10 Mar 2016

Water ingress in apartment buildings

One of the most common problems that we come across is water ingress in apartment buildings. Not only is it common, it can almost be the most difficult problem to resolve. If your complex is experiencing water ingress, rest assured, you’re not alone.

There are three main causes of water ingress:

1. Plumbing leaks/ burst pipes

These can happen within your apartment (which is typically easier to resolve), inside wall cavities or inside apartments above you, where you may experience water leaking in to your apartment but can’t see where it is coming from.

Unfortunately, it can sometimes be very difficult to locate the source of these leaks. This may be due to access restrictions (where we can’t get hold of the owner of the relevant apartment and can’t get access inside) or it may be because the water is travelling a long distance and the source of the leak is somewhere very unexpected (we’ve experienced leaks that were only visible three floors below where the leak was actually occurring).

It is important that you address any plumbing leaks within your own apartment as soon as you become aware of them. Although the leak may not seem excessive, there may be more to it than what you can see.

2. Deteriorated waterproofing or grout in showers, around drains or on balconies

This can be a common problem, particularly in buildings that are over ten years old. Sometimes the grout may appear to be in good order, but it may have become porous and water might transfer through to the apartment below.

It is important that you maintain all wet areas in good order. Depending on your lot boundaries, this may be your responsibility as a lot owner, or it may be the responsibility of the strata company. Being proactive and keeping these areas well maintained will save you money in the long run, as repairing water damage can be expensive, and if claimed on insurance, may lead to an increase in future premiums and/or excesses.

3. Roof leaks

Roof leaks can also be difficult to locate and resolve as the water may travel long distances before it settles and starts showing signs of water damage. Roof leaks don’t just affect apartments on the top floor, they may travel down wall cavities or plumbing ducts and settle in apartments several floors below.

We recommend that Council’s arrange regular (at least annual, before winter) roof inspections to ensure all areas of the roof are in good order and appropriately sealed, including gutters, roof tiles and penetrations.

It is important to remember that with all water leaks, it can be difficult, time consuming and costly to locate and resolve. Not all leaks can be avoided, however many can. Below is a summary of what we would recommend to be proactive in minimising water leaks at your complex:

  • Ensure you’re aware of the plumbing within your apartment and observe any abnormalities (e.g. the sound of water running constantly, dripping, or minor leaks around plumbing services such as your toilet, split system air-conditioning unit or hot water system). Act on any abnormalities quickly by engaging a plumber to inspect.
  • Ensure waterproofing and grouting of wet areas is well maintained and any signs of deterioration are addressed quickly.
  • Get to know the owners and/or residents of the apartments directly above and below you, so you can easily contact them if you experience leaks from above, or if they experience a leak from your apartment.
  • Suggest that the strata company implements a maintenance plan to include roof inspections.
  • Know the locations of isolation valves and isolate water to unit (if possible) when going on vacation.

If you have any concerns, please contact us on +61 8 9429 5777 and ask to speak to Kara Grant, Head of Strata Management or you can email Kara below.

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