Hidden Damage to Your Building Envelope That Can Go Undetected For Years

Your building envelope protects your building against moisture-related effects, air leakage, and thermal movement. Unfortunately, envelope failures often cause damage that goes undetected for years. Here we look at common envelope failures and the hidden damage they cause.

Causes of Building Envelope Failure

Building envelope failure is a result of several possible factors, including:

  • Improper detailing
  • Poor workmanship
  • Inferior or low-quality products
  • Natural forces
  • Lack of maintenance

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that noted failures are not actually the cause of the damage in question. As a result, the hidden areas of failure continue to contribute to damage over time. Undetected envelope failure eventually penetrates the building’s interior impacting your tenants and increasing repair costs.

Direct vs. Indirect Damage

Building failure can occur as either direct or indirect damage. Direct damage impacts the building envelope itself, while indirect damage refers to underlying damage that occurs as a result. Direct damage is detected sooner, while indirect damage is a slow progression. Because direct damage is easier to detect, annual envelope inspections are a must.

Moisture-related Building Envelope Failures

Rain and melting snow and ice contribute to moisture-related failures. There are several factors impacting moisture effects, from the slope of a building roof to the quality of materials used to create a watertight surface.

The building’s entire water drainage and grading systems help keep water away from the foundation and lower areas of the envelope. However, damage or improper draining and grading can also negatively impact a building’s water-tightness.

The longer water damage remains undetected, the more likely it is to cause interior damage including toxic mold growth.

Air Leakage Building Envelope Failures

Air leakage failure results from unsealed/damaged joints, penetrations around the windows, and damage to various building layers. When these seals deteriorate, air moves freely through the envelope, increasing energy consumption.

Poor air tightness also increases the risk of toxins penetrating the interior, such as car exhaust from underground garages. This puts tenants at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Without regular preventative envelope maintenance, air leakage failures can cost a building thousands of dollars a year, depending on the square footage. In fact, by achieving a Normalized Air Leakage level, you can reduce the amount of energy required to heat your building by almost 30%.

Thermal Movement Building Failures

Thermal movement is caused by constantly changing temperatures. Because your insulation layer acts as a thermal barrier, it prevents excessive heat exchanges between the interior and exterior. In this case, failures are usually related to insufficient or damaged insulation.

“Differential movement” caused by wind loading or the thermal expansion and contraction of materials such as masonry or concrete can also cause envelope performance issues. When the façade can’t accommodate movement between the base structure and the envelope, it creates breaches in the various envelope layers. Damage can include sealant cracks and breaks, and separation of envelope layers.

An effective building envelope maintenance plan ensures you reduce the risks of costly undetected damage. Annual inspections with your maintenance plan identify direct damage for speedy repairs.

At WellDone Inc., a building restoration company specializing in building improvements for commercial and multi-unit residential buildings throughout the GTA, we have the expertise to assess your building envelope and provide preventative maintenance to avoid undetected damage. For more information about our building restoration services, reach out to us today.