Impact of pollution and weather on the UK’s building facades and cladding

External building facades are vulnerable to damage and degradation caused by the weather, vehicle pollution, concrete overspill from nearby building works, and dozens of other external factors. These threats can have a major impact on the visual appearance of any building.

But the challenges don’t end there. A damaged building facade could pose a threat to a building’s interior because it can lead to problems with mould infestation, structural integrity and water leaks.

In this article we outline some of the main impacts weather can have on the UK’s building facades, cladding and external features.

Colour fading of building facades and cladding

The colour of a building’s facade can have a significant impact on the appearance and value of the finished construction. Yet, facade and cladding discolouration is a problem that is often ignored by many building owners.

One of the most common causes of facade discolouration is solar radiation, which is especially evident on surfaces located in direct sunlight. Building facades typically fade because the sun’s ultraviolet rays react with the materials used in construction and deteriorate their appearance.

UV rays from the sun can cause a range of visual deterioration issues on building facades and cladding including:

  • Irradiation of colours and bleached brickwork
  • Greying of mortar joints
  • Etching of plastered surfaces and masonry blocks
  • Flaking or fading paintwork

One of the most effective ways to protect facades and cladding from the sun is to install a reflective solar skin or coating designed specifically to combat solar radiation. But this isn’t always possible with some painted facades, particularly if the surface is already damaged or peeling, or if the surface isn’t completely flat.

Other solar-protective solutions are available however, and as experts we believe that it is worth investing in this protection because it can save you thousands in future maintenance costs.

The good news is that facade and cladding discolouration can be repaired using specialist restorative cleaning and restoration techniques. For more information, call our restorative cleaning specialists today!

Algae infestation

A form of microscopic natural plant life, algae is commonly found on building facades and cladding. Algae tends to thrive in moist and wet environments which explains why it does so well here in the UK!

But however natural, algae infestation can be unsightly and downright dangerous because algae blooms lead to dangerous mould growth, which can cause respiratory problems and even lead to allergy disorders if left to fester.

Health problems aside, algae infestation can also cause severe damage to buildings and is a common cause of architectural failure.

When algae blooms are present, they release large amounts of harmful toxins which can affect the health of a building facade. These toxins can seep through stonework, weakening it so much that it begins to crumble when exposed to harsh weather conditions. This, combined with strong sunlight, can lead to calcium-based stains on your building’s exterior.

Algal infestation also causes increased humidity which reduces the energy efficiency of a building, causing it to feel colder than it really is. Algae growth on facades and cladding often leads to high levels of moisture build-up inside the building. As a result, energy bills are likely to increase as air feels cooler than it should.

Algae also causes very obvious aesthetic problems if not managed properly. For example, severe algae growth creates dark shadows on render and cladding making it look dull and unattractive. Similarly, algae growth on eaves creates unsightly black streaks which make the structure look unappealing and prone to damage from rain.

Deep cracking

Deep cracking is a term used to describe the splitting or breaking of brick or concrete used to construct a facade. This is caused by freeze-thaw cycles, which occur naturally, but can be accelerated by frost heaving.

When ice forms on the exterior of a building during a freezing winter, it may cause deep cracking on building facades in parts where it freezes. This is because the cold air that forms ice expands as it freezes, and this expansion causes a shear force that can break concrete wall surfaces and cause cracks to form. Sometimes, even large cracks can form on the surface of a building due to this frost heave.

When ice melts/thaws in warmer weather, water evaporates from the stone and brickwork due to high temperature levels and can leave cracks behind. In the UK, this entire freeze-thaw process repeats itself every year and is accelerating annually because of the impact of hotter summers and colder winters caused by climate change.

Freeze-thaw cycles can also lead to significant deterioration of the paint on the exterior wall because new coats of paint don’t always have sufficient time to bond with the surfaces.

As a result, they peel off or otherwise degrade in icy conditions, which is why it is also important to maintain an optimal environment for good paint adhesion.

Fortunately, regular facade maintenance can help prevent deep cracking.

Staining

Stains can occur on facades when rainwater gets into an architectural element, such as a brick or stone wall or window sash. It is important to note that rainwater is not just water, but often includes dissolved salts and minerals that are absorbed into stone and brick.

When this moisture evaporates, it leaves behind a residue of salt and soluble minerals which build up and leave stains on the surfaces of building facades.

Dirt deposits and pollution from the surrounding environment can also manifest themselves on external facades and cladding, leading to fading and grimy-looking exteriors. This is particularly evident in cities like London, Birmingham, and Manchester where the sheer volume of traffic and other pollution-causing activity is so high.

The good news is that most stains can be removed safely using a variety of restorative cleaning techniques like DOFF Steam Cleaning and TORC Cleaning, not to mention a range of other proven approaches used by See Brilliance operatives to restore buildings up and down the country.

Restorative cleaning of facades and cladding

With more than 30 years’ experience in commercial facade and cladding restoration, we have a team that can take care of your building without altering its integrity. Our methods are completely safe for your building’s exterior and are non-toxic and non-abrasive.

Get in touch with our facade restoration experts to discuss your needs.

If you’d like to get in touch today, call our team directly on 01635 230 888 or email info@seebrilliance.com.

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