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Weep holes also are often missing in support lintels
above windows and doors. Without a water-drain
system in place, moisture corrodes the lintel and
eventually damages the brick and substructure. Retroactively inserting weep holes is very easy to do.
The biggest detail to note in tilt-up walls are cracks.
These cracks can allow moisture to get into concrete
itself, risking corrosion of the reinforcing steel. What
happens most often is deterioration of the sealant
between concrete panels. Replacing this sealant is
straightforward and inexpensive.
Stucco facades have a wire mesh that attaches to the
main structure, and the stucco adheres to the mesh. If
water can get to and corrode the mesh, it can literally
collapse entire sections of facade. Some of this water
could come from roof leaks.
Smaller warehouses, car dealerships, garages and
“hip” office-warehouse spaces often are metal buildings, which are a lot less expensive to construct and
easier to maintain. Sometimes, these structures can
even have metal roofs. Examine how the structure is
fastened together, paying particular attention to the
seams between panels. Make sure the seams are sealed
and protected from corrosion with proper sealants for
Balconies and stairs
For multistory structures, look for microbial growth on
the soffits of balconies above the ground floor, as well
as cracks in the concrete slab that allow for water infiltration. These are indicators of deterioration or a lack
of waterproofing. Missing and/or loose bolts in guard
rails and the connections used to secure guard rails to
a structure are a serious safety issue. Property-condition
assessments may miss these small details.
Most exterior stairs are steel frame and susceptible
to corrosion. Corrosion of the stringer (the side-frame
structure supporting the stair treads, or steps) also can
be a serious safety issue. Likewise, cracks or spalling
in concrete treads that expose the reinforcing steel to
corrosion represent a major safety threat. Steel stair
pans (which hold poured concrete), handrails and
connections also can corrode.
The best preventative measure for maintaining exterior stairs is to clean corrosion off before repainting,
with a rust-inhibiting paint, ensuring the stairs can last
decades. If the stair treads connect to a wooden frame,
or stringer, those connections can deteriorate and be
compromised. Stair treads, pans, angles or stringers
themselves all can be maintained and replaced to
prevent more serious issues.
General building structure
Water damage to a property can be staved off by preventing plumbing issues from getting out of hand with
respect to bathrooms, sinks, showers and dishwashers.
Major and minor water leaks (especially if not reported),
can dampen the wood decking that supports the floor,
which can ultimately lead to a major structural failure.
Some buildings are constructed with post-tension concrete slabs. Within that concrete slab are tendons (
plastic-sheathed steel cables) that extend the length and/or
width of the slab. This type of slab is especially common
where there is expanding soil underneath the structure
because it allows the slab to be raised slightly above the
ground to prevent damage from soil expansion.
On the edge of that concrete slab, you can often
see little circles that look like concrete patches. This
is where the tensioned tendon is set and anchored
inside the concrete and protected by grout from the
elements. Those patches can come off through deterioration or movement. If the exposed anchoring
tendon corrodes and snaps, it could come out of the
concrete suddenly and literally kill a person. Keep all
anchors patched and protected from the elements
at all times.
Property owners and managers should regularly
look for wood-destroying insects and pests, such as
termites and carpenter ants. In addition, as a preventative measure, they should implement a general
pest-control maintenance program.
Steel parking structures are usually composed of steel
columns, beams and trusses with a metal deck and concrete topping slab. Cracks in the concrete layer, along
with any kind of deterioration and corrosion of the
metal decks underneath, could result in deterioration of
the beams and columns, resulting in structural failure.
General measures for all structures, but particularly
steel structures, include sealing all cracks and repairing concrete spalls and cracks to prevent corrosion of
the reinforcing steel. Salt used for de-icing in the winter
and brought in with vehicles is a common catalyst for
corrosion. Keep garages clean and salt-free during
winter season with an occasional power wash.
For post-tension concrete structures, grease stains
on the soffit (underside of slab) are an indication of serious issues with the tendons that strengthen the slabs.
Steel-angle connections used to secure spandrel panels
(the side walls on the exterior of garage) to concrete
slabs often corrode because they are exposed to the
elements. Maintaining the coating with a rust-inhibiting
paint on the connections prevents corrosion and possible
failure of the connection.
Concrete double tee beams (which can span 60 to
80 feet) with concrete topping slabs — and concrete
beams in general — can often develop cracks, and
spalled concrete must be sealed to prevent water
intrusion. Cracks in the topping slab allow water to
infiltrate the tee-beam joints, which can result in corrosion and/or failure of the shear tabs, impacting the
structural integrity of the double tees. Shear tabs are
plates used to connect beams to columns. It’s important
to ensure cracks in the concrete topping slab are
properly sealed and to also keep an eye on the shear
tabs. Should the shear tabs break, the repair is fairly
routine and is a simple way to prevent catastrophic
In the end, attention to detail, paired with small, often
inexpensive preventative measures, can not only
extend the life and structural integrity of a building, it
can save owners money and minimize risk in the long
run. Such an approach also helps mortgage brokers
to simplify the due-diligence and mitigation process
to ensure smooth, fast and successful transactions. n
For more articles
related to due diligence
View these articles and more at
More Friend than Foe,”
“Putting Your Old Due Diligence Out to Pasture,”
Mark H. Fackler,
“Alleviate Lending Headaches,”
D. Lynn Howells,
“Harnessing Valuation Data,”
“Attention to detail,
paired with small,
measures … can
save owners money
and minimize risk
in the long run.”