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  1. #1
    Josh G's Avatar
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    Default Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    I am in the process of buying a 1950's duplex. The home inspection report did not mention anything about this glaring issue I found recently, however I easily spotted it in the brick wall. The crack runs from where the brick starts (where the poured concrete foundation ends) and stair-steps up to the bottom of the 1st unit window. Then the crack starts again at the top of the same window and stair-steps up to the top of the side of the house where the flat roof is. There are no cracks along the exterior of the poured concrete foundation at the above-ground section and no cracks are seen on the foundation on the interior of the house in the garage and basement.

    Settlement of the duplex is September 4th and I called the home inspector to get him to come out again and examine it (still waiting for him to return my phone call). I am getting nervous since it's getting closer and closer to settlement and I don't want to purchase a house with a potential major foundation problem. If the crack is old from settling decades ago and is merely cosmetic at this point, I am comfortable with just requesting additional repair credits to have it filled in. I am a Mechanical Engineer by profession, but I am very out of my element here on this kind of subject matter.

    Any help or insight from someone knowledgeable on this kind of matter would be greatly appreciated.

    Link to photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/1129741...eat=directlink

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Cracks in a brick wall will almost always start at a window or doorway, a weak spot. It is also reasonable for a building that age to undergo a bit of settling. A movement of a fraction of an inch can cause a crack in brick or concrete.
    From the pics, it doesn't look like a catastrophe, but we don't know anything about the construction of the building, the grading around the building and whether there are other cracks. Is that the original mortar job, or has it been repaired at some point?

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  3. #3
    Darrel Hood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Josh, I couldn't see the mortar cracks in the photos. However, it does appear that there is mortar cracking at the ends of the window lintels. It may be that the rusting lintels, especially the basement window lintel, are causing the cracks you are describing.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    In my opinion it should have been mentioned and one hopes he looked at other aspects to investigate further (matching cracks on opposite wall or interior surfaces, soil moisture conditions, dewatering defects, etc.) to get a full 'read' on them. You report that the foundation does not have corresponding cracks.

    Having said that, and going solely on the limited evidence at hand, I don't see anything major or structurally significant. He owes you a return call at minimum to describe how he assessed the condition. If he missed it altogether, though, that is a different matter...

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Limited pictures of same openings & cracks. Difficult without overall pictures and the TOP of the wall.The overall crack pattern in the pictures is more vertical in nature, broadcasting through brick courses to the Left of upper story windows and to the right of basement window & the openings in the wall with improper wood supports for AC or other units. Unknown if bulging.Suspect multiple contributing improper work and lack of maintenance for some time. WAGsI'd be looking at that load point area and water entry contributing to problems (rot/corrosion behind, expansion, failing or missing flashing, incorrect drainage paths, etc.). Replacment windows dumping water above old window pan into wall possibly, etc. Oxidation at lintels, bare. Expansion due to same.Load path supporting window openings location of vertical cracking interupted/displaced by the improper work (exposed wood, lack of flashing, etc. at wall openings created for through the wall AC units. Incorrect method to brace, support units, framing opening with bare wood, not properly flashed no drain path, requires proper transferance of loads. Water entry, water expands when frozen, wood swells when wet, freeze/thaw cycles, expansion & contraction. Several weep points improperly filled when redressed. soldier sills likely another point of water infiltration/entry freeze/thaw with replacement windows. Note majority of crack paterns not stair-step as much as vertical and cracks transmit through outer wythe brick work at load between openings.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Quote Originally Posted by Darrel Hood View Post
    Josh, I couldn't see the mortar cracks in the photos. However, it does appear that there is mortar cracking at the ends of the window lintels. It may be that the rusting lintels, especially the basement window lintel, are causing the cracks you are describing.
    Agreed. The cracks in the pics are small but appear to be indicative of what Darrel described. As long as the lintels are not sagging are really starting to delaminate and wafer up, the most you can do here is patch the cracks to keep water from getting in to the openings. Being a 50-60 year old property, those cracks are not bad. No cracks are good but these are not bad. I have seen far far worse.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  7. #7
    Josh G's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    I want to thank everyone for their responses and insights thus far.
    I took another look around the exterior of the duplex this afternoon and took some additional photos showing some things I did not see before. I am still at a loss of words that the home inspector missed all of this...

    I just uploaded revised photos showing the following:


    1) Foundation crack at rear corner of duplex
    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink


    2) Rear wall crack emanating from 1st unit bedroom window
    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink


    3) Left side crack from bottom of unit 1 living room window sill (same window sill from the other photos, just on the right part of the window where as the other crack is on the left part of the window)
    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink


    4) left side wall crack above and below 2nd unit bedroom window
    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/phot...eat=directlink


    I understand that it may be difficult to see the cracks in some of the photos since it started to get cloudy after my mountain bike ride when I stopped by the property on the way home. The photo is in full resolution if you Right Click - Save As, then zoom in

    Last edited by Josh G; 08-26-2012 at 06:19 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    The cracks do not appear significant but if the inspector did not make any mention of them (verbally or in the report), that is a bit concerning.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  9. #9
    Josh G's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Fisher View Post
    In my opinion it should have been mentioned and one hopes he looked at other aspects to investigate further (matching cracks on opposite wall or interior surfaces, soil moisture conditions, dewatering defects, etc.) to get a full 'read' on them. You report that the foundation does not have corresponding cracks.

    Having said that, and going solely on the limited evidence at hand, I don't see anything major or structurally significant. He owes you a return call at minimum to describe how he assessed the condition. If he missed it altogether, though, that is a different matter...
    The cracks in the brick walls were never mentioned at all in the home inspection report and he did not mention them verbally either. Instead, the following generic wording was put into the report:


    Foundation: "There are no large cracks in the visible foundation walls to indicate any serious structural problems"

    (except for the fact that there is a crack in the foundation in the rear corner...albeit not large, but it should have been noted and was not)

    General Exterior: "The exterior wall surfaces are brick. These walls appear to be in generally sound condition"

    (again, no mention at all of any of the several crack paths in the brick wall)


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh G View Post
    The cracks in the brick walls were never mentioned at all in the home inspection report and he did not mention them verbally either. Instead, the following generic wording was put into the report:


    Foundation: "There are no large cracks in the visible foundation walls to indicate any serious structural problems"

    (except for the fact that there is a crack in the foundation in the rear corner...albeit not large, but it should have been noted and was not)

    General Exterior: "The exterior wall surfaces are brick. These walls appear to be in generally sound condition"

    (again, no mention at all of any of the several crack paths in the brick wall)
    Sounds like an inspector who does not want to upset the real estate apple cart!

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Maybe he was in a hurry, doing his normal "windshield inspection." Slowed down to 15 mph while driving by the place.

    Money not well spent. Particularly since he hasn't responded to your pointing out these deficiencies to him.

    Wonder what else he missed. I'd ask for a refund.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Quote Originally Posted by Josh G View Post
    The cracks in the brick walls were never mentioned at all in the home inspection report and he did not mention them verbally either. Instead, the following generic wording was put into the report:


    Foundation: "There are no large cracks in the visible foundation walls to indicate any serious structural problems"

    (except for the fact that there is a crack in the foundation in the rear corner...albeit not large, but it should have been noted and was not)

    General Exterior: "The exterior wall surfaces are brick. These walls appear to be in generally sound condition"

    (again, no mention at all of any of the several crack paths in the brick wall)
    Weak wording, but he could argue that he assessed and reported on the brick. Again, from what I see, nothing major. The foundation crack looks to me to be non-structural, but I'm not there.

    From what I see overall, the cracking is more than "typical" but less than "structurally significant" deserving of more detailed reporting. If nothing else, I've learned that cracks like this can cause worry that, to protect myself, I like to explain up front in my report. I take all cracks seriously until I satisfy myself that there is no major concern and I try to relay that level of investigation in my report.

    Mark Fisher
    Allegany Inspection Service - Cumberland MD 21502 - 301-722-2224
    Home Inspections, Mold Testing, Thermal Imaging

  13. #13
    Josh G's Avatar
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    I want to thank everyone for their input into the cracked brick wall questions I've been asking about the duplex property I am purchasing.

    The home inspector returned to the property and examined the brick wall and associated cracks and came to the following conclusions:

    1) Yes, the wall is double-brick construction, not brick veneer
    2) Cause of cracks is due to 2 factors. #1 - proximity of A/C cutout to Window cutouts, #2 - rusting window lintels that expanded
    3) Hairline cracks don't need any attention, but monitor them each year to see if the crack gets larger from mortar crumbling (the crack is not growing though). If they appear to be getting larger, have those areas re-pointed
    4) For the larger cracks on the top of the left side of the duplex, he recommends getting them re-pointed - said this should run ~$400 for the larger crack section
    5) The corner crack in the top of the poured concrete does not pose a structural problem


    His recommendation is to scrape off the exposed rust on the lintel and paint them. He said most if not all of the damage has already been done, but just to be safe to have the rust scraped off and repainted to stop the corrosion.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Scraping visible corrosion products off of lintels is not going to help much, except to pretty things up. The corrosion not visible on the top bearing surfaces is what's causing the problem, and needs to be addressed. Along with finding/eliminating the source of moisture getting to those locations.


  15. #15
    Josh G's Avatar
    Josh G Guest

    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    Quote Originally Posted by BridgeMan View Post
    Scraping visible corrosion products off of lintels is not going to help much, except to pretty things up. The corrosion not visible on the top bearing surfaces is what's causing the problem, and needs to be addressed. Along with finding/eliminating the source of moisture getting to those locations.


    How much is this kind of job? - removing lintels + re-pointing around the lintel areas for 6 windows?

    Last edited by Josh G; 08-30-2012 at 01:33 PM.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Crack in Brick Exterior Wall - 1950's Duplex

    No one here can give you an accurate cost estimate. You need to have a contractor (or several) who specializes in this type of work make an on-site inspection--he will happily give you a quote.

    P.S. It won't be inexpensive. A system has to be used that can support the brickwork above each window, while enabling lintel removal and replacement. And tracking down (and eliminating) the source of water intrusion in itself may not be an easy matter either.


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