Deck Coatings & Their Care

Waterproof deck coatings and Condominiums seem to go hand in hand in California. It seems that nearly every HOA complex has them, either over a living space or attached off a room. Residents love them because their decks are often used as another room of the house, owners and managers of income property usually detest them because of the problems that seem to always come along with them. eco friendly decking

Some owners and managers seek to minimize their exposure to these problems by seeking to change the CC&R’s, making owners responsible for these exclusive use areas. Other Boards just put their heads in the sand, repairing decks as a complaint comes in, usually with the bare minimum of work to stop the deck from leaking. Smart managers and Boards will tackle the problem head on, looking to get their deck problems under control right away. As a former HOA manager, I saw first hand how ignoring maintenance on waterproof decks could be very expensive.

The cost of a new waterproof coating isn’t cheap, but the cost of repairing dry-rotted framing supporting the deck is a lot worse. An Association I managed signed a contract for resurfacing eight decks in Pismo Beach. That contract turned from an $8,000.00 + resurfacing into over $100,000.00 in dry-rot repairs when it was all over. The Association had deferred the maintenance required by the manufacturer for several years beyond the recommended maintenance schedule, allowing the surface to degrade to the point where water was able to penetrate into the framing and rot it from the inside out.

Inspections

The key to preventing decks from becoming a problem is in inspecting the decks. Often times the manager and or the Board will walk the Associations common area property for inspection of the components the Association is responsible for. Typical items that are checked are downspouts and gutters; the condition of the paint on the buildings, the roof and whatever else can be readily viewed from the street and sidewalks. As water proofed decks are typically on the second or third floor, they usually are never inspected. Access through the home is difficult to arrange with owners and what manager or Board member really wants to climb a ladder?

Therefore, the decks just linger by themselves, never really thought of until an owner calls to say that water is dripping into their home from the deck above them during the biggest rainstorm of the season. Then the deck problem raises it’s ugly head, causing the manager to go into crisis management mode, calling a handyman out to temporarily cover the deck, waiting for a deck company to come out and look at it, getting the Board to approve the repair, all of which can take a month or more. The owner is frustrated because their deck leaks, the manager is frustrated because he or she hears from the owner 2-3 times with complaints, the deck company is usually busy with lots of leak calls and it takes forever to get anything done that cures the problem.

Frequent (at least once per year) inspections will help eliminate problems. Catching small problems before they become big problems can save considerable sums of money from having to be spent on framing repairs due to leaks. Summer is an ideal time to inspect decks, it isn’t raining and there is some time before the winter storms begin anew to get bids and make needed repairs. The inspection needn’t be a difficult thing to do; there are many things to look for that a layman can spot pretty easily. If the Association or management firm has a deck company that they trust, perhaps hiring them as an outside source to perform the inspections would work well. Digital cameras can be used to provide photo documentation of the conditions found, allowing the manager and Board to get an exact idea of the problems that they may be facing.

When doing your own inspections, it will be helpful to know what type of deck coating is on the decks. A brand name helps, but more importantly, knowing what type of material has been applied is better. Elastomeric, urethane, lightweight concrete and floating systems are typical coating materials in use on many decks. In knowing what type deck coating you have, you will be able to know how often the deck will need to be maintained.

Warning signs to look for on your deck inspection include cracks in the deck coating, nails popping through the coating from the subsurface, delaminating paint and bubbles in the coating surface. Any of these items found is a sign that the waterproof surface has been compromised. Owners should be looking for these warning signs too, as well as looking for stains on their ceiling or walls in the home below their deck. Metal flashing can be checked for signs of rust, pulling loose from the deck coating or if it is bent or broken.

If you find these problems on a deck, a simple check of the condition of the substrate underneath can be achieved by using your foot to check for softness. Be careful, it may be so soft that your foot could go through the deck in a worst-case scenario! Soft substrate is indicative of what could be a bigger problem underneath, dry-rotted framing and/or termites. The other hot button in today’s HOA world is mold and mildew. This may exist underneath also.

 

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