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Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

BRICKS & BUCKS

BUILDING PROJECTS IN NYC CO-OPS/CONDOS

Finding the Source of Leaks in a New Condo Can Be a Detective Story

Marianne Schaefer in Bricks & Bucks on July 8, 2020

Homecrest, Brooklyn

Leak detection, new condo construction, COVID-19, sponsor, condo board, warranty.

Photo-documentation of the leaks helped the sleuths do their work.

July 8, 2020

The quest to find the source of leaks in a building’s envelope can turn into a detective story. In such cases, the sleuths try to solve a pair of mysteries: What is causing the leaks? And who is going to pay for the repairs?

A resident in a newly constructed eight-story, 57-unit luxury condominium in Homecrest, Brooklyn, recently informed management that water was leaking through her kitchen ceiling, then trickling down behind the kitchen cabinets. “We thought it was really strange that there should be a roof leak to the fourth floor,” says property manager Alina Levina of Alvic Property Management. “When we looked at the other units in the A-line, we found that there was an additional leak on the fourth floor, barely noticeable leaks on the third and sixth floors, and nothing above that up to the top floor.” 

Since this is a three-year-old building where the sponsor is also a unit-owner and board member, management approached the sponsor, assuming that everything was still under warranty. “The first thing he said was that this is not under warranty, that the warranty was only for one year,” Levina says. “He suggested that the water came in from the side of the building, and that it’s (normal) wear and tear, even though the resident has been living there for only one year.”

The board and management contacted their lawyer, who recommended getting an independent engineer’s report before writing letters or starting a lawsuit. The board brought in the registered architect Valerie Landriscina of RAND Engineering & Architecture. “We were asked to look at six apartments, all of them in the A line, floors three to eight,” Landriscina says. “I visited with the super and the contractor who had worked on the building. The reported leaks were likely from rainwater, and they were related to the building envelope rather than the plumbing." 

When entering apartments, everyone wore masks and gloves. According to Levina, the residents were accommodating and helpful and did not seem to mind having workers in their homes during a pandemic. Landriscina was delighted with the photo- and video-documentation provided by the fourth-floor resident, who was now living with a wet wall and no kitchen cabinets. “It was impressive and very helpful to have all this information,” Landrascina says. “The more a resident keeps track of things, the easier it gets to pinpoint the entry point.”

The evidence pointed to several possible culprits, including a roof recess above the fourth floor that could have been the entry point for the most-affected unit. The architect also examined the facade from the street and noted cracks in the facade and other details that were not up to industry standards. 

Landriscina’s report recommended that the first step in the trouble-shooting process should be to go back to Carlisle, the company that manufactured the roofing material, which has a 10-year warranty. At that point, the sponsor became more accommodating since the roofing contractor is one of the sponsor’s subsidiary companies. 

Roof repairs are now under way, and all parties are hopeful this will resolve the leak and more sleuthing will not be necessary. “If the source of the leak doesn’t become clear, we will have to do systematic water testing,” Landriscina says. “That means water gets sprayed into all the potential entry points.” 

That could create even worse leaks and further damage the building. It might also antagonize the sponsor and complicate the second question: Who pays for the repairs? “Even though the sponsor is not antagonistic right now, we do wonder what will happen if the roof is not the culprit,” Levina says. “We should repair the wall in any case. It might be possible that the board will have to pay for it, but we already got a promising offer. It’s not going to be very expensive.”

PRINCIPAL PLAYERS – MANAGER: Alvic Property Management. ENGINEER: RAND Engineering & Architecture. MANUFACTURER: Carlisle Construction Materials.

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