Masonry Maintenance: Extending Envelope Value

Pay close attention to the transitions where two dissimilar materials attach. There is added stress at these locations due to the coefficient of expansion plus contraction. Issues will show up on the horizontal plane near the vertical wall joint, which is a major source of water intrusion. Ensure sealants here are intact and doing their job.

A crack is always taking on water, Hardy adds, and every time it rains, moisture will get further into the system.

Pay attention to staining, too. It isn’t just unsightly. Stains indicate chemical efflorescence has occurred, which means moisture is present, Perego adds.

“Soluble salts are in masonry, but they can’t move unless they’re in solution,” he says, adding the stains will have a chalky appearance.

Avoid Replacement With Maintenance
Keeping a constant tab on your system allows you to perform minor repairs instead of having to take on drastic projects.

Moldy insulation and water inside will indicate moisture has infiltrated to the interior of the wall system, which requires a costly fix.

“There should be a maintenance protocol from the very beginning, because we don’t want to see full-scale removal and replacement,” Hardy says. “If you care for your building, you’ll catch problems in the early phases.”

Every five to eight years, it’s a good idea to completely re-caulk, Osborn adds.

Strong storm winds – in either Midwestern thunderstorms, or due to hurricanes on the coasts – can dislodge flashings, so make sure they’re doing their jobs before and after these events occur, Perego advises.

In addition to pointing out areas for repair, periodic check-ups also help with budgeting for the future.

“The owner who does inspections is best suited for capital planning because they can show the progress of degradation,” Hardy says. “They know that if they push repair off another year, it can dramatically increase the cost.”

Equally costly is implementing the wrong solution for a problem, such as applying a coating before the exterior is sound or using the wrong coating altogether, Hardy explains.

For example, only water repellents that permit evaporation and the passage of water vapor, such as siloxanes and silanes, should be used on exterior brickwork. Another mistake is thinking cracks or stains are simply poor aesthetics and require painting, which never solves the real problem.

“Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice,” Perego adds. “Once you see something happening, you need to understand why so you can address the root cause. You don’t want to spend money on a repair that doesn’t actually fix the problem because it could cause more damage.”

Although you may become adept at finding problems, remedying them likely requires outside help.

“The specific solution will be dictated by the type of building you have and the nature of your problem,” Perego explains. “There’s no cookie cutter approach because building are like trees. They’re everywhere, and they’re all different.”


Chris Curtland is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.


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