Tile on your balcony

June 25, 2013

An improvement that provides significant visual improvement to your condominium unit is the addition of tile on balconies.  While aesthetically pleasing, the maintenance and subsequent problems associated with a tiled balcony could be significant.

There are any number of tiles that we’ve seen added to balconies and yes, they look great.  But what you should consider is the impact it will have over the long term to the concrete surface and support structure underneath.  Tile and grout are inherently porous materials to begin with.  With balconies exposed to rain and salt air the destruction of the materials underneath goes unnoticed for a number of years until a very serious problem develops such as concrete spalling.  If the tile wasn’t there to begin with, the damage could have been addressed and resolved earlier in the process.

Another problem, one that develops in the short term, is the amount of water that exists between the tile and mastic.  Water will sit in these grooved areas and eventually cause the tile to lose its adhesion to the mastic.  This results in the tile buckling and cracking.  While on a cursory inspection it could go unnoticed, closer inspection will reveal cracked grout and a hollow sound under the tile. With all the water that begins to accumulate under the tile, it will eventually look for a place to drain to.  Typically, if the balcony is pitched away from the building correctly, this water will leach out over the sides of the balcony and take on the appearance of the grout with it.  Imagine a light colored building with black stains leaking over the side, similar to mildew.

One more consideration is the availability of replacement tiles should one of your tiles become damaged.  While white and off white ceramic tiles are always available, granite, travertine and marble are difficult to match after the fact. How much tile do you want to store away for future use?

For condominium owners its important to know and understand the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions as well as the adopted Rules and Regulations related to floor coverings for your balcony.  Because the balcony is considered a limited common element (check your particular association covenants), the association should, could and would have a say it what you can and cannot do because ultimately, the association is responsible for its upkeep.

While a tile balcony looks great, the maintenance and problems associated with it far outweigh the benefits.  Before putting tile on your balcony, consult with your condominium Board of Directors, an attorney familiar with condominium laws in your state, and a certified contractor.


Stucco Exteriors Part 2

June 23, 2013

What is the long term price you ask?  Follow along as we explain what happens over the long term if stucco deficiencies are not repaired correctly.

stuccoHere’s the picture of stucco construction again for reference.  Imagine you have a crack in your stucco higher up the wall.  Water will penetrate this crack, run down the inside of your elastomeric coating and finds a location where the coating has lost its bond with the stucco.  When this happens a bubble in the coating will appear.  To fix this you must drain the water, cut away the elastomeric coating and reapply it, then paint to match.  But did you find and repair the location of the where the water was getting behind the stucco?  Then this problem will continue to occur.

Another issue is the constant expanding and contracting of the concrete material on the side.  The accepted depth of the scratch coat and brown coat is 3/8″.  The finish coat is 1/8″.  As a result, the concrete coatings will expand and contract at different rates creating cracks at different locations along the wall.  Ultimately, this will allow salt infused water to reach the lath which is where the fun begins.

When water comes in contact with the lath, the metal screen beneath the concrete coatings will begin to rust and deteriorate.  When this begins to happen, the concrete coatings begin “popping”, losing their adhesion to the building.  You will begin to see buckling areas with the only thing keeping the siding on the building is the coating.

But we’re not done. This water that has permeated and reached the lath will sometimes have nowhere to go.  As a result, the tar OSB_failurepaper will disintegrate and the OSB underneath will begin to expand and rot as well as the stud walls.  OSB used 30 years ago was  not as waterproof or reliable as the engineered wood products used today.

The point to be made here is unless your oceanfront condominium has been properly maintaining the stucco exteriors and been sealing and recoating your buildings on a routine basis, you could be experiencing one or more of these problems.  This is a serious problem that will probably require extensive capital investment.  But once these repairs are performed and the building envelope is up to today’s standards, proper maintenance should keep your buildings in good condition.

The perils of stucco exteriors

June 17, 2013

Today, we’re going to talk about your buildings. This might end up being a two part post, so bear with me.  During the 1980’s there was a real estate boom here in Florida that saw a proliferation of “town home” style buildings being constructed on or near the ocean.  Some were two and three story affairs spread out across a large area.  While this provided more oceanfront ownership, thirty years have passed now and the age of these buildings is starting to catch up with them.

The construction of these buildings, while code appropriate in the 1980’s, is now starting to show its deficiencies.  The first floor was usually constructed of concrete block while the upper stories were wood frame construction.  The entire building was then covered with stucco.  After 30 years this lath/stucco style of construction is deteriorating from years of salt air exposure and driving rains.

When you see a stucco residential building, the construction usually goes like this:  wood stud walls (the interior will have your stuccodrywall affixed to it), OSB (oriented strand board), tar/waterproof paper, metal lath, scratch coat of masonry, finish coat. On the concrete block area, the vapor barrier is applied to the block, lath, scratch coat then finish coat.  Depending on the preferences of the builder and the developer, the finished exterior of the building could be painted with an elastomeric coating or the stucco finish could have a color pigment added to it.

After a few years, cracks will develop in the stucco due to expansion and contraction of the concrete stucco allowing water to penetrate to the lathe screen. Think of your concrete driveway and the cracks that develop there.  On the SM stuccoocean, this lath will begin to rust if not addressed quickly.  In addition to the rust, wood rot begins to develop on both the OSB and the wood studs.  The nature of the repair goes from bad to worse if neglected.  In addition to the rusting metal lath that holds the stucco in place, the elastomeric coating loses its adhesion to the stucco and you will begin to see bubbles appear under the paint.  This is actually water that has come in from somewhere else along that wall and found a section of coating that’s loose and bubbled out.

Where are we going with this?  The answer is has your condominium association been repairing the stucco correctly or have they just been patching it and moving on? Price is always the driving factor when it comes to repairs but are you saving money now? Because you will have to pay that price later.


Tropical Storm Andrea Updates

June 6, 2013

Check this page throughout Thursday and Friday for updates regarding updates on the impact of Tropical Storm Andrea on the Northeast Florida areas and associations managed by Property Management Systems, Inc.

11:00 This storm is predicted to be a significant rain event with flooding possibilities, an estimated 5″ is possible.

7:00 P.M.  No damage reported at Ocean Place

Hurricane Preparedness for Condo Owners

June 4, 2013

It’s June 1st on the east coast of the northern hemisphere. What does that mean?  Welcome to hurricane season 2013.  For some, hurricane season is just a weather event to be endured by coastal residents from Texas around the Gulf of Mexico, up the coast of 2011-08-26_08-57-35_520Florida along to Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.  But what we found last year is those north of the Carolinas are not immune from Mother Nature’s fury.

Here are some preparation tips for condo owners living along or near the coast.  Making real and executable plans now will allow you to make better decisions when and if the time comes.


1. If you live on the water, simply plan on leaving.  Make arrangements now for where you will go, not when mandatory evacuations are ordered.

2. Plan on leaving early to avoid being stranded on roadways.  Fill up your gas tank and get cash, pack your bag along with needed medications for your travels.  You can read my evacuation story at the end of the list.

3. Bring in patio furniture, chairs and chaise lounges.  Also bring in any hanging plants, grills or anything else that could become a projectile in high winds.

4. Pack a cooler with snacks and drinks.

5. Have a carrier or leash for pets.


1. Have someone available that can remove your patio furniture and secure your unit as much as possible.  Bear in mind, the people available that can provide this service will have other out of state owners calling to provide this service.

2. DO NOT assume that your service provider will board up your windows.  Things move pretty fast when a hurricane is coming and the service providers will also have to secure their own personal property as well.  If you already have hurricane shutters, chances are high that your shutters will be put down anyway.  If you do not have hurricane shutters, your condominium association might have standards in place for attaching boards to common walls including not allowing any nails or screws in exterior walls.  Become familiar with your association’s standards for boarding up windows.

3. If your condominium is in a rental program,your rental agency will, most likely, have already started preparations.

4. Prepare for lack of communication in the hours leading up to landfall. Phone lines and cell towers become jammed and sending and receiving phone calls becomes hit and miss.  Unfortunately, in situations like this it becomes necessary to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

During my years as a condominium manager I actually had to evacuate once.  It was 1999 and Hurricane Floyd stretched 650 miles from top to bottom.  Emergency planners and weather forecasters could not make a definitive decision on land fall.  The result was the evacuation of millions of east coast Florida residents flooding the interstate system.  Interstate 95 in Florida and Georgia turned in to a parking lot in a matter of hours as well as Interstate 10.  Gas stations ran out of gas and hotels filled up.  What normally took an hour to travel took five and six hours.  If someone managed to leave early enough to avoid the coastal highway traffic still ran into problems in Macon and other middle Georgia towns. The six hour ride to Atlanta took 12 and 13 hours. Churches along the coastal highways, interstate and secondary roads, opened up their churches to house evacuees.  The moral is plan for the possibility and make your decision to leave early.