Posted On: October 3, 2011 by Donald B. Brenner

Transition by Condominium Associations – Focus of Engineering Investigation - Part 2

This is part two of a series of posts discussing Transition by Condominium Associations: Focus of Engineering Investigation. You can read the first post online here.

How do engineers find this moisture damage without tearing off all of the brick and cast stone? They use moisture probes, which are inserted through the mortar joints in the brick and cast stone and into the sheathing and framing. These probes measure the amount of moisture inside the sheathing and framing. If the probes are inserted into wood and the reading is more than 20%, that typically is viewed as an indication that damage is beginning. If the reading exceeds 30%, that means the sheathing and framing are damaged and must be replaced. If the sheathing and framing are gypsum or oriented strand board (OSB), the acceptable level of moisture content in the wood is even lower than it is for plywood.

Elevated levels of moisture in the sheathing and framing under the brick and cast stone can be caused by many conditions. Missing or improper flashings, blocked weep holes and open sealant joints are among the common and visibly obvious causes of water infiltration. Others that are not visible without invasive inspection are weather-resistant barrier that is lapped backwards (i.e. instead of being installed from the bottom up, it is installed from the top down so the water runs behind the paper), failure to properly incorporate the weather resistant barrier into the flashings, and clogging of the air cavity behind the brick and cast stone so that the water cannot run down the weather resistant barrier and out. Instead, it works its way inside the walls. Determination of the causes of the damage should be done by an experienced engineer or architect who carefully documents the test methodology and results with photographs and video. Samples of a particularly nasty-looking damaged wood products should be bagged and marked by date, location and the name of the person who took the sample. This is necessary in order to enable counsel to use this evidence at trial if that becomes necessary.

In hiring experts to do this investigation, we recommend to our clients that they use engineers and architects who have substantial experience testifying at depositions and at trial. Being a litigation expert is very difficult, highpressure work. Errors made by the expert in conducting or documenting the field investigation can be damaging, sometimes fatal, to your case. Why should you pay your hard earned money to train an inexperienced expert how to follow the rigorous procedures needed to document and prove your claims when there are plenty of experts out there who have done this for many years and are already very familiar with that is expected of them by counsel and the courts?

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