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Cast Stone Deterioration

Like any other building material cast stone is subject to deterioration, which may occur in several ways:
  • Separation
  • Deterioration
  • Erosion
  • Surface Erosion
  • Cramps and Anchors Deterioration

Separation of the facing and core layers of dry tamp units is not uncommon, and often reflects fabrication defects such as poor compaction, lengthy fabrication time, or improper curing. Where separation of facing and core layers is suspected, cast stone units may be "sounded" to establish the extent of delamination.

Cast Stone Deterioration

Cast stone failure caused by deterioration of the aggregate is uncommon. Granites, marbles, and silica sand are generally durable, although limestone and marble aggregate are subject to the same dissolution problems that affect quarried units of these stones. In rare instances, a reaction between the alkalis in the cement matrix and the stone aggregate may also cause deterioration.

While it is relatively uncommon in twentieth century cast stone, serious deterioration of the cementing matrix can cause extensive damage to cast stone units. A properly prepared cementing mix will be durable in most exterior applications, and any flaking of exterior surfaces signals problems in the cementing mix and in the method of manufacture. The use of poor quality or improperly stored cement, impure water, or set accelerators can cause cement problems to occur years after a structure is completed. Improper mixing and compaction can also result in a porous concrete that is susceptible to frost damage and scaling. Severe cement matrix problems may be impossible to repair properly and often necessitate replacement of the deteriorating cast stone units.

Surface Erosion
More common and less serious than flaking or scaling caused by deterioration of the cementing matrix is the erosion of the surface of the matrix. This usually occurs on surfaces of projecting features exposed to water runoff, such as sills, water tables, and window hoods. In these areas, the matrix may erode, leaving small grains of aggregate projecting from the surface. The resultant rough surface is not at all the intended original appearance. In some historic cast stone installations, the thin layer of cement and fine sand at the surface of the cast stone units was not originally tooled from the molded surface, but was finished with patterns of masonry pigments in a stylized imitation of highly figured sandstones or limestones. Erosion of the pigmented surface layer on this type of cast stone results in an even more dramatic change in appearance.

Cramps and Anchors Deterioration
Even when reinforcement has not been added to individual cast stone units, mild steel cramps may have been used to anchor a cast stone veneer to backup masonry. Where spalls have occurred primarily at the tops of ashlar or frieze units, this is generally the cause.