15 Waltham Road
May 31, 2021

Plaster Clad homes- then and now.

Written by: Trish Bowell

A lot of plaster clad homes that were built in the 90’s & early 2000’s leaked like a sieve, unfortunately, many people have the misconception that all plaster houses are leaky homes.  But that’s not the case, a lot has changed since the “bad old days” over two decades ago.



The Leaky Homes of the 90’s & early 2000’s


The leaky home crisis resulted from three main factors: lousy legislation, poorly designed houses, and cladding not suitable for the conditions.  The combination of these factors caused thousands of plaster clad homes built in the 90’s & early 2000’s to have weathertightness issues- some very severe. Over the following years the leaky homes crisis (as came to be known) cost hundreds of millions to repair and heartbreak for thousands of Kiwi homeowners. Lets take a deeper look at these factors.


Firstly, the Building Act 1991 came into effect in 1994, which saw many of the rules relax around building controls and standards.  Changes to the consent and inspection process meant that some builders and developers became lazy, and a lot of corners were cut. One of the most significant corners cut was people no longer including a cavity behind the cladding to allow moisture to drain.  Instead, homes were built using direct-fixed claddings, meaning that the homes only protection from the elements was the cladding and a lick of paint. The absence of a cavity  meant that moisture would build up behind the cladding resulting in toxic black mould and rotting timber framing.


It wasn’t just the lack of cavity behind the cladding that caused the leaking, but also the quality of the cladding used.  The inferior quality products that were on the market at the time were not up to scratch, especially when faced with New Zealand’s (namely, Auckland’s) high rainfall climate.  On top of this, the standard for timber treatment was lowered in 1995, meaning that many houses were cladded using untreated timber and therefore had no resistance to rot.


The final contributor was the trend at the time of building Mediterranean style homes using monolithic cladding. Combining the traditional features of this style of home (flat roofs, internal decks and small or no eaves) with the wall surfaces often constructed of plaster over polystyrene, or fibre-cement sheet created the perfect recipe for a leaky home.


2004 – the End of the Leaky Home Era


In 2004 the Building Act and New Zealand Building Code were changed to put an end to leaky buildings once and for all.  Amongst other things, this new legislation required a cavity to be installed behind the cladding.  Including a cavity space between the cladding and the wall underlay means that moisture can drain down the cavity and out the opening at the bottom.


Additionally, the new Act also introduced tighter controls, and a new licensing scheme was brought in for builders and architects. With more stringent rules and consent processes in place since 2004, thousands of plaster clad homes have been built and they are just as weathertight as every other home.


The beauty of buying a new build property is that they are built in line with current legislation, ensuring that there will be no leaky surprises down the track. At Wolfbrook Residential, all of our properties are designed and constructed to the highest quality, including the use of cavities throughout.  This ensures that all our customers get to enjoy a warm, dry and, most importantly, leak-free home.

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