Years ago, when I babysat for a young boy, I watched him create a multi-story building out of empty cardboard boxes. The lad then ran around his proud creation, flexing his muscles and crowing, “My house is indy-structible!” (He then proceeded to crash bodily through the cardboard doors, kick the walls in and lob toys at the roof. It took him a while to destroy his structure, but he enjoyed every second of it.)
Wouldn’t it be great if our co-op or condo building was “indestructible,” too, and could withstand the relentless forces of nature and time without needing constant maintenance and costly repairs? New York City buildings are certainly tougher than my babysitting charge’s cardboard castle, but they’re certainly not indestructible. There are several factors that can cause significant wear and tear on all buildings.
Defending Your Castle
Urban buildings may appear to be solid as rocks, but it’s very important to remember that they’re not static. According to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), once construction is completed, buildings don’t necessarily stay put.
“Not only does every material wear, but buildings do move,” says John Graham, senior landmarks preservationist with the LPC. “During the life of a structure it will continue to settle and shift. The bedrock is moving. The underlying soil is also being washed away, tunneled through by animals, frozen and thawed, shaken by human forces like traffic and the MTA, and eventually concrete cracks, steel rusts and the building shifts.”
There really isn’t anything that can be done to protect a building from the natural shifts in the earth, or its underlying long-term effects on the structure. There are however other enemies that can cause damage to your building’s shield. Part of any building’s maintenance plan should include protecting it against these enemies, repairing any damage and maintaining the building exterior on a regular basis.