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The importance or not of efflorescence on brick.


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This is from a 2018 three story condo building. The east had much efflorescence. The rest of the building was good. I found the efflorescence to be excessive. How important is this to the owners of the building to do something about it? My remarks below in the report are a little wishy-washy. 

There is much efflorescence (white powder) at the east and back walls of the building. This is typically caused by excessive moisture coming into contact with the water soluble salts in the brick and/or mortar. Most of this seems to be on the side where there are decks/porches. Note: I did not see appropriate flashings above the porch ledgers. Water running behind the ledger may enter the bolt penetrations and be contributing to this. Consult a mason familiar with efflorescence cleaning and remediation. Consult a porch specialist on how best to flash or seal the areas above the ledgers.

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Could it be new construction bloom that was never cleaned?

It's usually not from the brick.  The soluble salts are mostly from the mortar in contact with the brick.  Not only in-between, but the mortar behind too - if adhered directly to block.

In addition to water entering into the wall, high alkali cement in the mortar, contaminated sand and/or admixtures containing calcium chloride as an accelerator could be the source.

The reporting is ok, except I've never met a porch specialist.

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I would guess it is mortar because of the pattern and  being in Chicago I'd also guess calcium chloride. 

Bill quote -  "The reporting is ok, except I've never met a porch specialist."  I met one and had dinner with him in San Diego 2019. 

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I found these remarks from the BIA tech notes:

"Efflorescence that appears on newly constructed brickwork, less than a year old, is referred to as “new building bloom.” New building bloom generally appears in a fairly uniform pattern across the wall surface and can be attributed to normal evaporation of water after construction is complete. In most cases, new building bloom will dissipate over time if the brickwork is allowed to dry after completion and if environmental factors such as wind and rain are given sufficient time to naturally clean the brickwork. When efflorescence occurs more than a year after construction is complete, it can generally be attributed to excessive water penetration or poor drainage and is often most severe in winter or periods of cold weather. Under certain specific circumstances and conditions, it is possible for the crystals of efflorescence to form within the bodies of brick units. When this occurs, the growth of crystals and the resulting pressure may cause cracking and distress to masonry. It is not practical to attempt to exclude all soluble salts from masonry materials, nor is it possible to prevent moisture from coming in contact with masonry exposed to the weather."

AND Known as cryptoflorescence or subflorescence, salts that crystallize within masonry can develop tremendous pressures which may result in brick spalling.

So I guess to answer the question in my OP. It may or may not be an important problem. They will just have to wait and see. After six years, except for the efflorescence, brick and mortar is in good condition.

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I can only speak for the way efflorescence behaves in my corner of the woods. When I see a band of it, with "uneffloresced" brick beside it (as is the brick at the upper left side of your 2nd picture) then it's a pretty safe bet that you've got water entry above that part of the wall. That might or might not be a bad thing, but it's definitely not a good thing. 

Quick tip to make your writing more engaging: Never start a sentence with "There is." When you do, that sentence is entirely unnecessary. Instead of saying "There is <thing>." Just jump right into whatever it is that's a problem with this thing. For instance, you might write:

There is much efflorescence (white powder) at the east and back walls of the building. This is typically caused by excessive moisture coming into contact with the water soluble salts in the brick and/or mortar.

You can brighten it up even more by getting rid of two-for-one phrasing and unnecessary modifiers: 

There is much efflorescence (white powder) at the east and back walls of the building. This is typically caused by excessive moisture water coming into contact with moving through the water soluble salts in the brick and/or and mortar.

Finally, get rid of the passive voice:

At the east and back walls of the building, water entering and moving through the brick has caused efflorescence (white powder). 

 

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