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  1. #1
    sarah hutchinson's Avatar
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    Default Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    Hi,

    Just bought a 110 year old house in DC. Completely gutted renovation. The house was vacant for decades (somewhere between 25-45 years).

    There is no basement. There is a bow on the right side. Please see photos.

    One image is of a nail that seems to have popped out after the earthquake.
    One image is of a brick veneer. One photo is of the interior wall. The drywall has been formed to the bowing.

    Is my house at risk of collapse, or eventual major structural damage that needs to be addressed? We have not had a structural engineer assess the bowing. The home inspector said that the house has been standing this long, and that there is probably nothing to worry about...

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    Have you found any cracks either inside or out?
    The picture of the corner brick looks like its a veneer rather than a full brick course.

    Also do you know if this is a double or triple brick wall? Or is it wood frame with brick veneer.

    The reason there may be a bow is the brick has pulled away from the wood structural framing. In which case you really need to have the area assessed for stability, and if necessary remedial solutions. This assessment would need to be done by a engineer familiar with older construction techniques.


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    I saw this condition in a DC row house back some time. There are ways to stabilize the bowing wall with the use of metal plates and rods; it is definitely a job for a structural engineer. I would not recommend putting any more money into the house until this is done.


  4. #4
    James Duffin's Avatar
    James Duffin Guest

    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    When I have seen rods and plates used the rods went all the way through the house with plates on both outside walls. The wood structure was not sufficient for the concentrated weight of the brick wall. Not sure if that is possible here.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    no matter what you read here or have heard from a professional that was on site, you will not be satisfied!
    I am sure you're home inspector gave his best advice but you are not satisfied.
    Buyers remorse is a fact of life in purchasing anything.
    My best advice to you and what will allow you to feel safe and happy in you're new home is,
    Hire the beststructural engineer you can find,
    pay him!
    read what his report says.
    Have him make you understand what it says
    and go on with life.
    it's not an airplane
    it doesn't have to fly.
    it's a house, and it sits there


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas McKay View Post
    There are ways to stabilize the bowing wall with the use of metal plates and rods; it is definitely a job for a structural engineer.
    I've seen that in old houses before, and corrected that before, but ...

    Look at the 4th photo again ... tell me what does not look right about the way that corner was laid up - see it?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  7. #7
    sarah hutchinson's Avatar
    sarah hutchinson Guest

    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    thank you for your responses

    1) there are step cracks between the bricks on the rear of the house, but not where the side of the house is bowing.
    2) i do not see the issue with the corner of the house in the 4th photo...
    3) we do not have buyers remorse... we love the house and wanted to see if the users of this website thought it would be worthy to possibly spend the money on a structural engineer. we only became worried after we described the issue to a friend that is in architect. she seemed very worried about any bowing issue...
    4) not sure if this is just a wood frame with brick veneer. i do not think it is. i think it's a double brick wall.

    Thanks again


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    I would think that with this much bowing that there would be some visible separation at the inside corner. Are there signs of repairs in the corner where the bow is pronounced? Also these walls appear to me to be a brick veneer, a masonry wall would probably not be laid up in this manner. Normally a solid masonry wall would have a course of header bricks (the headers would be turned so that they tie the outer wall to the inner wall) every fifth or sixth course, or there would be headers spread out in each course.

    Alton Darty
    ATN Services, LLC
    www.arinspections.com

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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I've seen that in old houses before, and corrected that before, but ...

    Look at the 4th photo again ... tell me what does not look right about the way that corner was laid up - see it?
    Looks like it may be Faux brick (lick & stick)

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Looks like it may be Faux brick (lick & stick)
    Hard to believe someone would cover an entire house with that stuff ... unless the house was some other cladding and had some serious problems they were trying to cover up.

    However, if it was lick and stick brick, then there would not be the step cracking which was mentioned. That leaves the question of what it is open to consideration - it certainly does not look thick enough to be real brick veneer, and if it is the corners would be stagged.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    that house is balloon framed or the built the floors and the walls at the same time and they may have pocketed the joists ends into the brick assembly, your picture shows that stairwell on that exterior wall so there may be your weak link

    Joseph Ehrhardt
    Building Forensic Specialist LLC

  12. #12

    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    I am going to disagree with some of the previous posts; while your photos do not clearly show the details I am familiar with the area and era and have working in homes similar to yours. Normally, this is masonry construction and not a veneer wall. If I assume this to be true you do need to have an independent evaluation by a competent engineer. Even if this is veneer construction you should consult and engineer. The difference is this; if it is a veneer it will only result in the cladding falling but if it is masonry the building can fail. Repairs can be made in either case but you need to have the evaluation.

    Jeff Zehnder - Home Inspector, Raleigh, NC
    http://www.jjeffzehnder.com/
    http://carolinahomeinspections.com/

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    sarah,
    You appear to have a brick overlay.
    Looking at the 1st and 4th picture you see that the brick lines do not line up on the courses. Also, the edge of the brick do not inter lock from the front to the side. It shows that the front of the house was done first then at a later date the side wall was done. That is what Jerry was referring to in picture 4. saying it another way the brick is not woven together on the corner, just butted where the front wall meets the side wall.

    Might be able to offer some additional insight with some additional information.
    1) How many other houses have the same brick treatment as yours does?
    2) When was the gutted renovation done?
    3) Were permits obtained? If so, which ones?
    4) Who performed the renovation?
    5) How many years was the roof leaking and when did it collapse? Meaning how many years were the interior structural elements left exposed to the elements?

    My guess is that there was a face brick applied over the old brick that was deteriorating. The age and location of the house would suggest that a low fired soft brick was used (if in fact it is a brick construction). The reason for the bowing can be attributed to many factors. Bowed walls in the DC and Baltimore homes are not uncommon. Many have been bowed for many decades and are still standing. The process of the wall bowing is very gradual and in saying that the process of the bowing may or may not continue. If the bowing continues to increase the wall will come down sooner or later--- days,weeks,months,decades.

    Bottom line, to satisfy yourself the answer is to have a structural engineer provide a written evaluation, which I am confident will include a recommendation for stabilizing of the wall.


  14. #14
    sarah hutchinson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    Quote Originally Posted by Alton Darty View Post
    I would think that with this much bowing that there would be some visible separation at the inside corner. Are there signs of repairs in the corner where the bow is pronounced? Also these walls appear to me to be a brick veneer, a masonry wall would probably not be laid up in this manner. Normally a solid masonry wall would have a course of header bricks (the headers would be turned so that they tie the outer wall to the inner wall) every fifth or sixth course, or there would be headers spread out in each course.
    Thanks again for the responses! I really appreciate it!

    Alton- I don't see any noticeable separation from the inside walls and i think its mainly because the renovation is so recent. This was a complete gutted renovation and everything was redone. It looks to me like they built the walls to the actual bowing. See the picture of the inside wall.

    I don't see any signs of repairs in the corners where the bowing is pronounced on the outside.

    Garry - I see what you and Jerry are referring to with the 4th picture. If you take a close look to the front of the house, you can see the side may not be original. If you go to the back of the house, you can't see the extra "bricks' sticking out to make a bow.

    To answer your questions:
    1.) I see many similar houses in DC, but not none necessarily with the same brick treatment...
    2.) The previous owner bought the house in January 2011 and he completed the renovation in June 2011.
    3.) I'm not sure about the permits. We contacted our relator to ask the previous owner if he did anything to stabilize the house. We are waiting to hear back.
    4.) The renovation was made by Gerald Seegars of Urbane Realty, LLC
    5.) I'm not sure about the roof. We didn't even know the house was vacant for so many years prior to our purchase. Our next door neighbor who's been living in his house for over 50 years, said that our house was vacant for 45 years and the roof was leaking/off for years...

    I'm convinced that we need to have someone come out to assess the situation. When i get the recommendation, I'll update this site to let everyone know. Thanks again! This was more than helpful!

    Last edited by sarah hutchinson; 10-25-2011 at 01:51 PM.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    sarah,
    Short on time right now, will get back later.

    The fact that the interior wall was built out of plumb makes for alot of question on the job done.
    Many rehab flippers will com in and do a cosmetic rehab glossing over or hiding many issues. The idea is to get in and get out quickly with as little cost as possible.

    I would suggest that you go to the building permit office and pull copies of all permits and records of inspections done.

    If it was a rehab and was gutted you should have electric, plumbing, framing and insulation permits (I have not worked in DC so not familiar with their requirements).

    My experiences on following a flip is that there are alot of short cuts taken that have to be redone correctly.

    Will check back later...


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    Default Re: Bowed brick - 110 year old row house

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    Looks like it may be Faux brick (lick & stick)

    I'm with Rick on this one. Faux brick tiles stuck over double wythe structural brick. The movement in the original structural brick may or may not have been remedied. Either way, it was probably not very aesthetically appealing so the decision was made to cover it with the faux tiles. Alot can happen in 110 years.


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