When you close your eyes and picture any building, you are quite likely imagining its facade – the outer shell which protects and contains all of the hustle and bustle that goes on within. In a residential property, the facade is what separates a building's occupants from both elements and intruders. As such, it's imperative that the facade be inspected, maintained and serviced regularly to ensure that it's secure and functioning as intended. For a community association, the responsibility to do this falls on the board or management. While methods and routines may differ, facade care should be a major priority for every association.
The standard facade consists of many parts – and all must be in working condition, lest the greater structure start to falter.
“We look at building exteriors – or the building 'envelope' – as a system of various components: the roof, trim, windows, exterior cladding (including shingles, clapboards, brick, EIFS [exterior insulation finishing system], etc.) and all related flashings and details,” explains Robert H. McBride, CEO of the Dartmouth Group, a property management firm in Bedford, Massachusetts. “It is very difficult – and arguably unwise – to look at any of these individually; they're all integrated in order to provide the intended function of protecting the building structure and interiors, primarily from water intrusion.”
The manager and/or relevant board members should develop a familiarity with the facade of their building or buildings to better assess when something may be amiss. “It becomes clear that a repair, or at least a professional consultation, is necessary through day-to-day inspections,” says Frank Anastasi, Manager of the Riverwood Community Association in Port Charlotte, Florida. Leave your facade to its own devices for too long and “you'll start to notice rot, receive more complaints regarding leaks from homeowners, see paint failure or cracked wood... the general appearance just begins to look quite bad,” Anastasi says. He further adds: “And you should know the useful life of your facade via your reserve report, at which time you should be able to assess if things are not looking so good, visually.”
A failure to properly assess root causes or smaller signs of wear can have that Band-Aid-over-a-bullet-hole effect, where you're only treating symptoms of a larger problem, rather than curing it. “When individual, piecemeal repairs are no longer feasible or cost effective, it may be time to consider a major repair,” warns Kelli Rick, a property manager with Draper and Kramer, Incorporated, in Chicago.