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  1. #1
    Corrie Macaulay's Avatar
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    Question Exterior wall movement

    I haven't run across this before, so I wanted to get some opinions.
    Looked at a 4-story apartment building about 1-2 YO. In some sections of the exterior wall, the brick veneer goes all the way up to the bottom of the window on the 4th floor and vinyl siding is above that. It appears that at the top floor, the wall moved, but the brick veneer did not. This has caused problems with the function of the window of course. No cracks noted in the brick or brick motar. At the top of the brick, a vinyl flashing was used and the bottom horizontal part of the flashing is now angled up. Based on pieces of construction plans, it looks like the brick and wall rests on the footing foundation block wall (1 or 2 course high, above footing). So it doesn't seem to be a settlement issue, since the brick didn't appear to settle.
    Has anyone seen this before?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Hard to say w/o pictures..... I'm assuming wood framing? It sounds most likely that the wood framing shifted as it dried (very common). After a couple years the wood is just about as dry as it will ever be and once the windows and doors that function poorly are fixed the future problems/annoyance will be minimal.

    Again though, it's tough to say w/o pics or better yet being there.


  3. #3
    Corrie Macaulay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Thanks for the reply.
    I have pics, but camera unavailable right now.
    Will post pics in the am tomorrow.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Here are the photos.
    Please take a look and let me know if you or anyone have an opinion as to the possible problem

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    From the limited amount of information and photos, looks like they did not allow for expansion of the brick and other materials. Couple that with the fact that 4 stories of wood framing will shrink as it dries, especially if is is platform framed with traditional joists using top and bottom plates. You could easily get way over an inch of differential expansion and contraction from the different materials and construction techniques. Four stories of brick expanding from temperature and humidity sitting on the same foundation as four stories of wood frame construction trying to shrink as the lumber dries out over the last couple of years all meeting up at the top window frame and something has to give, in this case the vinyl window and siding, IMHO. I would expect to see the same thing at the lower windows with each story getting progressively tighter at the windows as you go up.

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  6. #6
    Corrie Macaulay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Jim, you make a good point. It is traditionally joist framed and speaking with someone that was there during the construction, he indicated that this was the fastest building construction he's being involved with as they were out of time for the opening and had double and sometimes triple time round the clock work in completing. There is certainly differential settlement and can most likely be attributed to shrinking of the wood framing.

    Because of the snow and ice we've had this past December, someone else mentioned possible deflection of the roof trusses causing a "pulling in" or rotational effect on the wall, but that doesn't really explain the 1-inch or more differential settlement b/n wall and brick... or does it? (shrinking and expansion seem a more logic explanation)


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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    One thing that you can always count on is that "buildings move" and we need to "let them move" ala Dr. Joe L.
    Every building will move no matter how well or how poorly it is built. The better buildings have features designed into the construction to allow movement to happen without damaging the building.
    It sounds like this builder did not make enough of a provision for the natural movement. This is not differential settlement as I would describe it since I normally thing of differential settlement as being related to the foundation. Unless the brick and wood framing is on two different foundations that are moving independently, I would not call it differential settlement, just movement, IMHO.

    Jim Luttrall
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  8. #8
    chris mcintyre's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    After reading all of the above this may be an over simplified answer but, vinyl siding moves a lot. If the siding was installed in cold weather with little or no room for expansion, it is trapped between the brick and the eave with no where to go.

    Since the brick should be tied to the building if there was that much movement between the the two I would think there would be other signs of movement (cracks in the brick/mortar, cracking in the drywall, windows not shutting, etc....)


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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Corrie

    I am in agreement with some of the other responders. My first thought is the wood framing has shrunk and the brick did not which resulted in the issues posted in your photos. Lumber shrinks the most perpendicular to the ring growth. So the biggest contributers to your shrinkage problem will not be the studs but the plates and rim joists. Doing a rough calculation on the number of rim joist and plates below the 4th floor window level the lumber would only have to shrink 2% to result in a 1-inch settlement. Thats well within the normal shrinkage range for lumber.

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by chris mcintyre View Post

    Since the brick should be tied to the building if there was that much movement between the the two I would think there would be other signs of movement (cracks in the brick/mortar, cracking in the drywall, windows not shutting, etc..
    ..)
    .
    Ditto.
    .

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    That brick ledge may be allowing water to enter.
    Parapet walls have coping for a reason and I do not see how this is any different.

    They should have a cap with flashing.

    Here is a link to an illustration of how it should be flashed.Brick Veneer to Siding Flashing Transition

    Last edited by Bob Elliott; 01-05-2011 at 08:23 PM.

  12. #12
    ryan donaldson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    i agree that the brick should be attached to the wall. The whole wall should not be seperating from the wood structure.


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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    That is not flashing, there is no "vinyl flashing".

    No evidence of proper flashing, drainage plane, etc.

    There are cracks in the mortar pictured to the right of the right most window.

    The windows and the siding atop the facing brick are not flashed. There are no weeps, nor a means for drainage pictured.

    It appears water is being dumped from the window areas into and behind the brick veneer.

    Foundation for 4-story two courses of block on a footer? You sure about that?

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Randy hit that right on, lumber is harvestest in 25 years, that 1" shrinkage is average just for for a two story home with a roof system, now you have a 4 story conventional frame building with truss load and a less forgiving material brick and mortar joints maintaining a 2500lb compression value. Those brick ties were fastened into the studs, bent 90 degrees and embedded into the brick mortar joint now are pulling with the frame settlement and bulging the brick and cracking the mortar joint.

    Thats vinyl "J" channel with no 1/8" weep holes drilled every 24", theres no through wall flashing from under the WRB over the brick sill course row lock and they didnt slope the brick 15 degrees. typical problem in multi story/ multi family

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Corrie Macaulay View Post
    Here are the photos.
    Please take a look and let me know if you or anyone have an opinion as to the possible problem
    Look at the window sills. That is a cost-cutting method they should have been cement slab sills..The second brick right from the sill , I see a serpentine crack running downwards. When you say you see no brick movement there is error in your statement.
    It depends on how the bricks where hung on the wall firstly, because methods are used to allow for movement in a building.
    So when you point out that in interior walls have moved but the brick veneer is intact you have not looked for stress points and serpentine cracking is indication there is movement.
    The building is undergoing movement and that is fact if what you say is true.
    Now the siding is another cost cutter.
    To me there were mistakes made in build and planing.
    An engineer would have known how to hang the bricks on the wall without the use of siding.
    Pay attention to this building as the years of weather and ground movement work its magic.
    It will teach you many things if you pay attention.
    Windows are a great place and next I would have said the parapet wall but after 2 years its already gone.
    Thanks for the photos.
    Please learn to take many shots of the exterior. Windows sills, top 10 courses of brick, garage door and other openings to see lintels, corners. Look up at the wall being as close as you can be. Look for bulging, deflection, off plumb, vents, and always the parapet wall.

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    In my opinion, there does look to be some 'shrinkage'. Look at the bottom of the window in the photo, it's being pushed up.

    I don't know what they used where the vinyl meets the brisk but there should have been a cap flashing in the shape of a 'Z' (under the siding and down past the front of the brick).

    Since it's only 2 years old, you should be able to go to the town construction department and review the 'approved' drawings. I'll bet the final product doesn't match the 'Approved' method.

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Darren Miller View Post
    In my opinion, there does look to be some 'shrinkage'. Look at the bottom of the window in the photo, it's being pushed up.

    I don't know what they used where the vinyl meets the brisk but there should have been a cap flashing in the shape of a 'Z' (under the siding and down past the front of the brick).

    Since it's only 2 years old, you should be able to go to the town construction department and review the 'approved' drawings. I'll bet the final product doesn't match the 'Approved' method.
    That is an idea Mr.Miller, but remember you are an residential building inspector ( home inspector ).
    You are going to be looking into intense structure and code practices.
    You should be looking at defect recognition in my opinion.
    You have already deduced from observation a critical weak point in the siding application.
    Lack of proper flashing.( Its the weakest link in the buildings you will be inspecting ) lack of proper flashing and counter flashing's.
    The brick bed joint ( the upper side of the brick should never be exposed to weather). 3 joint's in brick construction, top bottom and butt. referred to as bed and butt joints. Been awhile Mr.Miller, sorry if my technical language is out dated. I an a mason and did my tests 20 plus years ago.
    You are right in saying it should have a flashing covering its exposed area and dropping down the FACE OF THE BRICK BY AS MUCH AS 2 INCHES ( depending upon location ) , and have a 1/2 inch rain kick at its bottom.
    Now you are starting to make keen observations in looking at the sills and lentils for any deviation.
    Always pay particular attention to windows with this style of sill.
    It a cost cutting error on the builders part.
    If you spot corners that have been cut ( lack of materials or systems not properly flashed ) anywhere on the building its time to take your time and be even more vigilant in your investigation of that building and its systems.
    Good work mate.
    You will be fine.
    PS: bricks expand and cement contracts or shrinks.
    As the cement loses its moisture after being poured and during its curing phase it shrinks.
    All masonry products after the late 1950'S ARE CEMENT PRODUCT OR CEMENT BASED.
    So even the masonry will shrink.
    Brick will expand after it absorbs water and freezes.
    Water expands 1/10 its volume or a bit more if my memory serves me well.
    So you see everything at play on a brick veneer Mr.Miller..

    Last edited by ROBERT YOUNG; 01-07-2011 at 07:36 AM. Reason: editing sorry all.
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Corrie
    To give you some idea on how to calculate wood shrinkage I have attached a drawing with calculations for a four story brick veneered building. This deferential shrinkage issue is why there is a 30 foot height limit on brick veneer supported by wood framing. I suspect the reason your brick stopped short of the soffit was this 30 foot limit. Not to make this too complicated but wood shrinks more in the tangential direction (7.5%) than in the radial direction (4.5%) and in the longitudinal direction there is very little shrinkage.

    I estimated you have 11 - (2x4) plates and 4 (2x10) joists in that 30 foot section of wall from the top of the brick to the foundation. The shrinkage going from 19% moisture content at time of construction to 10% moisture content during the winter months would result in about 1 1/8" of total accumulated shrinkage. In single story construction overlooking shrinkage is usually not a problem but the accumulated effects of multi-story construction can be significant and must be accommodated in the brick veneer design.

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Mayo View Post
    Corrie
    To give you some idea on how to calculate wood shrinkage I have attached a drawing with calculations for a four story brick veneered building. This deferential shrinkage issue is why there is a 30 foot height limit on brick veneer supported by wood framing. I suspect the reason your brick stopped short of the soffit was this 30 foot limit. Not to make this too complicated but wood shrinks more in the tangential direction (7.5%) than in the radial direction (4.5%) and in the longitudinal direction there is very little shrinkage.

    I estimated you have 11 - (2x4) plates and 4 (2x10) joists in that 30 foot section of wall from the top of the brick to the foundation. The shrinkage going from 19% moisture content at time of construction to 10% moisture content during the winter months would result in about 1 1/8" of total accumulated shrinkage. In single story construction overlooking shrinkage is usually not a problem but the accumulated effects of multi-story construction can be significant and must be accommodated in the brick veneer design.
    Good point.
    They use angle iron tied into buildings were that code exceeds brick height restriction.
    The engineers design would explain everything.
    Good point on the wood shrinkage factor.

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by ROBERT YOUNG View Post
    but remember you are an residential building inspector ( home inspector ).
    You are going to be looking into intense structure and code practices.
    I can only assume that comment is in reference to checking out the building plans. If a home inspector is incapable of reading construction drawings, he should go to his local community college and take a course.

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by ROBERT YOUNG View Post
    That is an idea Mr.Miller, but remember you are an residential building inspector ( home inspector ).
    You are going to be looking into intense structure and code practices.
    You should be looking at defect recognition in my opinion.
    Quote Originally Posted by Darren Miller View Post
    I can only assume that comment is in reference to checking out the building plans.
    I, too, was wondering what was meant by that comment.

    "Home inspectors" do not look intensely at "structure and code practices" as most of the structure and most of the other components of a building are hidden out of view behind building finishes, and those code practices would mostly be unobservable.

    That comment fits better to municipal inspectors and plan reviewers.

    Home inspectors are looking at the structure, and basically everything else, relating what is seen to what should be seen based on proper practices (which are the 'codes', as has been discussed here many times).

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I, too, was wondering what was meant by that comment.

    "Home inspectors" do not look intensely at "structure and code practices" as most of the structure and most of the other components of a building are hidden out of view behind building finishes, and those code practices would mostly be unobservable.

    That comment fits better to municipal inspectors and plan reviewers.

    Home inspectors are looking at the structure, and basically everything else, relating what is seen to what should be seen based on proper practices (which are the 'codes', as has been discussed here many times).
    Mr.Peck
    I will not tell him to not do it as will.
    If he can understand all the practices and processes at hand in that plain ( drawings and code structures for that area) he is about to interpret, it will only make him a stronger HI and improve his technical aptitude for explaining to others what his observations are.
    That being said.
    If he is just getting grounded in HI as I am ( to a degree ) he should stay on course and start looking into furthering his skills in building practices after he is out in the field making $$$.
    I am the opposite in a way. Builder becoming a HI.
    Technical language is the sticking point.

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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Quote Originally Posted by Darren Miller View Post
    I can only assume that comment is in reference to checking out the building plans. If a home inspector is incapable of reading construction drawings, he should go to his local community college and take a course.
    Nice website Mr.Miller.
    Wording and simplicity is excellent and to the point.
    Bravo!!

    Robert Young's Montreal Home Inspection Services Inc.
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  24. #24
    Corrie Macaulay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Exterior wall movement

    Wow - I love this Forum
    I want to say thanks to you all: Matt, Jim, Chris, Randy, Billy, Bob, Ryan, Mr. Watson Sr. Joseph, Robert, Darren and Jerry.
    I am so grateful for all your helpful comments.

    Now that I think I understand the issue here, they are considering removing top brick layer to at least release the pressure on the windows (repairs to be designed by some engineer of course). He now tells me that there were crack openings on the interior window seals that have been repaired

    I am actually going to summarize and forward your comments to the owner and new superintendent at the site (they are constructing 2 new buildings). My guess is that he will want to get the design changed as not to have the same problems.

    Thanks Randy for the example calculations, they were very helpful.


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