Archive for the ‘Masonry Restoration’ Category

Foreman Ed Erazo, SparkleWash Construction Services, Omaha, Neb., uses low pressure spray to apply Sure Klean Vana Trol masonry cleaner to a mixed masonry elevation at an under-construction shopping center in Papillion, Neb. photo courtesy Craig Christensen

Foreman Ed Erazo, SparkleWash Construction Services, Omaha, Neb., uses low pressure spray to apply Sure Klean Vana Trol masonry cleaner to a mixed masonry elevation at an under-construction shopping center in Papillion, Neb. photo courtesy Craig Christensen.

The editor of a construction trade magazine called the other day.

She wanted to understand masonry cleaning, since she planned to feature this important but not-so-well-understood facet of masonry construction in an upcoming issue. She wasn’t afraid to ask about the basics, either.

She sent me a list of questions. I answered them, and after checking my answers with our in-house experts, returned the list.

Here’s the masonry cleaning Q & A:

What is the cleaner supposed to do? Simply remove excess mortar, dirt and grime from the surface of the brick, stone or CMU? Or more?

Cleaners for new masonry construction remove dried mortar smears and splashes from the masonry. They “clarify” mortar joints, removing the bit that has bulged out during tooling, so the joint has nice neat edges. On colored concrete block masonry, good cleaners also improve “color uniformity” building-wide.

This photo shows the basic purpose of new construction cleaning -- remove excess mortar and clarify mortar joints. The contractor used Sure Klean 600 new masonry cleaner to do the job.

This photo shows the basic purpose of new construction cleaning — remove excess mortar and clarify mortar joints.

Restoration cleaners remove a host of contaminants from historic building fabrics, from biological staining to atmospheric soiling from decades of air pollution caused by cars and factories.

New construction cleaners and restoration cleaners should do their jobs without damaging the masonry.

This before-and-after photo shows restoration cleaning under way on a 1928 apartment building in Gary, Ind.

This before-and-after photo shows restoration cleaning under way on a 1928 apartment building in Gary, Ind.

What isn’t it supposed to do? Sink into brick and mortar joints, because that could cause what?

Above all, cleaners should not damage the masonry. Other things they shouldn’t do include staying on the surface too long. They can dry out and become one more unsightly contaminant, especially if they contain dissolved mortar or other soiling. If applied at too high a pressure, they can penetrate the masonry too deeply to be rinsed away. If the cleaner starts to dry before the dwell is complete, reapply.

What do you mean by masonry “substrates” when talking about the mock up panel?

Whether referring to a test or mock-up panel, or the building itself, “substrate” is jargon for the particular kind of masonry material. For instance, clay brick is one kind of substrate, and concrete brick is another.

When is the bucket and brush method needed? Is that ever the best choice?

Bucket and brush is appropriate for indoor cleaning where water must be tightly controlled. Also for cleaning isolated areas and features outside. Bucket and brush doesn’t distribute the cleaner as uniformly over a large area as low-pressure spraying, however.

This is a good place to mention the 4-step method for masonry cleaning.

Why was raw acid ever used? Why isn’t it anymore? Was it always muriatic?

Pre-World War II, masonry pretty much meant red clay brick and gray mortar. Red clay brick is highly acid-resistant, so to clean the acid-soluble excess mortar, masons used cheap, abundant muriatic acid, a by-product of steel manufacturing.

Since then, manufacturers have developed an enormous range of masonry products, in all colors, both clay and acid-soluble concrete. Ingredients to create colors and effects in clay brick, such as vanadium salts (beige brick) or iron (iron spot brick), for example, can react with acid to mobilize ugly stains. So manufacturers created cleaners that use only tiny amounts of acid, controlled and enhanced with detergents and buffering agents.

These proprietary cleaners, made specifically for cleaning, come with precise application and safety instructions, and warranties. Follow directions, and you can count on the result. This is not the case with muriatic acid, which is just a byproduct, and never intended for masonry cleaning. It has no warranty, safety or application instructions, let alone any kind of tech support.

The good news - the applicator saved a couple bucks by using cheap muriatic acid to clean the masonry. The bad news - Cleaning with muriatic acid caused these ugly stains which equal thousands of dollars in damage.

The good news – the contractor saved a couple bucks by using muriatic acid to clean the masonry. The bad news – Cleaning with muriatic acid caused these ugly stains which equal thousands of dollars in damage.

As a byproduct, it contains impurities, which accounts for the yellow color. These impurities can stain mortar joints during cleaning.

Muriatic acid is cheap and abundant which is why some contractors use it, even though the Brick Industry Association, Mason Contractors Association and other industry groups have come out hard against muriatic acid. Many brick manufacturers include pallet tags with their products expressly warning against cleaning with muriatic acid. But old habits die hard.

Is there a maximum PSI for water pressure?

For rinsing masonry, 1,000 psi is probably as high as you want to go. Again it’s quantity of water used (gpm) rather than psi that governs the effectiveness of the rinse. The higher the psi, the more chance you have of scarring the masonry with “wand marks.” In the dimensional stone industry, as you may know, super-high psi is used to cut stone.

Another element to consider in pressure rinsing is the radius of the spray, commonly referred to as the “degree of fan.” A thousand psi at zero degrees of fan would basically be a laser beam, scarring the masonry. The same psi at 40 degrees of fan (recommended) will give you a good rinse.

PSI also refers to the water just as it leaves the nozzle. The stream loses some of its velocity between nozzle and wall. Keeping the nozzle about 18 inches from the masonry is recommended.

High pressure and a narrow fan have scarred this concrete masonry -- without doing a very good  job of cleaning,

High pressure and a narrow fan have scarred this concrete masonry — without doing a very good job of cleaning,

If a cleaning plan is discussed in pre-construction, should it also be specified?

The cleaning plan should always be discussed pre-construction, and proper products and procedures specified. It isn’t always, and projects often pay the price.

Whose job is it to design the cleaning plan and to approve of the job when done?

G.C., architect, mason and cleaning sub should work together to design the cleaning plan, with input from the masonry manufacturer. Whoever has overall responsibility to deliver the building to the client – usually the architect — should approve the completed project.

Is the cleaning typically done by the mason contractor or is that work sub-contracted out?

It can and is done either way. If sub-contracted, the mason contractor still needs to ensure proper products and procedures are used.

Bad cleaning looks bad but may also damage masonry. How?

On clay masonry, some forms of improper cleaning, like using muriatic acid or not properly pre-wetting or rinsing can etch mortar joints. Exposing the softer layers beneath the surface decreases the mortar joint service life by making it more vulnerable to freeze-thaw cycling and other forms of deterioration. Eventually, water gets in the building envelope.

The same can happen with concrete masonry, only the CMU is also vulnerable along with the joint.

Above all, cleaners should not damage the masonry. Here, a cleaner not made for concrete masonry etched the joints and the block surface.

Above all, cleaners should not damage the masonry. Here, a cleaner not made for concrete masonry etched the joints and the block surface. In addition, the masonry was likely not properly pre-wet or rinsed.

Does masonry with a water repellent coating need different treatment than “raw” masonry?

New-construction cleaning – removing excess mortar and clarifying mortar joints – should be conducted before applying a water repellent. A finished building with a water-repellent applied will still need maintenance cleaning. But this will be a different type of cleaner than used for new-construction cleaning, because the soiling to be removed is different.

In general, maintenance cleaners are less complex and less aggressive than new construction cleaners.

Is it appropriate to ask about cleaning historic or existing buildings?

Yes, because anything outside gets dirty and needs to be cleaned — especially after half a century or so.

Anything outside gets dirty -- just how dirty a building can get is shown here during restoration cleaning of Chicago's Randolph Tower.

Anything outside gets dirty — just how dirty a building can get is shown here during restoration cleaning of Chicago’s Randolph Tower, with PROSOCO’s Sure Klean Restoration Cleaner, natch.

Is that process different?

The basic procedure – soak or “prewet” the surface; apply the cleaner; dwell and agitate; rinse – is usually the same for restoration and maintenance cleaning as it is for new construction cleaning.

Is the product used different?

The products are different from new-construction cleaning, because the contaminants and masonries are different. You always want a cleaner specifically designed for the masonry you’re cleaning and the contaminants you’re removing. Just as there are different products for different kinds of new construction cleaning – clay and concrete, for instance, so there are different kinds of cleaners in restoration cleaning for, say, granite and limestone.

Removing biological soiling from old acid-soluble limestone takes a much different kind of cleaner than removing dried mortar from new acid-resistant clay brick.

Can you list, generically, the best kinds of products for different masonry materials (one for brick, another for block, another for limestone, etc) without using brand names?

Your best bet for cleaning any kind of new masonry is to locate a cleaner designed for that specific kind of masonry. Cleaning red clay brick? There’s a cleaner made for it.

Cleaning cast stone (a concrete product)? Use a product specifically designed for cast stone.

Removing atmospheric soiling from 100-year-old limestone? Make sure the cleaner is designed specifically for that chore.

If you’re in doubt, call the manufacturer’s toll-free customer care number. If there is no number, don’t use that product. Use only cleaning products backed by free, readily available manufacturer tech support.

The cost of damaging a building is too great to be anything but one hundred percent certain that you’ve got the right cleaners and procedures.

If you see one product that claims to clean every kind of masonry – and there are some out there – run. One product cannot clean every kind of masonry and every kind of soiling any more than one kind of saw can cut every kind of material, or one kind of hammer can do every construction job.

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Newly restored and fully occupied, the 108-year-old Poehler Building enters its second life as the Poehler Loft Apartments. ~ John Young, PROSOCO

There’s a waiting list to live there now, but the four-story 108-year-old Poehler (pronounced “polar”) Loft Apartments, Lawrence, Kan., entered 2012 as an empty, decrepit brick warehouse.

Winter winds whistled through the walls.

It took MCM Restoration, Fort Scott, Kan., less than year to help transform the aged building from dirty abandoned hulk to coveted, affordable living space.

The Poehler Building bears the marks of years of neglect in this February 2012 photo, even while restoration work continued inside. ~ Stephen Falls, PROSOCO

“Paint stripping the inside was one of the hardest parts of the job,” said project manager and company president Craig McKenney.

White paint, applied decades before, covered the interior of the former grocery distribution center. The design for the loft apartments called for exposing the century-old bricks, so the paint had to go.

The years had cured the dirty coating to rocklike hardness on most of the walls, and vandals had added graffiti. Abrasive blast media with crushed walnut shells, then sand were both auditioned, but neither did the complete trick, since much of the paint had penetrated into the masonry pores and irregularities where it continued to harden for years.

This photo shows a paint stripping test panel done with crushed walnut shells as abrasive media. It didn’t meet the project’s requirements. ~ Stephen Falls, PROSOCO

Sand blasting also got a try-out as an interior paint removal method, but chemical stripping offered better results and got the nod. ~ Stephen Falls, PROSOCO

A two-step strike with PROSOCO’s Sure Klean® Heavy Duty Paint Stripper, followed by Sure Klean® Limestone & Masonry Afterwash effectively dissolved most of the stubborn old coating. Brushed on and pressure-rinsed off, the alkaline paint stripper pursued the paint into the substrate, breaking its time-hardened bonds.

Restoration techs use pressure washing and Sure Klean® Heavy Duty Paint Stripper to remove the decades-old paint from the building’s interior walls. Note the dam set up to catch the spent cleaner and dissolved paint. ~ Stephen Falls, PROSOCO

Pressure-washing with the mildly acidic afterwash neutralized the surface pH and added an additional cleaning and brightening effect.

Cleaning was only half the battle, McKenney said. Managing the rinse-water to meet local regulations took its own share of planning and attention.

Before cleaning could begin, McKenney had about 100 samples of the paint tested for heavy metals such as lead. The tests returned negative.

The company then had to devise a plan for capturing the rinse-water, monitoring the pH, and filtering out the solids before it could be released to the Lawrence water treatment plant.

The plan included a timetable forecasting gallons per hour produced, and when they’d be released.

“You have to prove to the officials you’re not going to hurt their facility,” McKenney said. “They want to know exactly what you’re sending, how much, and when you’re sending it.”

MCM Restoration met the city’s requirements. They captured the rinse-water in dams of sheet plastic and roofing roll. Pumped into three successive vats, the solids settled to the bottom. The spent cleaner and rinse-water, cleared of solids, got neutralized and pre-treated until it met the specs for release to the water treatment plant.

In addition to paint stripping, McKenney’s crews spent the cold winter months cleaning the interior, repairing the interior sides of the neglected masonry, and cutting 60 new rough openings for windows and doors in the thick masonry walls.

An MCM Restoration technican cuts a rough opening for a window on the fourth floor of the Poehler Building as another tech vacuums up the brick dust. ~ Stephen Falls, PROSOCO

With Spring and warmer weather, the MCM Restoration crewmembers turned their attention to cleaning and repairing the exterior, while interior construction and renovation continued.

“The outside of the building was in some disrepair, especially the parapets,” McKenney said. The bricks had been laid with a soft lime mortar. Over the decades they’d washed out.

“You could pick out the bricks by hand,” he said. “We took one parapet wall down about 12 inches by hand before we completely rebuilt it.”

Some of the building’s problems resulted from the nearby railroad tracks. Harmonic vibrations from thousands of passing trains rattled the building and over time, combined with building movement and freeze-thaw cycling to weaken the mortar joints and crack the masonry.

The trains also contributed a thin film of atmospheric staining to the masonry from diesel emissions.

“Some of that film may have even dated back to smoke from coal-powered trains,” McKenney said.

More modern and noticeable was the bright, fierce graffiti splashed along the building’s lower levels. Though MCM Restoration had the grit, grime and graffiti in their sights for removal, masonry repair took first priority.

The building had enough gaps and cracks for wind to create drafts inside the building, despite walls seven wythes thick at the first story, tapering to a still relatively thick three wythes at the top.

“Wind can get in anywhere there’s an opening,” McKenney said, “even by the most indirect routes.”

Most of the replacement of spalled, cracked and missing brick took place on the building’s south elevation, where gutters had failed and water ran rampant down and in the wall. The masons replaced about 25 percent of the building’s brick on the South side.

MCM Restoration technicians salvage hundred-year-old brick from a newly cut rough opening on the fourth floor of the Poehler Building. MCM used some of the salvaged brick on repairs to the building exterior. Note the three wythes of load bearing brick exposed by the cut. ~ Stephen Falls, PROSOCO

The other elevations, in better shape, had less damaged brick.

MCM Restoration tuckpointed about 45 percent of the century-old masonry, shoring up the old building’s air- and water-tight integrity.

Poehler Building’s original builders did a good job, McKenney said. The masonry held together well despite time and neglect.

Following repairs, the exterior masonry got a double scrubbing.

First, the crew removed excess mortar and clarified joints from the tuckpointing and brick replacements with PROSOCO’s Sure Klean® 600 new construction cleaner. Then they washed the masonry free of its thin film of grit, grime and atmospheric staining with Sure Klean® Light Duty Restoration Cleaner.

Natural light bathes the restored brick wall of a Poehler Loft apartment on the building’s first floor. ~ John Young, PROSOCO

They spot-cleaned thicker deposits with Sure Klean® Heavy Duty Restoration Cleaner. Exterior graffiti was no match for the same Heavy Duty Paint Stripper and Limestone & Masonry Afterwash combination that removed the petrified white coating and graffiti from the interior.

Goedecke, Kansas City, Mo., supplied the project’s cleaning materials.

By the end of July, the restored Poehler Building was ready for its second life as the Poehler Loft Apartments.

“After more than a hundred years, it may not look as good as when they built it,” McKenney said, “but it’s going to come close.”

Evidently some people liked the looks of the Poehler Loft Apartments. According to a July 25 article in the local newspaper, the Lawrence Journal-World, all 49 of the building’s units leased within 12 hours of opening – with 70 more on a waiting list.

MCM Restoration President Craig McKenney made this prediction in February about the Poehler Building: “After more than a hundred years, it may not look as good as when they built it, but it’s going to come close.”

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This totally permeable cheesecloth, treated with masonry water-repellent Weather Seal Siloxane PD, illustrates what protective treatments are all about. Liquid water cannot go through the treated cloth, porous as it is, and beads up on the surface. Water vapor can go through, however, as the rising steam shows.

I first learned about penetrating water-repellents for masonry, a PROSOCO specialty, when I arrived here at PROSOCO 13 years ago in July.

These remarkable treatments seemed completely magical to me then, and still do. It’s amazing to me how these substances — many of them water-based themselves — can bar entry of liquid water into the substrate, while permitting water vapor to evaporate out.

Newbie though I was then, I could still see the advantages. Water can’t get in, to freeze and expand, and crack and spall the masonry — or to make a moist environment for mold. Moisture already in isn’t trapped within the microscopic pores and capillaries of the brick, stone or concrete — it can evaporate out.

That characteristic is often referred to as “breathability.”

My first thought was — if moisture can get out, but not in, wouldn’t the masonry eventually get so dry that it would crumble into dust? However, this dire circumstance has never come to pass. Evidently, the laws of physics don’t work that way.

The opposite problem — too much water getting into unprotected masonry does create dire circumstances.

The black gunk is mold on the (then) 100-year-old limestone of the North elevation of the Douglas County Courthouse here in Lawrence.

One of those problems is biological growth. If you think the preceding photo looks bad, you should’ve seen it in person. Eventually they cleaned the building, using PROSOCO products, natch. The cleaning contractor recommended a penetrating water repellent for the cleaned courthouse, but I don’t know if that ever got done.

North elevation, Douglas County Courthouse after cleaning, with PROSOCO products, natch. But without a water-repellent, the biological staining will come right back.

If it didn’t the biological staining will be back.

Here’s another North elevation shot. This is historic Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas, getting cleaned for its 50th b-day in 2005.

Allen Fieldhouse got treated with a masonry-strengthening water repellent Weather Seal H-40, and the black gunk hasn’t returned.

North elevations are particularly susceptible because they seldom see direct sunlight. So once wet, they often stay wet, which is just how mold likes it.

Put a penetrating water repellent on that masonry, and the water can’t soak in to provide a moist environment for mold.

I poured water on this limestone sample after treating three-quarters of it with Natural Stone Treatment, a water-repellent specially made for limestone.

Here’s an example. Water beads up, unable to penetrate this limestone where I treated it with a water-repellent. Mold won’t find that a good place to thrive, because of lack of moisture. The water soaked right into the untreated edge, making it more susceptible to biological growth.

Water penetration has popped the faces off this bark-faced brick. There’s also plenty of dirt and mold.

In the photo below, water penetration has popped off the faces of the bark-faced brick in this retaining wall. The damage could have been caused by freeze-thaw cycling, or by the build-up of salts within the masonry fabric (subflorescence). Water penetration causes both problems, so either way, keeping water out of the masonry prevents the damage, as well as the mold growth.

This graphic shows how penetrating water repellents line the pores of masonry substrates with hydrophobic molecules.

Penetrating water repellents work by soaking in and lining the pores of masonry substrates with water-repellent molecules. Visualize a molecule with an umbrella on top and hooks on the bottom. The hooks chemically bond the water-repellent to the substrate. The net effect of all those little molecular umbrellas is to create a surface tension that keeps liquid out of the pores.

There’s not a thing in the world, however, to stop vapor from evaporating out, if it needs to.

Because the treatment does its job from beneath the surface, there’s seldom, if any, change to the look and feel of the masonry. That’s particularly important to restoration professionals.

They’re right to be concerned. Film-forming water-repellents, which try to protect the masonry by forming an impermeable layer over the masonry, can seriously degrade a building’s appearance.

Here’s a close-up of a failed film-forming protective treatment. The force of the moisture evaporating out caused the coating to debond.

Because they’re not “breathable,” these treatments trap moisture within the substrate until it breaks out. The results are ugly. Where the coating fails, more water gets in. Where the coating stays intact, it traps the additional moisture, so the problem gets worse and worse faster and faster.

The only solution is to remove the failed coating, and replace it with a penetrating water-repellent.

A failed film-forming coating is removed from the orange brick at the historic Folly Theater in Kansas City. Guess which side has yet to be cleaned.

That’s what happened at the historic Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City. You can read the full story here.

Water penteration into masonry and concrete causes plenty of other problems besides mold growth and surface damage. Lime run and efflorescence are two other common problems. As a matter of fact, uncontrolled water causes more damage to buildings than anything else.

Though they’re major components, water-repellents are still only one part of the system for stopping water damage. Expertise, structural integrity and a reliable, tested water repellent all work together. Still looks like magic to me, though.

One of my favorite photos. I treated this brand-new masonry With Weather Seal Siloxane PD, then hit it with the garden hose, then got the photo on a sunny summer day. Love this job!

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Abandoned hulk to smart apartments -- The 1904 Poehler Building in PROSOCO's hometown of Lawrence, Kan., is getting a new life with the help of PROSOCO products.

Visited an aging hundred-year-old hulk of a red-brick building in East Lawrence recently — 108 years old, actually, built in 1904.

The Poehler Building, a wholesale grocery distribution center for its first 50 years or so, is getting a complete restoration — using PROSOCO products, natch. In its second hundred years, it’ll be snazzy rent-controlled apartments. MCM Restoration Company, Fort Scott, Kan., is handling the masonry restoration, inside and out.

Not much is happening outside in the frigid February weather. But inside is active, and MCM Restoration Company President Craig McKenney took me: our graphic genius and photographer Stephen Falls; and our boss Marketing Director Scott Buscher into the guts of the Poehler Building for a glimpse of the restoration action. Stephen shot all these photos.

They’re looking at a grand opening in July.

One of the main jobs right now for Craig and company is getting the dilapidated white paint off the walls. Some places it’s easy and can be mechanically removed. Other places it has penetrated somewhat over the decades and has a steely grip on the brick. Grip or no, it’s got to come off. The walls will stay exposed.

Restoration techs use pressure washing and Sure Klean Heavy Duty Paint Stripper to remove the decades-old paint from the building's interior walls. Note the dam set up to catch the spent cleaner and dissoloved paint.

PROSOCO’s Sure Klean Heavy Duty Paint Stripper gets brushed on, breaks the bond, then is pressure-rinsed off. The rinse gets caught by dams of roofing roll and plastic sheeting, and is pumped into vats. There, the solids settle to the bottom. The spent cleaner and water get neutralized and pre-treated, then pumped into a truck which carts it off to our local certified wastewater treatment plant.

The solids dry out into a “cake” (yum) and go into the dumpster.

Sand blasting got an audition for paint remover of choice, but didn’t make the cut.

Here's the test panel done for the sand-blast method of paint-removal.

Same with crushed walnut shells, another abrasive blast media.

Crushed walnut shells also got a look as an abrasive blast media for paint removal, but that method wasn't chosen either.

MCM Restoration is also cutting the Poehler Building some new windows in the upper stories. On the top floor, the walls are three brick courses thick. On the first floor of the load-bearing masonry building, the walls are seven courses thick.

MCM Restoration masonry technicians salvage brick from a newly cut window in the top story of the Poehler Building.

More than a century old, these clay brick, salvaged from a newly cut window in the Poehler Building's masonry fabric, will be used again in repairs to the building exterior.

When the weather gets warmer, the building exterior will get a complete masonry restoration, Craig said, including 100 percent tuckpointing and cleaning and grafitti removal.

“After more than a hundred years, it may not look as good as when they built it,” Craig said, “but it’s going to come close — and be water-tight.”

By default, the Poehler Building will also be green, because as Washington, D.C. Architect Carl Elefante wrote in his famous “green” manifesto — “The greenest building is… one that is already built.”

Craig McKenney, President, MCM Restoration, takes a minute to smile for the camera. And all that grafitti? It's going away.

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Masonry, done right, is among the most sustainable and most beautiful of construction substrates. The unexpected can occur, however. If problems do occur, the first step is to correctly diagnose what’s wrong, even if that means calling in outside help.

The wrong “solution” can make the problem much worse. Grafitti is a prime example. Some cleaning methods will only result in making the vandalism permanent.

In the 62 years PROSOCO has been making cleaners and protective treatments for concrete, brick and stone architecture, we’ve run across a host of interesting stains and problems that can occur on new masonry construction.

Here’s our rogues gallery of masonry construction’s toughest, most troublesome stains. Recognize any of the characters on this “Most Unwanted” list? When these fugitives from cleanliness show up, they blight even the best designed and built structures. Stain, scum or efflorescence — they all spell trouble for masonry construction professionals.

First commandment for preventing or fixing: Know thy enemy!

Vanadium staining

Muriatic acid, used to clean excess mortar from these light colored bricks, reacted with metallic vanadium salts in the masonry, mobilizing these characteristic green stains.

Description: Yellow, green or green/brown stains in the heart of light-colored brick units common in new or water-saturated construction.
Cause: Water-soluble vanadium salts dissolve in rainwater, construction water or muriatic acid. As water evaporates, salts form on masonry surface to create unsightly stains.
Removal: Let masonry dry thoroughly. Apply Sure Klean® 800 Stain Remover following label instructions.
Prevention: Protect wall cavities and brick cubes from rain during construction. Let masonry dry thoroughly before cleaning with Sure Klean® Vana Trol® masonry cleaner. Protect the cleaned bricks with Weather Seal Siloxane PD or Siloxane WB concentrate.

White scum

Most conventional cleaning agents won't begin to touch this rock-hard insoluble stain.

Description: Uneven white or gray stain on brick face or mortar joints. Often appears as vertical run marks. Does not disappear when wet.
Cause: Inadequate prewetting or rinsing when cleaning with muriatic acid or other acidic solutions. Mortar dissolved by the acid is absorbed by the dry wall surface to produce insoluble silicate salts commonly referred to as “scumming.”
Removal: Use Sure Klean® White Scum Remover following label instructions.
Prevention: Clean with the appropriate Sure Klean® new brick cleaner.

Lime run

Lime run is the same process that forms stalactites in caves -- and some parking garages.

Description: Hard white or gray surface crust concentrated along a mortar joint or running down from a hole or fine separation crack between brick and mortar joints. Does not disappear when wet.
Cause: Water deposited or collected in the wall during construction or as a result of inadequate waterproofing dissolves water-soluble calcium compounds. Over a prolonged period of time, the water migrates through openings in the wall surface. As the water evaporates, the dissolved calcium reacts with the atmosphere and crystallizes to produce a hard calcium carbonate crust on the masonry surface.
Removal: Use Sure Klean® Custom Masonry Cleaner following label instructions. Repeated controlled applications and agitation may be required.
Prevention: Protect wall cavities from rainwater during construction. Clean with the appropriate Sure Klean® new brick cleaner. Protect the cleaned bricks with Weather Seal Siloxane PD or Siloxane WB concentrate.


Efflorescence may eventually go away on its own, but I wouldn't try selling that to an architect or building owner.

Description: Loose, powdery surface deposit that disappears when wet and may reappear as drying continues. Seasonal.
Cause: Water-soluble salts dissolved in rainwater, construction water or groundwater. As water evaporates from wet bricks, it leaves the crystallized salts on the surface.
Removal: Let bricks dry thoroughly. Use the appropriate Sure Klean® new brick cleaner at the highest possible recommended dilution with water. Follow product label instructions.
Prevention: Protect wall cavities and brick cubes from rain during construction. Let masonry dry before cleaning. Protect the cleaned bricks with Weather Seal Siloxane PD or Siloxane WB concentrate.

Acid burn

The good news - saved a couple bucks by using muriatic acid to clean the masonry. The bad news - Cleaning with muriatic acid caused thousands of dollars in damage.

Description: Uneven yellow or gold stain on brick face and in mortar joints. Stained areas may also exhibit severe etching or discoloration of mortar color.
Cause: Cleaning with muriatic acid. Acid and impurities in the acid are rapidly absorbed by porous masonry and cannot be thoroughly water-rinsed. As the acid attacks the bricks and mortar, soluble and insoluble salts are mobilized to create unsightly stains.
Removal: Use Sure Klean® 800 Stain Remover following label instructions.
Prevention: Clean with the appropriate Sure Klean® new brick cleaner.

Brown manganese staining

Manganese staining is actually a form of efflorescence, in which salts from the brick's manganese oxide colorant, mobilized by acid solutions, including acidic rain, migrate to the surface. There they react with the alkaline mortar joint, precipitating the brown stain.

Description: Tan, brown or gray staining concentrated along mortar joints of brown gray or other manganese colored brick.
Cause: Manganese dioxide dissolved in rainwater, construction water or muriatic acid. As water evaporates, manganese reacts with the alkaline mortar joint to create an insluble brown stain.
Removal: Let masonry dry thoroughly. Apply Sure Klean® 800 Stain Remover following label instructions.
Prevention: Protect wall cavities and brick cubes from rain during construction. Let masonry dry thoroughly before cleaning with Sure Klean® 800 Stain Remover® masonry cleaner. Protect the cleaned bricks with Weather Seal Siloxane PD or Siloxane WB.

That’s our rogue’s gallery for new construction. There’s plenty more villains out there for restoration cleaning — like algae, carbon staining and bird droppings, to name a few.

Existing masonry (I’ve always had trouble with that term — doesn’t all masonry “exist?” Supposedly refers to masonry that isn’t new, but isn’t old enough to be historic ) has its bad guys too — graffiti chief among them.

But those are stories for another post. Thanks for visiting!



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Can you identify this project, which was cleaned, inside and out with PROSOCO products? More than 50 readers of last issue's PROSOCO News got it right in that edition's installment of the "Can You Identify This Project" contest.

It’s Union Station, Kansas City, Mo.

You probably already knew that.

We run the “Can You Identify This Project” contest in each edition of our flagship newsletter the “PROSOCO News.” Sometimes I put easy ones in there like — well, like Union Station, or Frank Lloyd Wright buildings (love that Prairie Style). Other times they’re more obscure, like the national headquarters of some big corporation or other.

PROSOCO News -- This cover story won an "honorable mention" for writing in a Publications Management newsletter contest in 2005, but I just like the design. Click on the image to go our archive of PROSOCO News newsletters.

One thing all the mystery projects have in common — contractors used PROSOCO products, natch, to clean, protect and/or maintain the buildings in some way.

When our readers, who are the elite of the construction industry, imho, equalled only in brilliance by the readers of this blog, e-mail, fax or call me with the correct answer, I publish their names and companies in the “Can You Identify This Project” winner’s column in the very next issue.

I ask permission first of course. In all the years I’ve been running the contest, only one person asked me to not put his name into print.

Winners also get some sort of fabulous prize — usually a PROSOCO ball cap. Even better, they get the “You sure know your stuff” certificate.

The "You sure know your stuff" certificate, awarded to winners of the "Can You Identify This Project" contest constitutes absolute documented proof that the holder knows his or her stuff.

This valuable certificate can come in pretty handy. Let’s say you’re in an argument with some rude person who declares “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” You just whip out the certificate, which clearly states that you sure know your stuff. Argument over.

The certificate template was created by our graphic designer Stephen Falls, and each winner’s award is filled out by Systems Support & Training Specialist Candy Monroe. Candy really did correctly identify the Medtronics HQ as stated in the certificate; it’s not just done for example’s sake.

The only drawback to the Can You Identify This Project contest is that sometimes I get more correct responses than I have room to print in the PROSOCO News. The last time it happened was for a Frank Lloyd Wright building near Chicago. I think the entire state of Illinois responded to that one.

So we printed as many winners as we could in the newsletter, alphabetically by first name, and published the full list on a special webpage. That was in the days before blogs. Now that we’re in the days OF blogs, I can publish the full list of last issue’s winners right here, since there’s far too many to put in the print edition of PROSOCO News.

And truly it’s an honor to have the names of these architecturally aware and constructionally knowledgeable building professionals gracing this blog. Here they are for last issue’s “Can You Identify This Project” — Union Station, KCMO. I wouldn’t be surprised if you spot someone you know in their ranks.

Andy Vohs
Chamberlin Contracting
Kansas City, MO

Angela Myler
Univar USA
Kansas City, MO

Bill Morris, AIA
Augusta, KS

Bill Neville
Chamberlin Contracting
Kansas City, MO

Billy Vicic Jr., RLA
Newman, Jackson, Bieberstein
Dallas, TX

Brian Pape
Historic Preservation & Green Architect
New York, NY

Chelsie Booker
RIM Architects
Anchorage, AK

Ching-Ya Yeh
Historic Preservation & Green Architect
New York, NY

Connie Watkins
Scott Rice Office Works
Lawrence, KS

Daryl Carter
Kansas City, MO

Doug Kouba
Kouba + Knoop Associates
St. Louis, MO

Elliott E. Dudnik
Elliott Dudnik + Associates
Evanston, Ill.

Frank Halsey
Mid-Continental Restoration
Fort Scott, KS

Gary Becker
Hesston, KS

Gerald Morgan
University of Missouri
Mexico, MO

Gerard Alba
Studio 804
Lawrence, KS

Gerri Kielhofner
Butler Rosenbury & Partners
Springfield, MO

Howard Langner
Texas Historical Commission
Austin, TX

Jack O’Roark
BAC Local #15 MO/KS
Overland Park, KS

James W. Rhodes, FAIA
Croton-on-Hudson, NY

James Warren
New York State Historic Preservation Office
Waterford, NY

Jessica Gates
Sherwin Williams
Independence, MO

Jim O’Neill
Contractors Supply
East Providence, RI

John E. Heckman, AIA
Heckman & Associates, P.A. Architects
Independence, KS

Jonas Packer
Chicago, IL

Jonathan Brooks
PBA Architects, P.A.
Wichita, KS

Joseph Le Pique
New York City Department of Design + Construction
Long Island City, NY

James R. (JR) Baron Jr., RA, CSI
Norcross, GA

Karen MacCannell
The McIntosh Group
Tulsa, OK

Kathleen Alberding, AIA, CSI, LEED AP
Heller & Metzger, PC
Washington, DC

Keith Anderson
WRA Architects, Inc.
Dallas, TX

Ken Kaiser
Ken Kaiser Restoration
Des Moines, IA

Kevin L. Jarman, AIA
Johnson Cartwright Jarman Architects, P.A.
Tampa, FL

Kimball L. Hales, AIA, LEED AP
Hufft Projects
Kansas City, MO

Kirk Delzer, AIA
Integrated Design Solutions
Troy, MI

Larry Lisbona
Lisbona Architects, Inc.
Shawnee, KS

Lurita Blank
Walter P Moore
Kansas City, MO

Mark Critchfield
Columbia,MO 65203

Mary Beth Oberlin, AIA, LEED AP
Bond Wolfe Architects
St. Louis, MO

Michael Morley
Sipsmart Building Systems
Lawrence, KS

Milton Grenfell
Milton Grenfell Architecture
Washington, DC

Norman Sneed
Allen & Hoshall
Memphis, TN

Paul J. Sanders, Associate AIA, Project Designer, LEED AP
Burns & McDonnell
Kansas City, MO

Phillip Schuler, AIA, CDT, LEED AP
Cannon Design
Boston, MA

Rebecca Davis
RBS Design Group Architecture
Owensboro, KY

Rich McGuire, PE
Structural Engineering Associates
Kansas City, MO

Richard J. Schuetz, AIA
Arlington, VA

Robert Dye, FSCI
Overland Park, KS

Scott Slimp
Intrepid Enterprises, Inc.
Harvey, LA

Shannon Pollard
hollis & miller architects
Lee’s Summit, MO

Terri Heitzman
Station Nineteen Architects, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN

Thomas McKenzie
Agile Pursuits Franchising, Inc.
Olathe, KS

Timothy G. Carlson
HGA Architects & Engineers
Minneapolis, MN

William J. Richardson, AIA
Dallas, TX

If you would like to receive the PROSOCO News and participate in the “Can You Identify This Project” contest, just shoot me an e-mail and I’ll get you signed up.


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Photos courtesy John Cavalieri, Mara Restoration

Cleaned (top) and uncleaned sections of the West elevation of Kingston Armory, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., present a definite contrast.

Stimulus funds paid for a new roof for Kingston Armory’s drill hall, and restoration cleaning and repairs of its upper stories — about 15 percent of the approximately 68,000 square foot building.

While the other 85 percent waits on the vagaries of funding, Kingston Armory, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is a poster child for the difference skilled restoration specialists can make.

Built in 1923 and designed by local architect Thomas H. Atherton, the Classical Revivalist building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s no monument, though — Kingston Armory is working architecture. It houses three Army units — a service company and two field artillery units. When not pulling military duty, the armory hosts circuses, motorsports events and other shows.

The cleaned and uncleaned West elevation of the armory serves as a backdrop for this monument to 33 men of the 109th Field Artillery who were killed in 1950 in a train collision. One of the longest continuously serving Army units, the 109th is still based out of Kingston Armory.

Mara Restoration, Oreland, Pa., was tapped to develop and implement cleaning and repair plans for the building. It needed both, said MARA Project Manager John Cavalieri.

The Mara crew began in late Winter 2009, cutting out failed mortar joints in preparation for Spring 2010, when warmer weather would let them go to work in earnest.

As Spring rolled in, Mara got busy. A cleaning team addressed the dirty masonry in sections about 40 feet wide with masons following, repointing and raking the joints they’d cut out in the winter. The repointing team used a special Spec Mix mortar to replicate the aggregate-heavy original raked historic mortar joints.

They used Sure Klean VanaTrol, a specialized PROSOCO new construction cleaner to expose the aggregate and clarify the mortar joints. VanaTrol is a contraction of the terms “vanadium” — a kind of staining that can occur on certain light-colored bricks — and “control.”

The cleaning crew in front of them used Sure Klean 766 Limestone & Masonry Prewash and Limestone Afterwash to remove the accumulated “black muck” from both limestone and brick. The powerful alkaline prewash is safe for sensitive calcareous stones and clay brick alike, though it’s death on carbon staining.

The mildly acidic afterwash neutralizes any left over alkalinity from the prewash, and adds an additional cleaning-brightening effect of its own.

Though the brick was uniformly dirty, the limestone was a mixed bag. Where overhangs protected the stone, it stayed clean, John said. Where exposed, the stone slowly darkened to the slightly sick shade of gray it bore until cleaned.

Some of the Kingston Armory limestone managed to stay clean.

The Mara cleaning crew got rid of the staining with alkaline 766 Limestone & Masonry Prewash followed by mildly acidic Limestone & Masonry Afterwash -- a one-two combination punch.

The Mara crew applied the cleaners with rollers and paint brushes, scrubbing to get all the nooks and crannies. They rinsed the spent cleaner and dissolved contaminants off the wall with low-pressure water — about 600 psi, John said.

Thick and dark was how the water came off the wall, John said. The crew caught the rinse water and its cargo of emulsified grime in collection areas of rubbery EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer) roofing membrane. Then they pumped it into closed containers for transport to a disposal facility.

In addition to repointing and cleaning, the Mara team also replaced a badly cracked limestone crosspiece in windows on the front elevation, craning it up and muscling it into place.

John couldn’t say exactly how much the piece weighed, but at 10 feet long, 8 inches high and 6 inches deep, it was a heavy piece he said. They got it into place without distrubing the windows.

Come to Poppa! The Mara crew cranes in a massive piece of limestone to replace a badly cracked original window crosspiece during restoration of the upper stories of the Kingston Armory.

Mara also replaced about 140 smaller 4 x 2 foot — but still heavy — capstones running the length of the upper story, as well as recaulking 22 windows, 8 x 10 feet, including the one with the new limestone crosspiece.

Kenseal Construction Products, Folcroft, Pa., and TB Philly, Phoenixville, Pa. supplied the project.

“Mara did a beautiful job,” commented supervising architect Mark Schwager, of the Design Division of Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services, the Armory’s owner. “From the way they recreated the historic raked mortar joints and exposed the aggregate, to the cleaning, repair and replacement of the deteriorated limestone, Mara set the standard for the continuing restoration of the Armory.”

“We’ve gotten great feedback,” says John. “People say the upper stories look phenomenal. They just want to know when we’re going to do the rest of the building.”

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Mara restoration specialists shove limestone coping into place.

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