Failure investigation and expert witness services

We provide objective and independent Expert Witness services related to the selection, installation and use of stone products and related infrastructure. Our testing is backed up by an externally audited quality-assurance system, providing added confidence in court. 

Stone Initiatives is a NATA Quality Accredited testing laboratory. The principal has over 20 years of experience in materials testing and failure analysis.

We have provided expert reports for litigation related to:
Building facade failures
Commercial and residential stone installation failures
Disputes related to the quality of supplied stone products
Slip/fall accidents

Stone Initiatives can assist you in your litigation issues by providing a clear, comprehensive and concise Expert Witness report. Our experience has extended across Australia and the Asian region. 

Like all building materials, dimension stone is subject to failure through improper use, installation or maintenance.  Whether it is the failure of  stone in historic buildings or the premature and dramatic failure of newly laid stone tiles, the identification of the cause of such failures is important to avoid recurrence of the problem. 

To effectively correct these problems, the investigation needs to take into account more than the failure itself. Failures, such as the salt affected brick wall shown below, are the result of a complex interaction between the substrate, coatings and the environment including soil, rainfall and drainage. To determine the cause and develop the correct rectification method, the investigation must cover all aspects of construction and service life.

A failure to understand the properties of the materials being used – individually and in combination has resulted in this unsightly failure that developed within a year of the tiles being laid. The investigation determined that the failure was caused by the use of a damp thick sand and cement mortar bed as a base for this water-sensitive tile along with inappropriate cleaning practices.

Some failures are just unsightly, such as the the granite facade shown below. The pattern that can be seen on the stone surface is not graffiti, but a representation of the adhesive on the rear of the stone. In this case, the concrete structure was  actively drawing saline water from the soil and the adhesive used to fix the panels allowed the transfer of the salt from the concrete backing into the stone; the salt crystallised near the stone surface and caused permanent damage by micro-cracking of the stone along grain boundaries. 

Failures are sometimes related to structural failure of the bedding or anchorage system (as below).

Some failures can be catastrophic – the images below show a failure where a 5kg fragment of limestone that fell nine storeys to the pavement of a busy city street. The investigation showed that the failure was caused by the expansion of carbon steel anchors used to fix the stone elements. Pollutants and biological growth visible on the fracture face showed that the fracture had developed over many years before the failure occurred.

Stone Initiatives’ expertise in the field of failure analysis has assisted clients to determine the cause of failures in prominent buildings throughout Australia and overseas. Stone Initiatives can also assist in the development of a suitable rectification method. We can also determine the cause of failure of raw materials and finished products by determining its properties and by using established and innovative techniques to determine its performance and behaviour in service. The information gained is used to settle cases of litigation or to minimise the risk of future failure.