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Creepers clinging to walls not safe for structure

Nemmani Sreedhar
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Houses adorned with creepers might give a feeling of getting close to nature for many, but these creepers actually prove to be a bane for the structure itself, building experts argue. Nemmani Sreedhar takes a look

Lurking danger:Due to the constant presence of moisture and small animals and birds these creepers inadvertently attract, the structure would deteriorate faster.
Lurking danger:Due to the constant presence of moisture and small animals and birds these creepers inadvertently attract, the structure would deteriorate faster.

Imagine the sight of a house covered with lush green creepers that are covered with fragrant blossoms. It’s a cherished dream for many to escape from the ‘concrete jungle’ in to the lap of nature. And viola! Here is the solution, cover your house with a profusion of creepers as we do not have enough space for trees.

Houses adorned with creepers might resemble a get away into the nature for many, but these creepers actually prove to be a bane for the structure itself building experts argue. Creepers as such cling to a host and might put additional burden on the structure but more importantly, due to the constant presence of moisture and the small animals and birds that these creepers inadvertently attract, the structure would deteriorate faster, they argue.

The first thing that one should do to safeguard a structure is to remove the creepers clinging to the walls of a building, construction material expert L.H. Rao says. One can often see the strains caused by the growth of vegetation be it a creeper or a plant in a small crack in the building and these stains herald a slew of problems for a structure.

A badly stained building is not just an eye sore; it also means that the building is actually ‘bleeding’. The stains could be because of the reasons like excessive leakage of water, corrosion stains or because of the action of the atmospheric elements resulting in ‘lime leeching’ that results from the reaction of calcium present in cement and atmospheric carbon dioxide.

The phenomenon of lime leeching is caused due to the formation of calcium carbonate or calcium sulphate on the surface of the concrete.

The calcium compound present in the cement seeps out along with the excess water and results in these compounds. Leeching which can be easily identified as the white compound on the surface of the concrete.

However, water, and presence of moisture in particular, plays a central role in the health of a building. Water is an essential component while casing a concrete block, but presence of excess water later can prove to be a problem for a building.

“Water should be made available in enough quantities while casting a concrete block as without water the chemical reactions that give strength to the concrete cannot take place,” Dr. Rao says. But after that gestation period, presence of excess water might be harmful for the structure as it might lead to corrosion or lime leeching, he explains.

Apart from leeching, the excess presence of water can also result in corrosion of the bars, chipping off of the concrete and can significantly reduce the strength of a building.

Any structure, irrespective of its strength or age, is prone to deterioration and one should do a periodic check of the buildings, Dr. Rao says. For those interested in doing a periodic checkup of their buildings, Dr. Rao gives a checklist.

The first and simplest form of check is done through visual observation. But, like all systematic checkups, one should keep a record of their observations to aid in better diagnosis. If the damage is clearly visible one should opt for Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) to check for the specific problems and the extent of damage.

If there are further problems, one can go for specialized tests like Core extraction and testing and other special tests.


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