Cityscape Condos: Case study in efflorescence

Cityscape Condominiums, 3905 - 3935 N Western Ave in St Ben's, Chicago

Every winter, new-construction masonry buildings develop white splotches that make them look as though they’ve been stained by road salt. The stains that form on the outside of new brick buildings are a result of the chemical process known as efflorescence or “saltpetering.”

According to syndicated columnist Tim Carter, bricks contain water-soluble salts that are the source of the white deposits.

“These trapped salts are set into motion when water enters masonry. The water dissolves the salts and carries them through the masonry towards the surface. Sunlight and wind draw the water to the surface but as the water evaporates, the salts are left behind.”

We’ve seen dozens of cases of efflorescence this winter, but none as severe as the red buildings in Cityscape Condominiums, 3905 – 3935 N Western Ave, a couple of which are beginning to look diseased.

According to Carter’s column, efflorescence doesn’t compromise the structural integrity of the masonry, but it can cause problems over time. It can be prevented with masonry sealers or water repellents.

When I stopped by Cityscape Condominiums yesterday afternoon, workers were busy building the third floor of the building at 3905 S Western Ave, which was already showing plenty of white stains as well.

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Cityscape Condominiums, 3905 - 3935 N Western Ave in St Ben's, Chicago

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