Brick BuildingsBrick Buildings Built to Last

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (IACHI), brick buildings  are built to last 100 years or more. Of course, that only happens with proper maintenance and normal wear and tear. Routine inspections help identify sources of leaks, damaged mortar and cracks.

But what about other  components of a brick building: how long do they last?

Caulking:  5 to 10 years

The role of exterior caulking is  to seal out moisture and outside air. This helps keep the inside cool or warm.  This tight moisture barrier keeps rain and snow out of gaps and joints.  Use caulking when window and door frames meet an exterior wall; when different types of materials meet; such as wood with brick; where siding meets the foundation, and where there are gaps in the masonry; or openings for ducts, plumbing or wiring. Over time caulking can harden and lose its flexibility, causing it to pull away from the surfaces it is adhered to. A visual inspection of your caulking can tell you if you need to replace yours, but most should last 5 to 10 years.

Waterproofing: 8 years

Waterproofing agents are often used on masonry chimneys to prevent damage. They are vapor permeable so the brick so that water vapors are allowed to escape. Several products have been developed specifically for use as waterproofing agents on masonry chimneys. These formulas are 100% vapor permeable, which means that they allow the chimney to breathe. Paint or clear sealers should never be used as a waterproofing agent because they will trap water vapors and moisture inside the chimney causing further deterioration.

Chimney crown (concrete): 100 years

The longest lasting chimney crowns are constructed of a Portland cement-based mixture and cast in a way that provides an overhang projecting beyond all sides of the chimney by a minimum of two inches. However, sometimes they are made out of far less durable mortar.  When cracks appear in the crown it is time to replace it. Failure to replace a crown can result in far worse damage to a brick chimney.

Keep track of when you performed key maintenance tasks such as replacing caulking or waterproofing your chimney. Maintenance is the key to extending the lifecycle of your brick home or fireplace.

PostItNoteThere’s no question you have a lot on your plate as a manager of a commercial building. Whether you manage an apartment complex, office buildings or shopping center, there is a lot to handle. Tennant complaints can sometimes take precedence over routine maintenance. What you need are contractors you trust, who will perform tuckpointing and caulking repairs quickly and efficiently, at a fair price. Getting to this situation requires more than sending out bids and awarding the job to the contractor offering the lowest price. You need to build a relationship with the companies you do business with.  Here’s why you should have short, go-to list of contractors for tuckpointing, caulking and other key services you need.

1. There’s value in knowing when you can hold off on a tuckpointing or caulking repair and when you can’t. You want a contractor who will give you the straight scoop – and will tell you when you can hold off on a brick repair and when you can’t. A contractor you trust is one who understands your budget and presents solutions.

2. There’s value in maintaining your brick building, because neglected repairs can get costly. A trusted contractor can help you keep an eye out for early warning signs of mortar cracking or brick deterioration. That saves you money.

3. When it rains it pours. There’s value in knowing you will be at the top of the contractor’s list when you need an urgent repair. Heavy rains after a harsh winter can sometimes yield a flurry of calls from customers experiencing leaks. Do you want to be on someone’s waiting list or dealing with an unproven contractor when you have an urgent need.

At Shamrock Tuckpointing we appreciate building owners who are interested in building a relationship. We’ve been in business more than 30 years, and are fully insured and bonded. We respect our customers budget concerns and have a long list of happy property managers and commercial building owners.

Let us prove we belong at the top of your Go-To List.

Chicago parapet wall

Many Chicago buildings are designed with a low protective wall or railing along the edge of the roof or balcony. This is called a parapet wall.

Parapet walls are a common source of moisture problems for many Chicago area condominium owners. Inspections of the roof and parapet wall twice a year can stave off major repairs. Here are some signs that moisture may be

1. Brickwork that is damp below the coping of the parapet.

2. Heavy efflorescence.

3. Splitting brickwork and/or sulphate attack of the mortar joints. A sulphate attack stains the mortar white.  

4. Dampness internally at or near the junction of the wall and ceiling.  

5. Blistering of the skirting of the waterproof membrane. 

6. Inadequate fixing of felt at leading edge of top of parapet and/or lack of protective capping. This results in the stripping
    of built-up felt from parapet to profiled steel external cladding and sometimes with stripping of built-up felt and
    insulation from adjacent flat roof as well.

7. Vertical or diagonal cracking (of masonry units and/or mortar joints) with or without dampness internally at or near the junction of the wall and ceiling.

8. Dampness internally at or near the abutment of a flat and  pitched roof.  This most likely caused by the vortex action of
    wind.  This can be particularly severe when the sloping abutment is facing in the direction of the prevailing wind.

Questions about your parapet wall  can be answered via email or phone.

After this past Chicago winter, with all the snow and ice we experienced it’s important to inspect brick and masonry. Brick chimneys, parapet walls and roofs can be damaged by snow and ice.  When high areas are involved its important to inspect brick safely. Every day, nearly 2,000 people are injured while using a ladder, and as many as 100 of them will suffer a long-term disability.

Please read  these important ladder safety tips before you get on a ladder to inspect.

Select the Right Ladder to Inspect Brick Safely

Safety begins with the right ladder. Make sure the weight, level of usage and duty rating is meets the demands of the job. Type IAA, IA and I are the only acceptable ladders on a construction jobsite.  If working near electricity, use a fiberglass ladder with non-conductive side rails.  Metal ladders and wood ladders with metal reinforcement can conduct electricity. If the ladder is not he right length you might have to overreach  to get the job done. That’s how accidents happen. When calculating the length, consider that an extension ladder consists of two overlapping sections, so a 16-foot ladder will actually have a maximum reach of 15-feet. OSHA requires that an extension ladder extend three feet over the roof or other working surface.

 Prepare for the Climb

1. Check the Ladder

Before you start climbing, check aluminum ladders for sharp edges, dents, or bent steps, feet, rails, loose rivets or corrosion. Watch for cracks, chips and missing components on fiberglass ladders. Check the lanyard for signs of wear and fraying.  Inspect the rungs, steps and foot friction pads for wear, missing parts or slippery substances. OSHA requires that defective ladders be immediately marked as defective and withdrawn from use until they are repaired.

2. Check the Site Conditions

Locate overhead wires. Be sure the distance to the nearest overhead line is twice the length of the ladder. If it’s windy, raining or a chance of lightning, don’t climb a ladder. If you need to position a ladder in front of a door or other location where it could be accidentally dislodged, be sure to lock the door, blockade it or assign someone to block it. Be sure to check that the ground underneath the ladder is level and firm. Use large flat wooden boards under the ladder as a level on soft or uneven ground.

3. Prepare Yourself
Wear non-skid footwear and dr your shoes before climbing. Carry tools in pockets, in a bag attached to a belt, or raise and lower them by rope.

Above all, stay safe. And if it turns out you do help with your brick and masonry maintenance please give us a call.

 

 

masonry_inspectionYou don’t need to learn the hard way how these property management mistakes can quickly take a bite out of your budget. Avoid these mistakes from the beginning to reduce your costs and your headaches.

Forgetting routine inspections

Preventative maintenance is the surest way to keep building ownership costs down. Peeling paint leaves wood exposed leading to wood rot. You now need both a contractor and a painter.  A minor tuckpointing repair is neglected and turns into a complete chimney rebuild costing thousands of dollars. Now that our severe Chicago winter is over, it’s the perfect time to complete a routine inspection of your entire property from the foundation to the chimney to identify potential issues.

Looking for a new contractor with every repair

While no one wants to be taken advantage of, it takes time to get estimates and in the meantime you may have a real problem with tenants.  Instead of looking for a new contractor every time you need a repair, look to build a network of reliable, responsive contractors. A contractor with whom you have a relationship is always going to be your best bet when you have a repair that needs immediate attention.

Hiring non-insured or non-bonded workers

While it may be tempting to hire a laid off buddy to complete a repair at a reduced price, you are putting yourself and your association at risk by doing so.  If your buddy falls off a ladder while completing the job and ends up in the hospital, you or the association could be sued for workman’s compensation benefits as his “employer.” Ask contractors to show that they have liability insurance and workman’s compensation for all employees. Bonding offers property owners additional protection. If a contractor fails to complete a job, the bond can provide compensation.  These are two important reasons to hire insured and bonded contractors.

Protect your property investment. These property management mistakes are easily avoided and will save you time, money and needless hassle.


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Brick Maintenance and Repair Blog

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About the Owner

__John_Gallagher

John Gallagher

John Gallagher learned the craft of tuckpointing while in his late teens. His father, a first generation Irish immigrant and construction worker, encouraged his son’s entrepreneurial spirit. John earned a business degree from Loras College, and soon afterward he founded Shamrock Tuckpointing.

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