Masonry problems don’t have to hit you like a ton of bricks. With an inspection and maintenance plan in place, you’ll be able to pinpoint problems before they become severe and expensive to fix.

Take these steps so that when you identify an issue, you won’t be up against the wall.

Look for Moisture Infiltration
Look at your exterior wall system as an asset and adopt a preventive approach. It is recommended to perform annual or bi-annual walkthroughs to gauge overall condition. Knowledgeable in-house staff can conduct the inspection – otherwise it’s wise to enlist engineers or consultants.

“An overall survey of the building will help determine the best moves going forward to ensure value and longevity,” says Leta Hardy, vice president of business development for Valcourt Building Services, a waterproofing and restoration firm. “Set it on your calendar, take photos, and document everything. This way, when a problem arises, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes.”

If you’re in a freeze/thaw climate, perform two inspections – once at the end of the freeze season in spring, and again prior to the next one in autumn.

“This allows you to see the effects of temperature change on the building. The same thing happens in tropical temperatures because of air conditioning on the interior and extreme heat on the exterior,” Hardy explains.

First, look at all sealants and flashing to make sure they’re diverting water as intended, Hardy suggests. As an absorptive cladding, masonry can tolerate more moisture than most, but once it reaches a certain saturation point, you’ll notice signs of damage.

“At the base of the brick wall, you can observe these freeze/thaw cycles,” says Brock Osborn, business development manager of reStore, the restoration program of the cladding and coating systems manufacturer Sto Corp. “After a threshold, masonry can start deteriorating.”

Most problems can be identified from visual cues, Osborn says. Cracks are a good indication that moisture infiltration has occurred, says Christopher Perego, industry sector manager of parking and restoration for chemical manufacturer BASF.

“The biggest mistake is to dismiss cracks. New buildings can expect a certain amount of cracking, but spider cracks are indicative of damage,” says Perego. “After those, it’ll just crumble.”

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