The first thing that caught my eye was the general poor appearance of the building. There was cracked render pretty much everywhere as well as evidence of concrete cancer coming out of the surface of exposed beams.
Looking up the face of the building we could see exposed concrete slabs on each of the floor levels between the brick walls, that appear to have popped and in the process of falling from off of the building and onto the ground. Not an expansion joint in sight!
Considering the highest point to repair was approximately 10 metres, the emphasis of the remedial work had now shifted to more an OHS risk management exercise, rather than just a ‘small’ cosmetic repair. Any object falling from 10 metres, let alone a chunk of cement render, is likely to kill someone down on the ground.
Now, the question I was asked by the property manager was ‘is it normal for cement render to just fall off a wall, or has something not been done properly during the execution of the work?’
The answer is simple, yet for some unknown reason is rarely understood.
It is normal for cement render to delaminate from a substrate such as a concrete structure, if expansion joints have not been installed correctly. Why? Because the forces underneath the render, usually between where the concrete areas meet up with the brick areas, or with some other substrate, are greater than that of the render coating. Any type of natural expansion or contraction in the building WILL result in cracking, and that ultimately leads to delamination and the potential of OHS risks.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of buildings going up every day in Sydney where this simple practice is not observed by the head building contractor, leading to future remedial work which could have been easily averted.
The problem for the property buyers are that these cracks don’t often surface until several years later, by which time the builder has done the bolt and absolved himself from any liability.
So a ‘small’ enquiry turns out to be not such a ‘small’ job, with the owners now up for about $40,000 to repair the building that should never have needed repairing had someone carried out his job correctly.
It could be much worse though, for if any render were to fall off and kill someone, the consequences would be even more severe!