More Than Just Scratching the Surface Building Facades

Whether a building is old or new, built of stone, brick, glass or some other material, trouble with or damage to its façade is a serious emergency. Telltale signs of building breakdown on the outside—a growing crack or crumbling mortar for example—is unintentionally advertising to potential residents that the building is, sadly, being poorly maintained. Anyone who can see the deterioration on the exterior will rightly wonder how well management is taking care of the interior.

Even more importantly, if left unattended, even seemingly minor façade issues can lead to significant damage, which in turn can lead to significant damage to your building’s bottom line. In the most tragic of circumstances, crumbling façades that ultimately collapse can cause serious injuries (or worse) to residents and bystanders.

Seal the Envelope

Before you can understand what can go wrong with a building’s façade, it’s important to understand how the building is constructed. According to Jerry Yates, chairman of Yates Restoration Group, Ltd. in the Bronx, there are two types of common building façades in the New York City area—load bearing and curtain wall.

Simply put, a load-bearing façade exists when an exterior building wall bears the weight and the force resting upon it. “One example of that type of building façade would be the European castles made 500 years ago where the stones are thick and the building doesn’t need any other support,” says Yates. “We still have some buildings in New York being built that way, but most are made of curtain wall construction.”

“Curtain wall construction is a general term that means it has a façade that doesn’t support the building,” Yates explains. “The building is supported by a steel or concrete frame instead. The whole building goes up, and the only thing missing is the façade; the façade is held up by that skeleton. The façade can be made of brick, stone, metal, or glass and is and hung off the frame and held in place by pins. Most co-op buildings are built like this.”

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