Saturday, April 3, 2010

Buying Property in New Zealand? Watch Out for Leaky Buildings

Lately there has been a huge amount of publicity about leaky buildings here in New Zealand. These buildings are ones that were built for the most part in the early 1970's through the mid 1990's. One classic example of a leaky building from this era would be monolithic clad buildings. However any building using untreated pine for external structure is particularly susceptible to what has come to be known as the Leaky Building Syndrome.
What is Leaky Building Syndrome?

Unfortunately many properties in Auckland are affected by this problem. This is when moisture is trapped or has access to untreated structural timbers without adequate ventilation to permit quick drying. The process begins once untreated pine is damp. Various black fungi begin to grow. At this point, even if the water egress is fixed, the black fungi that have set up in the wood will attract moisture from the atmosphere themselves and the rotting will continue. This ultimately will lead to an extreme negative impact on the structural integrity of the building. The adverse affects of this problem aren't limited to the buildings alone as the black fungus spores can also lead to respiratory diseases to the inhabitants as well.

Individuals looking at property for sale in Auckland or any other part of New Zealand need to be aware of this problem. Purchasers should obtain a report from a reputable company familiar with leaky buildings before making a purchase. A standard builder doing a normal building check is likely to miss dampness behind a gib board. Thus, to be 100% positive, specific testing may need to be conducted using infrared monitors. In some cases core sampling of structural members may need to be taken. It sounds like a hassle, but it is well worth it to be sure your potential home or investment is not affected by this costly problem.
A monolithic building may not leak for many years, so a test showing no evidence of water ingress may not mean, in itself, that the building is immune to the problem occurring in the future.

What should a purchaser look for?
There are four major things to look for when purchasing a property for sale in New Zealand:
1) Any multi-storey building with plaster over some form of board requires an expansion/movement joint and flashing between stories. Without these expansion joints, hair cracking will occur at some point which will allow moisture access into the structure. This moisture can then travel through capillary action and cause large amounts of damage.

2) The base of a plastered board should never go to ground level. If gardens have been built against such buildings then moisture, through soil via capillary action, will gain access into the walls.

3) Many of the buildings built in the aforementioned era previously did not have sloping iron roofs with deep eaves. Flashings then had to be very extensive to ensure that moisture was not driven into walls by the wind.

4) Many of the buildings described have flat, "inverted" roofs with some form of rubberised membrane. Again, if the plastering is inadequate or the membrane itself is damaged then moisture will enter leading to further problems

Any reputable company specializing in surveying leaky buildings should be able to identify any current problems and will be able to predict possible(and probable) issues for the future.
The potential costs of a leaky building are immense. My advice to any purchaser looking to buy property in New Zealand that was built in the time frame mentioned with any of the above characteristics is to do a thorough check, whatever the cost. Better to spend a little now in order to avoid a leaky home and costly repairs in the future.
(ArticlesBase SC #1018540)

Simon Damerell - About the Author:
Simon Damerell is one of the co-principals at Ray White Ponsonby, Auckland New Zealand. Having lived in the greater Ponsonby area, on and off, for the past 40 years, Simon's respect, dedication, and knowledge of the area is unparalleled.