Envelope Failures and Forensics

Notice clues, identify evidence, and enlist investigators to solve the case

Photos Courtesy of ARUP

Solve with Proper Remedies
Wrapping the case up and filing it away depends on implementing the right solution. Beware of just going to a general contractor right off the bat.

“If you have some water staining or leaks, it’s easy to call a restoration guy to come out and start working on the skin,” Lemieux says. “But it’s very important to do the investigation and get the right diagnosis before you move into repair. There has been good money thrown at a solution only to have the leaks reappear afterwards.”

The remedy in some instances might be as simple as replacing some sealants and flashings and bolstering your initial barrier. Other times remediation can be more drastic and entail recladding or replacing insulation layers. Structural corrosion might require installing supplementary anchors.

The extreme nature of these repairs should be clues that acting proactively is the best policy.

“What might have been a relatively small cost at first may now involve removing interior drywall, dealing with corroded fasteners and components inside the wall cavity, and moisture remediation,” says Lemieux. “The level of repair and how far you have to peel the onion to find the problem becomes much more extensive. Don’t let things balloon to a point where they never should have gotten.”

Exterior Clues Indicating Facade Failure
Application of stucco hid and exacerbated deteriorating mortar. In fact, the remaining stucco layer could easily be removed by hand, revealing the damaged masonry underneath.

Sealants need to inspected regularly and maintained or replaced as needed. Measure the sealant to see if it’s cracking as the building expands and contracts over time.

The unprotected steel lintel above an air conditioning unit has rusted and expanded, lifting the wall and cracking the masonry. The cracks and openings present paths for moisture.

Compression failures may indicate a significant structural issue.

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