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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Western Montana
    Posts
    261

    Default Brick as foundation material

    What's your general opinion on durability of foundations (crawlspace) of bricks?

    I am used to seeing a lot of old (1890 - 1920) rock and mortar foundations, some good, some very bad. Anything around here before that would have had to be a teepee. So I am curious to hear from folks that see a lot or REALLY old houses.

    Did a house yesterday, original portions were circa 1905-1910, with brick foundation, I presume fired bricks. From inside the crawl, some areas looked ok, even though it was only slightly above grade (and obviously not a deep foundation. Did have some other issues however, needless to say.) Parts had been overlaid with a thick layer of cement for protection. I could push my hand through a hole in another area that did not have the concrete exterior.

    As a rule of thumb, everything else being equal, should I expect to see a lot more problems with a brick foundation versus a rock & mortar foundation?

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Caledon, Ontario
    Posts
    5,005

    Default Re: Brick as foundation material

    Hi Terry,
    The bricks look pretty good to me from the photo, but that part were you said you pushed your hand through the brick troubles me. That sounds like the bricks are toast and soft insides have been exposed for some time.


  3. #3
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
    Ted Menelly Guest

    Default Re: Brick as foundation material

    I would be questioning that kind of sort of beam support on the right of the picture.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Charlotte NC Licensed in NC and SC
    Posts
    597

    Default Re: Brick as foundation material

    This is a chimney base foundation from a house built about 1880.

    The red sand was oozing out of the baseboards around the three fireplaces also inside the house.

    In the attic the bricks were crumbling badly.

    I recommended full removal of the chimneys before occupying the house.

    The foundation walls and piers also had major issues but not quite as bad as the chimneys.

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  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Healdsburg, CA
    Posts
    1,741

    Default Re: Brick as foundation material

    Almost anywhere on the left coast brick foundations are a reportable item.
    They don't like sudden ground movement.


    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  6. #6
    Kevin Barre's Avatar
    Kevin Barre Guest

    Default Re: Brick as foundation material

    What you are seeing there is deterioration due to a condition known as "rising damp." In older masonry foundations, you had relatively soft, porous bricks with a high sand content that were not hard fired to minimize their tendency to absorb moisture. Combine that with mortar that was not much more than sand and lime and a lot of moisture gets wicked up into the wall structure through the decades.
    The red or orange dust seen is actually the remains of some of the brick. The mortar will leave a pile at the base of the foundation and piers that looks like white beach sand.
    Covering the wall with a parge coat is sometimes done by well meaning folks who inadvertently make the situation worse. Doing that only tends to trap moisture in the walls, accelerating the damage.

    I don't know about other parts of the country, but around here the problem is pretty common until you hit the late 1930's or so when foundation methods began to evolve. Post-war stuff definitely doesn't have the problem.

    Add a little WDI damage and a skinny pier to begin with as in this 100 year old building and it gets scary.

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