How to Maintain a Building's Structural Integrity
Property owners and managers have a lot to think about when it comes to the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings they oversee. Maintaining the structural integrity of a building is key to ensuring a longer life span for integral materials in a building, such as lintels.
A lintel is a piece of steel that sits above a doorway, window frame or other opening, which supports the masonry above it. Lintels come in a variety of shapes; an 'L' shape, an 'I' shape and a 'C' shape. The different shapes depend on the width of the masonry opening, and the amount of weight it will be supporting.
Below are some common questions that Dakota Evans Restoration receives about lintel failure and replacements.
What causes a lintel to fail? Lintel failures are almost always the result of water intrusion. As water infiltrates the brick, the steel lintels begin to rust and expand, cracking the masonry above it. A common mistake that a property owner or manager can make is to caulk the joint where the masonry meets the steel.
Do I need to replace my lintel? In order to determine whether or not a lintel needs to be replaced, its structural integrity needs to be assessed. The lintel pictured should serve as a reference point on whether or not a replacement is needed. The picture illustrates that the steel has become separated from the masonry and the front edge of it was caulked, which keeps water in. This lintel is in need of replacement.
What are the implications if I do not replace my lintel? The most pressing concern with not replacing a lintel is the structural integrity to the masonry it is supporting. There is a potential for failure of the steel which, in extreme circumstances, could lead to the masonry above it collapsing. However, the tell-tale signs of a lintel and masonry failure will be apparent. The mortar joints located directly above the lintel will start to fail with the possibility of the brick beginning to crack. Rust coming through the mortar directly to the left and right of the lintel may also become apparent.
Are there alternatives? If the deterioration is caught early enough, the rust can be grinded off the lintel, a rust inhibitive primer can be applied, then it can be coated with an epoxy paint with a UV protectant topcoat. In most situations, this will deter or slow down the process of needed replacement.
What should I look for when I have a lintel replaced? A replaced lintel should have a couple of different aspects -- some of which are visible and some that are hidden. The most obvious signs of lintel replacement are the condition of the steel; a stainless-steel drip edge that directs water away from the wall, along with the presence of weep ropes (small tubes with pieces of cotton in them designed to wick small amounts of moisture away from the building.) The less obvious signs hidden behind the masonry include rubberized flashing that coats the steel lintel and end dams, which will prevent any water from moving laterally behind the masonry.
For more information about lintels and when it is necessary to replace them, visit dakotaevans.com or call 847-439-5367.