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Keys homeowners! What's the deal with "Spalling"?

We're close to making an offer on an oceanside condo but the patio is a bit torn up and the Realtor explained that it was "spalling" where the salt moisture can rust a tied/rod/beam to the point that, in this case, a few floor tiles popped up. The Realtor, who also lives there, explained that several other units have had this pop up on some patios over the last few years. The condos were built in 1983.

They use this company to do the repair work and the unit that we like will have the repairs started on May 1st.

http://www.sabreconcorp.com/our_services.htm

Now, is this something that happens in a high salt-air environment like the Keys? Is this something that we should run from? Is this kind of a "normal wear-and-tear" result of living in the Keys? Is this a never ending can of worms? Should I drink rum and not worry about it?

The condo association is paying for the repairs since it's an "external" issue.

Any comments or suggestions here would be greatly appreciated! :thumbsup

Replies

  • conchydongconchydong Pompano BeachPosts: 11,973 AG
    Being the unit is old but not really that old, most likely the steel rebar was placed without the proper amount of concrete "cover" which allowed the early oxidation of the rebar and subsequent spalling of the concrete. The high salt air environment accelerates the issue. You may or may not be in for a can of worms depending if the improper placement of the rebar is consistant or isolated. Obviously the exterior patio is more exposed than other areas.
    The company you listed seems to be reputable. Make sure they remove and replace all of the exterior tiles to inspect the whole patio as there may be "other" areas that have started spalling but haven't lifted a tile yet. After the rebar point repairs , I would seal the slab with a commercial quality polymer based sealer prior to re-tiling to minimize additional exposure. Lots of top quality products by Sika, Thoro and Euclid to name a few.
    I would still drink rum anyway

    “Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

  • EnvyUsEnvyUs Posts: 15 Greenhorn
    I think conchy pretty much covered it. Lack of concrete cover and inadequate sealing will cause spalling. My only concern if I was a homeowner is the cost to repair all the balconies in the future. If only two have been repaired so far I can guarantee there are more to come. All the repair costs are passed on to the owners in your condo fees. I would expect the fees to increase over the years to pay for it. But if the association has planned for all the repairs in the future and current fees reflect it you should be ok.
  • FrisbeeFrisbee Posts: 2,314 Captain
    Usually the whole condo goes and the association gets it done for everyone as it can become a structural issue to other units.
  • capt benjcapt benj Posts: 125 Officer
    I think you need to get into the specific details with the realtor, condominium association, and specifically assessment and reserve details. If the problem is minor here and there only maybe it’s not a big deal for the association. If it turns into a building wide project, it could be a big deal cost wise. If the condo association does not have reserves built up for the expense, all unit owners will be paying an assessment. It would suck to just buy in there and then get hit with a large assessment.
  • Egrets LandingEgrets Landing Posts: 953 Officer
    Spalling is quite common in the Keys. It's is a real mess and can be costly to fix, particularly if its is spread all over the place. They have to jackhammer all that concrete away from the rebar until all of the rusting areas are exposed. Then patch it all back up. It is not a simple and easy fix. I would have a local contractor look at it and give you an honest 3rd party opinion of what it will take to fix and what you may be looking at once they dig into it. What is visible and what is hidden is the problem and the associated risk.

    Then investigate what funds are available via the association and evaluate the risk of further increases in dues as a result.
  • Gary MGary M Posts: 13,246 AG
    Thanks guys.....

    A few of the buildings (6 total I think) have already had their balconies re-done. Ours (not really as we've yet to make an offer!), is the farthest from the ocean...... about 250 yards away but the balconey faces it. The condo association does have an "emergency fund" and are in the midst of a 2-year assesment to re-supply that right now. They had work done on some balconies about 8 years ago and they did crap work...... now they use the company listed above and have been "happy" so far. The realtor's building had them all done at once and it took about 2-3 months to complete it.

    The unit has been on the market for nearly 4 months with no offers. The owner lives in San Fran and will make a really nice profit, no matter the price. I'm starting to think that it might be wise to sit tight and wait until all the work is completed. That way I don't walk into a hornet's nest and buy it in the middle of repairs. I will run the risk that someone else jumps on it though..... It comes with a deeded, very nice 35' boat slip.

    Any other suggestions? Call the company doing the repairs? Go visit the unit after the repairs are underway?

    Thanks.......
  • HawkboatHawkboat Posts: 1,030 Officer
    I had the same problem when looking at home in Key Colony Beach. The home was 2 stories and the outside staircase had rust running through it. I was Told that when some of these homes a re built they use RAW rebar. Raw meaning no powder coating (That green coating on rebar) on the outside which results in the rusting process almost imeditatly between the salt air exposure while beng constructed and the water in the cement, and seemed every home had some sort of issue with rust showing through the concrete.

    With a cost of almost 20K to replace the stairway I chose to just walk away. This was in 2001 and now after reading this it looks like I made the rigtht choice.
    Capt Bill
  • capt benjcapt benj Posts: 125 Officer
    Or, you could make a deal with the seller that takes into account the possible repair assessment. Just need to figure the worst case & come up with something fair for both of you. Don't let it keep you from getting a small piece of paradise!
  • kalamfletcher28kalamfletcher28 Posts: 4 Greenhorn
    I think you should defiantly get a 3rd professional opinion about the severity of the repair needed. There are plenty of local contractors (my self included) who would be happy to give you a free evaluation of the general condition of the structure.

    Insert shameless plug here: Beacon Construction of Marathon, state certified building contractor CBC 1258103

    Kalam

    305.481.0606
  • daeucodaeuco Posts: 144 Officer
    Hawkboat wrote: »
    almost 20K to replace the stairway

    Holy God!
    I think I'll move down there and replace stairways for a living!
  • plasteredplastered Posts: 641 Officer
    GARY
    You see alot of the condos up by us getting there balconies redone for the same reason.
  • HawkboatHawkboat Posts: 1,030 Officer
    Hire and inspector as I did, not that a contractor doesn't know what to do but you might find other issues also.

    I did, best 250 I ever spent.
    Capt Bill
  • HawkboatHawkboat Posts: 1,030 Officer
    That was a 14 step precast concrete stairway with powder coated rebar tieing into a balcony and the landing pad which all had to be redone. Plus removal of all debrie. Now once they cut the old one anyway I could of had the same problem with the balcony.

    Sort of like opening Pandoras box.

    Had to be ordered and delivered, and subject to inspection. You just don't pick them up at Home Depot and I am sure it's not something laying a round a stock yard.

    The best one I saw was all the electrical work done in a brand new house and all the wall outlets were installed upside down, doesn't sound like much but whe doing a rental with handicap availabilty (say a blind person) evrything has to fall into code, best part was when they told the contractor they did nothing about it. Sort of like installing the cold water on the left hand side.

    Then again this was 2001 when things were booming but sort of made me think this is what I can see. Whats behind the walls or in this case in the concrete that I can't see.
    Capt Bill
  • privateer19privateer19 Posts: 439 Deckhand
    The key is isolating the rebar from everything else, including the concrete. Properly coating is a must and will result in a system that will retain it's integrity. That is more imprtant than anything that goes on the surface of the concrete. That being said you need to properly waterproof the patio and pitch the tile to drain. NO STANDING WATER!
  • Gary MGary M Posts: 13,246 AG
    capt benj wrote: »
    Or, you could make a deal with the seller that takes into account the possible repair assessment. Just need to figure the worst case & come up with something fair for both of you. Don't let it keep you from getting a small piece of paradise!

    Yeah, that's what I was thinking about. Either buy it discounted or build in a timetable and price to split future spalling issue assessments for a set time period. Something like that.

    Here's the only photo that I took. The problem area seems to be at the base of the building wall and column for the sliders. We're concerned that when they really start digging in there, that it will move into the living room. The condo Manager noticed it, had some preliminary grinding done to confirm it was spalling and called in Sabre Con right away.

    030-2.jpg

    The owner has no direct finanancial responsibility here as it's paid from the Condo Association. I will contact the Realtor, who not only lives there, but who's husband is the Secretary of the condo association, and ask her about past assessments for this same problem.
  • alacrityalacrity Posts: 2,666 Captain
    Gary M wrote: »
    Thanks guys.....

    A few of the buildings (6 total I think) have already had their balconies re-done. Ours (not really as we've yet to make an offer!), is the farthest from the ocean...... about 250 yards away but the balconey faces it. The condo association does have an "emergency fund" and are in the midst of a 2-year assesment to re-supply that right now. They had work done on some balconies about 8 years ago and they did crap work...... now they use the company listed above and have been "happy" so far. The realtor's building had them all done at once and it took about 2-3 months to complete it.

    The unit has been on the market for nearly 4 months with no offers. The owner lives in San Fran and will make a really nice profit, no matter the price. I'm starting to think that it might be wise to sit tight and wait until all the work is completed. That way I don't walk into a hornet's nest and buy it in the middle of repairs. I will run the risk that someone else jumps on it though..... It comes with a deeded, very nice 35' boat slip.

    Any other suggestions? Call the company doing the repairs? Go visit the unit after the repairs are underway?

    Thanks.......

    if you go forward with this deal, make sure yo have an attorney to protect you (hint hint). the seller should indemnify you for defects occurring before you purchased the unit. it occurred during his ownership, although it will be fixed during your's, therefore he is responsible for it. as mentioned previously, determine what reserves exist, if any, and whether there is insurance available.

    if the unit has been on the market for 4 months, this might say something about the unit or the association. have other units in the association also had difficulty selling?

    i represent a family from latin america that owns several very expensive units in one building in Sunny Isles Beach that had problems with defects. you should have seen the ensuing fights. they spent a ton of money protecting their assets. you cannot believe what a cluster**** these things can create among the owners and the association.

    i'm not saying walk, but . . .
  • mskin314mskin314 Posts: 55 Greenhorn
    I just went through this issue with a property in Key Largo. A few of the Concrete stilts and other parts of the house were spalling and needed repair. We brought this to the attention of the seller and had it repaired before we purchased the property. This is what I did.

    Have at least 3+ contractors head out and give you estimates. If all their estimates are somewhat similar as to what needs to be repaired then you have a good idea of whats happening. I also had 2 Structural Engineers head out and give me their opinions (not cheap). My Neighboor had to replace an entire wrap around balcony due to spalling and he told me it was VERY expensive.

    Do your due diligence and don't be afraid to spend a little money to prevent a HUGE headache down the road. Let me know if you have any other questions.
  • BCSAILSBCSAILS Posts: 436 Deckhand
    capt benj wrote: »
    Or, you could make a deal with the seller that takes into account the possible repair assessment. Just need to figure the worst case & come up with something fair for both of you. Don't let it keep you from getting a small piece of paradise!

    Good idea, get a third party quote for repairs, then write that number into the contract as a hold back or a deduction and make an offer and see if they bite? Or maybe they would write in a time frame window like five years of coverage should the work be needed with a max amount covered?

    Our Key Largo family home was 20' feet from Largo Sound and after 40 years we had some bad Spalling on the second floor decks/over hangs facing the sound but did not do repairs prior to selling and the buyer ended up tearing down 90% of the home and then rebuilt. We did have some big chunks of CC drop the last few years. Good luck with finding the right place...E.
  • SFL_crackerSFL_cracker Posts: 105 Officer
    I deal with this on a daily basis at my job (south florida). Just about every concrete high rise will run into concrete issues, especially the closer to the salt air you are. From what I've been told, tile on the balcony is a no no. Water will work its way under the tile and sit there casuing more damage. The worst is the indoor/outdoor carpet.

    The owner is not going to want to do a deal with an future contingency. It does sound if your Associaiton does have somewhat a handle on the issue.
  • Gary MGary M Posts: 13,246 AG
    Thanks guys. I'll have to throw a Forum Bash in the very nice clubhouse there if we end up getting the place!

    Keeping in mind that we haven't even made an offer yet, I doubt that I can order up any inspections, etc. Of course, when the time comes, I will order an independent inspection of the entire unit. Plus, this is an "exterior" problem and falls to the responsibility of the Condo Assoc/Management. "I" most likely at this stage have zero horsepower in this situation.

    Today I will email the Realtor and ask her some more questions such as:

    1) Have the previous spalling problems there been limited to balconies only, or have the problem ever infiltrated inside any condo itself?

    2) Have their been any previous "special assessments" been made in order to pay for previous repairs?

    3) There is a 2-year (ongoing now) special assessment that is to "re-build the reserves". Is that to resupply the account due to previous expenditures for other spalling issues?

    4) Are there any other spalling problems that Sabre Con will be working on next week when they start on the unit that we are interested in?

    Any other questions that I might ask her?
  • keys windowkeys window Posts: 69 Deckhand
    CHC has spalling on the balconies just like every other condo in the keys. Most of it seems to originate on the outer edge where the screen enclosure and shutters are mounted. Water gets into the slab through the installation screws and the rebar rusts.
    I have installed Impact Sliders in several of these units, and have not seen any spalling under the door tracks, or inside the units. Nothing around any of the window openings either.
    The building closest to the office had all of the balconies redone a couple years ago. I have not noticed severe spalling in any of the other units I have been in.
    What you have is common and expected on the balconies and doesn't look to be too severe.
    The manager at this complex is good and seems to proactively take care of problems. She will tell you the truth.
    Every older building we have ever worked in has spalling, and this is far from the worst.
    Next time your there, bring something to feed the piranhas in the lake, they eat anything.
  • Key West 1Key West 1 Posts: 16 Greenhorn
    Who is the realtor you are working with?
  • urbanRenewalurbanRenewal Posts: 395 Officer
    Hawkboat said,

    "The best one I saw was all the electrical work done in a brand new house and all the wall outlets were installed upside down"

    When we lived in Columbus GA "upside down outlets" were pretty much standard in most of the apartments and homes we saw. Never did figure out why?
    Capt. Tom Urban, "urbanRenewal", Cudjoe Key, FL www.LooeKeyReefAdventures.com
  • daeucodaeuco Posts: 144 Officer
    Hawkboat said,

    "The best one I saw was all the electrical work done in a brand new house and all the wall outlets were installed upside down"

    When we lived in Columbus GA "upside down outlets" were pretty much standard in most of the apartments and homes we saw. Never did figure out why?

    Maybe the sparktrician was lisdexic?
  • HawkboatHawkboat Posts: 1,030 Officer
    That why they call em SPARKY's...sorry couldn't resist that one.

    The thing that amazed me was it was pointed out and never corrected, even when the house was sold 4 years later.

    For Gods sake, send apprentice/ helper back and fix it the right way
    Capt Bill
  • Roc N RolRoc N Rol Posts: 1,352 Officer
    Hawkboat wrote: »
    That why they call em SPARKY's...sorry couldn't resist that one.

    The thing that amazed me was it was pointed out and never corrected, even when the house was sold 4 years later.

    For Gods sake, send apprentice/ helper back and fix it the right way

    There not upside down, they can be installed either way. We don't care how you do it up north this is the way it is done down here. They are installed if commercial applications with the ground on top in case, say a paper clip falls off the desk it wont fall onto the plug hot and neutral prongs and short out the circuit. Not sure why they are done the other way with the ground at the bottom, but in 40 years of construction in south florida that is the way it has always been done and long before that. When I was working in New Jersey for a while the electrician's always put the switches up much higher that they are in south fl.. I asked why they put them so high and was told they put them that high so the kids cant reach them. Now that is just stupid to me, no wonder why the kids always leave the room and leave the light on, you put the outlets down low where any age kid can put something in them and get killed from the shock but you put the switch that can not hurt them where they cant reach them. They are not done wrong and not corrected, they passed inspection's that would make your heads spin up north. I have worked both up there and down here and you guys dont get the inspections we do ever. In NJ all you have to do to become a General Contractor is to go to the state with a Liability insurance form and $250.00, fill out the application and congradulation's you are now a general contractor. How lame is that, that is why there are so many complaints about crappy work by unqualified contractors in that state. Down here you have to apply for the test with the state, take courses with a construction college, be able to meet the qualifications of time in trade at a position of suppervisory position, work on a commercial building of over 4 stories, buy about $1500.00 worth of books, then you can take the test which is 2 days, the first is 2, 4 hour test on plans of a 4 story commercial building and the second day is a 5 hour test with 100 questions from all the books you had to buy and study, and if you pass the test you are given your liciense. The outlets are not installed incorectly and need to be corrected, they are installed according to code and are inspected several times before the house is given its CO. I always heard the people buying the house's i was building say that is not the way they do it up north, and i always told them yeah, well you ought to be glad we dont do it like they do it up north.
  • HawkboatHawkboat Posts: 1,030 Officer
    Still doesn't meet reguirements for handicapped..especialy for the blind who are taught the ground is on the bottom of outlet, same has hot water on the left ...I don't care what the code is...that's just pure common sence.

    NJ is in it's own world...

    I am well aware of what a GC needs to do here and its about time...how many years did they get away with shoddy craftsmanship...just look at the insurance laws who are really the backbone for code enforcement anywhere. They set the tone for everything...just look at all the straps that are reguired now. Even when I put an addition on my home in NY, it was ridiculas how things had to be straped.

    As far as this topic is concerned is the perfect example of guys taking short cuts in using cheaper material of better yet how about the Chinese drywall. If they would of used material that was approved by Under Writters Labs, (UL APPROVED) you wouldn't have this mess you have today..they just bought the cheapest and easy to get the crap that was available from overseas, get it built so I can get my money.

    I have over 30 years as a union Steamfitter in NY and have seen more screw ups then you could even imagine...bottom line the contracter is looking to save a few bucks on material of all things, but then the homeowner gets the big repair bill years down the road in residentiail building...and with this there is no insurance coverage fir this type of damage.
    Capt Bill
  • Gary MGary M Posts: 13,246 AG
    Thanks guys!

    We are getting more comfortable with this spalling stuff and it sounds like it's just "part of life in the Keys"....... sort of like if you drive on gravel roads, you'll need tires more often. The important thing is that the problems are found early and fixed correctly........ which seems to be the case with this condo complex.....
  • Gary MGary M Posts: 13,246 AG
    The Realtor has shared with us that the one area on the patio is "isolated" and they anticipate just the repair being right at the spot that was noticed earlier. Also, we were told that this patio had indoor/outdoor carpet on it at one time and that several other patios also had that on theirs and that led to spalling problems so that carpet has now been banned on the outside patios.
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