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Things that affect your building's lifespan

During and after building your house, there are a number of things that may affect the durability or performance of your building. When this happens, a homeowner may blame the damage on either poor construction or maintenance.

However, even with good construction and maintenance practices, there are still many other things that may cause a building to quickly break down.

The weather

Weather is the chief cause of a building's destruction. Depending on the nature and colour of building material, Abdu-Wahab Nyanzi, an architect says a lot of heat from the sun is absorbed. Black non-metallic surfaces absorb more heat than other surfaces. He says high temperatures affect materials like plastics or those with tar, which expand and if not well controlled can crack.

If the temperature is high during construction, the quick evaporation of water from the concrete mixture may lead to concrete weakness, poor adhesion and cracking. Sudden temperature changes can also be disastrous to buildings. According to Nyanzi these changes are common in tropical countries. One time the sun is so hot and the next time it is raining. As a result of the fats cooling, many building materials like glass, concrete and bitumen may crack.


David Kireli, a civil engineer says moisture is part of the atmosphere, and when the surface temperature drops, the moisture condenses on the materials. If it does not evaporate, then it will cause deterioration. Materials most affected are those made of timber or metals that rust.

"Wind may also be disastrous because it erodes soft materials and may at times blow off parts of a building like the roof," he says.

Living organisms

Denis Mawanda a fumigator says insects and fungi mainly attack materials made out of timber. "Damp conditions and the presence of ant hills within the vicinity of the building should be avoided," he says. However, sometimes builders use raw timber. The result is having molds on the timber or the timber warping and twisting when it dries. "An experienced and trusted technical person can help in selecting good quality dry timber for your building," Mawanda advises.


Use of firewood, charcoal and kerosene stoves for cooking can also lead to the quick wear and tear of a building. Whereas firewood seems to be the most obvious, charcoal and kerosene too are a source of discolouring of painted walls because of the soot they produce. Likewise, the use of lanterns will have the same effect.


Our neighbourhoods have a lot of dust, mainly because of the many murram roads and exposed earth. The dust deposited on buildings will cause an adverse effect on their appearance, increase the corrosion rate of metals and also lead to the deterioration of the building surface.

According to Kireli, there are other causes of building deterioration like cracks that come as a result of vibrations caused by passing trains or heavy vehicles. This is especially so for buildings located near major transport links or in industrial areas. With proper maintenance and conscious checks, not only will buildings have an improved appearance, they will also last longer.


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