Staying Ahead of Trouble Building Exteriors Need Regular Check-Ups, Too

Remember the old jingle, ‘it takes a licking and keeps on ticking’? It was the famous tagline from the Timex watch advertisements. The gist of the ad is that no matter what you threw at it, a Timex watch kept working.

If you think about it, a building’s exterior is almost like a Timex watch. Each year, Mother Nature throws its best curveballs—intense sun, high winds, fierce rains, heavy loads of snow and ice, and frigid temperatures—at the outside of the buildings. Don’t forget the pollution, dirt from such animals as pigeons and, of course, any items that accidentally hit the exterior. The exterior continues to stand and takes it all in. Well, almost. A building’s exterior can take a lot of abuse, but after time, it does begin to show wear and tear and needs some TLC.

The Root of All Evil (and Leaks)

It's perhaps a little ironic that source of life on Earth is the kryptonite of all modern shelter. When it comes to building exteriors, water basically ruins everything down to the steel rods that provide the skeletal support of newer buildings. One of the most commonly found issues in exterior inspections are waterproofing deficiencies, such as failed flashing systems, cracked/split sealants, peeling/cracked deck coatings and vertical coatings; masonry deficiencies such as cracked/spalled brick or stone, and missing/failed mortar joints, along with concrete deficiencies like spalling, cracking, or delamination.

“Usually they’re calling us when there’s some kind of water infiltration. Our objective is to open up the surfaces and see if we can find the point of penetration, and then see if they’re consistent with the rest of the building. Usually a general contractor will use the same subcontractor for the whole project, so the problems tend to be consistent throughout the building,” says James Rademacher, CEO of Rezkom Enterprises in Ocean.

The material of the building's exterior will determine just how water is getting in. “If you have a brick building, they require certain things in order to make them work. We all know that brick is porous. If you pour water on brick, the water will go right through it. So the brick system has to be designed to shed water. So it’s important that the brick system have an air cavity behind the brick and in front of the sheathing of the building, so that incidental water that gets through the brick can hit building paper that’s on the sheathing, and roll harmlessly down that air cavity and get out of the building through weep holes or flashings that will get the water out of the building,” says Donald Brenner, a shareholder attorney and the chairman of the construction litigation group at the law offices of Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville.

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