Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Weather Wise to Protect Property; Don't Wait for the Worst to Happen. Check Your Home after the Snow and Frosts, Warns Peter Fall

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Weather Wise to Protect Property; Don't Wait for the Worst to Happen. Check Your Home after the Snow and Frosts, Warns Peter Fall

Article excerpt

Byline: Peter Fall

I REALLY am bored with all of this frost and snow. The novelty of it when it started in December, and the possibility of a white Christmas, were fun. The heavy snow of January with school closures and children on sledges were what winter is about. But hey, it's the end of February and, like the in-laws, it won't go away.

The gardeners might be delighted that the frosts are killing off all the nasty bugs that lingered on our plants in previous years but the same frosts, combined with the slow melting snow, have ruined our roads and are starting to play havoc with our buildings.

The most vulnerable bits of our properties are the bits that are most exposed. In particular our boundary walls and fences. At the best of times we ignore our boundary walls until we're forced to repair them. Now is the time when many of us will have to repair them.

The average 1.8m (6ft) high boundary wall is usually 225mm (9in) thick and sometimes supported by piers every 2.5m (8ft) or so. My old structures lecturer used to say that it was very difficult to prove these walls can withstand a strong wind so there isn't much hope if the mortar joints break down. The snow and frost is causing the breakdown of the mortar joints.

Water will soak into freestanding walls from all sides but snow sitting on the top and slowly melting means the water gradually soaks deep into the wall from the top. Heavy rainfall partly soaks in but it mostly runs off the wall when the top surface becomes saturated. So with rain the inside of the wall doesn't become quite so wet. Night frosts can strike deep into the brickwork, causing trapped water to freeze and expand. This expansion breaks the bond between the constituents of the mortar, with the result that the mortar turns to mush. The joints then crack, loosening the bricks.

On a well-built wall there should be a damp-proof course built into the top of the brickwork, which will stop water draining down into the lower brickwork. …

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