Terra Cotta Replacement Considerations

Posted March 8, 2017 by & filed under General, Tips & How-To's.

Architectural terra cotta is a masonry material that has been around since the 1800’s. Terra cotta is basically made of a clay-like material that is formed into shapes, which are glazed and then fired in a kiln. These shapes are attached to a building’s skeleton to form its exterior façade. Mortar is placed between the units to protect and seal this veneer from moisture and air intrusion.

Terra cotta is often found on early 20th century buildings, many of which are historically significant. Due to this, when terra cotta is damaged or starts to deteriorate, the first goal is to repair and restore it. If that can’t be accomplished, the units must be replaced or duplicated. This is a serious undertaking.

Replacement terra cotta requires a substantial amount of time and money to procure. If these resources are not available, the alternative is to use a substitute material such as stone, cast metal, sheet metal, glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC), or fiberglass reinforced polymers (FRP).Terra Cotta Replacement Considerations

Though none of these materials are terra cotta, they mimic it well in initial appearance and can be very advantageous for budgets and schedules. Each material has pros and cons, which require serious consideration.

Here are a few things to think about:

How quickly do you need the replacement material?
What is the lead time of the replacement material?
Will the existing units be damaged when they are removed to develop the casting molds for the replacement material?
What is your budget? What will it allow?
Is the building a historic landmark in which alternative materials may not be permitted?

Building characteristics
How will the unit withstand the natural movement of the structure compared to the adjacent terra cotta?
How will weather and moisture absorption affect the material compared to the adjacent terra cotta?
Will the replacement unit move the same as adjacent terra cotta?
What kind of future maintenance will the replacement material need?
What effects will ultra-violet rays have on the coloring and weathering of the replacement units compared to the adjacent terra cotta?

Can you make the surface, color, texture, shape, size and profile match the existing units?
Will you need to match ornate or decorative original pieces?
Are the pieces in a highly visible area or are they in “hard to see” locations?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can begin to research which material is right for your project. Restoring terra cotta is a science unto itself, and only a limited number of consultants and contractors have a proper and thorough understanding of it. We’ve shared this information to help you understand the things to consider when working with terra cotta. Please contact us if you would like more information about how to proceed with a terra cotta restoration project.


National Preservation Service, Brief #7

“Restoring Terra Cotta” by Mark Morden and Deborah Slaton, Wiss Janney Estner Associates, 1993

“Architectural Terra Cotta Repair” by Cece Louie and Carolyn Searls, SWR Institute Applicator, Volume, 27, 2005

“Terra Cotta Basics: From Assessment to Restoration” by Brett Laureys, Wiss Janney Elstner Associates, SWR Institute Applicator, Volume 31, 2009

Trisco Wellness Challenge

Posted February 21, 2017 by & filed under Wellness.

The Trisco Wellness Team has set a mission for our company: Be healthy and well, and challenge yourself while doing it.

To embrace this mission, the team decided to kick 2017 off with a Wellness Challenge for all employees. The challenge runs from January 16 to March 6. Those who choose to participate in the challenge will earn entries into the grand prize contest. Participants can earn entries in two ways: by losing weight or achieving a certain number of steps.

Here are the guidelines for entry:

Weight loss:
Lose less than 5% body weight = 1 entry
Lose more than 5% body weight = 2 entries
Lose more than 10% body weight = 3 entries

Trisco Wellness Challenge

The three individuals who get the most entries will have a chance to win the grand prize – either a $100 gift card or a paid half-day! At the end of the challenge, all qualifying participants will also receive a “Flee at 3” reward, which means they get to leave the office early one day.

We’re excited for this motivation around the office, and we can’t wait to see who wins!

challenges of estimating vertical concrete structures

Posted February 8, 2017 by & filed under Concrete Restoration, General.

In this article, we are discussing the challenges of estimating vertical concrete restoration projects. These are typically the most difficult types of concrete repair projects to accurately estimate. The intent of this article is to help explain the different pricing approaches so you can choose the right one for your project.

The challenges

There are many challenges when estimating the quantity of required repairs on large concrete structures. It is difficult to view the scope and quantity of repairs needed from the ground. Even if you can see the structure, not everything meets the eye. A concrete spall that is 1’x1’ on the surface might be a 5’x5’ area of deteriorated concrete, or it might not be! It’s often impossible to determine how serious a problem is until a technician is accessed on the wall and in front of the repair. Additionally, many facilities require a full-time escort, which can make the estimator feel distracted or rushed. A true visual assessment may take hours of inspection.

Pricing methods

Due to the difficulty in estimating these types of projects, the prices between contractors tend to vary widely. This is largely due to differing estimated repair quantities and methods. Some contractors may bid a small amount of repairs and ask for a change order if it grows. Other contractors might accurately predict the higher quantity and appear to have a high bid, causing them to miss out on the opportunity. Experience actually hurts in many cases!

There are typically two types of customers: those who require a fixed “lump sum” price and those who understand that the price needs to remain fluid. There are three general pricing methods to consider:

Lump sum: In this method, all of the risk is on the contractor. The contractor’s price will either A) be very comfortable to avoid risk or B) ask for change orders if the scope grows.

Fluid pricing: In this method, the risk is somewhat shared but is mostly borne by the owner. The project is priced per the actual repairs as they are performed. In this scenario, the contractor provides unit prices for repairs and reports to the owner’s representative, daily or weekly throughout the project.

Estimating Vertical Concrete Structures
Physical assessment: If neither format is acceptable, one may consider paying the contractor to do a physical assessment of the structure. This method eliminates much of the risk and provides a more accurate cost estimate. It involves accessing the walls with aerial equipment and acoustically testing all surfaces and marking the repairs, which are then measured and tallied. This forms the basis for the proposal.


Every structure is unique and there is a big difference in how each contractor approaches estimating these projects. This doesn’t provide an accurate reflection of who is “less expensive,” because it is very rare for two contractors to have an apples-to-apples bid.

It is important to consider the risk and who faces the most exposure. The preferential way to price a job is to eliminate this risk for both parties, which is why a physical assessment is quite beneficial. This helps avoid unnecessary costs and change orders, keeps a level playing field for contractors, and builds trust – because customers know exactly what they’re paying for.

If you have a concrete restoration project and would like further information about budgeting or planning for repairs, please do not hesitate to contact Trisco Systems, Inc. at 419-339-3906 or visit us online.

trisco health and wellness

Posted February 6, 2017 by & filed under Wellness.

2017 starts the fourth year of Trisco’s Health & Wellness program. This year, we introduced a new title for the program: Restore You!

We’ll continue to work closely with WCORHA and Katie Sarno, our Health Promotion Coordinator, to manage and grow the program. As usual, it will include annual screenings and personal health tracking through WCORHA’s Wellscript site. Additionally, our program will engage participants with different options and activities – like preventative screenings, wellness challenges, educational classes and more. Throughout the year, the company will also host off-site walks and on-site events, incorporating fun activities and healthy lunches.

Every participant in our program has set new health and wellness goals for 2017, and they’ll be rewarded for achieving each goal. We are proud to share that our aggregate company report has shown wellness improvement from the very start of the program. We can’t wait to see all that 2017 holds for our employees – it’s sure to be a motivating and restorative year for all of us!

Building Assessment Process

Posted January 16, 2017 by & filed under General, Tips & How-To's.

Every potential restoration project begins with a need: clients have a building or structure with a problem, so they call an expert such as Trisco and thereby initiate the building assessment process. When executed successfully, this process can identify problems or deficiencies, the cause of these problems, and the design of a solution. The building assessment is one of the most important aspects of every project, and it must be taken seriously and approached methodically.

Unlike some other trades such as carpeting or painting, building façade issues are much more complicated to understand. Estimating a carpeting project – for example – requires the same steps each time: measure the room and apply a material and labor price. Sometimes the contractor can measure it, give you a quote, and be back in the truck in a matter of minutes. With building façade issues, there is no “one size fits all” approach. In fact, two identical buildings on opposite sides of the street can behave in completely different ways and have entirely different needs. Therefore, a quality repair proposal can take hours and is costly to prepare. With this in mind, it is important to consider the major differences between a free estimate and a thorough professional consulting arrangement.

The process

When undertaking a project which addresses a complex façade or envelope issue, the client should expect a process like the one described below. It may be slightly altered to fit the particular project, but these are the general steps which lead to a strong partnership and effective action plan.

  1. The initial client contact and report of an issue
  2. The initial meeting and general review of the project and what will be required to diagnose the issues
  3. If needed, follow-up site visits to thoroughly evaluate the structure
  4. The development and presentation of a report describing the assessment
  5. The determination of the contracting method and negotiation process

Onsite visits

After the initial contact, a meeting should be held onsite.  Some projects require only one visit, while others may take several. Depending on the contractor-consultant, the first visit is usually at no cost unless there is significant travel or ancillary costs. The second visit is more likely to require a fee, depending on what needs to be accomplished as determined during the first visit.

The first visit is typically a general introduction and information gathering meeting; both to the client and to their situation. This usually includes walking the building with the client, making a sketch and taking notes, capturing photographs, and gathering general information such as record documents from the original construction or from previous projects.

If the problem can’t be solved in this visit, it becomes a reconnaissance mission for a second visit, considering some of these factors:

  • Do sections of the veneer or cladding need to be dismantled and/or removed to perform subsurface exploration? If so, in what locations?
  • Are there locations that need close-up inspection? If so, how can they be reached? Does it require machinery or suspended scaffold?
  • Will the inspections impact the occupants of the building? If so, how? What should be done in preparation for the next visit?
  • Do the inspections require utilities such as water or electric? If so, are they available and where?
  • Does a third-party need to partake in the secondary investigation?

Building Assessment ProcessThe follow-up visits usually include a much closer and thorough inspection of the focus areas outlined during the initial visit. They may include taking extensive notes and photographs, use of binoculars, and aerial access via suspended scaffold or aerial platforms. Subsurface investigations make take place, such as dismantling or removing sections of the building to verify the original construction installation details. There might also be testing for moisture absorption, areas of leakage, and failing components. This is when all of the information and evidence is captured so that the problem can be solved and a solution designed.

PresentationBuilding Assessment Process

After the onsite investigations are complete, a solution is designed which is the start of determining a scope of work. The solution and proposal should be included in a thorough report which follows industry standard formats. Though a formal presentation is not always required, it is highly recommended because several questions are likely to arise. It is best for the contractor-consultant to answer such questions directly to reduce the potential for confusion or a miscommunication of the true intent.

Contract method & contractor selection

Lastly, the client must decide how to proceed with the project. This includes factoring what arrangement is best for each party.  The most straightforward projects go right into the  design/build process whereby the contractor-consultant performs the work. However, given many outside factors, sometimes a neutral third-party is required. In this scenario, the more traditional owner-contractor-engineer agreement is preferable.

It is very important to consider how to select the contractor. Depending on funding sources, a public bidding process may be required. This usually forfeits the client with the luxury of choosing the preferred contractor. In other scenarios, a contractor evaluation process can be implemented. This process is outlined more descriptively in another article; however it should take into consideration many factors beyond scope and price. 

This guide should be used as a starting point for how to tackle your building repair needs. Be sure to ask your contractor-consultant the right questions, be sure they understand your needs, and always check their experience. For guidance or to learn how Trisco can help with specifying your project, call 419-339-3906 or email office@triscosystems.com.

Posted October 11, 2016 by & filed under Wellness.

In September, we hosted an onsite wellness event, “Fun and Feast in the Sun!” to engage our staff and encourage participation in our wellness program.

20 staff members from Trisco and our sister company, Atlas Building Services, gathered on the front lawn for a friendly competition and cookout. There were three healthy challenges, which everyone participated in to win prizes (and bragging rights).

As you’ll see in the photos above, the challenges were:

A three-legged race for agility and teamwork – Two people each put one leg in a trash bag and ran the distance of the parking lot.

An egg-carrying relay for speed and coordination – Team members carried an egg in a teaspoon while speed-walking through an obstacle course.

Tug of war for strength and teamwork – Teams played tug of war across a pool of water. This was definitely a favorite, even for those who ended up in the pool!

Other activities included corn hole, horseshoe, croquet, frisbee, tip the cup, and basketball. There were plenty of chances to get up and move, and we all did! Afterwards, we had a cookout and everyone brought a healthy dish to share. The spread was impressive, with turkey burgers, sweet potato soup, Waldorf fruit salad, homemade tortilla chips and salsa, skinny seven-layer dip, tomato and avocado salad, bean salad, fruit cake, and more.

Everyone had a great time, and we hope to host another Wellness Event in the future!

If you’d like to learn more about Trisco, visit our About Us page.

Posted June 22, 2016 by & filed under General.

One type of structure that needs to be frequently maintained are concrete stadiums.  These stadiums are often found at high schools, colleges, and professional arenas, and they all experience similar stresses that require constant attention.

Stadiums are constructed with poured-in-place reinforced concrete or pre-cast concrete planks and all typically have large expansion joints extending the full height of the deck surface. There are many items affixed to the concrete such as bleachers which are often bolted into the risers with steel stanchions, guardrails which are either poured into the concrete or bolted to it, and conduit which can run within or on top of the concrete. Most stadiums also have press boxes which are either masonry or stud framed and clad with vinyl siding or EIFS. All of these features can impact the lifespan of a stadium if not properly maintained.

When searching for any indications of stress on a stadium, there are several things to look for.Stadiums Read more »

Posted May 26, 2016 by & filed under Masonry Restoration.

Mortar Joints

Poorly Compressed Joint

The type and style of the masonry mortar joints can be a deciding factor in the performance of your masonry when it comes to protecting your structure from water penetration. The profile of the mortar joint is created when the jointer strikes against the surface of the mortar before the joint has set. We will highlight some of the most common types in this brief article.

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