Anyone ever dealt with getting cracked brick house walls fixed?
September 10, 2014 4:32 PM   Subscribe

My brick house has a number of cracks in its walls. We got the house inspected when we bought it, and the inspector said the cracks were worth taking care of, but weren't really serious. The cracks were repaired in the past, some of them repeatedly. Pics are here:

I got two quotes on repairs so far.

Quote 1:
Seemed like a small operation, said it would take him and another guy a week to do it. Full tuckpointing, re-anchoring brick to interior studs. $2100.

Quote 2:
Seemed more professional. Much more legit-seeming. Said that the cracks spring from the metal lintels above the windows and doors. What happens is that the lintels turn to rust slowly, and the rust expands, pushing the brick wall apart and making the cracks. He said they deal with 20-30 houses like mine (with the same issues) each year. First guy didn't mention the lintels at all. His quote entails removing and replacing all the problematic window/door lintels that are seriously bad, and cleaning up a few that aren't bad and are not really accessible. Also tuckpointing, etc. $5700.

I'm trying to get more quotes, but I've had 3 companies tell me that they're booked solid for the next few weeks and can't come by to quote me until then.

Have any of you had a similar issue with your brick house? If so, what did you do? How much was it?
posted by Slinga to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pics are where?
posted by beagle at 4:55 PM on September 10, 2014

Response by poster: Sorry, pics are here.
posted by Slinga at 4:58 PM on September 10, 2014

Yeah, the lintel rust thing seems credible based on the looks of it. Most of those cracks appear to have been patched before, so this time you want to go for a more permanent solution. You don't want water getting in and doing more damage, or frost if that's an issue where you are. New lintels should be good for a long time. Just tuckpointing all that is not solving the underlying problem. Here's some validation of the lintel rust diagnosis, aka "rust-jacking". Don't wait until "catastrophic wall failure" as illustrated there.
posted by beagle at 5:06 PM on September 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just looked at Beagle's link, and have a couple of comments.
The link talks about installing new lintels that are "properly primed and painted."
On any building worth anything I've specified in the last 7 - 8 years, we spec hot dip galvanized lintels.
One might also read up on Brick control joints, particularly the ones around rectangular openings with 4, count 'em 4, re-entrant angles - see p.5.
Mantra is, "It *is* going to crack. It will crack where I want it to and can control it, not in some random manner.

I have a bit of a running disagreement with my employer. This link illustrates the control joint going straight up from the corner of the window. The angle lintel continues through this joint and bears on the adjacent brick. SOP is to stick some building paper under/around the part of the steel lintel past the joint, so that it can hopefully slip in the masonry.
Personally, I think it would be better to just run the joint horizontal to the end of the steel and then turn vertical.

One also might wonder how to keep the replacement from rusting out. See p. 6 - 7 of the link for rudimentary through-wall flashing and weep details.
it doesn't go into it much, but there are many kinds of weeps. Minimum in my book is the plastic tube with rope inside. Better the little screened box a full brick high. Water *will* get through the brick, you need to let it back out or it will do real damage. The weeps also equalize the pressure on both sides of the brick so you aren't sucking in water.
Many bonus points and lots of good karma if you can let the air circulate out of the cavity at the top of the wall.
Remember, you can weep now, or you will weep later.
posted by rudd135 at 7:15 PM on September 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another thought - we were seeing prices of about $100/lineal foot for a good mason to relocate through wall flashing upwards in a brick wall for roofing jobs a few years ago. They would take out alternate small sections and install short pieces of flashing.
Replacing a lintel *should* involve some shoring or removal of brick in the 45 degree triangle above the window - the base of the triangle being the head of the opening.
Having said that, I recently had to have words with a contractor that had removed the angle under several 6 1/2 foot wide openings and not shored or supported. Amazingly, out of 5 places they did this, only one place had brick falling or about to fall.
Add in the steel, the larger opening, and weeps, etc, I would not be surprised at $200/ft.
posted by rudd135 at 7:26 PM on September 10, 2014

The good news is you have a masonry curtain wall, not a brick house. From what I can see without digging and making a mess there has been some water intrusion above the windows and the glass bricks.

Were I you I would get as many bids as possible and hire the old grumpy guys with the clean truck that are happy to provide before/after examples of their work. In the meantime I would get a stiff wire brush and remove the material above the horizontal intersections and caulk liberally.
posted by vapidave at 7:39 PM on September 10, 2014

I have a mason coming out to fix 5 window lentils in our house. His quote was $500/window to pull bricks out, replace lentil, re-mortar everything back together. Unsure how many windows you have that need work, but that's what I've got. He mentioned the lack of weep holes in our construction.
posted by k5.user at 7:02 AM on September 11, 2014

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