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Water Intrusion

Every now and then a nor’easter, tropical storm, or hurricane sweeps through and tests the watertight integrity of condominium buildings.  Some condos hold up well during these events but many of them experience water leaks. Condo owners who speak the lingo refer to water leaks as “water intrusion”.  One of the largest contributors to water intrusion is leaks through windows and doors.  Such leaks can be caused by defects in the window or doors but water intrusion can also occur if the windows or doors are not installed correctly.  The 3D construction video below shows and example of what can happen if a window is installed incorrectly.

In this example, the window’s head flashing was not properly integrated with the building’s weather barrier.  Water oftentimes gets past the siding or stucco on a building and the next line of defense to keep water out is the weather barrier.  The weather barrier in the example above is underneath the head flashing rather than over it.  This results in water infiltration behind the weather barrier system and water intrusion will eventually occur.  Once water is behind the weather barrier it can travel to many different components of the building causing structural damage and damage to the interior finishes.  Water intrusion often results in mold growth on the interior of the building.  This condition exists in many condominiums in Florida and condo owners usually don’t realize they have water leak issues until structural damage has already occurred.  Doors in condominiums can leak in the same manner.

When replacing windows and doors, Condominium owners should take the following steps to avoid water leak issues:

  1. Choose a high quality window or door that can withstand the effects of a wind driven rain.  Hurricane rated windows and doors are now mandatory along coastlines in Florida and other states.
  2. Obtain window and door installation details from a licensed architect or engineer.  These act as instructions which contractors use for the installation process.  Condominium associations can hire an architect or engineer to create such documents for the use of all the condo owners in their building.  This will save money.
  3. Choose a reputable contractor for the installations.  The cheapest contractor is almost always a bad idea when is comes to installing windows and doors.  Choose a contractor that specializes in window and doors installations in an oceanfront environment.  Always ask for and check references during the contractor selection process.  It is well worth it to pay a little more for a contractor that knows what they are doing.
  4. Have your windows and doors tested by an architect or engineer before you pay your contractor for the work.  This is an added expense but it is well worth it to protect yourself.  Don’t wait for a wind driven rain event to find out if your windows or doors are watertight.