A crack in a concrete floor or a series of broken bricks doesn’t mean instant building replacement. Once, building owners would have opted for a new building at signs of structural distress, but now there’s a trend toward exploring repair and restoration options. And with good reason: It typically costs less to restore a structure—even those in serious disrepair—than to clear a site and start over.
Understanding what goes into the repair and restoration of concrete and masonry structures is critical, and so is being able to identify the warning signs of a minor repair on its way to becoming a major investment. The number one way to save money in concrete and masonry repairs is to budget for routine building inspections and ongoing maintenance from the beginning, according to Bud Lampley, infrastructure specialist for Simpson Strong-Tie, a leading manufacturer of structural connectors.
“Far too often, I see severely neglected buildings that I know could have been as good as new with proper maintenance along the way,” says Lampley. “The owners are now looking at a major repair project, instead of minor upkeep.”
The inspection process doesn’t require a great investment of either time or money. Lampley recommends building owners schedule annual building inspections with an experienced contractor or structural engineer to walk through the space and determine any issues that need to be addressed. There are a few signs to watch for during an inspection that indicate when a repair is needed:
- Failing or spalling concrete. This could be caused by moisture that has gotten into the material and caused rebar to corrode.
- Surface discoloration. Often caused by exposure to natural elements, surface discoloration can indicate moisture intrusion.
- Cracking and efflorescence. That chalky substance around a crack indicates there is moisture coming through the concrete, which signals a deteriorating structure.
If left untreated, any of these warning signs could signal major building damage, so it’s critical to establish a maintenance program to repair building imperfections as they arise. When properly maintained, many buildings can last well over 100 years—even indefinitely.