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 drywall 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 ocean, 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.