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Some Massive Capital Projects Aren't So Scary

Soundview, The Bronx

Terrace Railings

Water inside vertical railings was causing hundreds of terraces to crack. The solution was simple.

Aug. 27, 2019

Habitat spoke recently with Josh Koppel, president of H.S.C. Management.

A major challenge for co-op and condo boards is facade repair. Have you tackled any big jobs recently?

Yes, we had to resurface 170 terraces.

Ouch!

Yeah, on a 21-story building in the Soundview section of the Bronx. The terraces were taking in moisture. Some of the edges of these concrete terraces were cracking and falling off, just from absorbing moisture over the years.

What caused the concrete to crack?

The concrete was never treated with the proper coating. Since concrete is porous, it was absorbing water. But we also found, after investigation, that the railings were hollow and water was getting in through the joints of the railings and sitting in the base of the railings, which are embedded into the concrete. So they would fill up with water, freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. And we found several railings where the aluminum popped. That caused more cracks and more water penetration.

How did you solve the problem of water getting down into the railings? 

We thought it was going to be an absolute nightmare. We thought we'd have to redo every single railing, but we came up with an ingenious, simple solution. We drilled a hole in the side of each vertical railing, maybe three inches above the decking, and we filled each post with a rubberized cement to just below the hole. When the cement dried, we had an instant weep hole. No more water into the concrete.

Once you solved the engineering problem, you still had a logistical problem – dealing with all these people in their apartments, scheduling the work. Describe that, please.  

Oh, my gosh!  Everything had to be ripped up and removed from every terrace, and  we had to schedule certain people, customize their terraces, put down tiles, carpeting, paint it certain colors. It seemed like it was going to be a real nightmare, but most people cooperated, and we got very lucky. We were able to do all the work from the outside, without going through people’s apartments, which made the job much easier.

What can co-op and condo boards learn from a big job like this?

Sometimes, something that looks like a 10,000-pound beast isn't so scary. I was lucky. My board president is an experienced property manager for over 30 years, so he had a very good understanding of what was going on and what we were addressing. That made life a lot easier. The engineer and the contractor were phenomenal. Everybody worked together – that’s key – and we got the job done.

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