What is a parapet wall and why is it important?
Parapet wall is a section of the wall the extends beyond building’s roof line. It was primarily designed to provide additional protection to prevent spread of fire from one building to another, thus it also called firewall by some. It also serves as a decorative element to make building appear taller and encapsulates the edges of the roof to protect it. Because of its exposure to elements, parapet wall is susceptible to deterioration. Parapet walls are constructed of multiple courses of brick, typically two or three and capped on the top with clay coping, terra-cotta, limestone or precast concrete. This type of construction is very popular element of Chicago architecture, especially of two-flat and three-flat homes and other buildings featuring a flat roof. The are also found in surrounding suburbs known for their vintage architecture like Oak Park, Evanston or Highland Park. The proper maintenance of firewalls is often overlooked but it is important to notice, that together with the roof it creates a critical component of properly functioning building structure and roofing system. Furthermore, a neglected parapet wall will compromise the integrity of the roof and the two need to be maintained together.
What type of damage can occur?
Because of its exposure, parapet walls are constantly defending your Chicago building against elements and extreme temperatures. However, if the parapet wall is not structurally sound, water can infiltrate and leak into the inside of the building. Further infiltration will erode mortar joints and cause bricks to spall and crack. If the deterioration continues the wall can buckle and bulge and even collapse completely. Rain water is the main source of infiltration and when combined with wind, the added pressure of wind will force the water through voids and gaps and cause the leak.
It is important to have the condition of parapet walls evaluated by experienced professional
At Joseph James Construction we are proud to serve our Chicago customers with trusted masonry professionals that are experienced with proper parapet wall repair and restoration. If you see bricks missing or shifting, fragments of mortar joints laying on the ground, tuckpointing missing, those are the signs to have the wall inspected.
Here is the list of deficiencies that are related to deterioration and unfit performance of masonry firewall and need to properly identified and remedied:
- Water infiltration
- Freeze / thaw damage
- Displacement or cracking
- Falling fragments or collapse
How is parapet wall repaired?
Once assessed for damage the reconstruction of the parapet wall can begin. We prepare the work area and protect it with tarps and plywoods. If needed, we erect and install scaffolding. Work begins with detach and setting aside the existing copings and cutting off the roofing flashing. Dismantling the inner and outer course of parapet wall bricks down to sound level. Following that we rebuild the wall to the original, sound and square condition and lastly finish the top by properly capping the wall with clay tiles or flashing & capstone system. The importance of proper flashing and coping was also described in our masonry sealing section. All debris are cleaned up and hauled away and the final stage is terminating the roofing membrane at the firewall with a flashing.
How much does it cost to repair parapet wall?
Rebuilding parapet wall may become costly due to several factors that will affect the pricing:
- total lineal footage
- severity of the damage: does it need to be entirely or partially rebuilt? How many courses?
- height of the building
- how much space between the buildings and for material handling
- type of copings used after completion: old or new? What kind?
We realize that properly rebuilding parapet walls can be a huge financial undertaking for a homeowner, and we are aware that consumers are seeking top-notch work at an affordable price. Because of that, over the years, we developed techniques to perform the work efficiently while adhering to high standards of masonry craftsmanship. Whether you consider replacing flat roof with parapet wall or notice deterioration we mentioned, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free assessment and estimate. We will provide accurate and fair valuation and will be happy to either restore the existing parapet or partially repair and prevent further and expensive damage in the future.
Looking to get an estimate? Please fill out our contact form and we will get back to you!
Last edited: 6/23/2019