Your condo’s window walls could cost six figures to maintain

Your condo’s window walls could cost six figures to maintain

(Image: Jim Crocker)

It’s already common knowledge that window walls—those enormous floor-to-ceiling windows that are so ubiquitous in new Toronto condos—have a relatively short lifespan. The windows have internal seals that degrade over time, meaning they have to be replaced periodically. Experts have estimated the lifespan of the average window wall at between 20 and 35 years.

Condo sales remain brisk, and so it would seem that many Toronto buyers consider eventual window failure to be a small price to pay. Except, it turns out the price may not be so small, after all.

The Star spoke with University of Waterloo civil engineering and architecture professor Jim Straube, who estimates that the cost of replacing a single unit’s windows walls could be more than $100,000. Straube admits that his numbers are just projections, and could prove to be inaccurate. “Technology may offer slick solutions and reduce this cost,” he told the Star. “We just have little experience.” (It’s also important to differentiate “window walls” from glass “curtain walls.” The two types of glazing have different wear properties.)

A good condo board could set aside enough maintenance-fee money to take some of the sting out of replacing a building’s worth of window walls, but it’s worth bearing in mind that some spectacular views have a hidden price tag.