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Evaluation and Repair of a Distressed Masonry Veneer Façade: A Case Study
of the Litton Reaves Repair Project

J. E. Peterson1 and T. Shelton2
1
Whitlock Dalrymple Poston & Associates, P.C., 10621 Gateway Boulevard, Suite
200, Manassas, Virginia 20110; PH (703) 257-9280; FAX (703) 257-7589; email:
epeterson@wdpa.com
2
Viginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 90 Sterrett Facilities Complex,
Blacksburg, Virginia 24061; PH (540) 231-4076; email: sheltont@vt.edu

ABSTRACT
The Litton Reaves facility is a multi-use laboratory and classroom building for the
Animal Science Department of Virginia Tech. Constructed in the early 1980s, the
facility had been in service for almost 20 years before symptoms of distress began to
appear in the exterior cladding of the building. The severity of the distress was
punctuated by the partial failure of a section of oolitic limestone panel that fractured
and had to be removed from the facility. This case study offers an overview of the
evaluation performed on the exterior cladding system of the building and discusses
the mechanisms that led to the problems in the brick and limestone veneer. The paper
discusses the repair program and highlights several structural repair and sequencing
challenges that were encountered due to the redistribution of forces within the veneer.
Correction of nagging water penetration and air infiltration problems were sequenced
and performed in conjunction with the structural repairs in order to improve the
building’s interior conditions while meeting the University’s “design-to” budget.

INTRODUCTION
The Litton Reaves facility is a three story building on the campus of Virginia Tech
consisting of a combination of classrooms, office spaces and laboratory facilities
(Figure 1). In August of 1999, a portion of one of the limestone panels fractured,
became loose and consequently had to be removed from the building for safety
purposes. A preliminary review of the exterior cladding by University personnel
identified other areas of similar distress throughout the façade including displaced
and cracked exterior brick masonry, cracked and spalled limestone panels, displaced
interior slabs, cracked concrete masonry interior walls and other cladding related
problems throughout the facility. The University undertook an initial repair program
to stabilize some of the limestone by installing threaded steel rods set in high-strength
epoxy at displaced or cracked panels. Ultimately, a more in-depth investigation was
undertaken to determine the underlying causes of the distress. Repairs were then

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Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009
Forensic Engineering 2009

86 FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 Downloaded from ascelibrary. Limestone window surrounds were supported on the exterior perimeter beams and clipped to the concrete with bolted steel angles. The exterior skin of the building consisted of brick veneer with bands of limestone panels and limestone window surrounds.org by University of California. The exterior veneer was supported by concrete grade beams spanning between the caissons at the first floor level and by structural steel angles connected to embedded plates at each floor line. designed to restore the integrity and support of the building’s exterior façade while maintaining occupancy of the facility. Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . Litton Reaves front elevation. For personal use only. BUILDING EVALUATION The Litton Reaves building was constructed with a reinforced concrete frame founded on concrete caisson foundation systems. Figure 1. Copyright ASCE. Figure 2 shows a typical elevation and wall section for the building at the window stack. all rights reserved. San Diego on 02/21/16.

non-destructive testing of structural framing systems and material testing of façade components. Figure 2. because the tie spacing was often excessive. This permitted excessive free play of the panel connections prior to engaging the lateral restraint and allowed many of the panels to displace out-of-plane. water testing of exterior brick veneer and window systems. The evaluation of the building generally consisted of a visual survey of the facade distress. For personal use only. parts of the masonry veneer were not adequate to resist the design lateral loads. Typical building section and window detail. San Diego on 02/21/16. The spacing between ties was somewhat inconsistent and there were large areas where no ties were detected. however. but otherwise appeared to be in reasonably good condition in most areas of the building. Occasional voids in the head joints were observed in probe openings which. FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 87 Downloaded from ascelibrary. all rights reserved. Both the Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . the anchors for lateral restraint were found to be incorrectly installed into oversized holes in the panels that were not filled with mortar as recommended by the Indiana Limestone Institute. Copyright ASCE. The brick masonry veneer ties were located non-destructively using a pachometer (ferrous metal detector). Localized areas of distress such as through- brick cracks and spalls were observed sporadically at the shelf angle locations and building corners. Random probe openings indicated that the galvanized ties displayed very little corrosion. such as at the corners of the building. probe openings at critical points of lateral and vertical restraint. combined with the shrinkage cracking.org by University of California. During the inspection of the limestone panels. The brick was found to be of generally good quality with little to no evidence of durability problems that would require a complete recladding. The condition of the brick at the upper floors was appreciably worse with visible cracking and out-of-plane displacement. even after 25 years of service. The masonry mortar exhibited some minor shrinkage cracking. contributed to moderate rates of water penetration.

the forces created by the restrained movement Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . For personal use only. the original bolted connection was often abandoned and the angle was welded either along the heel of the angle or along the toe of the vertical leg. The original design specified bolted connections between the shelf angle and the embedded angle. Copyright ASCE. likely to level the shelf angle. Because the shims were never removed. The horizontal legs of the masonry shelf angles were typically set in contact with the brick below. Schematic illustration of relative movement for brick veneer over a concrete frame and resultant displacements of brick and limestone. 88 FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 Downloaded from ascelibrary. maximum relative displacements for the veneer were likely as much as 1” with almost 1/2” at the mid height shelf angles. Figure 3 schematically depicts this phenomenon and the resultant distress. Displacement of brick and limestone Figure 3. Based on coefficients of volume change for these conditions. developing internal stress as the veneer expanded into the bottom of the angle. Frame shortening combined with clay brick moisture expansion had taken a severe toll on the structural integrity the cladding. This was most evident where hard plastic shims were found between the shelf angle and the brick below. the compressive stresses formed between the angle and the brick crushed and split the plastic shims. San Diego on 02/21/16. Where the veneer came in contact with the shelf angles. However. due to irregularities in the concrete slab edges. all rights reserved. The original design did not include horizontal expansion joints below the shelf angles to accommodate expansion of the veneer as is required in current industry recommendations. limestone panels and the brick veneer would require supplemental lateral restraint to stabilize the veneer. leaving an indentation from the brick cores. Distress resulting from restrained differential movement was obvious and widespread.org by University of California. The masonry veneer below the two plastic shims was also cracked due to the stresses generated.

thus increasing the internal stresses on the veneer of the lower levels (Figure 4). Copyright ASCE. Restrained movement in brick veneer and resulting damage. San Diego on 02/21/16. cracked and spalled the masonry and limestone. all rights reserved. Figure 4. 2) overstressed bolts with deformed washers. or in some cases.org by University of California. FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 89 Downloaded from ascelibrary. With the connection to the building severed. 3) rotation of shelf angle and cracking of mortar joints. Clockwise from top right 1) broken weld connection behind angle. the masonry above the shelf angle became predominantly supported by the masonry below. distorted bolts and fractured the welds of the supporting elements. Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . For personal use only. 4) crushing of embedded shims with indentations from brick cores.

all rights reserved. The inside face of the panel was notched at the bottom to receive the lipped plate connection. Limestone panels installed at the roof elevation were constructed to bear on a galvanized plate with a toe bar welded to the leading edge at the top of the spandrel beam. Copyright ASCE. This condition resulted in fractured welds at the support points and spalling on the interior face of the panel from the masonry expansion (Figure 5). For personal use only. the front edge was observed bearing directly on top of the panel below and the panel was completely disengaged from the bearing connection.org by University of California. Condition of limestone panels at supports and broken weld on support plate. San Diego on 02/21/16. Severe air exfiltration was observed from the masonry cavities on the exterior due to positive building pressurization and an incomplete air/moisture barrier for the building. A study of the drawings and the interior plenum spaces above the drop ceilings indicated that there were large areas where air could migrate into the cavity of the veneer from behind the limestone panels and around the windows and doors. In addition to the structural deficiencies noted in the façade. but no mortar was installed between the stone and the steel. On many of the panels. 90 FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 Downloaded from ascelibrary. Figure 5. several serviceability problems were observed in the exterior wall system. Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . Significant air infiltration through the building envelope was apparent while walking through the hallways on windy days that originated from the window systems and ceiling plenums.

The sealants on the building appeared to be original. Sealants installed around windows. Coping stone flashings were not terminated correctly on the leading edge. Flashings were often terminated at the limestone window surrounds and other interruptions without end dams and were held back from the exterior face of the brick. San Diego on 02/21/16. FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 91 Downloaded from ascelibrary. at limestone panel joints. the condition of the flashing system was critical to the overall performance of the wall system and would have to be repaired. indicating that they have been in service for approximately 25 years. Poorly installed flashing including shelf angles with missing end dams and cavity. at window perimeters and at capstone joints had all failed. Copyright ASCE. Thus. Water damaged fiberglass insulation and water staining on the ceiling tiles were observed at several locations above and around the windows (Figure 7). testing was performed on the masonry in accordance with ASTM C1601. failures of these sealants allowed water to enter directly into the building through limestone panels above the window heads. Because of these deficiencies. between brick and limestone. Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . nor were they tied into the roof membrane on the back side of the parapet (Figure 6). Because there were no secondary barriers to water penetration. “Standard Test Method for Field Determination of Water Penetration of Masonry Wall Surfaces” to determine how much water would be expected to penetrate the veneer during a severe rain event. For personal use only. which inhibited the drainage of water. The sections of the through wall flashing spanning the wall cavity were filled with mortar and often sagged in the cavity. The sealant texture was hard and brittle. and sealant was often cracked or extruded from the joints at material transitions due to expansion of the veneer. far beyond the anticipated service life of most sealant materials. The testing revealed that the veneer was relatively permeable and would experience significant volumes of water in the cavity during periods of heavy wind driven rain. all rights reserved.org by University of California. Figure 6.

Doors. REPAIR PROGRAM Based on the findings of the forensic investigation. and Curtain Walls. a re-cladding scenario was ruled out and a selective repair program was initiated. 92 FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 Downloaded from ascelibrary. the University initiated a repair program for the building. “Standard Test Method for Field Determination of Water Penetration of Installed Exterior Windows. and • Replace the existing window systems throughout the building. Since refurbishing the windows would only solve a portion of the leakage issues during severe weather events.org by University of California. • Relieve the stresses currently stored in the building façade. San Diego on 02/21/16. The leakage was the result of failed internal sealants. and the building was to remain occupied during the restoration. all rights reserved. For personal use only. The program objectives were as follows: • Re-establish reliable support of the veneer at each floor level. Skylights. Failed panel sealant joints and resultant leakage over windows. • Provide for additional future movements from any residual long-term expansion and cyclic thermal movements. The repairs were prioritized based on the funds available to correct the structural deficiencies first. Both construction projects shared work areas and lay-down space. a new stone masonry building was slated to be constructed directly adjacent to the Litton Reaves facility that would share the loading dock space and have a common wall in the southeast corner of the building. Figure 7. Copyright ASCE. with the remaining funds used to improve the serviceability problems such as water management and energy losses. • Improve the water management capability of masonry flashings and weep systems. by Uniform or Cyclic Static Air Pressure Difference” resulted in severe water penetration into the building. Coincidentally. which required careful sequencing of Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . worn glazing and sash gaskets and ineffective weep components. • Reduce the water penetration through the masonry veneer and limestone panels. Since funding for the program was limited. Water tests performed on the operable windows in accordance with ASTM E 1105. it was recommended that the windows be replaced.

shelf angles were replaced with new galvanized steel angles bolted into the existing concrete frame. The Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . Figure 8. For personal use only. the process was repeated sequentially on the floors below. Lighted sidewalk sheds were designed to provide protection from potential overhead hazards from the distressed cladding and were erected two years prior to construction. The limestone panel systems around the entire perimeter of the building at the third floor and parapet levels were temporarily removed from the building to obtain access to the damaged supports. the repairs were sequenced to incrementally reduce the load in the facade while establishing new connections to the building frame. The same systems were also designed and utilized to isolate and protect the pedestrians from the construction operations and support the scaffold systems during construction.org by University of California. all rights reserved. Angles were mounted to create room for future expansion and contraction of the floors below and new flashing elements were installed with hemmed drip edges and end dams at each floor to improve the water management system. San Diego on 02/21/16. Building occupants were temporarily relocated while the panels were removed and the repairs were performed in the area. Copyright ASCE. The removal of the panels to repair the supports also facilitated access to the most severe air infiltration points and allowed for supplemental sheathing and framing to be added behind the limestone in order to seal the gap between the window head and the slab above. FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 93 Downloaded from ascelibrary. the building occupant was free to re-occupy the office. After isolating and re-supporting the masonry at the top shelf angle. Removal of the panel systems was complicated by the fact that the building envelope was breached at each window by the removal of the limestone panels that served as the primary weather resistive barrier in these locations (Figure 9). As the work was to be done with the veneer in place. Existing shelf angles were removed in sections while shoring each floor of masonry (Figure 8). the work to prevent delays to both projects. Shoring of existing masonry after replacement of shelf angle sections. Once the closure panel was installed. Because of lead based paint on the structural steel. This was performed by working in a “top down” approach on the building. Primary and emergency egress points had to be maintained at all times throughout construction. The most significant challenge was to maintain operations in the facility during construction. and asbestos mastics found on the existing flashing materials.

new brick would be required to be blended with the old in most areas of the building. Figure 9. including the new building with which it shared a loading dock. Removal of limestone panel exposing breach in exterior envelope and installation of envelope closure panels.org by University of California. the mortar joints of the entire masonry exterior were tuck-pointed. This also permitted the repair of the existing masonry cracks and allowed the mortar from the repairs to the shelf angles to be replaced with the tuck-pointing. The completed exterior facade is shown in Figure 10. 94 FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 Downloaded from ascelibrary. A decorative plaza perimeter wall constructed with an identical brick to the main building was demolished and the brick was salvaged to be used on the building in order to make replaced brick less noticeable. a suitable replacement could not be obtained to install where the brick could not be salvaged. Because of the unusual color of the original brick. all rights reserved. To reduce the amount of water penetration through the veneer. Copyright ASCE. resulting in a more uniform appearance of the building façade. entire process took approximately 3 days per window to complete from beginning to end and the impact to the office occupant was minimized where possible. For personal use only. Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . the University elected to stain the brick masonry to allow it to blend aesthetically with the stone masonry buildings in the vicinity. San Diego on 02/21/16. After the project was underway. After the repair project and the window installation were complete. This work was sequenced into the phasing of both the repair project and the newly constructed facility adjacent to Litton Reaves. Even with an approximate 80% salvage rate. the University elected to replace all the windows in the facility as a supplemental project that ran concurrently with the repairs to the cladding. A thermally broken heavy commercial window system with low E glass was installed to further improve the energy efficiency of the building.

On the exterior. FORENSIC ENGINEERING 2009 95 Downloaded from ascelibrary. “Volume Changes – Analysis and Effects of Movement. Recent exterior surveys of the building indicate that the lateral and vertical displacements have been arrested and there is no evidence of distressed veneer or masonry cracking. and with minimal disruption to the building occupants. Virginia ASTM International. Inc. under budget. San Diego on 02/21/16. The University spent approximately 2.” Brick Institute of America. CONCLUSION The project was completed in 2008. Since the renovation. Indiana Brick Industry Association Technical Notes 18 and 18A (2006). Overall. Bedford. For personal use only. coupled with the new horizontal and vertical movement joints installed. the improvements made to the lateral and vertical support conditions. Elevations of Litton Reaves after installation of masonry stain. allow the veneer to expand and contract without developing the internal stresses that led to the previous cladding failures. Figure 10. Copyright ASCE. West Conshohocken. all rights reserved. Reston.9 million dollars on the renovation which was performed on-schedule. REFERENCES: Indiana Limestone Institute of America. the water leakage observed through exterior walls and window systems was eliminated and the severe air infiltration experienced during the winter months was significantly reduced.org by University of California.. Pennsylvania Copyright ASCE 2009 Forensic Engineering Congress 2009 Forensic Engineering 2009 . the Litton Reaves Repair project demonstrates how significant serviceability and energy efficiency improvements can be implemented into a structural and architectural repair program without imparting substantial additional costs to the project.