Reader asks for help about condensation issue

A reader asks for your help with this condensation issue.

I live in a corner, ground floor unit of a condominium purchased approximately 6
months ago in Seattle. The condominium is a conversion, although it was never lived in after initially being built 4-5 years ago. One egress/fire escape path for the building runs adjacent to my unit, although one could exit around the other side of the building as well. As a result, the windows facing the egress are single pane with a steel frame with wire mesh embedded within in order to increase the strength of the wall in case of a fire.

As the temperature has declined over the past few months, these windows have developed such significant condensation that they literally weep rivulets of water. I had a couch pushed up against the wall and did not notice the issue until approximately a month and a half ago. As I was cleaning, I pulled the couch out and came upon a significant amount of black mold that had found a favorable home on account of the moisture. I also found water damage to the floor and baseboard from water run-off. Other windows in the room that are double paned do not have this issue. As I have inspected the window more carefully, I have noticed that the steel frame itself seems to be off of the wall a few centimeters, and I can clearly feel a breeze when I hold my hand near the frame.

It should be noted that nothing was said about the window by my inspector.

I called the company from which I purchased the unit initially and was told that they planned on remedying the situation. Recently, however, they contacted me and indicated that the Seattle building code precluded installation of a double paned window due to the egress. They have, therefore, proposed a ceiling fan, which will do nothing for a space < 700 feet, or a dehumidifier. However, when I called the fire marshall’s office, the individual with whom I spoke said that fire code did not necessitate the type of window installed and that it could be switched to a double paned, vinyl frame window.

Does anyone have any thoughts as to how I should proceed? I am somewhat unclear on where responsibility lies for this issue.

Any insight would be appreciated.

Thanks.

About Matt

Matt , Urbnlivn's publisher, has a love for lofts, floating homes and mid-century moderns.

For years Matt resisted becoming a real estate agent preferring to be an executive in the startup world but he recently caved in the spring of 2014 and became an agent.

You can also find Matt on Twitter or skiing.

  • uptown

    If you haven’t notified the HOA (manager and/or board)- do so right away. This falls under the HOA area of concern as it involves an area exterior to your unit. It will be up to them to get reimbursed by the builder or insurance. They are also responsible for damage caused inside your unit.

  • uptown

    If you haven’t notified the HOA (manager and/or board)- do so right away. This falls under the HOA area of concern as it involves an area exterior to your unit. It will be up to them to get reimbursed by the builder or insurance. They are also responsible for damage caused inside your unit.

  • SeattleArchitect

    The window you are describing [single pane, wire-frame, steel sash] is indeed the culprit relative to condensation, as that type of window is thermally conductive [as opposed to being thermally broken so that the outside temp does not transmit directly to the inside] and when the dew point hits a certain point relative to temperature and humidity, hello condensation. Mold is a serious health concern, and not something to be ignored by the developer that did the conversion. But there is [possibly] an even bigger life safety issue here. While I suggest giving the developer an opportunity to remedy the situation before engaging an attorney, first talk to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, to ascertain if indeed this was noted on the building permit approved construction document plans. Call out a building inspector, notifying them that there appears to be a “life-safety” code violation that you are concerned about, and ask them to bring a set of the approved building permit plans to compare the as-built condition against. Normally, glazing is not permitted between a residential unit and certain types of egress corridors unless a certain type of [very expensive] fire glazing is utilized. It sounds like someone might have cut a big corner by using wire glass instead of fire glass, which would not be an acceptable or current code-approved means of achieving area separation [appropriate fire-rating between disparate occupancies or areas, technically speaking]. Although you did the right thing by contacting the fire department initially, those guys dont always know the nuances of the building code, which in this case [for Seattle] is now the International Building Code. Is your converted building fully sprinklered? If not, that would be a clue that someone did the conversion on the cheap. Lives are at stake here if life safety codes have been violated – you will be doing yourself and your fellow homeowners a favor by following through on this. After you have good answers from DPD, give the developer a chance to make it right and if he/she refuses [which would be foolish and unlikely] you may need to go legal.

  • SeattleArchitect

    The window you are describing [single pane, wire-frame, steel sash] is indeed the culprit relative to condensation, as that type of window is thermally conductive [as opposed to being thermally broken so that the outside temp does not transmit directly to the inside] and when the dew point hits a certain point relative to temperature and humidity, hello condensation. Mold is a serious health concern, and not something to be ignored by the developer that did the conversion. But there is [possibly] an even bigger life safety issue here. While I suggest giving the developer an opportunity to remedy the situation before engaging an attorney, first talk to the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, to ascertain if indeed this was noted on the building permit approved construction document plans. Call out a building inspector, notifying them that there appears to be a “life-safety” code violation that you are concerned about, and ask them to bring a set of the approved building permit plans to compare the as-built condition against. Normally, glazing is not permitted between a residential unit and certain types of egress corridors unless a certain type of [very expensive] fire glazing is utilized. It sounds like someone might have cut a big corner by using wire glass instead of fire glass, which would not be an acceptable or current code-approved means of achieving area separation [appropriate fire-rating between disparate occupancies or areas, technically speaking]. Although you did the right thing by contacting the fire department initially, those guys dont always know the nuances of the building code, which in this case [for Seattle] is now the International Building Code. Is your converted building fully sprinklered? If not, that would be a clue that someone did the conversion on the cheap. Lives are at stake here if life safety codes have been violated – you will be doing yourself and your fellow homeowners a favor by following through on this. After you have good answers from DPD, give the developer a chance to make it right and if he/she refuses [which would be foolish and unlikely] you may need to go legal.

  • e

    the building is fully sprinklered.

    i thought single pane, wire-frame, steel sash windows are fire protective. were they marketed this way in the past? otherwise, i don’t understand why this window would have been installed in the first place.

  • e

    the building is fully sprinklered.

    i thought single pane, wire-frame, steel sash windows are fire protective. were they marketed this way in the past? otherwise, i don’t understand why this window would have been installed in the first place.