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Major Reconstruction – Sooner Or Later, a Challenge For All Vero Beach Community Associations

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Every association will face a major reconstruction project several times in the life of the development. This may occur because of clearly anticipated problems, such as re-roofing or re-painting, but it also will occur because of completely unanticipated (and unreserved-for) problems such as dry rot repair, soil subsidence, and leaks in windows, siding, and foundations. The Davis-Stirling Act only requires a reserve for those components that visual inspections into accessible areas reveal have a useful life of 30 years or less.

But what about components in areas that are not accessible? What about areas under staircases that sponsor dry rot due to long-term intrusion of water? Framing components under siding that have allowed water to enter slowly for years without any way to get it out except evaporation? Deteriorating concrete walkways or driveways due to the invasion of roots or soil subsidence due to unconsolidated fill? Or, balcony railings rotting off at their interior supports? Three people in Antioch were severely injured last week when such a railing collapsed. None of these building components would be included in the typical reserve or maintenance budget.

So now you have a collapsed balcony or maybe a lot of rotted siding and no funds to repair any of it. What to do? This scenario has occurred to many associations which have encountered unexpected repairs that were not funded by the usual reserve fund.

Finding the Right Expert

The first thing to do is retain the services of someone who can advise the association on the proper means of repair. Vero Beach general contractors, architect, engineer, or construction manager? Which expert will you need? A lot depends on the complexity and extent of the problem. If, for example, you have a failed Vero Beach condo balcony support beam-say something that has rotted due to years of water intrusion-just replacing the failed beam may not be enough. You don’t want it to happen again.

The first thing would be to retain someone who is a pro with waterproofing. Would you choose a building consultant or an architect? Architects are more expensive, but for a very complex waterproofing issue you want someone who has enough skill and understanding to re-design the system to make it water tight.

On the other hand, if the basic design is sound, but the materials have failed to do their job, a materials consultant who specializes in waterproof membranes may be the right choice. In our practice, we would start with the architect or an engineer because this particular balcony railing example involved a life-safety issue and because a re-design and/or strength calculations may be necessary.

If their opinion is that the problem is relatively simple to solve such that a re-design of the waterproofing system or a re-calculation of the strength of the system isn’t required, and the project simply requires a re-build of the original design, then a building consultant or a general contractor might provide the specifications.

On the other hand, if the basic structure has proven inadequate for other reasons, such as deflection over time, or failed joists or columns, a structural engineer might be necessary to do the proper calculations and provide a re-design of the structural components. A few hours of an architect’s time will usually be enough to determine the level of expertise required for the project, so if in doubt, hire an architect first.

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