Contributed by Western Specialty Contractors
From the February 2017 Issue
All matter breaks down over time. The structures that surround us today are no exception to that law of physics. Some building materials are more durable than others, like stone and steel, but unfortunately the days of structures surviving thousands of years, like the Egyptian pyramids and Roman cathedrals, is over. Preventive maintenance of building exteriors is more important than ever.
“Every building or structure should have a preventive maintenance program in place for its exterior components,” says Mark Sheehan of Western Specialty Contractors Facades Division, a national specialty contractor based in St. Louis, MO. “How extensive the program needs to be will depend directly on the size of the building, number of different materials and components, geographic location, and personnel available to keep it updated.”
A preventive maintenance program consists of two major parts—the inspection and the execution. During inspection, some of the more complex structures may require special access and assistance from a contractor. However, for most structures, an in-house maintenance crew—with a little bit of training—is capable of doing the job.
“When performing the inspection, it is extremely important to document the findings and keep them in a consistent format from year to year. It is also necessary to inspect any work that has recently been performed as those repairs may still be under warranty,” says Sheehan. Specific items to inspect and document include the following.
Gutters, drains, downspouts, drainage, roof. Decaying leaves, pine needles, and dirt runoff can all contribute to ponding water and clogged gutters and downspouts. It is essential that all roof drains remain clear of obstructions. In addition to risk of water pouring into the occupied spaces should a breach in the roof occur, freezing and thawing of ponding water during the fall and winter months can cause extensive roof damage.
Perimeters of doors, windows, and other wall penetrators. The exterior walls of a building can be a significant source of water leakage. Many openings are required in commercial building walls for plumbing, irrigation connections, lighting, HVAC system elements, exhaust vents, air intakes, joints around windows and doors, and fire alarms, to name a few. Unplanned holes may also be present caused by aging brick joints that need re-pointing, vanishing sealants, damage from acid rain and settling cracks.
Building control and expansion joints. Like any other element of a structure, its controls and expansion joints can become damaged. Evidence of damage includes warping, cracking, leaking water, loosening screws and building settlement or moving.
Walking/driving surfaces. When water infiltrates concrete, it can freeze, causing the water to occupy 9% more volume than in its liquid state. This expansion causes distress on the concrete, which can lead to fractures that will continue to grow exponentially as saturation of the material increases. Cracks, spalls, rust spots, deterioration, potholes and heaves are all signs of damage.
Copings and flashings. When surveying the roof, be sure to inspect the copings and flashings. Water damage to exterior and interior walls can be significant if these elements are not maintained properly.
The second part of any preventive maintenance program is the execution. The data collected during the inspection should be put into a budget for needed repairs. It is also important to evaluate the need for protective measures such as scalers or coatings. A specialty contractor with experience in facade maintenance and restoration can itemize each inspection item and offer specific recommendations for repairs.
“If you are in charge of a structure that does not have a preventive maintenance program in place for its exterior, you should think about implementing one immediately,” says Sheehan. “Preventive maintenance keeps the building off of the deferred maintenance path, which usually results in exponential restoration costs.”
Based in St. Louis, MO, Western Specialty Contractors is a national specialty contractor in masonry and concrete restoration, waterproofing and specialty roofing.
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