Facade Leaks and Repairs
Facade leaks can ruin the exterior and interior of your building, structurally and aesthetically. The facade and building envelope are the first thing that a visitor sees when they approach your facility. Just like residential homes, curb appeal matters. What is the first impression that your property is making on a potential tenant or buyer? Does your property look well-maintained and inviting, or does it look neglected, dirty, and riddled with issues? This can affect your ability to attract new tenants or buyers, to retain existing tenants and command top dollar for your property.
In addition to improving the aesthetics of your building, the facade provides protection from the weather, helps to control heating and cooling which impacts utility bills, limits noise, and can provide structural integrity. For these reasons, the maintenance of your facade is especially important.
Facade issues can have big impacts on your bottom line. Repairing aging and deteriorating properties can be costly. All materials have a limited lifespan which can be impacted by many factors including UV rays, rain, wind, salts, movement, rusting, or failure of other building components. All property managers will be faced with facade repairs eventually. Here are a few insights about what you can expect when it comes to repairing and maintaining the facade of your building.
What facade issues are property managers commonly faced with?
Concrete, stone and masonry facades including brick, EIFS, or stucco are some of the most common materials used on the exterior of buildings. Over time, these materials experience deterioration and failures which result in issues such as water infiltration, drafts, and water damage leading to dissatisfied tenants and a building that is not energy efficient.
Poorly maintained properties tend to perform worse than well maintained properties. Repair costs will be higher and also energy bills due to drafts and inefficient air flow. Additionally, areas of the building can be impacted differently by the weather. Certain sides of the building receive more sunlight, other areas are impacted more by snow, rain and wind depending on storm conditions.
Where do the leaks most commonly occur?
Leaks are typically found around windows, roof lines, at floor levels and areas of the building where there is a change in materials or a change in direction. Usually, the cause is either improper construction, inadequate details related to water management, or movement of the structure.
How often should I have my facade inspected?
An inspection should be performed annually, typically in the Spring. This can be performed by the property manager or other maintenance personnel at little to no additional cost to the property owner. This inspection would include a basic visual observation of the exterior of the building in search of deterioration, cracks, spalling, rusting or any other signs of concern. The windows, caulking, sills, lintels, and balconies must be checked. Frequently a common pattern of issues develops. A list of the floor and building sides, where the problems were observed, should be documented so a possible Request for Proposal (RFP) can be submitted.
What mistakes should property managers or owners avoid?
Not Maintaining the Property
Ignoring one problem will develop into more severe damage and increase the cost of repairs due to continued deterioration.
These are temporary repairs which are usually not highly effective and need to be removed or redone as part of a more comprehensive repair scope. An example of this is caulk smeared over a crack in mortar or brick. Band-Aid repairs are only worthwhile if it helps to reduce or eliminate a problem temporarily while a larger repair project is being planned. Often, band-aid repairs are unsightly.
Who do I call for help?
Issues that are considered maintenance or other smaller projects which are identified early enough can be repaired by hiring a qualified restoration contractor directly. Examples of maintenance projects would be replacing aging caulk, or application of a water repellent or other protective coatings.
For more extensive or widespread issues, a professional structural engineer would be required for plans and permits. A professional engineer with facade restoration experience can provide a cost estimate and assist with the bidding process and construction oversight. They are also a great resource to recommend specialty contractors who are the right fit for the facade restoration project.
What impact does the work have on the tenants or residents?
The positive aspect of this work is that the remediation is accessed from the exterior of the building and typically does not require a contractor to enter the inside of the unit. However, there will be a noise element with workers outside of the windows in the area around your unit. This is typically an inconvenience for a short period of time until the contractor has completed the work at your unit, floor, or section of the building and has moved on to other areas. The key is always communication. Regular discussions with the contractor regarding where they will be working and sending notices to the affected residents or tenants will help to avoid or reduce complaints.
Some of the building amenities may be affected by construction as well. With mid-rise or high-rise buildings, pools, playgrounds, patios, balconies, or other exterior spaces may have to be closed for a period of time when the work is taking place in that area. Where possible, it is ideal to coordinate the work that impacts these areas during times of the year when they are less likely to be used.
How long will my building be under construction?
The duration of the project is specific to every building. It largely depends on the extent of the work that needs to be completed. Small projects can take several days to a few weeks. Larger projects can take months or even years depending on the size of the building and the number of repairs that are being performed.
How much does this cost?
The cost can vary greatly depending on many factors including the height of the building, type of materials, types of repairs required, local labor costs for your area, and total amount of repairs required. Exterior facade work can be quite expensive due to the access required. Typically, the work areas are accessed utilizing pipe scaffolding, suspended scaffolding, or lift equipment such as boom or scissor lift. The more difficult the access is, the more costly the project will be. Also consider the building is either your home or a business asset. For this reason alone, the maintenance of your property is imperative. The key is to have a capital reserve plan in place to prepare for these expenses.
In addition to the cost of the repairs themselves, there are also ancillary costs such as pedestrian bridging. For safety concerns, sidewalks, doorways, or garage entrances could require protection while the work is being performed above. This will add to the overall cost of the project. Another possible cost can be inspections. Having your project engineer periodically inspect and use the suspended scaffolding or lift equipment to observe and oversee the work will add to the cost of the project.
What will I save?
In the long run, you will save money and headaches. Water infiltration into the building will damage and erode other materials including wood framing, carpets, sheetrock and possible personal property. This will lead to additional expenses to repair or replace these materials in addition to performing repairs to the source of the problem at the exterior of the building. The disruption to the residents or tenants can lead to numerous complaints, arguments, or even lawsuits. It is most advantageous that you deal with the problems as soon as possible.
In addition, when your facade and building envelope systems are functioning properly, it will help save money on heating and cooling bills. Inefficient building envelope systems allow infiltration of cold or hot air which forces the HVAC units to perform harder to keep the temperature comfortable inside the building.
What are some preventative maintenance measures that should be taken?
For brick, a clear, penetrating water repellent can be applied to reduce the absorption of water into the masonry. This protects your masonry from freeze/thaw and deterioration without changing the aesthetics. However, a water repellent should not be confused with waterproofing since it only reduces but does not completely stop water penetration.
Elastomeric coatings can be used on vertical exterior walls including brick, concrete, EIFS or stucco. They are applied similarly to paint, but unlike paint, elastomeric coatings are waterproof, bridge hairline cracks and have elastomeric (movement) properties. These coatings can be tinted similarly to paint.
The walking surface of balconies can be protected by use of deck membranes. These systems typically consist of a waterproofing base coat membrane and a UV stable protective topcoat with a slip resistant aggregate.
What are the long-term benefits of having routine facade maintenance performed?
When a building is properly maintained you will save money on costly emergency repairs. The building will be secure, clean and attractive, which will increase property values and command higher rents. If the building is performing more efficiently, there will be cost savings on utility bills.