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The Ultimate Exterior Building Maintenance Guide
The outside of your property is vulnerable to the elements, and is also where you’re most likely to see the tell-tale signs of structural issues. This is why exterior property maintenance is so important, especially when it comes to preventing more serious long-term issues from developing.
At Permagard, we have the products to stop issues occurring, as well as quick and easy solutions to fix problems you may have. Keep reading our guide to find out how to protect the exterior of your home.
Fixing cracks in your external walls
Cracks appearing on your external walls can be a cause for concern, but not one you should be losing sleep over. With Permagard’s Easi-Fix Structural Repair range, you can use professional solutions to quickly sort cracks in your external walls in a simple, cost-effective manner.
There are a number of causes of cracks in external walls. These include:
- Expanding/contracting of building materials
- Foundations of the house moving over time
- Degradation of construction materials
- Structural failure, such as poor construction of building
- Environmental reasons, such as temperature changes and thermal expansion
- Brick spalling - when water gets inside the brickwork, freezes, expands and cracks the brick. More water then finds its way into these cracks and the process repeats, widening the gap each time.
There are two types of cracks you’ll commonly see in external brick walls - vertical and horizontal cracks. If you see horizontal cracks, it’s likely the cause of corroded wall ties, which we’ll go into more detail about later in this guide. No matter the type of crack you have, you should always fix it sooner rather than later, to prevent more serious structural repair issues in the future.
Treating cracks on external walls
The first step in dealing with cracks in external walls is identifying and solving the root problem. Wall cracks come in all shapes and sizes, but without knowing which you have, you cannot expect to effectively sort the issue.
Crack stitching offers the best permanent solution to repairing vertical stepped cracks in walls and improving structural integrity. This non-destructive process involves the use of helical bars, which increase tensile and flexural strength to restore structural integrity. These bars are planted into horizontal slots in the mortar bed joints.
We offer two types of crack stitching kits:
Read our guide to repairing cracks in walls to identify and categorise the source, learn more of the crack stitching process and begin making repairs.
Cracks around windows and doors
If you’re seeing cracks specifically around your windows and doors, then they’re likely caused by corroded wall ties or lintel failure.
Lintels are installed above most doors and windows as a form of structural support. Constructed from metal, timber, concrete or bricks, they provide extra support in weaker areas of a building. Failing lintels cause vertical, stepped cracks around windows and doors. As lintels fail over time, they generally bow downwards, forcing the brickwork up and inwards.
So, how do you replace a brick lintel? The best way to repair lintel failure is by installing longer helical bars, a relatively simple exterior home maintenance task. You can read our guide on lintel repair for visual guidance, further installation details and more.
Sorting corroded wall ties
If you see horizontal cracks in mortar or around windows, or even bowing brickwork, deteriorating or non-existent wall ties is probably the culprit. These ties are installed in cavity walls to tie together internal and external leaves.
Wall ties can fail due to:
- Construction defects
- Poor instalment of materials
- Corroded steel of the tie itself, resulting in rust increasing the tie’s original thickness
Issues with wall tie failure need to be addressed immediately as, if ignored, can result in further structural damage. We recommend you get a structural surveyor to confirm the issue. They will identify the position of the wall ties using a metal detector or by making large incisions, and recommend next steps.
For more information about this, and corroding wall ties in general, click to read our guide to replacing wall ties.
How to fix a bulging or bowing exterior wall
Vibrations from traffic and any heavy building additions, such as extra floors or extensions, can sometimes result in bowing or bulging walls. This can also happen when there’s a lack of restraint between external walls and floor joists.
Lateral restraints offer a non-destructive solution that restrains the whole brick outer structure to internal floor joints. One solution is to screw angle straps onto floor joists, but with lateral restraints, you can insert them from the property exterior while still creating the support needed.
Installing lateral restraints
Our Easi-Fix Lateral Restraints can be fitted from outside the property with minimal disturbance. In most situations it’s a case of lifting the floorboards to locate the position of the joists. This then allows you to calculate where you need to drill. Our Easi-Fix restraint is suitable for both joists bearing into the wall and joists parallel to the wall.
You can then follow these simple lateral restraint installation instructions:
- Drill a 14mm hole through both brick outer and inner leaf.
- Push the long restraint into the pilot hole and attach the lateral restraint fixing key.
- Slowly wind the restraint through the joists leaving the outer end recessed by approximately 15mm.
- The outer end can now be tested for strength of fix (typically 5Kn - 10Kn)
- You can then resin bond the outer end of the restraint into the brickwork and finish off with either mortar or mastic.
We also stock lateral restraint wall tie kits with all you need.
Rising Damp Due to Bridged DPCs
Usually noticed on the internal face of external walls, rising damp is a relatively rare form of damp that occurs when groundwater is sucked up into the brickwork, travelling up walls through capillarity action. If you’re noticing tide marks, crumbling mortar or salt deposits on your external walls, then chances are you have rising damp.
In most buildings, there is a waterproof barrier installed towards the bottom of the wall known as a damp proof course (DPC). Rising damp therefore occurs due to a failed damp proof course, or when a house does not have one at all. It can also occur when external ground levels are so high that they bridge an existing DPC - usually when soil is placed higher than the damp proof barrier during gardening work - or debris entering the cavity wall.
It’s important to keep an eye on external ground levels and any build up that could cause water to bridge the DPC.
If left untreated, rising damp can cause serious structural damage to a building while creating an unpleasant living environment. It can ruin walls, floors and decorative finishes and leave a musty smell throughout the house. Black mould may start to appear, leading to airborne spores which are certainly not great for your health. And finally, rising damp results in heat loss due to wet walls - and an increase in energy bills.
Rising damp on external walls
Before dealing with rising damp, it’s worth noting that this particular type of damp can only be sorted if diagnosed properly. You should seek professional advice from a qualified surveyor before attempting to fix the issue.
If the cause of rising damp is down to external ground bridging the DPC, then the first step is to reduce the height of the soil/ground, to prevent the issue from happening again.
Damp proofing injection cream is the easiest, most cost effective way to treat rising damp. Once injected into drilled holes, the cream reverts to liquid form and penetrates the bricks themselves. This creates a new chemical damp proof course that prevents water from rising up the wall.
Kiesol C High Strength DPC Injection Cream is the highest strength DPC cream on the market, thanks to the amount of active ingredient (silane) making up its formula. With an impressive 80% of silane, Kiesol C leaves behind a permanent water-repellent barrier that outlives even the harshest of conditions.
To read more about rising damp, its causes and what to do after DPC cream installation, click to read our rising damp guide here.
Protecting chimneys from water damage
Chimneys are particularly vulnerable to water damage and structural issues as result of constant exposure to the elements, including extremely wet weather, wind and cold snaps. Fixing chimney problems can be a hard and time consuming job, so it’s important to protect your chimney from potential water and structural damage as soon as possible.
Many issues are harder to spot on chimneys, and are usually not noticed until they’ve become serious problems. Here’s just some of the signs you should look out for:
- Cracking in brickwork
- Efflorescence (a milky residue on the chimney surface)
- Algae and moss
- Musty smells throughout the property
These symptoms can be the result of:
- Water ingress making its way down the chimney, resulting in various problems including structural issues, wet and dry rot, and mould.
- Freeze-thaw, which is when water is absorbed into the chimney brickwork then freezes and thaws. This creates cracks and weakens the conditions of the bricks.
Waterproofing a chimney with Microshield Ultra
Most chimney issues can be resolved using masonry waterproofing cream, if the mortar is in good condition and has no cracks or voids for ingress to track through. Microshield Ultra Masonry Waterproofing Cream creates an impenetrable barrier by lining the masonry pores with silicone. This protects against water damage, whilst allowing water vapour to escape and all without affecting the appearance of the brickwork.
Read our chimney waterproofing guide to see how you can use Microshield Ultra to protect a chimney from future water damage and structural issues.
Waterproofing external walls
We experience some pretty wet and windy conditions here in the UK, so it’s essential that masonry is protected from water damage and penetrating damp.
Penetrating damp occurs when water enters a building from the outside. If you don’t have adequate protection, it can lead to:
- Increased heat loss and higher energy bills
- Damp and mould on internal walls
- Wall tie corrosion
- Damaged brickwork - in particular, something known as spalling
If you’re seeing damp patches on internal walls, and algae growth or damaged brickwork on the outside, it’s a good contender for penetrating damp.
You can protect against penetrating damp using facade cream, which leaves a strong breathable barrier on external masonry. When it comes to waterproofing exterior walls products, PermaSEAL Facade Cream is the high strength, breathable solution you need.
Our facade cream provides protection against driving rain, damp and frost damage, and has a high amount of active ingredients (silane and siloxanes). This concentrated formula penetrates exterior walls to create a breathable water-repellent barrier. Its cream consistency doesn’t run down the wall as it’s absorbed into the brickwork, meaning that you’ll experience full waterproof protection.
Before starting your exterior wall waterproofing, first make sure to deal with any cracks in the masonry and clear away debris and loose mortar repointing the mortar with our waterproofer render additive is best practice. Our PermaSEAL Facade Cream is easy to apply. Simply apply straight from the bucket using a roller brush or spray equipment - only one coat needed!
Fixing blocked gutters, cracks or voids in masonry or render
Penetrating damp also occurs due to any number of building faults such as blocked gutters, loose mortar or faulty downpipes. Gutters that are blocked, too small or overflowing can lead to a regular source of water that may eventually find its way into the building. It’s best to check for and resolve any gutter problems as soon as possible to prevent this from happening.
Meanwhile, external mortar can become friable and loose over time, causing voids and cracks. This then creates an entry point for water ingress, especially with constant battering from the elements. If you’ve noticed this on your property, it’s best to repoint the mortar and fix the issue ASAP, followed by application of PermaSEAL facade cream to protect exterior walls from future issues.
Exterior Wall Maintenance with Permagard
At Permagard, we’re the exterior wall experts. From penetrating damp to structural repair issues, we provide expert solutions at trade prices to protect your property. For information on external building maintenance, get in touch to speak to our specialist team.