Prepare a Rainy Day Plan for Repair Work

Prepare a Rainy Day Plan for Repair Work

Thu, 26 Jul, 2012 at 7:41
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This article was written by Pamela Dittmer McKuen and featured in the Chicago Tribune on April 13, 2012.

If your building has cracks, fissures and holes dotting the exterior, the spring rains are sure to find them. Proceed cautiously before taking major steps to batten the hatches. You could spend big dollars and still be all wet.

Many leaks are difficult to detect. What appears to be the site of water infiltration often isn't. Moist, rippled drywall, for example, could be the result of a defect in the siding, roof or windows, or a combination. The problem could be as simple as a nail in the wrong place or as serious as a deteriorating wall.

"Sometimes it takes months, even years, to get to the bottom of these problems," said structural engineer Mark Waldman, president of Waldman Engineering Consultants in Naperville.

In extreme cases, unchecked moisture can lead to mold and structural damage, he said.

Most industry professionals advise hiring a consultant, such as an architect or engineer, before calling a contractor. Many contractors dispense the same advice.

"I can say it seems like a window problem, but I'd rather work with a consultant," said Ken Mariotti, president of Woodland Windows and Doors in Roselle. "I don't want the liability. Those guys are experts. They know how water should be managed."

Quick fixes like applying caulk and wrapping aluminum over wood rot can compound the issue by trapping water rather than stopping it, he said.

A consultant's job is to investigate, diagnose and document problems; prepare technical drawings and specifications; and oversee and inspect remediation projects.

By requiring contractors to follow specifications rather than letting them come up with their own, you avoid wide variations in bids, said Mariotti.

Consultants use noninvasive and invasive means to diagnose water leaks. Noninvasive methodologies include visual observation, binoculars, moisture meters and specialty inspection cameras. Invasive methodologies include water tests and cutting away portions of walls or roofs.

"Masonry water tests are expensive and often misused," said Walter Laska, president of Masonry Technologies in Downers Grove.

The tests are more effective for determining window leaks and permeability issues than for masonry wall leaks, he said.

The cost runs from $1,200 to $2,500 per test, and a building may need a dozen tests, he said.

"There's a time and place for water testing, but you have to do the visual first," Waldman said.

When buildings need major overhauls, associations have payment options. They can tap their reserves, pass a special assessment, raise regular assessments or take out a loan. If they have money, they should use it first, said Frank Coleman, vice president of Wintrust Community Advantage, a division of Barrington Bank and Trust, in Palatine.

If you're thinking about borrowing, contact a few lenders during the early stages of the project. Lenders request a long list of documents and information to assure you can repay, and you need time to assemble it. A lender also can tell you quickly if you don't qualify, so you can make other plans.

Some of the backup you'll be asked for: legal description of the property, list of unit owners, sales history, two years of financial statements, declaration and bylaws, insurance policies and a delinquency report.

At Wintrust Community Advantage, the delinquency total amount can't be more than 10 percent of the annual budget, and no more than 10 percent of the units can be delinquent, said Coleman.

Owner-occupancy should be 75 percent or higher, he said.

Coleman also wants the articles of incorporation.

"We're going to check that you are registered with the state of Illinois as a nonprofit organization," he said. "The reason is because if a board member signs the contract, they are personally liable if the association is not incorporated. If that's the case, I can't work with them. Many associations let their registration lapse, so get registered."

Lenders also look at the reserve study and the additional projects coming up in the next few years, and whether you'll need to borrow money.

Another reason to hire a consultant to steer your project: The lender might require it. "When you call your engineer, call your banker," Coleman said.

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