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Older Buildings Need Love Too

Time goes marching on. With the change of seasons and bringing in of new years, each passing day, month and year makes those older buildings of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s a year older too.

The trouble is most of those older buildings were designed and fashioned for an expected life of 50 years. What happens to those buildings as they move past their design life?

50 Year Design Life

A fifty-year design life is a quite common design approach for builders and engineers.

Even the modern design/specification guides like QTimber work with 50 years building life.

So what happens to a building as it passes its intended design life?

It doesn’t automatically fail or fall down. It doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be demolished to make way for new structures.

It definitely does mean though that it is about time the older building was shown some love.

If you think buying or owning an older building comes without the concerns of modern construction because ‘they don’t build them like they used to’, then I have some news for you.

Older buildings need love too.

Older Building Timber Maintenance

To start with, timber that has been exposed to the weather and natural elements for fifty or more years is going to be getting closer to needing some care.

I’m talking timber stumps under houses. I’m thinking about timber decks that have been around for all time. I’m suggesting that timber roof frames and timber wall frames could all stand to be shown some love.

Exposed timber is the easiest to monitor and maintain. Engage an experienced carpenter, engineer or wood technologist to inspect (and if necessary drill) the exposed timber at your home.

Look for decay. Check for signs of white ants. Go searching for rusty fasteners or loose tie rods.

Get these issues fixed.

Replace decayed stumps. Get termites treated. Remove and replace corroded fasteners and tie-down connections.

When replacing the roof on an older building, take the opportunity to have the roof framing connections upgraded. In some locations you must do this. In all other locations it is still a great idea.

Exposed timber is the most likely to be showing its age and the easiest to maintain – so there really is no excuse not to check your timber and keep it in good condition.

Older Building Suspended Slabs

There are thousands of multi-storey unit blocks and apartment buildings that were constructed around fifty years ago.

A lot has changed in that time. The way we design buildings has changed. The materials we use has changed (and generally improved). some of the buildings have changed too.

For some of them, their use has changed from warehouses and lofts to apartments. Some of them have been modified by various owners over the years. Some of them have not received the love the deserved for a very long time.

Body corporate managers are increasingly having to handle the degradation of suspended concrete structures.

Steel reinforcement in the slightly more porous and permeable concrete structures is corroding and causing spalling and delamination of concrete.

Aging concrete is showing signs of parallel cracks and diagonal cracks near corners and cracking on edges and underside surfaces.

These cracks mean different things in each circumstance so invariably these issues need to be addressed by an experienced structural engineer.

Some older reinforced concrete structures can easily be replaced. other reinforced concrete structures will need to be maintained or repaired in place because they simply cannot be replaced easily.

Look for signs of degradation in older buildings. Look for cracking, loose concrete, rust-stained concrete, efflorescence and sets of parallel straight lines and diagonal cracks near corners.

Engage an experienced concrete technologist or structural engineer and then a remedial concrete company to assess your concrete repair options.

Older Building Steel Degradation

We’ve saved steel structure maintenance for last. Partly because steel structures can be painted, repainted and sealed fairly easily. partly because when steel structures loose too much steel to corrosion replacement is a PAIN.

Weather exposed structural steel has probably already been repainted by now in buildings at 50 years of age or more. The paint systems and paint technology has come such a long way since the older building was first painted that it is imperative that paint maintenance is carried out on older buildings.

Look for corroded steel surfaces and corroded steel fasteners.

Galvanised corrugated iron roof sheeting is probably at the end of its life in 50-year-old buildings so start making plans to replace the roof sheeting soon.

Steel posts embedded in concrete are also coming to age so check for signs of corrosion at the base of posts where they disappear into concrete slabs and footings.

Like I said, it is way easier to repair and maintain steel structures than it is to replace them.

Engage a painter to prepare and repaint steel structures. Upgrade the paint system to a modern technology paint and primer and keep your older building steel structures looking great.

Older Buildings Need Love Too

In summary, as the thousands of residential and commercial and industrial buildings of the 60s, 70s and 80s approach their design life, they are going to need inspections, maintenance, upgrading and repair.

Get an experienced team of architects, structural engineers, carpenters, painters and concrete technologists on your team and keep an eye on your older structures.

Older buildings need love too. And maintenance. And protection. And repairs.