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Building Material Cancers & Proper Treatments

Posted on 18 November, 2013 at 11:44
As a cancer survivor myself- going into my 2nd year of full remission- I now have a greater appreciation for most things in life, including some ironic lessons my Remodeling Contractor father taught me regarding building materials.
My particular cancer happened to be in my intestine and was thankfully caught early. Even so, I was told the most effective remedy was to have that section of my intestine surgically removed- which it was. The irony is, I'd learned at a young age that similar cancers found in various types of building materials need to be treated in the much same manner. The most common of these building material "Cancers" are:
Wood - Dry Rot, Insect Infestation, Rodent & Bird feces;
Steel & Iron - Rust, Corrosion;
Plastics (Incl. asphalt & plastic cement) - Sun Rot, Freeze, Plant Rot Acids;
Aluminum - Solar Ray or Acid Rain Abrasion.
The common denominator in all of these- as with other cancers- is that the best remedy is to cut out and remove the affected area.
I mostly encounter these issues in wood and asphalt materials. Wood rot is most well known to most people. But what many of you may not realize is that dry rot is an actual fungus, which usually continues to grow even when its covered. That's what makes cutting out the source so important. As for asphalt roof materials, well, we all know what happens when road crews simply cover over cracks in our streets - the repairs are only meant to be temporary. Many people may not know that colder temperatures actually cause the asphalt plastics to shrink, adding to these cracks, which then expand again during the warmer seasons. Or when bird feces, leaves and dead plants break down on these surfaces, the resulting acids can eat away at them.
Although those are the cancerous problems we mostly find, its not uncommon for us to deal with any of the other materials.
Most recently, I worked on a mobile home where previous repairmen had simply tried patching over some of these problems on the combination steel and aluminum roof. As you can guess, their solution proved to be very temporary. Adding to this particular situation is the fact that ferrous metals (Steel) and non-ferrous metals (aluminum) cannot co-exist together without a non-metallic barrier. Otherwise the molecular corrosion & breakdown of each is expedited. That's why in plumbing, if you try to marry copper and steel pipes together, you need to separate them with a "Dielectric Union". In the case of this mobile home's roof, the progression of rust and corrosion was very visible even beneath the repaired sections. In order for us to properly repair them, we had to cut away then meld new materials on much larger sections of this roof than it would've required if done right in the first place. Obviously, the cost was much higher as well, considering the job had to be done a second time unnecessarily.
After more than 35 years in the business, I'm still perplexed at times to see how many people simply choose to cover over these problems rather than take a little extra time to do the job correctly. Most especially, when its "Professional" repairmen doing so! Having personally experienced the pain and damage caused by medical cancer, I've gained a whole new perspective of just how important it is to not just gloss over these other type of problems, but to cut out their source. Just the peace of mind in knowing that the source of the problem is gone can be invaluable!  If you choose to hire someone else to remedy these "cancers" in your home or building, just make sure he or she is a qualified building material "Surgeon" as well.

Categories: Building Repair Advice

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