I felt compelled to share the details, photos and video of this property inspection. Property managers, homeowners, and prospective home or income property buyers can all benefit from seeing the signs of waterproofing and decking failure. My biggest challenge by far is conveying how routine maintenance on balcony decks, walkways, pool decks, roof decks, and parking decks actually keeps repair costs down in the long run. Routine deck inspections, repairing small cracks or leaks, and regular re-sealing can significantly extend the life of your deck. Most people understand the concept that if they get the oil changed in their car engine, for as low as $50-$90 every 3,000-4,000 miles, it will extend the life of their engine. This same principle applies to waterproof decks: if you reseal your waterproof deck every 3-5 years, your waterproof decks will last significantly longer. If you repair small cracks, holes, or rusted metal before they allow too much water to penetrate the layers of your waterproofing system, you avoid costly repairs, potential wood rot, mold, termites, and structural damage (very expensive).
Back to this inspection: Built in the 1970’s, these walkways utilized Magnesite, a water-resistant concrete-type system that relies on correct sloping to divert water away from the structure. These older systems are quite durable when they have been installed properly, however, when it comes time to replace them, it is necessary to break up and remove the Magnesite, replace any damaged or rotted wood, and install a new system. Newer systems, such as UPI, Dex-o-Tex, Pli-Deck, etc., are waterproof, and correct installation includes deck-to-wall metal flashing, door pans and weep screed to keep water from reaching the structural components of the building.
In this particular case, the Magnesite system began failing years ago, and no attempt was made to repair or replace it. Had the building owners replaced the Magnesite walkways, their costs would be limited to removal of the old system, and installation of the new system. Since they waited years too long, they are now looking at complete tear-out and rebuild of the stairs and walkways, as the wood rot has significantly compromised the structural beams.
Their is an enormous liability issue with the walkways on this building, which is frightening because occupants have no other choice but to use these stairs and walkways to access their units.
Here’s a link to a video of the inpection: