Plaster home stigma may cost NZers more than actual leaky home issues

It is all agreed that the construction of leaky buildings is a stain on the side of New Zealand’s built history. There are many many cases of badly damaged houses where owners have inherited major problems that need urgent and extensive repairs. These owners may or may not have had the ability to receive some compensation but almost always end up out of pocket to some extent. The construction industry has undergone major change in the last few years to redress these major problems.

However even more worrying, is that the message of “recladding is the only way” of fixing problem houses is wiping BILLIONS off the value of the remaining built infrastructure of our country through “leaky building stigma” – and this dwarfs the issue of the Christchurch rebuild. Unless this path and message is recorrected, then ordinary NZers will continue to lose their built wealth, retirement fund and nest eggs. Cumulatively this will mean NZ will be over $15 billion dollars out of pocket.

Put in perspective, this cost dwarfs the income generated by the planned SOE sell-down (estimated $5 – $7 billion – www.interest.co.nz ). Why would a country sell off its public assets for $5 – $7 billion at the same time as letting the remaining private residential assets be devalued by over $15 billion? It doesn’t make sense.

While there are many technical issues surrounding this debate, the reality is simple: not all plaster clad buildings have major issues requiring reclads. There has been a dramatic over-estimation of the number of buildings with this scale and szie of problem which is fanning the flames of fear and condemning perfectly good homes. It has been proven factually time and time again that most buildings do not have major problems and can be easily looked after with relatively little cost or expense. Also, there are reliable ways to discern problem houses from good ones with certainty and without damage (www.moisturedetection.co.nz) – giving home purchasers certainty that they can buy in confidence.

However this is not the message the constituency is getting fed, and with devastating effects. Along with the Christchurch earthquake rebuild, the biggest economic issue facing the country is not in how problem buildings are being expensively remediated – it is the “reclad them all” rhetoric that is condemning and DEVALUING ALL of the tens if not hundreds of thousands of plaster-clad NZ homes that in fact do not need extensive remediation. The mums and dads investors of these houses are now victimised and faced with the impossible situation of having $200,000+ wiped off the value of their sound buildings – yet there is no major physical damage or problems.

Many of you or someone you know will own a plaster-clad home in what is defined as the “at risk” time period – from 1992 to 2004. “Official estimates” are arguing that 90% of these plaster-clad buildings need to be completely reclad – irrespective of how well they’re performing. But a much lower percentage actually have this level of problems – and the rest are being unfarily tarnished with the same brush.

This issue touches many many people across New Zealand and goes straight to the back-pocket. This is not specifically a “building” problem, and its not specifically a “housing” problem, what this issue revolves around is more of a “property” and “investment” problem – and the erasing of hard-earned value in our built infrastructure that NZers are being duped into devaluing and rebuilding. These homes are also typically the major asset in a family so their wealth evaporates. This must stop.

While this is contrary to the “official position”, this argument has the backing of a huge number of professionals in the building industry right across the board that can speak from personal experience and expertise of being involved with all aspects including investigation, maintenance, targeted repairs, partial-reclads and full-reclads. The facts also speak for themselves with the results of many thousands of detailed and ongoing structural and weathertightness examination results of thousands of plaster homes (of both problem houses as well as not – and the many in-between) proving that the official estimates are wildly overblown.

The rights of the hundreds of thousands of property owners and the protection the generated wealth of the nation from is at stake. This has been and will remain an issue of national significance for many years for plaster home owners. Over $15 billion will be wiped from New Zealand’s bottom line and remove any benefit state asset sales will have to New Zealand’s financial position. This is an issue that the government needs be taking very seriously as it starts to sell down its prime assets to make ends meet – unless the leaky home stigma problem is not addressed quickly more and more NZers will continue to lose their life savings for no good reason.

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19 Responses to Plaster home stigma may cost NZers more than actual leaky home issues

  1. donk says:

    My house is plaster clad, bought brand new in 2000 no issues so far. Recently carried out building inspection, all moisture readings are below 30 (readings above 40 are not good). Outer walls painted 5 yrs ago, and will be done again this year. Only worry is the public sentiment and feeling that the value is less than what it should be.
    It is frustrating to note that banks are reluctant to give mortgage loans unless supported by sound building inspection report. For weatherboard or other superior cladding, if banks approve upto 90% of sale price for plaster board loans upto atleast 80% should be considered, as the land value which matters mostly nowadays.

  2. Trevor Spencer says:

    Sentiment is a very powerful force. Look at the world’s stock markets! When the tide of public sentiment goes against plaster clad houses (fueled by media horror stories), as a prospective seller there’s little you can do except hope to find a buyer who doesn’t mind going against the flow. I believe the pendulum has swung right to the other side (away from plaster clad homes), but as systems develop to render plaster homes weathertight (for example acrylic, meshed overlays), the pendulum will start to swing the other way again. I live in a EIFS (poly plastered) cavity home with CCC and I’m wondering what will happen the day I want to sell. Will I need to timber clad? I’ll see where market sentiment is when that day comes.

  3. Scott says:

    Hi there,

    I have worked on a few re-clads over the last four years. The best way to find out how bad it is, is to go to every corner of your home peel back the skirting board and cut out the gib at ground level. Have a wee looksee and if its black and you can push your finger in, then theres a problem.
    I find the moisture test won’t reveal the true picture, get that gib off and see it for yourself.

    • sugadmin says:

      Hi Scott,
      This is one of the many ways to check. However, not everyone willing or has the ability to cut out the gib by themselves.
      Moisture Detection Company Ltd offer a process that they can extract timber for analysis and at the same time installing a permanent moisture monitor probe. When probes are installed at all the potential risk points in the house, they will give a good picture on how the house is performing.

    • Dave Harwood says:

      Hello Scott
      I disagree with your comment in part. taking gib board off does not always show the timber problem. If you can push your finger in as you state the house is beyond repair unless it is confined to a small area but you would not know that unless you remove all the gib board. By moisture testing it shows the areas of higher readings and then invasive checking can be made in these areas to ascertain the condition of the timber. I was a builder for 30 years and have done pre-purchase building inspections for 17 years full time so deal with this weekly. Unfortunately most standard plaster homes built in the 1992 -2004 era do or will have a problem.

  4. frank says:

    I might buy a plaster house which reclad is already done, but still plaster board used rather than weather board or …
    is it okay?
    is any risk involve or later could be again problem with leaks and so on

  5. Mark and Pam Parker says:

    Hi all

    We unfortunately spent well over 120,000 dollars fixing our leaky home and got all work signed off by SDC. We are in the position where we are unable to sell. We have lived in the house now for ten years. I spoke with the council worried about the contents of the lim file. Sure enough they said it has to be made public knowledge that when we bought the house, it was classed as a leaky home. What can we do? The rates are hurting us as the QV increased with the remedials. Council Robbers

  6. Daymon Shack says:

    We’re considering buying a home built in 1996 and is made from solid plaster with wood framing etc. If a plaster clad house has had ANY water-tightness problems in the last 12 years wouldn’t there be signs of it already?

    • gregthomson says:

      Hello Daymon,
      If a plastered (or any type of clad) home has had moisture ingress over the last 12 yrs, it may not appear on the linings or cladding. It would depend on whether drying takes place, how mush moisture ingress, how complex the location is (a complicated join / say corner with complex roofing above) – this will involve a lot of timber in the framing and less chance to dry out etc.
      There are various telltale signs but if those signs are not evident, this does not mean “all is good”.
      Hope this answer your query.
      Regards Greg

  7. Peter says:

    Hi

    We are approaching the end of a reclad. We commissioned the reclad when after starting maintenance on one of our balconies we found the joint from the balcony to the house had leaked. There has been virtually no other damage found.

    The damage was enough (around half a meter of timber was wet) that our builder had to stop due to government/ council regulations. We were faced with the simple maintenance of a small area or a full reclad. As the maintenance had to be reported to council and therefore onto our LIM if we only did the maintenance we had a house that we could never sell due to the stigma despite it being weathertight everywhere else.

    I agree with the other comments that there are building companies out there that push reclads but we did not deal with any of those directly. We made the rational decision to reclad due to the stigma in the housing market should we ever want to sell. As the house is 13 years old there is no government support. I firmly believe this issue falls not with the builders trying to make some cash but with the politicians (from all sides). Auckland council (Len Brown failed to respond directly) blamed the private contractor who signed off the house despite the fact that they had licensed the contractor at the time. The Building minister to his credit fully acknowledged the issue and our situation.

    So we now struggle to get by financially due to a systematic failure from government and the failure to respond well to the problem.

    • gregthomson says:

      Hello Peter,
      Yes, it is all about face isn’t it? Homeowners are looking and wanting to do the right thing (ie fix an area that needs fixing) and the resultant financial strife and stress that many then find themselves in, sometimes outweigh the solution.
      I wonder, if in a year or two, people will realise that recladding is not the answer and look to other processes? Imagine if all plastered homes needed recladding (this could amount to 100,000’s of homes throughout NZ.) It would take over a 100yrs and would bankrupt the country. And yet we DO NOT see headlines in the newspapers on a daily basis saying “Another (or 2 or 12 or 50) houses falling down or require bulldozing.” It is not happening.
      Is the MEDIA to blame?? Are Real Estate Agents to blame?? Are recladding companies to blame?? Is the Timber Industry to blame?? I do not believe Home Owners are to blame!! Maintenance on homes will always be required but NOT to do maintenance, DOES NOT then mean you need to reclad.
      Processes are available to investigate, undertake rotmapping (ie establish extent of an issue without being destructive), do minimal work (ie only what is necessary), verify it has been done well, then monitor.
      But this doesn’t help you, Peter, I know apart from maybe verifying and monitoring what’s been done so you can build history of performance and highlight maintenance items from now on.
      Is it time that Home Owners mount a challenge? It seems like this whole debacle is a political hot potato.

  8. Pamela says:

    Hi Bruce
    I have had similar issues! It is frustrating and should be stopped!
    It Sounds like same people that did mine! They have been proved wrong, my building paper was perfect, good as new, not a thing wrong with steel framing! Treated wood dry as!
    I understand these folk are called ambulance chasers!
    However ,unprofessional they where ,it still cost money , fixing up the crooked cut outs and making water tight again! I guess this it a numbers game. They frighten loads of people to get a job that in most cases did Not Require a reclad just maitance! They also dangle a carrot!. Reclad. ! It will be worth so much more.working on Greed, It never ceases to amaze me how they keep operating. WAKE Up Kiwis This is how these Companies make their living!

  9. Michelle says:

    I live in a plaster clad apartment in onehunga -we are dealing with the same issues. The buildings are steel framing with no weathertight issues at all save for normal maintenance requirements.
    I love living here and am astounded at the lack of insight and general common sense when it comes to this issue.

  10. Michael James says:

    Hi There. As the owner of a plaster clad home in Pt Chevalier, I found the above comments very informative and well balanced. My home is 15 years old. It is totally weather tight and a delight to live in. There have been no maintanence issues since buying the property 8 years ago. Despite this, the stigma of the leaky home fiasco has decreased the value of the home by at least $200,000. I am keen to push back against the “recladding is the only way” attitude by forming an action group of similarly affected owners. If I can get this under way would you be prepared to assist our group with technical input? Regards Michael James

    • Patricia Annabell says:

      I am an owner of a Stucco surface building, and am presently marketing it for sale. I am astonished to find this backlash also from the real estate people – with no grounds, in my case. I have lived here happily for 16 years, and as the house is now 20 years of age and I have never painted the interior or done any redecorating of any sort, it is now in need of it. However as I pointed out to the negative comments about the fact that it is stucco by the real estate people, this is a plus. Had I had any leaky or wet areas would it not be obvious with fresh paint over? My home is lovely, North facing, ground level with a gentle sloping to the house from the road. Still no wet problems, it just drains away as it was planned to do. I am wondering if you did get a group off the ground?

  11. Bruce says:

    I am involved with a issue (court Action) of a house that has been labled “best to reclad the whole level” It has a boric treated frame covered with double sided foil paper then has a 50x 50 tanislied treated cavity batten nailed to the frame over the foil. this batten has tripple s sheeting followed by 25 mm solid plaster with rib lath as reinforcing.. The house does not leak ( apart from one tree root that went through a water proofing membrane.) (planter box) This has been removed. Maynard Marks did the report done by two guys been in NZ three years with no building or nz building experiance. They did an invaisive inspection (cut holes) all they found was some corrosion of the riblath, and some higher moisture levels , this was only in the cavity batten. They did not cut any holes inside the gib to examine the frame .They have no idea of what is involved to remove this plaster, but said a total reclad is required. I read an article in the North & South or maybe it was Next magazine. I feel it is just maintanence required. No damage to the framing at all, All it needs is a shaped plaster base to the bottom edge. and some sealing around the windows The house is 19 yrs old with no visual defects showing. Grimshaws are suing me. due to Maynard Marks report. The house had some 1.1 millon drop in value due to their report. and went to auction. the drop in value is what is being sued. The new owner says there is nothing wrong with house and got a bargin. (he said it was like winning lotto when he brought the house. I agree with your comments some houses do not need a total rclad and only need maintenance. We have had two independent reports done saying the same no reclad is required just maintenance. It is not a leaky home.

    • sugadmin says:

      hi Bruce

      Yes we are successfully dealing with many of these types of issues – where the determined scope of remediation turns to a ‘reclad-by-default’ approach. We have been very successful in turning attitudes and scopes around by systematically analysing the building to show the more accurate weathertightness performance and timber condition of the building and the proper level of remediation required, but also understanding the building from a lifecycle management perspective – ie what was due for maintenance anyway – and what could have been foreseen maintenance by a purchaser? We will be able to sit down a strategies around your case to best deal with the circumstance.

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