Repointing mortar between close buildings
June 11, 2015 9:15 AM   Subscribe

So I own a condo in a building built in the 30s in Chicago. It was repointed in the last few years but there is a wall that is very close to another building that was not touched and seems to have next to no mortar left in it. More inside.

My south facing wall is about 2 inches from the building next door. There appears to be basically no mortar left in the wall in places and bricks between the buildings are starting to fall out. This seems like it's getting to be more than a repointing issue, as this is is a structural brick building. The building next door is in even worse shape as it has had a few 'budget' repointing jobs done. They're both about 3.5 stories tall. I've called a few repointing places and they said that it is normal that they would just leave a wall if it were too close to another building. Is there anything that can be done to put off damage to a brick wall that is very close to another one? My floors are pretty warped and I'm worried that there is a fairly major draft through this wall which exacerbates the freezing and thawing issues seen in the lack of mortar. I was actually looking at trying to insulate my unit more but again I'm worried about doing more damage to that wall. There is actually some visible water damage, but most of the damage seems to be in the areas between the two buildings.
posted by mike_bling to Home & Garden (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not my area of expertise at all, but I wonder whether the entire cavity between buildings could be filled with grout. It would probably require some professional engineering and have legal implications because the two buildings would no longer be completely separate structures. Also expensive. I only mention it because conventional repointing seems pretty much impossible.
posted by jon1270 at 10:38 AM on June 11, 2015

I also thought of filling the space or covering it over so that water doesn’t run down. The only other thing I can think would be very intense: replacing the wall from the inside. If you are very concerned, have a mason take a look.

The moisture may or may not be a separate issue. Brick walls "breathe" through the mortar to some extent. Problems arise when the mortar not softer than the brick, like when people use cement-based mortar.
posted by zennie at 11:11 AM on June 11, 2015

Existing sructural masonry can be reinforced with Helibeam retrofit products, or from the interior with resteel and shotcrete (obviously, much more involved).

I'd be worried about water infiltration due to that missing mortar. If it's only a 2" gap, could you install flashing over it to redirect water?
posted by halogen at 9:51 AM on June 12, 2015

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