Transition studies are a must for new communities. A transition study (also referred to as a Warranty study) is an evaluation of the common and limited common elements of a community performed by a professional consultant to help discover any defects in workmanship or materials. An essential part of the study includes the submission of completed questionnaires by the Unit owners.
Questionnaires are used to obtain observations of the owners related to possible deficiencies inside their units as well as in the common areas of the buildings.
Some of the defects that could be reported include water intrusion, drywall cracks, site drainage issues, electrical and plumbing issues, and balcony railing problems, just to name a few. The unit owners are in the building nearly every day, so they are the most aware any issues occurring in the building. Accordingly, they can provide valuable information for the study.
Questionnaire responses supplement a transition study in many ways. Firstly, they help better direct the site inspections. For example, if several owners report interior water damage from potential roof or wall leaks, the inspections may need to focus more on the roof or façade. Also, if several owners report issues within their units, the investigation can be tailored such that more specific unit inspections are included. This allows the site inspections to be more effective without having to access all of the units.
Questionnaires can also help determine whether more substantial investigative services (such as sampling or testing) are necessary or if there are issues that may not be evident by a visual inspection. Such issues could include construction deficiencies causing excessive sound transmission between units, deficiencies in the flashings around windows, doors, or penetrations causing water intrusion into units, or construction defects causing condensation to form on the interior of windows.
For instance, if several owners report water intrusion around windows or doors, it may indicate that the study should include more than just visual examinations. Moisture scans, spray testing or sampling of the exterior facing system may be warranted to better determine the source(s) of the water intrusion. Additionally, if numerous owners report condensation forming on their windows during cold weather it could suggest the presence of excessive air infiltration around the operable sashes, inadequate insulation around the window perimeters, or improper ventilation of air within the units. These conditions may not be readily apparent in a visual inspection; therefore additional evaluation work such as infrared thermal scans to reveal any cold areas around the windows, testing of the windows to establish if excessive air infiltration is occurring, or testing of the interior conditions for relative humidity issues) should be included in the study.
Questionnaires can also help determine whether issues within individual unit issues are an indication of a more significant issue that is related to the common elements. For instance, although, drywall cracks are typically related to normal settlement, numerous or large cracks can be a sign of a structural issue. Knowing this type of information can allow for the site inspections to be tailored to include the units experiencing the cracking to determine the seriousness of the issue.
Finally, sometimes correspondence between the developer and owners is obtained as part of the questionnaires. This type of information can be critical in helping establish what repairs or investigative services the developer has performed prior to the study and if the repairs performed provide long-term solutions or are just band aide type repairs.
A well-prepared questionnaire can be a huge asset in obtaining valuable information as part of a transition study. This information can be used to document deficiencies in the construction that can then be addressed by the developer under the terms of the applicable warranties.
Accordingly, questionnaires should always be considered as part of a successful transition study.
By Kyle Parsons, RRC, RS
Kyle launched his engineering career with ETC in 2001. Since joining ETC, he has developed experience in numerous roofing and waterproofing applications and has become a Registered Roof Consultant. In addition, he has extensive experience with the inspection and rehabilitation of balconies, exterior facing systems, concrete and pavement. Kyle has also performed numerous reserve studies of varying sizes and complexities. He obtained his Reserve Specialist designation in 2014.