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April 15, 2014 at 12:00 am

Cost Effective Historic Building Rehabilitation through Masonry Conditions Assessments

Whitaker recently joined MEREDA members for breakfast to co-present an outline of how to best plan for historic masonry envelope rehabilitation.  His message was succinct: “It is essential that a masonry conditions assessment be conducted as a precursor to establishing rehabilitation strategy.” Read on to learn more about the rehabilitation of brick and other masonry buildings. And, join MEREDA for our upcoming events.

Addressing the rehabilitation of historic masonry buildings is challenging for building owners.  Many factors such as location, project costs and return on capital investment influence project planning.  Measuring and defining the project cost of masonry envelope rehab can be difficult to quantify without a defined plan.  Part of this challenge is ensuring that the rehabilitation of the envelope delivers low maintenance costs as the building ages after the client takes over full ownership.

Developers are rehabilitating historic masonry structures throughout New England.  In many cases, waterfront mill buildings are being converted for usage that is very different than the structure’s initial design.  Considering how the masonry assembly aged and how it will respond to higher insulated interior walls and newly installed HVAC systems is critical to the overall rehabilitation strategy. Proactive consideration of how the structure will react will lead to a masonry envelope rehabilitation that produces predictable maintenance costs.  Maintenance cost of historic masonry structures can easily become budget busters effecting the profitability of the projects. 

Moisture is the Enemy

Many believe that masonry buildings do not deteriorate over the course of time, that the masonry materials are moisture barriers, that all masonry material react to heat and moisture the same and that mortar is simply the material that holds the assemblies together.  All untrue.  Moisture is the enemy of all building materials, masonry materials included.  As moisture penetrates these assemblies, it begins the process of material deterioration and left unchecked, moisture will destroy any well-constructed building.  Masonry materials absorb moisture which dry through exposure to external heat sources such as the sun, from internal heat sources migrating through the wall assembly and through a moisture weeping system such as joints vents or the assembly’s mortar. Materials such as clay brick, terracotta, stone and cast concrete respond to moisture and heat differently and using the correct mortar mixture is critical to the weeping process.

Assess Prior to Jumping In

Masonry conditions assessments establishes the benchmark to begin to develop the correct rehab strategy.  Masonry conditions assessments will outline the varying conditions that exists within the assembly.  Deterioration of masonry assemblies will often vary based on factors such as building elevation, design details and masonry materials.  Years of repairs with varying effectiveness will also determine the overall condition of the assemblies. 

Pay Attention to Pricing

Once the masonry assessment is completed, construction documents and specifications can be created.  Pricing for construction services will be based upon the detailed construction document package, thus allowing the owner to establish the correct value of the masonry rehab. This will safeguard against run away change orders and unauthorized material substitution during the construction phase.  Aggressive project management assures that the details outlined in the construction and design documents have strict adherence.

Masonry conditions assessments establishes a specific scope of work for the masonry rehab that controls construction costs and leads to long lasting repairs.  The success of masonry rehabilitation is measured by its ability to restore the building’s capability to keep the outside elements from interfering with its internal function.  Building maintenance costs become predicable and affordable with a thoroughly planned and well executed masonry rehabilitation.

Categories: Maine Real Estate Insider