Is your building SAFE?
HOW TO – spot loose masonry on your own building, keeping you and your family safe
By Stewart Inkster
You need to ask yourself this question….
Is my building SAFE?
The below will help you spot loose masonry on your building and attend to any issues before it becomes fatal.
Table of Contents
IF YOU OWN A STONE BUILDING THIS BLOG POST MUST READ!
WHY SHOULD YOU INSPECT YOUR BUILDING?
You want to carry out a inspection on your house, or public building every five years to make sure it’s safe for you, your family and to the public.
You can instruct a Chartered Surveyor, Conservation Architect or a rated Stonemasonry/ Roofing company. Please see below for a list.
The photo on the right was from a cornice stone on a Edinburgh New Town building which was above a main door.
Let me show you different ways to help you spot any issues on your building and then you can call in the experts for support.
WHAT BUILDING COMPONENTS SHOULD I BE LOOKING AT?
- Cornice courses/string courses
- All detective stonework
- High level copping stones
- Stone balustrades
- Rainwater goods & roofing
- Old rubble
First let us start with cornice courses/string courses below.
LOCATION – This building element is at the top section of your building where you see the rope technicians carrying out inspections.
PROBLEM – If you can see staining marks on your building under the string course there is a very good chance that there is no lime pointing left and the water is running down the building causing damage to stonework.
This creates a lot of loose masonry on your building.
SOLUTION – Access the area from scaffolding or ropes, remove any loose stone, carry out lime pointing work and keep area water tight. If you have the budget the best option is to cover the cornice course with lead.
LOCATION – This building element depending on the building, can be situated all over.
PROBLEM – Look for cracks in the stone work or weathered stone, it best to check all this closer as you will not be able to notice much from the ground level.
SOLUTION – Access the area from scaffolding, ropes or a cherry picker and remove anything unsafe. Plan maintenance work to replace or repair the area.
Cherry picker (IB Access) or rope access is the fastest and safest way.
It is also best to have this type of stone work inspected every 3 to 5 years.
LOCATION – This building element is mostly at top of the building, but some buildings have them on each level with stone balconies.
PROBLEM – A lot of the time those balustrades need lime pointing and are loose. If you see large open joints in the copes and the stone balustrades there is very good chance they are loose.
They are sometimes made in soft sandstone and are weathered, so look for cracks or stones that have moved out of aliment.
SOLUTION – Access via scaffolding, and will likely require full repointing or rebuilding. If a replacement is needed this can be costly at £700+vat each, and if you have about 20+ you might fall off of your chair when you receive a price.
LOCATION – This building element will be on your gable end or middle of the building at the very top.
PROBLEM – This is the most exposed section of the building and also the most unloved part of building. Most chimneys are in a poor condition.
Click to see more photos of chimneys.
Look for weathered masonry, loose chimney pots and cement work. Chimneys can be unsafe and dangerous.
SOLUTION – Access via scaffolding, the chimney will likely require a full repoint or rebuild if you are unlucky.
This work can be very costly so it is best to keep on top of your chimney with regular maintenance to help keep the cost down and lower the risk of a high unexpected bill occurring.
RAINWATER GOODS & ROOFING
LOCATION – This building element will be at the top of your building, slates, gutters, zinc, lead and downpipes.
PROBLEM – One of the most exposed sections of the building that’s main job is to keep your home water tight and allow the water to flow.
Look for blocked gutters, cracked downpipes and slipped slates.
SOLUTION – Most roof maintenance work can be completed from rope access its very important you keep the water flowing and keep your building water tight. It is also important to check all downpipes and gutters are attached to the wall securely.
See below video from a roof inspection we completed.
LOCATION – This building element could be on the front, sides or rear elevation of a building.
PROBLEM – Sometimes rubble can be pointed with cement and this makes the rubble weathered and loose (see below).
Sometimes old masonry can be built on the wrong beds and could be pealed off (see videos).
SOLUTION – Replace, repair or remove for safety or rake out and repoint in lime mortar.
See below video.
Andy removing some stones built on the wrong beds
IS MY BUILDING SAFE
Now you should have basic knowledge on how to spot anything on your building that might not be safe.
You can also use this very helpful Check list form Dalkeith Conservation for repair & Maintenance.
This should help you maintain your building.
If you need an expert to look at your building you can contact us here or look at the below list of some of the best in this field.
Book a STONEMASON
Some useful links you should check:
Edinburgh world heritage – Good website for knowledge
Scottish Lime Centre – Good place for free advice and lime specifications for repairing your house
Under One Roof – Good website if you live in a tenement
Good contacts – we haven’t worked with any of the below but are aware of their good work and I believe you would be in safe hands:
Architectural Conservator – Tyler Lott – loves old buildings
Conservation Architect. – Jo Parry – great knowledge on listed buildings
Architect. – Joanne Mcalland GLM – expert in sustainability
Charted Building Surveyor, – Antonio Cabello – works at GLM demonstrates a great understanding of listed buildings
Nick Boyes – Stone consultant who’s main job is to bring masonry work to market
Artisan Roofing – Some of the best work I’ve seen
Torus Stonecraft – Stonemason with a good understanding of listed buildings