Wet Climate Exterior Envelope "Risk Factors"

Based upon my experience as a home inspector and my understanding of the experience of others, there are some useful "risk factor" guidelines which can help identify structures which are prone to exterior envelope failure in wet climates:

  • buildings with a very small or no roof overhang (see notes about flat roofs);
  • buildings with exposed "waterproof" decks/balconies;
  • EIFS, stucco, vinyl and/or manufactured wood sided buildings;
  • buildings with sloppily installed vinyl siding (Hint: vinyl doesn't rot but if the water gets behind the vinyl the framing will rot.)
  • vertical wood siding and very thin wood siding;
  • low priced buildings with vinyl siding;
  • buildings with flat roofs (unless these roofs were designed and installed by experts!);
  • buildings with an open exposure to the prevailing winds, sun, and rain; and,

  • buildings with non-traditional designs.

    None of these risk factors can be used to predict exterior envelope failure by themselves. I am also sure that there are buildings with multiple risk factors and no exterior envelope problems. However, buildings with one or more of these risk factors:

    1. require top quality design, construction practices, supervision and inspections;
    2. require frequent and careful maintenance inspections; and,
    3. are more likely to leak and require more frequent repairs and more costly maintenance.

    Or, as my doctor tells me: a history of heart disease in the family and my elevated cholesterol levels do not predict a heart attack, but such risk factors do suggest a need for exercise...(darn!)

    Many of these concerns about condominiums are faced by owners of single family residences; some are unique to owning one unit with the joint ownership of common areas. Unfortunately, condominiums and other multi unit structures tend to have more of these problems. A particular shock for those who purchase a condominium out of a desire for fewer maintenance and repair responsibilities.

    For a comparison of condominium vs. single family home ownership, see Q&A: Should I Buy a House or a Condo?, one of the hundreds of indexed questions and answers in the Sound Home Consultant section of this site.