11/01/2008

The Best Way to Stop a Leak? Prevent It.

Managing water infiltration in façades calls for early intervention and appropriate repairs

By Arthur L. Sanders

 

What About Coatings?
Waterproof coatings are enticing as cheap, quick problem-solvers; however, used indiscriminately, they accelerate deterioration by trapping water within the wall. Points to consider before coating:

  1. Find the underlying problem. Problems will recur unless the source of deterioration is addressed.
  2. Consider reasons for use. Coatings are not a replacement for thorough remedial work.
  3. Select the right coating for the job. Take into account the materail properties of the substrate and the compatibility of the coating.
  4. Use proper application techniques. Thoughtful product selection cannot compensate for sloppy application.
  5. Keep up maintenance work. Once a coating is applied, it's difficult - or impossible - to return to an uncoated surface. Consider long-term maintenance costs when comparing water infiltration solutions.

Even the most durable of building materials, from brick and stone to concrete and steel, eventually succumbs to the forces of time and the elements. If deterioration is inevitable, are leaks, too? Not necessarily. While even the most diligently maintained structure will show signs of moisture intrusion from time to time, pervasive damage from leaks is avoidable. The solution? Routine, thorough evaluation of façade conditions, coupled with prompt repair measures that address the source of the problem.

Evaluate
To avoid "band-aid" repairs that, at best, will need to be repeated or, at worst, will exacerbate the problem, an investigation into the cause of the leak should be conducted. Placing sealant in cracked brick won't stop moisture infiltration if the source of the leak is deteriorated mortar joints.

Check for crumbling or open joints on masonry façades, as well as for signs of moisture entry, such as stains/efflorescence, cracks, and spalls. On concrete, look for cracked panels or slabs, spalls, and stains. Cracked or debonded sealant is a common source of moisture entry on concrete or stone exteriors. Glass curtainwall can exhibit rusted or bent mullions, as well as the same types of glazing failures found in standard punch opening windows, including loose or cracked gaskets and seals, and fogged or etched glazing. At windows and doors, hardware and operable mechanism failures can also be trouble spots.

If the underlying problem remains elusive, an architect or engineer might need to employ test probes, pressure differential testing, laboratory analysis, or other investigative measures to accurately pinpoint the source of a leak.

Repair
Identifying signs of water intrusion and determining the leak's probable cause are the most challenging parts of the remediation process, not only because the survey involves some detective work, but also because investigations can reveal unforeseen problems that change the scope of anticipated repairs.

Sealant application is often the first impulse in leak control, but it can lead to problems if done inappropriately. Although properly designed and maintained sealant joints are critical to keeping many buildings watertight, misused sealant can block water egress points, causing masonry failures and more leaks.

Aesthetics, durability, and cost effectiveness are generally the main criteria in selecting a repair option, although occupancy demands, scheduling, logistics, and other concerns may play a role in determining the most appropriate repair strategy for a given situation. In general, opting for quality materials and skilled installation, with detailed documents, specifications, and project oversight, repays initial expense with longevity.

Maintain
To catch leaks early, and to stop new leaks from developing, establish a regular façade-maintenance program. Collect observations of existing conditions in a written report, and then use this information to prioritize maintenance items, such as repointing mortar joints, replacing aging sealant, or repairing broken window hardware. Addressing potential sites of water entry saves the time and expense of chasing down the source of a serious leak later.

Arthur L. Sanders is senior vice president at Hoffmann Architects Inc. and director of the firm's Connecticut office. Hoffmann Architects also has offices in New York City and Washington, D.C.

 


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


 
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