Staying Ahead of Trouble Building Exteriors Need Regular Checkups, 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 building. 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.

“It's Chicago's freeze-thaw cycles that are really tough on brick, mortar, concrete and stone that are the materials we work with,” says Robert Reese, president of AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing in Chicago. “When nighttime temperatures dip below freezing all these materials freeze up, and the residual moisture in the materials freeze and expand. In daytime, we thaw with the sun. Milder winters might even be harder on masonry because you're always a few degrees above or a few degrees below.”

The Root of All Evil

Due to this harsh climate, structural issues with the building can run the gamut, and common enemies for any building are sun exposure, snow weight on roofs, and harsh winds. But, ironically the kryptonite of all modern shelter happens to be the source of life on Earth.

“The first place you'll start to see water coming is usually above the windows, in the reveal or return, you'll start to see brown spots. Or if you see wood flooring and it’s cupping or warping. We also look to see if flashing has been installed, and see if water does enter the wall, it has a chance to exit,” says Mike Galasinski, a mason at Arrow Masonry Exteriors in Palatine.

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