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  1. #1
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    Default Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Hi all,

    I need some help figuring out the cause of wetness at the base of my brick veneer wall in the picture below. The house was built in 1970 and the wall in question is facing North East. There was no rain in the 2 days before the picture was taken and it is pretty warm outside.

    wall1.jpg

    I started noticing this a couple of months ago, but I thought it was normal after a rain etc. Now I'm starting to worry that something might not be ok. I need to mention that we had a contractor re-grade that portion last summer and here is what they did: they dug next to the wall and applied about 12'' of liquid membrane on the brick veneer wall, added clay soil and they put about 12'' of gravel on top next to the wall, landscaping fabric below and mulch on top after the gravel, the slope is about 1.5'' by a foot.

    I'm not sure what's causing the wetness on this wall, but it is along the entire portion that was re-graded. Was there a bad idea to put liquid membrane on the brick and is it causing the issue? Or do we have a sewer leak (the water bill is normal)? How to check this? There are no signs of wetness inside the house anywhere.

    Thanks!

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  2. #2
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    Mar 2007
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    Ormond Beach, Florida
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by gchope2k6 View Post
    I need to mention that we had a contractor re-grade that portion last summer and here is what they did: they dug next to the wall and applied about 12'' of liquid membrane on the brick veneer wall, added clay soil and they put about 12'' of gravel on top next to the wall, landscaping fabric below and mulch on top after the gravel, the slope is about 1.5'' by a foot.
    My guess is that there is an air space behind the brick which goes down below grade and that is getting water/moisture in it.

    The air space behind the brick should have stopped at a through-wall flashing slightly below the first floor level, with the air space below the flashing fully grouted up. 'Fully grouted' does not mean 'to let the excess mortar fall down into the air space' as that leaves globs of mortar and air spaces. They should have mixed the mortar thin and poured it down into that air space, the 'grout' would be thin enough to flow down and fill all gaps, the brick would suck out all the excess water used to make the mortar into 'grout', resulting into a solidly grouted wall below the through-wall flashing.

    The grading in the photo looks to be backward (reverse sloped) out from the building some. The grading should start at the building below the height of the foundation and slope down and out from the building at least 6 inches in the first 10 feet, and then either go flat or keep sloping down and away from the building.

    If the grade is such that it cannot be slope from the building as described above, then a proper swale needs to be installed to direct the surface water away from the building and out to a place of drainage.

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

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Do you have gutters installed? If so are they clean and sloped properly to downspout?
    Water spilling from gutters can cause what I see in the photo.

    Also as mentioned by Jerry the grading is wrong and soil in contact with brick and covering weep holes is most likely. Also water wicking up brick by capillary action.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Wisconsin
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Is there edging material between the rocks and mulch? I have seen where the edging around rock beds act like a dam and keeps water from flowing away from the home. In one case, the downspouts discharged behind the edging and the water worked its way into the basement, it looked like a lake behind the edging and against the home.

    Not sure if I would have installed the water membrane. Is there a chance they plugged up the weep holes and installed the rock too high up and you can't see them? Then, there's also the chance you had no weep holes.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Forgot to mention about checking for leaks. I think you mean water leak and not sewer leak??? If you have a water meter, turn everything off and see if the meter is turning, if it is you have a leak. You could also hold onto the water main and try to feel for moving water, or put your ear on the pipe and listen for flow, just make sure other sounds in the home are off.

    If you have public service you might try to call the local water department and they might send someone out to check for you.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    My guess, and that is really what we are all doing.... Is that the liquid membrane is the culprit. It has completly sealed the porous brick and the moisture is be forced to wick further up the wall....

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

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    As Jerry stated there should be through wall flashing at the bottom of the system, above grade and there should be weep holes every couple of feet (between the bricks) at the flashing, so any water collected at the flashing can drain to atmosphere. (There should also be through wall flashing and weep holes above windows and doors protecting the lintels).

    But lets also consider another theory. The whole idea of grading the soil away from the building is to divert water away from the building. Unless there is a drainage system in the trench that was dug at the base of the wall to remove any collected water (and get it away from the building), in essence what you have is a moat at the base of the wall, that is actually retaining water.

    You mentioned a liquid applied barrier at the base of the wall. I don't see it in the pic and assume it is below the stone. That also means there is unsealed brick below the stone too.

    Although brick is very strong (for those that are doubters, ask the Big Bad Wolf); it is also very absorbent. if the unsealed brick is in the moat, it may very well be wicking up water. That may be the dark areas you are questioning.

    Last edited by Steven Turetsky; 05-22-2013 at 09:53 PM.
    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    So here is a simple test that you can do yourself.

    Wait for the bricks to dry out and then fill the moat with water. see if the water wicks up (darkens the brick).

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    I vote that the weep holes were sealed during the water proofing process. Water will get in through the brick and it must have a way to get back out.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    I vote that the weep holes were sealed during the water proofing process. Water will get in through the brick and it must have a way to get back out.
    That would make the weep holes too low and too close to the ground (as in 'below' ground).

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

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    That would make the weep holes too low and too close to the ground (as in 'below' ground).
    Yep.
    Note that in the photo no weep holes are visible, just the newly added soil, etc.
    Maybe no weeps, maybe below grade, but likely the veneer has become a water reservoir that must dry to the outside as evidenced by the darkened area of the brick.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Thank you all for your responses. I'm trying to answer some of your questions below.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    The grading in the photo looks to be backward (reverse sloped) out from the building some. The grading should start at the building below the height of the foundation and slope down and out from the building at least 6 inches in the first 10 feet, and then either go flat or keep sloping down and away from the building.
    The grade seems to be ok, sloping away from the building. I think the picture does not properly show the grade.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond Wand View Post
    Do you have gutters installed? If so are they clean and sloped properly to downspout?
    Water spilling from gutters can cause what I see in the photo.

    Also as mentioned by Jerry the grading is wrong and soil in contact with brick and covering weep holes is most likely. Also water wicking up brick by capillary action.
    Yes, gutters are installed and are clean and sloped properly. The downspout is opening far away from the house. I replaced the underground pipe as well and it is working well directing all the water away from the foundation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Kleisch View Post
    Is there edging material between the rocks and mulch?

    Not sure if I would have installed the water membrane. Is there a chance they plugged up the weep holes and installed the rock too high up and you can't see them? Then, there's also the chance you had no weep holes.
    There is no edging material between the rocks and mulch. There are no weep holes either and I don't think ever were. I was looking for them everywhere around the house and there is no sign there ever were any.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Kleisch View Post
    Forgot to mention about checking for leaks. I think you mean water leak and not sewer leak??? If you have a water meter, turn everything off and see if the meter is turning, if it is you have a leak. You could also hold onto the water main and try to feel for moving water, or put your ear on the pipe and listen for flow, just make sure other sounds in the home are off.
    Yes, I meant sewer leak, as I already did the water meter test and the meter is not changing in an entire day.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Turetsky View Post

    But lets also consider another theory. The whole idea of grading the soil away from the building is to divert water away from the building. Unless there is a drainage system in the trench that was dug at the base of the wall to remove any collected water (and get it away from the building), in essence what you have is a moat at the base of the wall, that is actually retaining water.
    There is no trench under the rocks. After they installed the liquid membrane it was refilled with clay and stomped.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by gchope2k6 View Post


    There are no weep holes either and I don't think ever were. I was looking for them everywhere around the house and there is no sign there ever were any.


    bingo

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
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  14. #14
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    My guess, and that is really what we are all doing.... Is that the liquid membrane is the culprit. It has completly sealed the porous brick and the moisture is be forced to wick further up the wall....
    Ditto


  15. #15

    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    the brick is below grade and absorbs moisture. the foundation has to be exposed at least 6 inches.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Lagueux View Post
    the brick is below grade and absorbs moisture. the foundation has to be exposed at least 6 inches.
    I don't know about you guys up north, but for the southern states brick is often below grade.
    Been that way for at least a couple hundred years, and no problems doing so.

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

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Cantrell View Post
    I don't know about you guys up north, but for the southern states brick is often below grade.
    Been that way for at least a couple hundred years, and no problems doing so.
    Perhaps you're not waiting long enough.

    I am from NY, which is upper US, although not as far upper US as Canada, and I see brick below grade quite often. As Jerry spelled out there should be a through wall flashing at the bottom of the system and the gap filled below the flashing. And as we all know there should be weep holes above/at the flashing, above grade as well.

    Steven Turetsky, UID #16000002314
    homeinspectionsnewyork.com
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Wet Base of Brick Veneer Wall

    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Turetsky View Post
    Perhaps you're not waiting long enough.

    I am from NY, which is upper US, although not as far upper US as Canada, and I see brick below grade quite often. As Jerry spelled out there should be a through wall flashing at the bottom of the system and the gap filled below the flashing. And as we all know there should be weep holes above/at the flashing, above grade as well.
    The clay soil is not allowing the surface water to perc into ground and as previously stated is wicking into brick via capillary action. Take moisture readings frequently and monitor the situation


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