White residue problem on red bricks outside City Hall to be examined

Monday, April 18, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
White residue can be seen on brick pavers in front of City Hall in Columbia. The city plans to power wash the bricks Monday to remove the residue.

COLUMBIA — The bricks outside the new City Hall are supposed to be red, but many of them are covered with a white residue.

Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Works Department, said the contractor for the $22 million addition to City Hall is responsible and fixing the problem and that it won't be at the city's expense.

John Stafford, project manager with K & S Associates of St. Louis, said he's not sure what is causing the white residue on the red bricks but said it might be caused by the sealer that was used.

Sealer is a protective coating that goes on the bricks to give it a glossy look, Stafford said. The bricks will be power-washed on Monday to clean them so that the manufacturer of the sealer will be able to run tests to determine whether the sealer is causing the problem.

The bricks that do not have white residue are probably those that have not been sealed yet, Stafford said. "We are not going to do any more sealing until we find out what's creating the condition."

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Ellis Smith April 18, 2011 | 4:33 a.m.

Efflorescence (the name for the phenomenon) is a powder or stain sometimes found on the surfaces of ceramic masonry, resulting from deposits of soluble salts. While there can be more than one cause, often the culprit is the composition of the MORTAR used to lay up the bricks or other structural ceramic shapes (during construction). In other words, what is happening may not be a problem with the bricks or other ceramic shapes themselves. There are known treatments to remove efflorescence, but in some cases periodic re-treatment is necessary. That quickly becomes expensive!

This multi-campus university offers Ceramic Engineering, but not at the Columbia campus. Has anyone considered having someone from Rolla campus look at the brickwork?

An American brick industry association maintains a modern and well-equipped research and testing center in South Carolina. They have experience with this problem. I can supply contact information if required. 445-6866.

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