately ran outside and found seven of our eight cushions flapping in the wind, and one suspiciously missing!

“Oh boy,” we said, and Jenna ran back down to the street to grab it.  “Some homeless guy is gonna make a nest out of it!  Go!  Go!” I said.

She came back five minutes later with an even bigger smile, and burst out laughing as she held up the cushion: right in the centre of this square piece of fabric was a MASSIVE black tire-tread that was so clear, the folks at CSI could probably identify the make and model.

We never made that mistake again.

But we’re only on the 9th floor!  How could it be so windy?

It took some getting used to, but we’re pretty sure we’ve figured out all the drawbacks, and identified all the hazards.

Here’s a list, just so you can plan ahead…

That goddam pop canThat lonely pop can will rattle around and around in the wind until you finally go outside and pick it up, at which time you discover that it’s not your pop can.

I don’t drink beer from cans (actually I rarely, if ever, drink beer at all…) but on my current terrace and on the terrace at my old condo, a can of Miller Lite or Bud always seemed to make an appearance.

It’s such a small item, but it can be such a nuisance!  Consider a freezing-cold December or January night, around 2:30am, when you can’t sleep because of that damn can, rattling around on the ground outside your window.  It’s -22 degrees outside, and you have to bundle up to go outside and search for the offending piece of tin.  And search, you will!  It’s never where you suspect, and it’s never where you heard it last.  It’s dark, cold, and you’re half-awake, and you know that if you give up looking and go back to bed, it’s going to start rattling again.

Oh, if only you could find that Budweiser-drinking culprit who lives above you!

Plants and TreesIt’s hard enough to grow plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees on the terrace of your downtown Toronto condo (what time do we get “full sun?”), but it’s even harder when the wind rips your trees right out of the ground.

I have these 6-foot pieces of dowel (thin, long wooden stake) that I’ve attached to my rose bushes, and would you believe that the wind ripped them all out and sent them sailing?

So while the wind can’t pick up an entire tree, it sure can uproot it!

I watched on Monday evening as my cedars were whipping around like a figure-skater circling on one leg.  I can’t imagine that was good for them.

BBQ CoverBelieve it or not, I’ve lost my BBQ cover twice, although I was able to retrieve it both times.  The winds can get so strong that they almost seem to travel sideways/up/down/back/forth and bounce off each other so that they come in underneath a small opening in the BBQ cover!  Once the wind works its way up there, it manages to undo both velcro-flaps, and slowly work the cover off the BBQ.  Once that cover is half-way off, it’s like a damn wind-sail!

On Monday afternoon, before the evening wind storm we witnessed here in Toronto, my BBQ cover looked like a ghost was underneath:

I tied it up with rope – about 40 feet worth, up, around, down, underneath, and back again.  I awoke on Tuesday morning to find the cover completely blown off, and the rope dangling off the BBQ like pants on somebody’s ankles.  The wind was so fierce that it blew under the small openings in the cover, so much so that it put enough pressure on the rope to snap.

It’s not just BBQ covers either…

Last winter, I put the cover on my ping-pong table, and called it a day.  Little did I know, the wind would pull that cover right off!  I woke up one day to see the naked table – sans cover, and the cover was nowhere to be found on my terrace.  It blew off the 9th floor, and hopefully didn’t land on the windshield of a car!  I replaced the cover, and this time I tied it down with rope.  Well, it seems I’m no boyscout, because the winds untied those ropes, and the cover blew off AGAIN!  I found this one though – on my neighbour’s balcony…

Anything tall.  We had a seven-foot heat-lamp on the terrace that blew over and smashed.  Picture one of those heat-lamps – flapping in the wind, back and forth, with all the weight at the bottom where the propane tank is.  Now picture the top – with that “hat” looking-thing, that’s perfect for wind.  I tied the heat-lamp down for the winter as well.

In preparation for the storm on Monday night, I layed the heat-lamp down on the ground, removed the propane tank, and tied it to the railing.  This time, my ties held up!

Tiki-torches, garden gnome, wind-chimes.  These look really cool on a nice summer night, but they’re the first thing to break when the wind gets swirling.

A tiki-torch is to the wind what a large, metal pool is to a lightning-storm.

Anything in your garden, like a decorative clay pot, bird-feeder, or one of those East-West-North-South signs is going to be broken in the next wind storm.

Candles, coasters, and anything you use on a nice night!  Anything small and lightweight is going to be broken and/or gone by the time you take notice.

You know those tea candles that you get at IKEA for about ten cents each?  They’re kinda neat at 9pm when you’re having drinks, but running around and picking them up the next morning from every crevice of your terrace is a bit of a pain.

Deck tiles.  I alluded to this at the top, and while you might think that your deck tiles snap together and are pretty-well affixed to the concrete below, they’re not.

It doesn’t take a huge gust of wind to lift those suckers up, and once the wind is underneath, it can lift the whole thing up!  Try and picture a spatula slipping under a pancake to check if it’s cooked on that side – that’s the best analogy I can come up with to convey what it looks like during a wind-storm when a seven-foot section of patio tiles, all linked together, are raised by the wind.

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I wouldn’t trade my outdoor space for anything in the world, but I almost wish I was given a user-manual, and a set of LEGO-like instructions to go along with it.

Not a single terrace-owner in the downtown core was prepared for Monday night’s wind-storm, but the good news is: it can’t possibly ever get worse than that…

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6 Comments

  1. PPD

    at 9:55 am

    I was out at 1am on monday night picking up all my deck tiles because the wind was blowing them all over the place… also my BBQ was about 10 feet from where it was when we went to bed.

  2. mike

    at 2:11 pm

    you should get a nice weber bbq cover for your genesis they come with heavy duty velcro straps on each end so it wont fly away..home depot has em

    1. David Fleming

      at 2:38 pm

      @ Mike

      Believe it or not, I have one. A very nice Weber Genesis cover, with heavy-duty straps, and the wind did not seem to respect the heavy-dutiness…

      Rope and all – it blew away!

      1. Krupo

        at 10:54 pm

        My super cheapo $20 “FACTO” cover from Rona had flown off and landed… right next tot he BBQ when I got home. This was of course before I noticed it has those velcro straps.

        Secured straps, rolled grill closer to wall, and it was all there the next day – win!

        We’re very lucky we got the “second string” version of what hit NYC this time.

  3. JC

    at 10:44 pm

    This Toronto terrace owner was prepared.
    We had almost a weeks notice that it was coming!
    One of my neighbors still had their umbrella up. Not surprisingly, it ended up 4 stories lower on the ground… he’s lucky it didn’t go through someones window.

    I do wonder what it was like in my old 33rd floor waterfront condo. I remember a windstorm after I first moved in and I could see the windows flexing angrily with the wind. I was convinced it was going to give and spent the evening in a room with no windows, but they held.

  4. Windy condo

    at 5:50 am

    Hi, how would you keep the deck tiles in place? Looking for suggestions!

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