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hausdok

Mother of all Efflorescence

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Thought you guy would get a kick out of seeing this.

This is new construction.

I think I know, but I'd like to hear what folks think caused this and why. It should make for a good discussion.

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ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Yes, of course, it is water. But, I doubt seriously this is a "materials" problem. Any brick manufacturer would hear about it if their product did this, when subjected to unusual moisture intrusion.

If the masons laid this stuff up in the winter time and used a salt based accelerator - oh yeah... it will definitely do this. And, it won't stop doing it in our lifetime. Accelerators are fine for foundation work or parting walls in townhouses etc. But, this is what happens when they're used in finish work. It's going to get worse - not better.

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.................further recommend that the building be moved inside another, larger building.

[:-bonc01][:-bonc01]

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The symptom is water intrusion, the problem was design...

Cap flashing would certainly be helpful. The lack of it has certainly magnified the problem. But still, the efflorescence didn't come from the brick or mortar. If it did, we'd see this condition all over the planet.

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The symptom is water intrusion, the problem was design, followed by execution.

I'm not so sure that's accurate.

I'm not defending design (ugly, stupid), but some of the stuff showing the "symptom" is simple gable end design with eave overhangs. What's wrong with the gable end/eave overhang design?

I look at nearly identical buildings all the time where one shows a snowstorm of efflorescence, and the one right next door shows nothing.

After detailed analysis, the problem usually goes to some chemical or masonry composition issue. Like Mike said, accelerators seem to be the problem much of the time.

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Like Mike said, accelerators seem to be the problem much of the time.

Indeed, check out the last paragraph of this document:

"Cold weather working: It is inadvisable to proceed with the construction of masonry whilst the temperature is below 3 degrees centigrade and falling. If mortar freezes any frozen material should be discarded. Any unfrozen material should not be used on frozen bricks or blocks. Water present in fresh cement may freeze and expand forcing the material apart and breaking the bond.

Anti-freeze admixtures of the calcium chloride type should never be added to the mix. Their effect is minimal and they cause dampness and efflorescence."

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The symptom is water intrusion, the problem was design, followed by execution.

I'm not so sure that's accurate.

I'm not defending design (ugly, stupid), but some of the stuff showing the "symptom" is simple gable end design with eave overhangs. What's wrong with the gable end/eave overhang design?

I look at nearly identical buildings all the time where one shows a snowstorm of efflorescence, and the one right next door shows nothing.

After detailed analysis, the problem usually goes to some chemical or masonry composition issue. Like Mike said, accelerators seem to be the problem much of the time.

The house I grew up in had a brick detail very similar to the photos. Basicaly there was a horizontal shelf for water to land on. two dricks below there was a funny white stain on the brick. Fast forward... today I have a better knowledge of what causes the efflorescence.

I agree that the gable end which has very signifficant efflorescence is probably not from rain.

The detail I mention is not at the gable in the photos, it is a belly band at the second floor plate +-. This typr of detail could be dealt with by using a through wall flashing below the top brick.

When I saw that detail I could not understand why it would be used in the north west.

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Mike,

The salt-based accelerator theory is interesting, because this complex did go up during the fall through winter months on a very wet/windy plateau; however, if it were caused by an accelerator, wouldn't it show up everywhere? Look at the photos; with the exception of that tall house with the entire gable end effloresced, all of the walls with overhead cover provided by porch roofs and bumpouts are free of efflorescence.

Here's a view from the non-weather side of the building containing the unit I inspected. No efflorescence at all. I have a hard time believing that a salt-based accelerator wouldn't show up everywhere.

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ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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. . . Here's a view from the non-weather side of the building containing the unit I inspected. No efflorescence at all. I have a hard time believing that a salt-based accelerator wouldn't show up everywhere.

It makes sense to me. The salt won't rise to the surface of the brick unless the brick is first saturated with water. The north sides of the buildings never get wet enough to matter.

As I understand it, water soaks the brick & mortar, and becomes saturated (or nearly saturated) with any soluble minerals that are present, including salts. Water from the interior continually moves to the dryer exterior surfaces and evaporates, leaving the minerals behind.

If the bricks aren't being saturated, the minerals won't be dissolved into water, the water won't bring them to the surface, and the efflorescence won't form.

The north side doesn't get wet, just as the bricks behind the barge boards in picture 67 don't get wet. Neither shows any efflorescence.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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The truth lays somewhere in between all our positions.

There's crappy design in some places, but not others.

Some of the effected areas are in under reasonably protected eave overhangs, some not.

Or, maybe they didn't fill all the head joints.......look at enough leaky masonry, and you begin to see lots of inadequate head joints.

The brick itself can have varying moisture absorption characteristics, but that's probably one of the least likely possibilities.

It's fairly common around here to have accelerator in some of the mix, and not in other areas; the masons make a call on each day, and sometimes they load the stuff up, and sometimes they don't add a thing. Who knows what they were doing on any given day?

The single greatest likelihood, AFAIC, is the likelihood for there to not be a speck of lime in the mix, and it's just crap bag mortar with too much sand. Walls built that way soak up water like sponges. I see it all the time.

So much masonry defect finger pointing goes to flashing or lack thereof, exposure, etc., etc., etc., but no one thinks about mortar composition.

From what I see every day, that's the single most important consideration.

Ultimately, the best idea is to move the building into another, larger building. That would solve the problem.

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Ultimately, what would be the worst case result of so much efflorescence?

On the one's I've been able to open up and look, the insulation is soaking wet.

One had the phone system shorted out.

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Ultimately, what would be the worst case result of so much efflorescence?

On the one's I've been able to open up and look, the insulation is soaking wet.

One had the phone system shorted out.

Because of salt within the brick veneer?

Marc

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Ultimately, what would be the worst case result of so much efflorescence?

On the one's I've been able to open up and look, the insulation is soaking wet.

One had the phone system shorted out.

Because of salt within the brick veneer?

Marc

Well, apparently if that much moisture truly is saturating the masonry, then the probabliity of it getting through the WRB is that much higher.

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Because of all the water in the wall that's causing the efflorescence. You have to have water to make it look like that.

I'm not saying they're all that way (I have no idea how it works in Seattle), but on the houses where I've been granted the right to open up walls, they're soaking wet.

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A few years ago, I was working with a condo HOA. Some of the units--which had been recently constructed--looked like those in Mikey's photos, and I said the cause was excessive moisture behind the veneer.

On a Sunday before a Monday meeting with the HOA, Tim Carter's column in our local newspaper said that efflorescence in new construction is quite normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Unsurprisingly, several members of the HOA had read the same article, so I got to stand there, as all of us have, and say, "Well, but Tim Carter is WRONG."

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I'm putting all my chips on the accelerator. A mason I know won't work (for his own company) in the winter because the project will look like crap. He WILL work as a mason for another larger company in the winter because his name's not on the doomed-to-look-like-crap project. There's no way to fix it; the salt will keep leaching out.

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I've heard of guys in these parts using "antifreeze" in their mortar in the winter when temps are going to go to 32 or lower, and I assume they mean automotive antifreeze. Anyone else come across this? No doubt the EPA would disapprove.

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Mike,

The salt-based accelerator theory is interesting, because this complex did go up during the fall through winter months on a very wet/windy plateau; however, if it were caused by an accelerator, wouldn't it show up everywhere? Look at the photos; with the exception of that tall house with the entire gable end effloresced, all of the walls with overhead cover provided by porch roofs and bumpouts are free of efflorescence.

Here's a view from the non-weather side of the building containing the unit I inspected. No efflorescence at all. I have a hard time believing that a salt-based accelerator wouldn't show up everywhere.

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tn_2011326124438_Sreeram.jpg

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ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

I don't claim to be an expert, by any means. And, I've been out of the game for a long time. I simply was actively involved in the masonry industry from 1972 - 1989. During that period, accelerators were learned to be the cause of conditions similar to your pics.

As far as locations, I see it no differently than algae, in this regard: It's going to be most prevelant on surfaces that get the most weather and see the least sun. Those areas hold water the longest which gives stuff more time to release into the water. And, those same areas will experience the more and heavier evaporation cycles.

I don't know if that answers your question, but I return to one of my original premises: Any brick or mortar manufacturer would hear about and remedy a problem like this, if it were the result of their product. The masonry materials market is HIGHLY COMPETATIVE and their key indirect buyers aren't builders or project owners, but architects. Manufacturers strive to get their product into the specifications of large projects, such as: schools, churches, prisons, malls, etc. So, if there was a problem with their procuct, they'd be on it like white on rice.

I think accelerators are probably the culprit. We used them (reluctantly - just following orders) a few times and it didn't even take a season for the ugliness to start showing up.

After posting, as I read on, I see that Jim K has explained it quite well. I believe that he is correct.

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I'm putting all my chips on the accelerator. A mason I know won't work (for his own company) in the winter because the project will look like crap. He WILL work as a mason for another larger company in the winter because his name's not on the doomed-to-look-like-crap project. There's no way to fix it; the salt will keep leaching out.

A hint of it would be normal, and it would most likely come from tainted sand. But, the efflorescence would normally be pretty slight and would get better.

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I'm wondering just how badly the outlets and downpipes have to be leaking for there to be efflorescence behind almost every one of them, even on sides that don't generally exhibit the problem?

That's a mess.

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