What Good Masonry Can Do For You
Building Owners and Property Managers
Article written by Marty Smith
What a Good (Masonry Restoration) Contractor Can Do for You.
Many of the multi-family buildings we work on are operated by property management firms. It is common for a lot of these buildings to be older, brick skinned structures (veneers rather than structural masonry buildings).
We are often called out to a masonry building after the “horse is out of the barn.” The building has begun to leak and the damage is now showing on the inside. With a masonry building, sometimes that means that there is damage far more substantial that what can be seen.
On a brick veneer building, there is about a 1 inch of air space between the veneer and the substrate. The substrate is covered with building paper. If the paper is done right, then the interior might not show water for quite some time after the leak has developed.
Masonry veneer buildings that are more than 50 years old should be inspected on a regular basis by a qualified restoration mason or a building inspector. As most building owners or managers know, maintenance is usually far less expensive than “fixing” the damage after the fact. If an owner waits until the symptom shows itself, the problem could be far worse than the symptom shows.
Many of the old style buildings and brick veneers have lath and plaster interior walls. By the time water shows on the interior walls, not only do you have to deal with the problem, but you also have to fix the lath and plaster…which is not inexpensive. Because lath and plaster is so solid, it might have been holding water against the wood framing…sometimes for years. A contractor opens up the wall to put in the patch…and they find wood rot. Not good.
On a true masonry structure, the same is also true, but for different reasons. The base of a true masonry structure can be as much as 30 inches thick…all brick. You won’t see the problem the water is causing until the water is literally pouring into the building. Generally speaking, there is a lot less chance of damage with these buildings than with a veneer building because there is no structural wood framing holding things up. But, a true masonry structure has its own inherent challenges, as discussed in other articles within this site.
One of the things I have recommended for years to building management companies and owners is to have a professional masonry restoration contractor go through your entire building portfolio and write a report on what should to be done to each of the buildings, in a priority fashion, with a generalized time frame estimation on the full list.
We have property management clients who we have worked with for years. We have an entire list of the properties that have any masonry on them. We go through the properties, as time allows, inspecting each, and talk to the onsite building managers (to find out if there are any water issues). We then write a report with a list of recommended action items on each building with a general time frame suggested. This allows the property managers to work with the owners in a proactive way, rather than a reactive way. It allows for budgets to be set and planning to be done in a more cost effective manner.
A good restoration contractor will often perform this service for free, knowing that the good will created in doing so will allow that contractor to be thought of favorably when it comes time to put the work out for bid.
Oftentimes a preventative inspection will avoid very costly and expensive internal repairs by allowing for a potential exterior problem to be dealt with before it becomes a structural issue.
A restoration mason will assess the general condition of the mortar and brick, and unusual wear patterns in order to help determine the cause, instead of just looking to fix the symptom. This is a key difference between a company looking for work versus a company looking for a client.
Obviously, in the Puget Sound region, the main concern with any building, masonry or not, is water intrusion. Often, by the time masonry shows an unusual wear pattern, the symptom, the actual problem has caused damage to the interior of the structure. “Fixing” the masonry is not the answer at that point. Assessing the conditions of a building starts with the “tell.” It is tracked from there and, oftentimes, an engineer or a general contractor must become involved to fix the problem prior to fixing the symptom. In the worst case scenario, the symptom becomes a problem in and of itself. Again, that is when an engineer should become involved. At that point, things have become really expensive.
Restoration masons can help mitigate these potentially expensive construction projects. It only makes sense to bring a reputable contractor onboard in order to make sure your investment is being properly cared for, and lasts well into the future.