Sep 252012
 
Leaking flat roofs in Spain

FLAT ROOF PROBLEMS IN SPAIN – THERMAL MOVEMENT CAN AGGRAVATE A ROOF MEMBRANE AND TILES

As anyone who has lived in Northern Europe knows, flat roofs can be an enduring problem.  All too often they are the cause of leaks and few flat roofs retain their integrity beyond around 15-20 years – before requiring extensive repair work.

In Spain the situation is much the same with the more extreme climate often stressing flat roofs in Spain to their very limit.  Very high summer day time temperatures and cold nights can damage membranes, crack grout on tiles and distort any flashing.  Any of these problems can lead to leaks, which can cause significant damage to a property.

Unfortunately, a frequent problem encountered with flat roofs in Spain relates to the inadequacy of any membrane between the roof sub-surface (usually concrete over a concrete block infill) and the final surface (most commonly tiles).  Sadly, on the flat roofs of some properties no membrane at all is used and sometimes the flashing between the parapet walls of a flat roof can be poorly executed – either of which can result in leaks.  Surprisingly, a lack of proper membrane on the flat roofs of newly built properties is not unusual – so do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because your Spanish house is new that the flat roof has been correctly constructed…

Flat roof repairs in Spain

TYPICAL WATER INGRESS FROM FAILING FLAT ROOF

Of course, any membrane (normally waterproof asphalt) deteriorates with time, in any event, and therefore needs replacing.  Indeed, generally speaking, if a flat roof in Spain is older than 20 years then you might need to renew it.

Typical signs of flat roof problems in Spain include the obvious tracking of water from the roof area down into the living area of a property.  This may become apparent, initially, in staining and then be followed by major water ingress.

Repair of flat roof problems in Spain can take a number of forms including the application of water proof roof paint, which is often pink or red in colour.  This can suffice in the short term but is rarely long lasting and always a sign that a significant problem exists – that will have to be dealt with properly at some stage.

There are a number of different ways of remedying flat roof problems in Spain but it is important to find the optimum, long term solution.  Sometimes this can be cheap and easy, so do not always anticipate or pay for solutions that are unnecessary or unjustified!

Roofing specialists in Spain

LONG TERM WATER INGRESS CAN CAUSE SERIOUS DECAY OF STRUCTURALLY IMPORTANT REINFORCEMENT STEELS

Equally, identifying the reason for damp ingress in a property is not always as straightforward as it seems.  Sometimes, the actual roof of a property may be fine but an area of parapet flashing is defective.  However, on occasions the ingress of damp or water may indicate a more serious problem related to subsidence or heave.

If you have flat roof problems in Spain then do feel free to contact us.  We will be able to save you money and ensure that your roof is dealt with correctly and that your problems will be resolved!

Mark Paddon

Sep 212012
 
Property movement in Spanish properties

THE SUDDEN COLLAPSE OF A BALCONY AFTER MANY YEARS OF DECAY

There are many reasons why property movement and cracking in Spain can cause a property to become unstable.  Sometimes this is due to subsidence but this is not always the case.  Indeed, a relatively common problem in Spanish properties can be due to the decay of the steel reinforcement used in the construction of the property itself.

Many properties in Spain (whether houses or flats) have a ferro-concrete construction.  This means that steel is used to reinforce the concrete used in building the property.  So, for example, steel rods are surrounded by concrete to give the concrete strength for walls, foundations, ceiling and roof slabs as well as beams.  Meanwhile, some properties have a steel beam construction.  This is then enclosed with blocks or brickwork.

Obviously, it is important that the steel within a property is correctly connected and protected from damp so as not to lose its integrity.  This is very important because if the steel within a property is defective in any way (or becomes defective) then there is a possibility of serious collapse.  This may only occur within a particular section of the property concerned but it could stress other areas and can lead to a complete collapse of a building.

The process of steel reinforcement decay in Spain can be slow and is therefore always more prevalent and advanced in older properties. Steel decay can result eventually in structural failure in floors – and even whole apartment blocks have been known to fail. Normally, professional inspection will identify initial signs of decay, so that repairs can be made. However, these repairs are invariably expensive and complicated, and advanced decay can mean that substantial rebuilding is required. In some cases, the concrete itself may be sub-standard or even mixed with salt water and beach sand in coastal locations (albeit in rare cases).

Although new build properties in Spain rarely show signs of reinforcement corrosion – ventilation or surface protection may well have been omitted. In this case, some new properties can be at a high risk of decay in the future.

Common structural problems with Spanish properties

CONCRETE BEAMS LOSE MUCH OF THEIR STRENGTH AS DECAY ADVANCES

Unfortunately, in much Spanish building, standard practice precautions to protect steel were commonly ignored during earlier developments and sometimes during the more recent property boom. This was combined, all too often, with poor building control and sometimes, inadequate knowledge on the part of those actually constructing properties. So, even new builds should be inspected professionally to ensure that reinforced steel work has been correctly installed and protected for the long-term security of a building.

Of course, if you have any signs of property movement and cracking in Spain then you should react quickly to have a professional assessment of the problem.  I would stress the word ‘professional’ as assessing whether a property has a genuine problem and what that problem has been caused by is not something that should ever be undertaken by an unqualified person.

Indeed, assessing Spanish property movement and subsidence is far from simple.  Some homes may have signs of property movement and cracking in Spain and yet these can turn out to be of no concern and merely the results of normal thermal cracking or ageing.  On the other hand, some quite minor signs of problems can be an indication of a serious issue that requires prompt attention.

Mark Paddon

Sep 102012
 
Defective retaining wall in Spain

RETAINING WALL COLLAPSE IN SPAIN – INCORRECTLY BUILT!

A problem that I frequently encounter when called to assess building problems is retaining wall collapse in Spain.

Retaining walls (of varying sizes and made of differing materials) are an essential component to the stability of a property in Spain and they are a common sight on estates built upon hilly or steep ground.  However, retaining walls are rarely identified as such by property owners, who often believe that the walls on the boundaries of their properties are primarily there for ascetic reasons.

However, the truth is that many Spanish properties are very dependent on retaining walls for their stability.

Unfortunately, many retaining walls in Spain are not built properly and can collapse with devastating consequences.  This often occurs after a severe rainfall (such as a Gota Fria) – when enormous amounts of water can place a retaining wall under immense pressure.  If the wall has not been properly built then it (or a part of it) can collapse.

Retaining wall dispute Spain

PROPER RESOLUTION TO A DEFECTIVE RETAINING WALL CAN BE COSTLY WHEN A HOUSE STANDS IN THE WAY!

So, before buying a property in Spain on steep ground it is well worth making sure that any retaining walls are properly inspected along with the house itself.  Equally, if you are building a new house in Spain on steep ground then ensure that your builder really does know what he is doing and that he as the knowledge and ability to construct a retaining wall correctly.  This is not as simple as it sounds, if the wall is to be effective long term.

In some cases, retaining walls have been omitted and new properties in Spain sit either above or below cut slopes that are highly prone to collapse or landslides. This can risk lives as well as property and is something about which you should be extremely wary.

Sadly, some unscrupulous developers have sold properties with retaining wall issues to innocent buyers, despite the dangers. This is because the construction in Spain of a proper, load-bearing retaining wall – significantly adds costs to a building project, whilst providing no obvious benefit to the layman.

Structural walls Spain

THIS PROPER, PART COMPLETED REPAIR INCLUDES A COMPLEX PILED AND CANTILEVERED FOUNDATION SYSTEM AND SPECIAL REAR DRAINAGE MEASURES

Needless to say, replacing a retaining wall or rebuilding one can be very expensive.  Indeed, on some properties, the cost can amount to hundreds of thousands of Euros.

Certainly, be warned that there are plenty of builders who will have their own ‘master plan’ as to how to put things right. Often I find their proposals (whilst they mean well) to have errors, that could result in danger to workers and a potential future structural failure. It is always worth seeking an independent opinion on such matters –not least because the stakes are so high!.

Always check (before buying a property in Spain) whether or not the existing retaining wall is adequate – or whether your intended property should have had one in any event!

Finally, if you have doubts about the integrity of your retaining wall or if it is cracking or leaning or showing signs of stress – then contact me as soon as possible.  The collapse of a retaining wall can have huge implications and is one of the building problems in Spain that can require rapid remedial action.

Mark Paddon