Brick veneer wall damage repair procedures (C) bb Hurricane Harvey damageBrick Veneer Wall Flood Damage Repair
Field report: repairs to a Texas home after flooding

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Repair options for brick veneer-walled homes damaged by flooding:

Using a field report from a Texas homeowner in 2017 we describe repair options for flood-damaged veneer walls built over hollow framed-wall cavities.

We also discuss options for repairing a veneer wall and modifying its weep openings or drainage when interior demolition involves only the lower portion of existing walls.

This article series discusses brick or stone veneer wall construction and flood damage repairs. Page top photo, provided by a reader, illustrates the condition in a home after initial demolition following damage by flood waters.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Field Report: Repairing a Flood-Damaged Brick Veneer Walled Home in Texas

Interior view of brick veneer wall after partial demolition (C) bb Hurricane Harvey flood damage repairShown here in our photograph contributed by a reader is the interior of a Texas home flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, after initial demolition has been completed:

drywall was removed from the floor up four feet, and the insulating board sheathing on the exterior wall was cut away from the inside for a height of about two feet above the wall sill plate.

[Click to enlarge any image]

This article is a continuation of BRICK VENEER WALL REPAIRS in FLOOD PRONE AREAS. In that article we outline the three most-common approaches to rebuilding a flood damaged brick veneer wall home.

Question: how should I restore this flood-damaged brick-veneer-walled home

I'm single mom to a one year old and just recently had 18 inches of water in my house due to Harvey in Dickinson, Texas.

The restoration company, after remediating and dehumidifying for 2 weeks said the blackboard between the studs and the brick needed to come out.

We called the insurance adjuster and he agreed.

[Click to enlarge any image]

My question moving forward is how do we rebuild things. I'm getting different answers from contractors and given I'm a woman on my own, I don't want to be taken advantage of and want to ensure the safety of my daughter and I in the future.

I read some of your articles but still unsure the best way to rectify this situation to make this right. I appreciate your help. - Anonymous by private email 2017/09/17

Reply: Basic advice for repairing & re-building a flooded home with brick veneer walls

At BRICK VENEER WALL REPAIRS in FLOOD PRONE AREAS we describe several options for repairing brick veneer wall buildings after flood damage.

You'd choose among these, or at least the first two of them, depending probably on cost, what the insurance company will pay-for, and what resources are available, as well as depending on who is available to do the work.

I'll offer some comments, you can ask more specific questions and send me some photos.

Be warned that I have experience with these concerns, and opinions, but we do not want to lose the good will of the contractor and insurance company by pretending that an off-site consultant can be as smart or fully informed as on-site experts.

"Dehumidifying for two weeks" makes me nervous.

It is impossible to sufficiently dry out drywall and insulation by mere dehumidification to avoid mold problems. So our first concern is to be sure that the removal of previously wet, moldy, or damaged materials is complete.

On the other hand, and from the comment about removing the blackboard that was an insulating sheathing on the house exterior behind a brick veneer sounds to me as if the contractor and insurer agree to being thorough.

What I tell insurance companies is that taking a shortcut now risks tripling the ultimate cost when they have to do the job all over again.

It would help me to see sharp photos of the house exterior, interior, and of demolition that's been done to date, as well as of the wall cavities where the "blackboard" is visible, and closeups of any stamps or markings on that product.

There are a few technical questions that will come up:

1. What else needs to be done before restoration work begins?

2. Impact of cutting out the insulating board: insulating board is not a structural sheathing; a conventional wood-stud-framed house without a plywood exterior or at least plywood at the corners, might have diagonal bracing of wood or metal that has to stay in place.

You'd see that from the inside of the wall cavity near corners.

3. Removing the insulating board (IB): by leaving the brick in place this means from the interior, removing interior drywall and insulation- that ought to be done anyway - and cutting the insulating board along side of each wall stud and at the wall top and bottom plate, then pulling out the IB.

4. OK so what gets put back?

The amount of spray foam needed is traditionally probably not the full wall thickness of the studs, and closed cell foam sprays are not normally brought all the way out to the stud surfaces anyway since doing so adds labor cost to trim it back flush before the drywall can be restored. However, filling the wall cavity is important if we are to construct a Sealed Flood-Resistant Veneer Wall.

Watch out: To be successful, an option #2 Sealed Flood-Resistant Veneer Wall repair must build a completely-filled, solid exterior wall that is comprised entirely of waterproof / water resistant materials: a fully-filled wall cavity using closed cell foam and water-resistant wall covering on the interior such as cement board or another more-waterproof material.

I would ask the people involved if they will consider this option. Following other hurricane and flood damage in the U.S. some homeowners who had good success with this approach.

Let us know you're being told, what questions you have. If you can provide photos of work in progress that may permit useful questions or suggestions.

Reader follow-up: what do I do about the weep holes if we spray foam the wall?

Thank you so much for replying. I figured it was a long shot so how relieving.

Do have an electrician lined up but haven't started work yet as I plan on some additional demo for create an open concept.

We've demoed 4' of drywall and insulation. 2' of blackboard. All cabinets and flooring are out. They've had fans, dehumidifiers as well as a special spray they use for mold. They've been testing humidity levels daily as well. Most of the house is at 9%.

Two pictures below, one is in the master bedroom the other is in the kitchen/entryway.

My only question about the spray foam which I love the idea and my contractor had suggested it, was the weep holes. Do you just not go all the way down to ensure they are open? Also, aren't there holes left up top on the exterior as well for air flow? How does spray insulation affect that as well?

Treatment of Brick Veneer Wall Weep Openings in a Partial-Removal of Sheathing / Insulating board

Brick weep opening screens at the Van Scriver Elementary School, Haddonfield New Jersey © Daniel Friedman at InspectApedia.comReply: close low weep holes and install new weep holes higher in the wall, just above the bottom edge of the insulating board that was left in place in the upper wall

The use of closed cell foam to seal, waterproof, and insulate gutted wall cavities in a flood zone has good possibilities, but to be successful, we'll need to pay attention to some details that I will discuss.

The job is actually easier if the whole wall cavity is open and all of the insulating board sheathing on the exterior wall has been cut away, because in that case the entire height of the exterior wall is being sealed and waterproofed.

Even in that case, some attention to the wall bottom seal is important.

1. Sealing at the wall bottom when the entire height of the veneer wall is sealed from the interior using closed cell foam

Closed cell foam that has adhered to clean, dry, debris-free surfaces will form a good water-seal where it has been applied over the full height of a wall and where it fills the wall cavity.

Watch out: open celled foam will not accomplish this so would not be a good choice for flood zone repairs in portions of a home subject to flooding.

Even closed cell waterproof foam will not perform well if the wall cavity is not filled: water leaking into the wall cavity into such cavities will be difficult to remove after flooding unless wall interior surfaces are again removed.

Watch out: also, as we discuss at BRICK VENEER WALL REPAIRS in FLOOD PRONE AREAS dry floodproofing approaches to repairing brick veneer walled homes are safe only for homes like yours where you expect flood waters to be no higher than two feet.

Research cited in the references section of these articles points out that for homes where floodwaters are at three feet or higher, where a building's exterior walls are made "water tight" there is risk of sudden structural collapse that can injure or kill occupants.

BRICK VENEER WALL FLOOD REPAIR CODES & STANDARDS contains a more-complete set of codes, standards, and references for repair for post-flood-damage re-build options for masonry veneer buildings

brick veneer weep opening © Daniel Friedman at InspectApedia.comSee the illustration below shows traditional brick veneer wall construction.

You will want to seal those weep openings and to make new ones in the mortar joint just above the green line in our edited photograph above.

However, depending on exact construction details there is a worry that rising floodwaters may still penetrate the lower portion of a veneer wall though existing veneer wall drain openings or through other normal (or abnormal) cracks and voids in bricks and in mortar joints or through porous brick or stone veneer materials.

Water penetrating the bottom of the veneer in the area corresponding to the outer face of the sill plate as well as portions of the exterior wall below that point can pass under the sill plate and into the building interior.

That's because during original construction the sill plate will not have been sealed water-tight against the floor slab. Extra steps reduce water entry at the wall sill plate.

While foam can seal the interior face of the veneer along the vertical edges of wall studs as well as down to the upper surface of the wall bottom plate, and while some foam may even seep by pressure of its expansion during curing to push its way down the outer face of the bottom plate (sill plate - the 2x4 laid flat on the floor slab of a home built on slab), a water entry path remains at the wall bottom.

However in flood conditions water is going to enter the home interior through other openings: doors, windows, wall penetrations in any case.

The object of building a Sealed Flood-Resistant Veneer Wall is not to keep water out of the building but rather to build a wall that will require the least demolition and repair after future floods of buildings that were not raised or re-built using solid masonry first floor walls.

Options when all of the wall drywall and exterior wall insulating board are removed from the inside

Option 1.a. Clean and seal the bottom of the sill plate to the concrete slab using a high grade silicone or equivalent "caulk". I don't like this approach because I'm doubtful that a perfect seal will be obtained, especially in an older building subject to prior flooding, leaving those surfaces imperfectly cleaned.

Even then some water may pass up from under the sill plate through the sill plate wherever it was penetrated by fastening nails, bolts, or any openings made for wiring or plumbing.

Option 1.b. Inspect & seal the outside of the veneer wall, sealing weep openings, cracks, penetrations with high-portland cement or other appropriate sealants.

Most-resistant to water penetration would be a high portland concrete foundation that actually extends above anticipated flood water depth but that option is only cost-reasonable in new construction or total wall re-builds.

Option 1.c. Combine options 1.a and 1.b. - this is what I'd do.


Normally it is essential to maintain weep openings in brick veneer walls and brick cavity walls because the wall design anticipates that water will penetrate the outer brick veneer: we need to keep a drainage plane behind the outer veneer to allow water to pass down and then to exit the wall at the wall bottom weep openings.

But when we gut wall sheathing for the whole height of the wall and then add closed cell foam we are changing the concept and design of the wall and its veneer to a veneer against a waterproof barrier.

Water may still penetrate into a mortar joint but it should not continue to pass behind the veneer itself if the wall cavity has been filled completely with a waterproof material such as closed cell foam. (In a northern climate this would leave a risk of future frost damage).

On a retrofit even this design is imperfect in that over a long life water penetrating the veneer may be blocked where the foam was applied but water may still contact the remaining sheathing board and the outer face of wall studs - risking rot or insect attack.

In any event if the foam is well sealed against the sides of the studs and the surfaces of the top and bottom wall plates, the ability of that water to pass the stud edge and enter the wall cavity is minimized.

Options for Sealing the Veneer Wall when Only Lower Insulating Board is Removed

Option 2: Clean & seal the wall surface, & add intermediate weep openings - some insulating board remains so we need to provide veneer wall drainage just above the bottom edge of the remaining insulating board (This is Your Situation)

Masonry wall drain openings in Oxford, U.K. © Daniel Friedman at InspectApedia.comBecause in your flood damage repair project you are removing only the lower four-feet of interior drywall and roughly the lower two feet of the exterior wall sheathing insulating board, we need to take some special precautions to reduce the chances of new flood damage.

In this situation, even if the lower portion of the wall where insulating board is removed and closed cell foam is to be applied as an insulating sealant, wind-driven rain can still penetrate the upper portion of the wall where insulating board remains.

Water penetrating the upper wall then will run down the drainage plane between the outer face of the insulating board and the inner face of the brick (or stone) veneer.

What happens when this water reaches the top of the closed cell foam area? That's a point of potential leakage into the wall cavity.

Our photo above shows the use of drain openings in a masonry wall in Oxford, in the U.K.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Add retrofit veneer wall weep openings along the face of the wall in every stud bay, at a height corresponding to the point just above the upper edge of the foam sealant can permit that water to exit the wall face.

Several companies offer brick veneer wall weep opening screens that can be inserted at vertical mortar joints after the mortar is removed (for the height of one brick) - see BRICK WALL DRAIN, FLASHING, VENT SOURCES .

Adding flashing at the top of the remaining, exposed brick veneer?

I considered suggesting adding flashing at the top of the exposed veneer, slipped up between the remaining IB and the veneer, as an added seal to prevent water from penetrating the wall cavity at that point.

But if your foam insulation will be carried to the wall top that flashing probably won't buy much.

Discuss with the insulation contractor ease of access to the upper heights of the wall for foaming - usually they expect to spray open wall cavities but some foaming approaches can spray through holes cut near the wall top.

If your foam insulation plan does not include foaming the full height of the wall then your contractor may have an opinion about the benefit of trying to add flashing.

I'm doubtful that it will help much. But also be warned that a half-foamed wall is a hybrid whose properties may be confusing, and also the job may be less attractive to the insulation contractor.

It would be helpful if I could see some sharper photos of the wall interior, particularly conditions at the bottom of the wall at the wall sill plate, and also some photos of the building exterior, from a distance to get site perspective and closer to see the outside of the veneer wall.

Inside I want to see if there was ever flashing at the bottom of the veneer wall and I'd want to see details of the weep openings from outside and if visible, from inside.

It would be useful to understand how your particular veneer wall is constructed: on a concrete foundation wall lip or on a steel angle iron, either of which might place the bottom course of bricks below the interior sill plate or at the same level as the sill plate, or above it.

Watch out: the long term performance of spray foam insulation in buildings, particularly where the building may be subjected to flooding, is not established. Discuss the water resistance of the foam insulation product you plan to use with the foam manufacturer / supplier.

We note that where exposed to the air closed cell foam forms a shiny skin that is quite water repellant. But we do not know the water-repelling quality of the side of the sprayed foam that is in contact with fiberboard sheathing, plywood sheathing, or a brick veneer wall. These are questions to review with the foam manufacturer.


Continue reading at BRICK VENEER WALL REPAIRS in FLOOD PRONE AREAS - home, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see FIBERBOARD SHEATHING MOLD CONTAMINATION - mold contamination of fiberboard wall sheathing products; approaches to removing and repairing wet or moldy sheathing board.


Or see SHEATHING, GYPSUM BOARD - another product often found behind brick veneer walls and one facing similar flood damage repairs

Or see this

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