Condo Maintenance Projects: Parkade Membrane Projects
Every condo building in Vancouver needs maintenance – hopefully it’s an age related item rather than a performance related item, but regular maintenance will happen on all the big items in a condo or townhouse complex: exterior, roof, windows/doors, balconies, electrical, plumbing, elevator, interior upgrades, fire systems, entry systems, and parkade membranes. Have you read about “Parkade Membranes” in MLS comments or strata documents? Have you seen a building with it’s landscaping torn up surrounded by scaffolding? Well that’s a parkade membrane project and it’s one of the most expensive and time-consuming projects a Strata can go through.
What is a Parkade Membrane?
A Parkade Membrane is, in essence, the roof of the underground parking garage. This “roof” has the building’s patios and landscaping on top of it, and like any roof, can leak water into the parkade. Because the parkade is part of the structure of the building, water leakage is not something you want to see as excessive water over time can lead to corrosion of the steel reinforcement and impacts to the structure, which is a far worse problem than the leaking water in the first place!
How do you know if a Parkade is Leaking?
A Parkade Membrane is leaking when you see a few things – water leaking through the ceilings or down the walls, or efflorescence on the concrete, which is a (typically) white-ish coating on the concrete due to the water pulling the salt out of the concrete where it’s deposited on top of the concrete and dries out, creating the efflorescence. These leaks are typically under the landscaping, and they’re due to the landscaping hold excessive water; water which will eventually find it’s way to a crack (which happen over time with concrete) and slowly drip in. If the parkade is quite leaky, you can smell the moisture in the air when you’re in the underground.
Fixing a Leaky Parkade
If the building is young (say, not yet 30 years old) leaks in the parkade can be fixed in a few ways. Parkades often leak for years before a full parkade membrane replacement is considered, due to it’s cost and the fact that there are some “band-aid” solutions to fixing the parkade membrane over time.
The first is a band aid solution which is to install “troughs” or metal diverters to direct the dripping water away from cars. This fix is for very slow, small leaks since you diverting a cascade of water wouldn’t do much for the parkade itself. You don’t want water leaking on your car since the salt can damage the exterior.
The second is another band aid solution called epoxy injections. These injections are a longer lasting solution than diverters since it stops the leak. Epoxy (a glue like substance) is injected into the cracks, which hardens and fills the gap, thus preventing the leak. One disadvantage of epoxy injections is the water will just find another crack, leading to further epoxy injections required at different points. Epoxy injections are an economical way of dealing with parkade leaks.
The big parkade membrane project is necessary when the leaks increase in number and size, and when both the exterior of the building and the interior/structure of the parkade is being compromised.
Parkade Membrane Project
Parkade membranes are built to withstand the pressure from exterior water (for typically 30 years) thanks to the waterproof membrane on the outside of the parkade (but underneath the landscaping and patios). Once this membrane starts to fail, it will need a full repair, which is an expensive and large construction job that can take months to complete and is fairly disruptive to the residents due to the noise, construction workers and lack of a personal patio space!
A Parkade Membrane Repair Project entails:
- Removing all of the landscaping, grass, patios and walkways
- Digging down to the Waterproof Membrane and Concrete Slab of the Parking Garage
- Replacing the Membrane and ensuring it’s sealed properly
- Re-doing the landscaping and walkways; ensuring the landscaping isn’t directly against the building and that any plants/trees on top of the parkade membrane won’t have roots that are strong enough to do damage to the parkade membrane
- Fixing any existing leaks/cracks in the parkade
It’s a big job, and it’s expensive (aside from a full rainscreen project, it’s the most expensive condo maintenance project), but as long as the Strata is on top of building maintenance, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, a special assessment (special levy) from all owners would be needed to pay for it. Seriously, a parkade membrane project can easily be over $1-million for a typical condo, but that price can vary depending on the size of the membrane (some buildings cover their entire parkade, so their isn’t much membrane under landscaping), the grounds (removing then replacing tennis courts, patios and expensive landscaping will add to the cost) and the scope of the project (some buildings will rainscreen the bottom portion of the building, or replace the fences, etc at the same time as the parkade membrane).