Waterproofing & Mould in Strata

What to consider when waterproofing in strata

Waterproofing of an apartment building occurs during construction with membranes and protective coatings.

There are a significant number of reports in the strata sector relating to problems and damage caused by unsatisfactory waterproofing work. In fact, the most commonly occurring serious defect in strata buildings relates to waterproofing, affecting 23% of recently surveyed buildings, followed by fire safety (14%).

Water penetration issues are also the largest strata insurance claims area, post defect phase.

Damage can also occur with owners renovate bathrooms and kitchens.

The most common issues are leaking plumbing taps, and pipes, ruptured water pipes, deteriorated roofs, and inadequate waterproofing on balconies. When water seeps into the building’s foundation, it starts damaging the structure. This can result in spalling or concrete cancer and major structural issues.

When these issues are not resolved quickly, ongoing water penetration will cause significant and costly building damage and potential health hazards.

It’s worth noting that any building work or damage stays with strata history and may impact property value in the future so it’s best to fix any waterproofing issues early.

Who’s responsible for waterproofing in strata?

Determining who’s responsible for waterproofing issues or works in strata depends on the source and location of the issue.

Waterproofing issues identified in common areas are the responsibility of the owners corporation and generally, anything that is within the airspace of your own private lot, such as a bathroom or kitchen including baths, toilets, sinks and dishwashers, is generally the owner’s responsibility.

However, there are exceptions to that rule, such as repairs to infrastructure that may be located within your unit, but is deemed common property, so it’s always wise to check with your strata manager before organising any repairs or upgrades. Determining what is lot owner property and what is common property, depends upon your strata scheme’s strata plan and by-laws. For general advice on Who’s Responsible, refer to NSW Fair Trading Common Property Memorandum or SCA Who’s Responsible Guide.

For example, a burst pipe in a wall is likely to be the owners corporation’s responsibility if it’s in a boundary wall or if the pipe serves more than just your lot. The owners corporation is also responsible for water penetration problems coming in through external walls or the floor.

If you wish to renovate your bathroom or laundry, any associated waterproofing works are your responsibility as is your responsibility to ensure they are carried out professionally. Works that include waterproofing are considered a ‘major renovation’ under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 and require a special resolution vote made by the owners corporation to proceed. This type of approval, cannot be delegated to the strata committee.

Who’s responsible for mould resulting from water penetration or dampness?

Determining who is responsible for mould, also depends on the location of the mould, and what initially caused the mould to develop. In strata apartments, mould will typically grow indoors in wet or moist areas lacking adequate ventilation. Common strata mould issues arise from water penetration from the building’s facade, waterproofing issues, water leaks from other apartments, or a burst pipe. It can also result from a resident’s actions or inactions such as drying clothes inside, not opening windows during the day, ventilation fans not being used, windows closed while cooking or fans without proper flue expelling steam outside.

Depending on the source, it can be either the owners responsibility or the owners corporation. For rental units, it is the responsibility of the landlord to keep the unit mould-free, unless the cause of the mould is from the actions or inactions of the tenant.

Choosing a qualified waterproofer

If a building you own in, or you are undertaking renovation work within your unit, make sure the project doesn’t develop any issues related to waterproofing.

Using qualified waterproofing tradespeople and good quality materials for any waterproofing works will reduce possible problems.

Don’t always go for the cheapest quote, especially if it seems too cheap in comparison to others. Check out client reviews on Google from shortlisted suppliers, if the work is substantial, request senior personnel from the company to oversee the job.

Most issues with remediation projects for instance are a disconnect between scope and delivery. For substantial remediation works, a full scope of works should be put together by a structural engineer or waterproofing consultants.

Being licensed for waterproofing is only required on contracts worth more than $5,000, but you should only use appropriately qualified people for waterproofing work, regardless of the value of the contract and do the same due diligence as you would for major works, as a small project can become costly if not undertaken correctly.

When in doubt, contact your S+ strata manager. 


Useful Resources

How to prevent and clean mould from SafeWork NSW


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