What is Efflorescence and How to Prevent it (simplified)

What is efflorescence

We have been around the building industry for several years, which means that we are very familiar with every possible type of damage a building can experience. There are some types of problems that are only seen in older houses; advancements to the building industry have simply made some previously common problems obsolete. One type of damage that older masonry buildings can experience is efflorescence, which is why we were shocked to see it on a 1-year old masonry apartment building in Melbourne metropolitan this year.

Efflorescence is a water-soluble salt found on building material after water has evaporated and can be a warning sign of building damage.

Reasons for Occurrence of Efflorescence

This discovery made us realize that perhaps the Australian construction industry isn’t as advanced as we had predicted. Efflorescence is a very simple problem to prevent, but a difficult one to address once it has already formed. For those who are unfamiliar with efflorescence, it is simply a white powdery water-soluble salt which is left on the surface of bricks as water evaporates. For Efflorescence to occur, three crucial conditions must be met:

Efflorescence on the wall
  1. Water-soluble salts must be present within the masonry structure.
  2. There must be enough water to carry and transport the salt to the surface of the masonry structure.
  3. A channel or path for water to travel through to the surface of the masonry structure must exist.

It is impossible for efflorescence to occur unless each of these conditions is met. Therefore, in order to prevent efflorescence from forming, builders must simply regulate these conditions. Here are a few simple ways to prevent efflorescence:

Limit the amount of water in the masonry structure

During construction the amount of water should be strictly limited to what is required to make the grout and mortar. No excess water should be allowed into the masonry structure during construction or during the structure’s lifetime. This can be achieved by designing and installing an adequate drainage system to deter runoff water from the structure.

Use a dense grout

Creating a dense grout by using a mechanical vibrator during construction will greatly limit the presence of voids within the material, making it very difficult for the free water (and salt) to travel through the masonry structure and onto the surface.

Efflorescence on the wall

Learn more about types of building damage Here.

Today, we have all the tools and knowledge available to prevent problems like efflorescence. There is absolutely no excuse that a builder can make to justify the accumulation of efflorescence on their building, especially in the early ages of the structure. If you have identified efflorescence on the walls of your house and would like to have it removed, contact MFS Engineering today.

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