Material Conditions Series Part 5: Surface Loss

Each week we’re bringing you an in-depth look at one of the standard conditions we encounter and document during inspections of buildings and civil structures. 

Part 5: Surface Loss

Surface loss describes the disappearance of material at the outer faces of masonry units or concrete, and includes erosion, delamination, exfoliation, chipping, glaze loss and face spalling. Surface loss can lead to the material becoming friable. Exfoliation may also be referred to as blistering.

Eroded limestone

Eroded limestone

Erosion of concrete and masonry materials can occur due to scouring by wind and water, or abrasion by other materials. Delamination applies only to natural stone, and results from the separation of layers along bedding planes.

Delaminated sandstone

Delaminated sandstone

Exfoliation is the loss of the outer surface of a material in thin layers. Water infiltration is a major cause of delamination and exfoliation.

Exfoliated granite

Exfoliated granite

Chipping refers to shallow surface loss, typically at the edge of a masonry unit. Glaze loss applies only to terra cotta, resulting from water infiltration or poor glaze-body “fit”. Face spalling generally applies only to brick, and can result from thermal expansion forces resisted by inappropriately-hard mortars.

Face-spalled brick

Face-spalled brick

A material is described as friable when a loss of cohesion within the unit or concrete, caused by water infiltration, has rendered it powdery or crumbly. Inappropriate surface treatments or cleaning techniques can contribute to several types of surface loss.

Next in this series: Failed Joints in Masonry

Click here to see all posts in this series.

Click here for an index of all posts in this series, or download a pdf of the complete series.

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