Reporting and Repairing of Structural Damage in Strata Buildings

8 March 2016
By Chris Jakovljevic

There are an estimated 3 million people currently living within Strata title homes across Australia, in many different property types inclusive of Apartments, Townhouses, Retirement Villages, and Serviced Apartments.

As anyone who owns or has ever owned one of these properties knows, while the individual owns (and is responsible) for their own ‘lot’, they also share the ownership of common property with their neighbours. Common property generally includes things like gardens, structural elements, safety railings, common plumbing or electricity, external walls, stairwells, roofs and driveways. As an owner of common property, you are thus jointly responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the building, including structural damage, leaking roofs or even wobbly balustrades.

Given the burden of managing the building can be large, often the body corporate will look to appoint a third party strata manager, who works to represent the best interests of the owners. In this capacity the strata manager is required to support the needs of the owner’s association, to implement policies and keep financial and accounting records. Whilst this is fantastic at a Macro level, there is still a requirement for individual unit owners to take action to prevent or report any potential safety risks. In short, they’re responsible for ensuring the safety of building occupants, visitors and pedestrians in the near vicinity. reliability of the building’s structures.


Structural Damage in Strata Buildings - Building Maintenance - Remedial Building Services


Defining Structural damage (building defects)

A recent national survey on strata-titled property – conducted by Queensland’s Griffith University and reported on Domain, shows that building defects (physical problems found in the infrastructure or outer finish of a building) are the number one issue facing apartment owners in 2015.

Common types of building defects include:

  • Concrete cancer – This occurs when concrete slabs deteriorate due to weather conditions,the presence of contaminants, initial structural damage the most common of which is steel reinforcement corrosion.
  • Structural cracks in walls – Cracks in brick or concrete blocks are usually caused by nail pops. However, cracks that need repairing are usually caused by environmental factors including changes in ground conditions, causing the building’s foundation to move.
  • Water leaks – Water leaks in buildings usually occur in walls and roofs and are caused by defective water tank enclosures, degradation of waterproofing layers on the roof, and deterioration of water system components.

Costs of deferring maintenance

It is critical that any identified structural damage be reported and repaired as soon as possible. Even something as simple as noticing that there is exposed reinforcing steel should be immediately fixed before it rusts and expands causing concrete cancer. Too often people underestimate the severity of exposed reinforcing, thinking it is just an eyesore. However, when not fixed, what starts as an aesthetic problem can escalate to be a structural and thus safety risk.

Thus, proactive building maintenance is recommended as a way to prevent any condition that will over time, weaken the integrity of the foundations. It thus falls on both the owners as a legal entity and as individuals to fully understand the importance of fixing any signs of minor structural damage, early. These seemingly harmless conditions can be easily repaired before they turn into major safety risks and large financial burdens.

What to do if you think you have structural damage?

Identifying areas of concern is only the tip of the iceberg. What you see is all too often just a small part of a deeper, problem requiring expertise structural assessment by an engineer who will compile a report on how to repair the structure in accordance to Australian Building Code. Avoid the extra worry and use professionals experienced in providing industry-grade building services.

If you think your building is at risk of structural damage, contact Remedial Building Services to organise for a member of our team to visit your property for an assessment. We offer a range of services including concrete repair, waterproofing and other extensive building solutions to ensure your property and its common areas are well-maintained and safe for owners and guests alike.