44 Central Rehab Diary: March 2017
Back in August we told you about the League’s two-centuries-old headquarters in Albany and our effort to create a plan of action for its restoration and maintenance. While we have made improvements to the building over the years, including a new HVAC system, new roof covering, and a complete rehab of the first floor, our c.1817 building has for some time suffered from water infiltration, deteriorated masonry, rotting exterior wood trim, and other issues.
All photos courtesy of Chad Reinemann, Ryan Biggs Clark Davis.
Of course, none of this is unique to our building, and just like any property owner we need a plan for fixing what needs to be repaired and maintaining it over time. Our first step was a conditions assessment of the building that pointed out signs of deterioration both inside and outside the building, as well as issues needing further analysis. Next was a structural evaluation of those issues by the engineering firm Ryan Biggs Clark Davis. Some of the findings of their survey read like a crime novel.
The exterior of our building’s west side shows significant mortar and brick deterioration. Some of this is due to the use of improper repointing mortar that is not compatible with the old, soft brick. The result? The harder mortar is less permeable to water and more rigid under stress, forcing the softer brick to expel moisture and provide flexibility. Eventually the brick will spall.
Also on the west wall, the short roof parapet tilts in at the top, causing a distinct bulge in the wall. This is accompanied by extensive deterioration. It is behind this wall that the engineers found a gap between the parallel timber support that is embedded in the wall and the wall itself. Something is definitely moving in that wall.
Historic photos of our building show that it had access to the cellar in the front and rear through open wells outside of the building. Closed up window and door openings in the basement reinforce this. Could improper fill or water infiltration have led to the sidewalk cracking and pitching toward the building? This has led to runoff being directed toward our foundation, causing puddling in the basement.
License to Kill
Even licensed plumbers and electricians need the occasional oversight by a property owner. Here is something we have seen many times in older buildings, inappropriate drilling and removal for the installation of plumbing, ventilation, electrical, communication, and other services. Here a plumber removed brick in a bearing wall in the basement that has dangerously undercut the door lintel. Below is one of a series of three inch holes drilled in the floor joists of our first floor for electrical and communication service installation. I am told there is a better way to do this, and I believe them.
This is just some of what we found, but the question now is what to do with this information. How do we take these findings and organize them in to a coherent repair and maintenance plan. Look out for our next installment of Rehab Diary when we ask: “Do we need professional help?”