The Cork Factory is one of the most recognizable buildings in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Strip District. Designed by the renowned Pittsburgh architect, Frederick Osterling, the imposing Richardson Romanesque-style structures comprise the 440,000-square-foot complex that was constructed in 1901 and expanded in 1913. Home of the Armstrong Cork Company until 1974, the buildings were abandoned for more than 30 years. In early 2005, McCaffrey Interests, a Chicago developer, partnered with the local owners of the buildings to develop 295 luxury apartments within the shell of the former industrial facility. 

Graciano Corp. was assigned the task of cleaning all of the two-building facility’s exterior brick masonry, stone and terra cotta surfaces. The company was also responsible for removing extensive accumulations of graffiti, as well as spot-pointing masonry joints, removing and replacing damaged brick, patching or replacing stone architectural features, and repairing damaged terra cotta trim on cornices, belt courses and window sills. Graciano encountered exceptionally heavy accumulations of dirt on the façade surfaces, and found it necessary to treat and clean exterior building surfaces two or three times to remove all foreign materials. 

Midway through the assignment, Graciano was asked to assume interior work started by another contractor. This assignment required craftsmen to be quickly certified in lead abatement. Crews removed paint, dirt and graffiti, and executed masonry repairs. Graciano was then retained to stabilize exposed concrete ceilings throughout the complex. After masking off all finished surfaces, spalling concrete was removed from existing rebar, and the ceiling surfaces were repaired and refinished. The interior work concluded with the rebuilding of two elevator shafts to accommodate new equipment, as well as with the construction of numerous concrete block walls in the basement areas to create laundry, storage and mechanical spaces.

Graciano was subsequently asked to work on the complex’s towering stack. The company encapsulated the brick structure in scaffolding, reconstructed the top three feet of brickwork, replaced metal stabilizer rings, cleaned and repointed the masonry surfaces, and installed a stainless steel cap on the stack to prevent water infiltration. 

When the stack work was complete, the company was then invited to work on the reception building. Two of the building’s three exterior brick walls were completely rebuilt to match the historic fabric of the surrounding structures. The third wall was refurbished with cleaning and pointing. Within the reception building, interior brick walls were constructed to define spaces. As a final assignment, the general contractor asked Graciano to install precast coping around the facility’s new in-ground pool and adjoining Jacuzzi.

Project Details

Name: The Cork Factory
Completion Date: 8/2006
Owner: Big River Development, LP
Architect: James S. Carr, A.L.A. and Associates
General Contractor: Plant Construction Company, L.P.


Project Included

  • Waterproofing
  • Vertical & Overhead Patching
  • Unit Stone Replacement
  • Terra Cotta
  • Structural Steel Repair/Replacement
  • Stonework
  • Stone Patching
  • Stone Facade Pinning
  • Sealants
  • Sand Blasting
  • Repointing Masonry
  • Replacement
  • Repair
  • Parapet & Coping Reconstruction
  • Paint Removal
  • New Brick Construction
  • Masonry Surface Rehabilitation
  • Lintel Replacement
  • Individual Brick Replacement
  • Full Depth Concrete Repair
  • Expoxy Injection
  • Dutchman Repair
  • Concrete Restoration
  • Chemical Cleaning
  • Brickwork
  • Brick Facade Rebuild
  • Abrasive Cleaning

Glossary Terms

WaterproofingIt’s important to waterproof concrete structures to keep moisture out of the facility and to protect the structural components of concrete and imbedded reinforcing steel. If the integrity of the concrete is maintained, it can remain waterproof. Polyurethane is considered one of the best waterproofing materials. It can be applied seamlessly and penetrates the surface deeply and evenly. The polyurethane membrane will fill in even the finest cracks in concrete, reducing its water absorbency capacity. Many types of waterproofing systems can be used depending on your home’s structure Urethane Foam or Epoxy InjectionUrethane Foam or epoxy injection is a cost-effective and permanent way to stabilize and seal cracked or compromised masonry surfaces. Depending on the size of the crack, urethane foam or epoxy is injected into the void and allowed to cure. Once hardened, these materials help form a stable subsurface to support masonry restoration operations. Tuck PointingTuck pointing entails removing loose or cracked mortar from brickwork or stone installations and replacing its new mortar to ensure structural integrity and to seal out damaging water and moisture. Mortar for tuck pointing must be carefully selected to ensure that its color and texture of the new mortar closely matches the existing material that was not compromised and did not need to be removed. Terra Cotta Replacement and RepairTerra cotta is a building material that is cast from clay and then glazed. Terra cotta components add great color and detail to a building, but are also highly susceptible to cracking and damage from impacts or freeze and thaw cycles. In many cases, damaged terra cotta sections must be removed and replaced with new materials to prevent water infiltration and structural damage. Replacement components must be created to replicate the design of the original piece, as well as the coloration that is acquired as the surrounding pieces age. Frequently, it is necessary to repair and stabilize the structural underpinnings that support a terra cotta installation, as corroded pins or structural supports can cause further damage as time passes. In cases where a terra cotta component has sustained minor damage, it is often possible to perform repairs on the piece without removing the compromised element from its installation. Masonry RestorationMasonry restoration involves the repair of existing masonry materials or the complete replacement of damaged materials with new or reclaimed bricks or stones. Color and texture matching are key considerations in masonry restoration, as an accurate match can make areas of restored stone or brick blend in seamlessly with existing materials. To achieve an accurate color and texture match, it is frequently necessary to return to the original brick manufacturer for replacements, or to the original stone quarry where material for the existing stone components was cut. Masonry CleaningMasonry cleaning entails the removal of dirt, debris, paint, and graffiti from various surfaces of masonry structures. Commonly used masonry cleaning techniques include high and low – pressure washing and chemical cleaning. Regardless of the method used, special care is taken to avoid over cleaning – and possibly damaging – aging masonry surfaces. GroutingGrouting is used to seal the spaces between masonry installations such as tile or terra cotta. Grout may be colored to blend with the masonry materials, or can be used to create contrast within the masonry design. Grout is typically applied by hand by filling the joints with material and then troweling it out over the adjoining tile or terra cotta. Once the grout has set, a craftsman returns to the area that was grouted and removes any excess material from the face of the installation. As grout is frequently porous, it must be sealed once it is completely dry to protect it from dirt infiltration. EIFS CleaningExterior Insulation and Finish Systems cleaning, also known as EIFS cleaning, involves removing dirt and grime from the exterior surfaces of structures clad in Dryvit or other types of stucco–like materials. To avoid damaging the thin exterior skin of these structures, mild cleaning agents and low–pressure water is most frequently used to dislodge surface dirt. Manual cleaning is also used to remove dirt in hard–to–reach areas or intricate detail. CaulkingCaulking is used to seal gaps between masonry surfaces, such as brick or stone, and other architectural elements, including window and door frames, decorative hardware or lighting fixtures. Caulking is most often applied with a gun, and is available in butyl, latex or customized formulations. The color of caulk is selected to match the surfaces surrounding the application site. When applied, the caulking gun is inserted in the gap to be filled. Caulking material is then injected into the void to seal the opening. Abrasive CleaningHeavily soiled masonry surfaces may require abrasive cleaning to effectively remove deposits of grime, paint or graffiti. Abrasive cleaning typically involves high–pressure application of sand or another type of inert, abrasive material directly to the masonry surface. When the abrasive cleaning has been completed, the masonry surface is frequently rinsed with low-pressure water to remove any remaining dirt or cleaning materials.