When it comes to keeping the exterior surfaces of a co-op, condo or HOA well-maintained and free of any potentially dangerous structural issues, it’s up to the management company and board to take steps to insure the safety of residents and visitors alike. After all, a chunk of loose concrete on a high-rise can be life-threatening to anyone who walks by on the sidewalk. Loose bricks gone unnoticed just a flight or two from street level can cause an alarming level of damage.
That’s why periodically, the exterior of multifamily buildings should undergo inspection by an engineer or other qualified professional. The purpose of such inspections is twofold: they're a way to check for cracks, settling, and other signs of serious damage, and they also can give boards and managers vital information about the condition of their property that in turn helps them plan their budgets to allow for future maintenance needs.
Make it Routine
The requirements of facade inspections vary depending on what municipality the building is in. In New Jersey, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) runs housing inspections every few years to make sure exteriors, as well as common spaces, are up to code. “If the DCA inspects your building and finds you in violation, they give you a time limit to get an estimate and repairs done, otherwise they can impose a fine,” says Brian Bolger, owner of Magnolia Development, LLC in Succasunna. Beyond that, there are no other state maintenance requirements. New Jersey expects associations to handle ongoing upkeep on their own.
Facade materials, weather conditions, and the age of the building in question will affect what inspectors are looking for when they analyze an exterior, but property managers should follow an established protocol to make sure corners aren't cut, and any deterioration isn't missed. “After the winter's over, property managers should bring in one of their general construction contractors—someone familiar with the entire building envelopes,” says Bolger. “The contractor will do a walk-around each of the buildings and inspect all the key areas to make sure there's isn't any water penetration. This doesn't involve the removal of any stucco or brick; if they notice a problem, they'll make a note of the area, and put it on their spring project list.”
Generally, inspectors look for deflections, cracking and delamination in concrete framing, corrosion or deterioration of any steel or wood frame components, and evidence of water intrusion. They also may observe issues with windows, shutters, screen framing, accessories, piping systems in garages, and roofing systems where applicable (usually in associations in suburban areas). An inspection should also identify any cracks, spalling or rebar corrosion in masonry walls/balconies. And, additionally, roofs, floors, windows and exterior finishes are evaluated for deficiencies or any damages that may affect the safety and stability of the building or buildings.